As I mentioned in the previous post, there are some positives to come out of our COVID education policies. I am going to focus on them in today’s post.
First, the way many school districts and teachers’ unions have handled the pandemic has pushed many parents to be more open to exploring alternative options for their students. Don’t get me wrong: public education is not going anywhere, and the majority of families still have their students attending public school. Nevertheless, a significant portion of families are turning to home school, private school, pods, etc because they are so dissatisfied with their districts’ and states’ response. This is good, for it breaks up the monopoly-like nature of the influence of public schools and introduces a bit more competition into education. Public school is not synonymous with “school” and “education,” and the more people realize this, the better. While public schooling didn’t *technically* have a monopoly before, it was the default option for the overwhelming majority. Most just didn’t give a second thought to it--they sent their kids to public school without considering alternatives. Without the pandemic, these parents would have been fine with the status quo. No more. That is a positive, for other options would be better for some students who attend public schools. Not every family can avail themselves of other options, but those that can, should, and the pandemic response has shaken many families out of their complacency and forced them to play a more active role in the education of their kids.
Second, though some students are really struggling with all this, most kids are hanging in there. They are making adjustments, doing the best they can, rolling with the punches, and displaying an encouraging amount of resilience. We do have some huge problems on our hands, but it is not all doom and gloom. This should be acknowledged.
Relatedly, this is pushing them to be more independent and not rely upon constant oversight when it comes to attending class and turning in work. Since there is literally and figuratively more distance between student and teacher now--a teacher is not constantly staring over their shoulder making sure they are staying on task and getting work done--one adjustment students have had to make is to be more disciplined in getting things done and staying organized. As noted in the previous post, some really have had a hard time with this, but it is also true that some have stepped up and made adjustments with things like time management and self-starting. This, also, is good.
Next, for some at least, the pandemic has forced them to spend more time with their families. More time in the house=more time around mom and dad, brothers and sisters. This is a concern for those who have abusive families, but for others--the majority, I’m guessing--this is a great good, for the family is one primary God-given institution for our emotional health and character development. There is at least some evidence that this might be offsetting some of the negatives.
Lastly, and in my mind, most importantly, students and parents both are now more readily acknowledging the significant downside of living a screen infested disembodied life. They see and feel the negative effects more acutely, and more are starting to say “man this ain’t good.” I didn’t hear that openness a year ago. Prior to the pandemic, a few would give lip service to how our phones and screens are changing us, but it was a pretty apathetic lip service, and there was a considerable amount of hand waving dismissals. Now, there is much more earnestness behind their talk. They are expressing a very deep dissatisfaction with a virtual life. This is a great good, for we should be spending much, much more time away from our screens if we want to flourish.
The real question now is “are people actually doing anything about it?” Are they taking action on their words, or is it just remaining that: words? That remains to be seen. I am not optimistic, on the whole. I’ve heard many students express this kind of discontent, only to see them go from there and instinctively reach for the black mirror in their pocket to stave off boredom as soon as they are able.
Time will tell, I guess. Still, the tune they are singing is a step in the right direction.