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Why Oh Why Isn’t the NYTimes Looking at Different Models for Schooling?

June 30, 2020

NYTimes op ed columnist Michelle Goldberg can usually be counted on to come up with creative solutions or at least insightful perspectives on persistent and complicated problems. Her column today, “Remote School Is a Nightmare. Few in Power Care“, falls short of her standard. Instead of proposing a new direction for schools, a broadening of their mission, or a change in the model we currently follow, Ms. Goldberg’s only alternative solution is offered by Brown economist Emily Oster who suggested

…hiring college-aged people — who are disproportionately unemployed — as something like camp counselors. Kids, kept in pods, would attend schools for part of the day, then move to a space where counselors could oversee online learning or recess.

Where would that surplus space be found? Closed Macy’s stores, perhaps… but space will be a challenge if the 6 foot distancing is enforced. Ms. Goldberg also draws on insights from union president Randy Weingarten, who notes that “(t)o open safely, schools are going to need much more money to buy protective equipment like gloves and masks, retrofit buildings and hire more teachers and nurses” while also noting that adding costs while cutting budgets is an impossibility. The solution Ms. Weingarten sees is passing the HEROES funding… not making any substantive changes to schooling. Here’s comment I left:

This is a golden opportunity for schools to change the way they operate. Open them in a traditional format for Pre-K-early adolescence and keep them open for child care from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM for that age group. Offer a hybrid format for all others while offering alternatives to the traditional high school format, one that many students find disengaging. Alas, instead of looking at new models for schooling we are using the 1920s framework as the basis for the future.

Ms. Goldberg ends her column with this plaintive observation:

Airlines got a bailout. Parents are on their own.

Airlines, though, are going to adapt…. will schools?

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