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We Need a NATIONAL Declaration that ALL Schooling Will Be Remote and Grant Exceptions Based on Local Conditions

August 2, 2020 Leave a comment

Now that the pandemic has ebbed and flowed for months, four things are clear:

  1. COVID 19 does not care what state you live in or what town you live in or who you voted for, given the chance, it will spread. If Maine has a low incidence rate it does not mean that a town within Maine is immune from the disease emerging and spreading rapidly and, if it does, the entire State could eventually get it.
  2. There is no “settled science” on the cause of the disease. By that I mean we lack a vaccine to prevent it, we do not know its long term impact, we do not know the best treatment for it, and there are no proven “best practices” for re-gathering groups of individuals in a way that can prevent its spread.
  3. Social distancing and wearing masks limits the spread of the disease
  4. Those with underlying conditions and those who are elderly are at a higher risk of dying from the disease.

As I noted in a post yesterday, with all of these agreed upon realities, re-opening school in September to satisfy a sense that “things are returning to normal” seems foolhardy. The notion of reopening reflects the hopes of teachers, parents, students, and businesses that after a lockdown things WOULD return to “normal” and life and the economy would pick up where they left off in early March.

But those hopes are colliding with reality and the reality is that we lacked the NATIONAL discipline and NATIONAL faith in science needed to sustain the lockdown long enough to be able to return to “normal”. Instead of accepting the four facts listed above, our NATIONAL leaders politicized the disease, took advantage of the unsettled science to assert that ALL facts were suspect— including the need for social distancing and wearing masks– and seemed willing to accept some deaths because “x” thousand people die of the flu each year and “y” people die in car crashes.

MAYBE now that we’ve witnessed waves of COVID in Red States, we understand (I hope) that the scientific method is premised on trial and error, we understand that while social distancing and masks are not failsafe but ARE a necessary means of prevention, and that the needless deaths of ANYONE are unacceptable… MAYBE now is the time for a reset.

Here is the reset I propose, which, I realize, is predicated on the assumption of a functional Congress, a clear-eyed President, and competent US Department of Education and State education departments:

  • The President and Congress declare that all teaching will be remote through the end of this calendar year and X billion dollars will be allocated to states on a per-student basis to facilitate the rapid availability of internet access for students and improvements to air circulation in schools.
  • States will create standards for the use of school facilities to provide child care, social services, and instructional spaces for parents and children who need them. Those standards will be subject to approval by the USDOE.
  • A team of epidemiologists and school leaders will develop a set of school re-opening standards that will be adopted by Congress and put into effect no earlier than January 2021.

This broad outline assumes that COVID 19 will behave like the Spanish flu: a second wave will overtake the country in Fall when temperatures decline and people will be forced to spend more time indoors. When that happens there will be no need to waste time and energy on decisions about whether to close schools or not: that decision will already be rendered.

The outline also assumes that teachers and students will become more adept remote learning and, as a result, will be able to begin the design of a new model for schooling like the one I described in the outline I presented to the Vermont State Board in July. Time spent designing a new model for the post-pandemic schools using technology as the backbone would be better than spending time trying to figure out how to replicate the factory model using computer assisted instruction.

Finally, the outline assumes that epidemiologists will gain a better understanding of this disease in the months ahead and help design a way for larger gatherings to occur.

It IS possible that the pandemic may be creating a circumstance where it is possible to not only salvage public education but to strengthen it and make it more equitable. It is also possible that those who want to privatize schools will see this as an opportunity to savage public education and create a system that undercuts equity and opportunity. The next few months will decide.

 

Fauci Undercuts DeVos’ Claim the Children are COVID “Stoppers”

July 25, 2020 Comments off

apple.news/Ap7igKHFESe-R4QDJD-Ob8Q

According to this report, earlier this week Betsy DeVos was on a radio show called “Conservative Circus” where she made the groundless claim that some children were COVID “stoppers” making it unnecessary to close school districts in the same way we did in the Spring. Later in the week the POTUS said that “some people” believe that children are really “COVID stoppers”…

At this juncture, in an effort to stop a false rumor before it got started, Anthony Fauci stated that there was no medical basis for this claim and that the jury was out on the impact of COVID on kids or on how kids transmitted it to adults.

In the coming weeks we will see who the public believes..,

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Medium Post Suggests Both/And Thinking Needed… But Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, and the News Reinforce Either/Or

July 23, 2020 Comments off

Medium blogger Shayla R. Griffin, self identified as a “Black woman, a researcher and educator with a doctoral degree and MSW, and a mother of school-aged children” posted a thoughtful and comprehensive essay on school openings. Her overarching ideas was that in considering reporting of schools politicians and decision makers should avoid falling into the either/or mindset and instead use a both/and approach.

I wholeheartedly agree with her premise. Both/and thinking is especially needed in our culture where everything is reduced to a binary choice and then folks are divided into groups based on which “side” they choose.

I also found myself nodding in agreement with her analysis of how to apply both/and thinking. Her recommendation is to limit school attendance to a small pool of students whose benefits from being in school because of their social, emotional, and basic needs far outweigh the risks associated from being exposed to COVID 19.

Finally, I found myself agreeing strongly with one of her fundamental concerns about what is unsaid in the ongoing either/or debate:

What is left unsaid is that there is a good chance Betsy DeVos and her posse will use this moment to try and privatize education across the nation. They will pursue this immoral mission to destroy public education regardless of what we do in the Fall.

My concern is that her idea of effectively segregating the neediest children into existing public school spaces could benefit Betsy DeVos and her cronies by branding the schools that are open as “public schools” and branding the the remote learning offerings as “innovative on-line programs” and reinforcing the either/or mindset about education that seems to be encoded in our thinking. To make matters worse, there is an emerging trend whereby affluent parents are banding together to hire teachers and offer their own version of home-schooling and I’m sure as I am writing this there is an entrepreneur developing an Uber model for matching parents seeking teachers with teachers seeking a job that safe.

The bottom line from my perspective is that Dr. Griffin’s high-minded notion of changing the collective mental formations that compel most people to gravitate toward either/or binary choices is not going to disappear and it will be way too easy to connect the housing of the neediest students in public school buildings with “public education” and that, in turn, will feed the privatization beast. Somehow, the need to keep Betsy DeVos at bay needs to be factored into the both/and equation… and I fear that Dr. Griffin’s analysis underestimates the power of the dominant paradigm in terms of how we think.