In the United States, all children are required to be educated via a public or state-accredited private system. It can vary from state to state with certain exceptions, most notably homeschooling, which is also a viable option. Compulsory education refers to a period of mandatory educational attendance determined by the student’s age. Virtually all states have mandates for when children must begin school and how old they must be before dropping out. In 2020, COVID-19 has had a direct impact on our formal compulsory education system with a potential long term impact on some students who have lost hours of traditional instruction. The traditional compulsory education “rocket ship” might be temporarily grounded until we can figure out what is best for children. Since education involves more than the physical bricks and mortar of a school house, we’ve had to adjust how education is administered and by whom.
“I miss school and playing with my friends.”Anonymous Child
Most of us have gone through this educational indoctrination system which helped to shape who and what we are today. There are indeed serious systemic flaws but the “turbulence” caused by COVID-19 has made us all aware of the importance of a functional compulsory education system. Students are now engaging in remote and in-person schooling to continue their formal learning. From my past experience teaching elementary students online, it is very difficult to re-create the learning environment established within a formal school setting. Teachable moments often occur throughout the day and cannot be replicated. Children are also missing out on the socialization with other students which serves a valuable purpose in human interaction and development. Interestingly, many students are now receiving real world teachable moments caused by current events (science/germs, social studies/political governance etc.) and via non-traditional teachers (essential workers and other service providers).
Perhaps one day, we will understand the educational impact of COVID-19 on American students. For example, how many have fallen behind in their studies? Parents have joined educators as “substitute teachers” with most doing a commendable job. Not every student, however, will be able to excel or self regulate under this type of hybrid instruction. What has happened to the special needs students who often require accommodations, modifications and support to help them to be successful especially in school districts where remote learning is primarily used? All students have different learning styles and multiple intelligences as described by Howard Gardner in his 1983 book called “Frames of Mind”. His “Theory of Multiple Intelligence” provided teachers with the pedagogy to understand the different learning styles of students and to tailor instruction to fit the needs for each learner. But, what tools and training has been given to our “substitute teacher” parents? In addition, how have students performed in poor communities where some may not have had access to as many resources, the internet, structured learning environments or as much parental participation in their instruction? Prior to COVID-19, studies indicated that there has been historically less parental participation in these communities.
As stated previously, teachers, parents and other non-traditional educators have stepped up to fill in the lesson planning and instructional gap during the pandemic. I even received my own informal “lesson” of sorts came from a repairman who shared his personal views about COVID-19. He helped me to understand the reasoning behind some people who reject the science. I didn’t agree with him but his willingness to share his thought process, allowed me to OVER-stand the deeper issues, beneath the surface, from his perspective. These types of informal lessons are invaluable for all of us even without a structured classroom setting. In fact, one of the primary goals of education, based upon Bloom’s Taxonomy, is to teach students how to analyze, evaluate and to create beyond simply memorizing data or information. Education is supposed to teach students how to use their own intellectual prowess to approach potential real world challenges. In 2020, we have surprisingly seen a gap in reasoning by some adults in believing the implications of the science and our collective responsibilities towards other humans. This only signifies another flaw in our current educational indoctrination system to this country’s shame.
The fact that humanity has to explain to children that all life matters, should be concern enough.Anonymous
Perhaps, our current challenges will trigger all of us to appreciate the importance of contemplating beyond what we think we know towards a more deeper level for higher level learning. COVID-19 has definitely taught students a lot of real world lessons about politics, science and our collective responsibility towards other humans. Educators may one day know the full impact of the lost instruction caused by the pandemic but some students may have still benefited as well. For example, students have been allowed more freedom to engage in alternative settings and formats for learning that may prove to be more effective. More parents and guardians are taking their children outdoors, for example, and performing science experiments in nature. They are also having more in-depth discussions about germs and how to prevent the spread. Parents and guardians have also taken a more active role in their child’s learning during this time. They most definitely understand the importance of their participation and will probably not forget anytime soon just how difficult it is to be teacher.
The gift of a good education is not guaranteed but it remains invaluable and can open doors for any child’s future. As COVID-19 continues, what is means to be educated and how this is structured in America will most likely evolve as it should. All of “US” have a stake in America’s educational indoctrination system – – teachers, families, essential workers, non-traditional educators etc. The slogan “No Child Left Behind” means more than just teaching children how to read, write and do arithmetic. It is also a call for action requiring “US” to create an environment where children are educated on what it means to be a fully evolved human in the real world.