Of Course Education hasn’t Learned a Goddamned Thing from Covid

Because why would an institution dedicated to teaching others be capable of learning anything at all?

Bernie Bleske


Photo by Mwesigwa Joel on Unsplash

In every school across the country, significant numbers of children are not meeting the learning standards their states have set for them. Graduating seniors are missing huge chunks of expected content and skill, according to every newspaper and magazine to report on it. Within classrooms, the situation is even more dire. Vast armies of kids are moving forward without evidence of knowing the content or skill we insist qualify as educated. And we are panicked because we insist all those specific classes — all that specific content — is foundational to adulthood. And the measurement — tests, grades, certification — is the only legitimate evidence at any given time.

Simultaneously, all those kids are socially underdeveloped for having been isolated and alone for two years and emotional wrecks from the fear and anxiety and pressure thrust upon them by crisis and quarantine. Not only are students unprepared to study the material because they are missing earlier work, they are emotionally and socially a few years behind where they should be. A 9th grade classroom is not designed to work with kids who act like they are in 6th grade. Nor can 3rd grade material be taught if the kids behave like 1st graders.

So with up to 25% of both staff and students still absent for weeks at a time, what a perfect moment to double down on everything we’ve done before, right?

Let’s not re-examine the system at all. Let’s just cram more of the same instruction and assessment into a shorter period with fewer people. Let’s not ask why the schedule and content itself is sacred, as if 18 years old is some kind of genetically-fixed biological moment after which no learning can ever occur. As if a functional education means ‘all the classes you’re required to take in school’. As if an education can only occur at the pace of a classroom. As if an education can only occur in a classroom with 20 or 30 people your own age. As if the social and emotional development we expect from our citizens should or could only occur in school.