Across many years living in Texas and commenting on education, I often railed against homeschoolers.
Not homeschoolers in general, just the ones sitting on the state school board. Yes, people with no stake in our schools — even outright antipathy toward them — governing them.
Which sounds way too much like the Legislature.
Well, let me say this: My sons are done with their schooling, but if they weren’t, and if their health were in any way subject to today’s red-state gubernatorial antics, I’d have stacks of teaching materials on my desk right now. The boys’ new homeschool year would start with PBS.
We all know that one of the essential elements of the K-12 experience, particularly the K part, is microbial immersion. But COVID-19 isn’t just any microbe.
Scandalously, some Republican policy-makers are not treating this as a health crisis but as a Be-Like-Trump posturing fest. No parent should allow his or her child to serve as a political petri dish.
Without question, the best education takes place face-to-face. Masks help facilitate that amid a pandemic. And, yes, Rand Paul, the consensus of epidemiologists is that masks make a big difference.
But reckless attitudes toward COVID are not the subject of this commentary.
It’s about education and the ridiculous term, “COVID slide.”
First off, ever since the nation got fixated on standardized tests — Texas once considered the “cradle” of that — school policy in too many instances has been locked in on baseline training, not education. How many basic things can we train students to do?
The end result has been to conflate excellence with competence.
We’ve also been fixated on a conveyor-belt model: students flowing by at a state-set velocity as assigned criteria are implanted in their brains.
Well, last year the conveyor belt slowed down for a pandemic.
In some education corners, that has caused a panic over the “slide.”
Colorado just got its state test results and – ack – as the Denver Post announced on Page 1: “Virus clouds state scores.”
The headline should have said, “Of course virus messed with test scores; relax, people.”
Of course test scores would sag when education is disrupted as it has been for more than a year and a half. Remote learning is viable for many. It isn’t for others.
In an ideal world in the midst of a pandemic, those who wanted remote learning would have it. With the reduced numbers on campus, schools could have the space and resources to have the utmost protection for face-to-face learners. That would include masks, Governor.
Regardless, the notion that because of COVID-19 today’s students are going to emerge unprepared for life or higher education is absurd.
Repeat after me: Education is not about checking a set of boxes. Education is about curiosity, enthusiasm, finding one’s passion, exploring one’s gifts. It’s not about “what” so much as “want.”
Do you know the definition of “faculty”? Look it up. Defining it as “an underpaid person assigned to drill criteria into young brains” is just an aberration.
Look up its synonyms and find words like “power,” “capacity,” “potential.” Education is about those things.
One of the worst things that has emerged from school “accountability” is the notion: “There’s not enough time in the day.” Not enough for recess or physical activity. Not enough for story time or show and tell.
Under the conveyor belt approach, schools have been fixed on quantity over quality, and in a factory there’s only so much time to meet one’s quota.
Teachers: Your enthusiasm, your passion, your caring pace – these are going to make for an educated populace. And there’s time for that, even amid a pandemic.
I’m rooting for schools that operate at their own pace, and for cities and school districts that fight politicians bent on undermining their decisions that would keep children safe.
As for microbes, let us do our best so that our little ones acquire them at the measured pace of their raw-nosed forebears.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.