Will the pandemic stigmatize an entire generation of children?

Teachers unions can blame themselves for this new worry

Oh, swell. Here’s something new to fret about: The New York Times reports:

Research shows many young children have fallen behind in reading and math. But some educators are worried about stigmatizing an entire generation….

[There is] a roiling debate in education, about how and even whether to measure the academic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s children — and how to describe learning gaps without stigmatizing or discouraging students and families.

This “roiling” debate misses the mark by a mile. Instead of this navel-gazing dispute over whether to test children about something we already know–the school shutdowns have done incalculable damage to a generation of children locked out of in-person learning–the education establishment should be concentrating on how best to reopen the schools. And how to make up for the damage that the teachers unions have done to this generation.

Yes, an entire generation, from pre-school to college students, has been stigmatized and discouraged. Whether or not to test them to prove it is something that only “experts” would puzzle over. Do we need more studies to explore whether children have been stigmatized and discouraged? I suspect that grant applications already are flooding the U.S. Department of Education to get a slice of that multi-trillion-dollar pandemic “relief” package.

Children have been over-tested as it is. We know that children aren’t getting the education they deserve and the kind that’s an essential ingredient of self-government. Too many teachers “teach to the test.” It’s a waste of time and an unnecessary burden to what children already are carrying in a public school system that is serving them and us poorly.

There’s an education industry that makes money off of massive testing schemes. Fine, everyone has a right to pursue their careers and make a living from them.

But until the education establishment rises up against the teachers unions and others who have subjected children to this horrifying lockdown, it has lost its way.

We know they are.

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  • You have good points here, Dennis. I'm the daughter of two teachers, and I was raised to love learning, not (necessarily) to succeed on tests... or even to worry about them very much. I don't ever recall going back to school thinking "Oh good, we'll start getting tested again." What these kids are going to need is what we all need -- time together, time to re-learn how to just talk to each other and be together.

  • Dennis, you underestimate the resilience of children and young adults. The pandemic has been a big game-changer; it's reshaped our culture to meet its challenge. As a society we have learned a lot about ourselves, and our value systems have been tested. Schooling has been, of course, very adversely affected by the demands of staying safe. In every respect its historical models have been modified to a pronounced degree. For the most part, I believe our El-Hi and higher educational institutions have weathered the storm. What troubles me is the extent of harm done to the students at all levels who have not been able to use the internet for lack of the technology at home. Many people have stepped up to mitigate the harm, but, I hope, however widespread and deep these detrimental effects may be, they will not be irreparable.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I think you minimize the damage to all children, including those who have internet access. The studies are many; i know that you can find them if you try.

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