Back to School!
By Edith Morgan
After all the hand-wringing about how much our children are missing being out of school since March 2020 and how this hiatus will stunt their growth, we are finally going to resume some kind of schooling, first virtually, then in a ”hybrid” system (part on-line and part in person). Finally, when all is more or less back to “normal,” back in the old schoolhouse full time, though probably in smaller classes.
There has been incessant attention to the physical safety of students and staff and to making our school buildings and equipment as virus-free as possible.
But somewhere in the rabid pursuit of the CORONA 19 virus, we seem to have lost sight of the main reason our children are in school: to become fully capable, well-functioning members of American society. That means acquiring the language, basic math and the basic knowhow to be a competent family member, a member of a neighborhood, of a city or town, a state and the United Sates of America.
For that, ability to read, understand, and use the English language fully and comfortably is absolutely basic.
A knowledge of basic math is vital, also, as we all become tax payers, workers, consumers, credit card users, savers and home buyers or renters.
So our graduates need to understand how our financial system works and to have practice in navigating the various forms in use – registration forms, license forms, contracts of all kinds (especially the tiny print designed often to evade responsibility or even mislead).
Not all our children have two parents who are adept at navigating these pitfalls, nor do the parents always have the time.
With our planet under great stress, a good understanding about the environment and our responsibility to that, should also be taught.
A clear understanding about how government functions at all levels, and each student’s responsibility in the scheme of things is important! Science – especially the scientific method and how hypotheses are formed, how evidence is collected, and how conclusions are reached, need to be emphasized throughout high school!
Needless to say, every branch of science has its own vocabulary, so that terms need to be carefully taught.
Our language has suffered a real degradation of meaning (as happened in Germany under the third Reich), and emotionally loaded words are bandied about without careful attention to their meaning. Our students should be taught to think critically about “alternative reality” as well as the 3 “P’s”: puffery, propaganda and prevarication!
Our kids will grow up totally surrounded by advertising, political pressure – and just plain lies. They must know how to identify these lies, while still maintaining their own opinions.
Our schools need to be the bulwark standing in defense of democracy. That means our students should be familiar with the Constitution, state and local laws, and customs. Democracy is fragile, and must be protected in each generation – it can not be merely handed down.
The achievement gap between minority and white students may widen, but with a life expectancy of 80+ years, that can be made up. I see many already working hard to close that gap. Technology is not sufficiently widely available in poorer homes, or in the homes of new arrivals, but much is being done to try to provide these tools.
But let us not fool ourselves into thinking that technology can or will solve the real problems facing America – skills and general information can be gotten, but those things that make for a full-adult and decent human being, an asset to this country, to family, neighborhood, city and state, can not be acquired from a screen. Parents, teachers, friends – all are role models, and they can not be replaced by a machine! Nor are they learned in large groups!
So it may be a blessing in disguise that we are forced to have smaller groups of students, enabling teachers and aides to better see when bullying and harassment occur. So, whatever form our children’s education takes, let us keep our eyes on our main duties, not the latest techy toy!