Continuing Education During COVID-19

Many kids continue to be locked up at home rather than receiving a proper education.


There's no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted childhood education. In many countries, kids have physically returned to school. In others, schools were never closed. Yet in the United States, many public schools have been closed since March, yielding disastrous results for millions of kids. While scientific data say it's safe to bring them back, incentives in the school systems are such that many kids continue to be locked up at home rather than receiving a proper education.

A school's main role is to educate children. They can feed low-income children and supply day care for working parents, but these benefits are secondary to providing a quality education to all enrolled children.

The fact that children and their taxpayer parents are consumers in this scenario should guide the decisions made by superintendents and school boards. But that hasn't been the case since the start of this pandemic.

For many kids, the last academic year's schooling ended in March rather than in June. Where I live in Arlington County, Virginia, some parents feel as though the students who bothered to show up online weren't really taught new material. A teacher told me in June that absenteeism was extremely high, which isn't surprising given that kids knew there would be no consequences.

Making matters worse, after the summer break, our Arlington schools were hardly more prepared for virtual learning than they were following March's school closings.

Yet for many kids, better preparation wouldn't make a real difference. How do you realistically educate kindergarteners and elementary school students virtually? In Arlington, it took months for the superintendent to allow teachers to teach from their classroom, depriving them of the educational tools we taxpayers have paid for and forcing them to improvise, often poorly. How do you provide adequate online instruction for students with disabilities? What about students whose native language isn't English? Even under the best of circumstances, the education is lacking.

When schools closed in March, there were many unknowns. But the latest research supports the fact that this instructional dysfunction is unnecessary. Experts now know that locking children at home doesn't keep people safe from COVID-19's infectiousness or mortality, and sending them to school doesn't carry much risk either. Studies that looked at the reopening of German schools found that "neither the summer closures nor the closures in the fall have had any significant containing effect on the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among children or any spill-over effect on older generations." The investigators also didn't "find any evidence that the return to school at full capacity after the summer holidays increased infections among children or adults."

The largest study to be published on the issue so far, using data from the United Kingdom, finds no increase in severe coronavirus-related outcomes for adults living with children who go to school. It demonstrated a small increase in infections, which didn't result in any noticeable bad outcomes.

Since our school closed, many parents, including some from the 800 members of the nonpartisan Arlington Parents for Education coalition (where I'm also a member), emailed school officials to alert them to these studies. But instead, these bureaucrats decided to essentially trap students in their homes, often without adult supervision. Failing grades, collapsing math skills, increased educational gaps, and mental health issues are the results. And for all the pandering in Arlington County about equity, the most affected students were precisely those lower-income and disabled children.

Some educators would like to go back, but their voices are drowned out by the voices who claim that going back is unsafe. The media shares some of the blame for these fears. A new study by Dartmouth economist Bruce Sacerdote and two other researchers looked at news stories about COVID-19 and found that the coverage of school reopenings was "overwhelmingly negative, while the scientific literature tells a more optimistic story," about how "schools have not become the super-spreaders many feared."

But that's not the whole story. The superintendent and the school board members have little incentive to change their performance since they won't be held accountable for this fiasco—not even when faced with a roughly 2,500 drop in projected versus actual Pre-K-12 enrollment in Arlington Public Schools since March. Unlike private employees who would fear for their jobs were they responsible for the loss of paying consumers, these bureaucrats have little to fear.

The pandemic has exposed many problems with American society. Let's use this opportunity to address some of the chronic ones we're seeing in government-supplied K-12 schooling.


NEXT: Pornhub Isn't the Problem. That Won't Stop the Politicized Crusade Against It.

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  1. Luckily Biden will be along shortly to fix this.

    1. and build it back better

      1. In the eyes of teachers unions, yes.

    2. His wife has a doctorate in education, don’t you know. We’re saved!

      1. Her thesis is embarrassing.

        1. Yea, reading it is hilarious. And she demands to be called “doctor”? I loved how 3/4 of seats would be reserved for one group, 1/4 for another, and the rest would be divvied up.

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    6. Let’s hope that Donald Trump and his cronies don’t succeed in overturning the Election, as they’re trying to do. The fact that Donald Trump still refuses to concede the election is not only disgusting, but dangerously undemocratic. He’s an overgrown combination of a spoiled brat who constantly gets his way regardless of what’s going on, and a schoolyard bully. It’s beyond sickening.

  2. The best place to learn, and avoid indoctrination, is at home. Reopening the museums and libraries would be nice though.

    I didn’t really learn anything at school that I hadn’t already learned at home on my own, until I was in 8th grade.

    1. ^ THIS

      I’m not enthusiastic about this “reopen the schools” stuff. With all the added rules for masks and social distancing, it’s like they took “indoctrination center” and put it on steroids. Plus my kids are happier, closer as a family, and with me working from home too, I can keep them on task.

      The main issue I have is kids do need socialization being around other kids, but when you weigh the pros and cons I think virtual learning is better.

      1. Does your philosophy about teaching your own kids apply to making their clothing? Producing their food? Providing their health care?

        You have heard of comparative advantage, right?

    2. Not all children are temperamentally suited for self-initiated learning. My older son is thriving. My younger son … is not.

      Nor are all parents capable of backfilling when teachers go on strike (which this effectively is despite the lack of NLRB recognition) – that’s why we hire teachers in the first place. To do a better job that we can do ourselves.

      Bottom line – the best place to learn is at home for some. For the rest, the loss of schools is a serious problem.

      1. Which is why we need to deconstruct the one-size-fits-all philosophy of public education. Sadly, many teachers (and I am a public school teacher), administrators, and fanboys are deathly afraid that there may be one kid who succeeds more than another kid due to having access to something others did not (THE HORROR!!!! A KID IS LEARNING!!!)

        Seriously… that is the argument public school officials have given me in defense of public schools… that we can’t have a system that allows some kids to succeed more than others. Notice they did not say “we can’t have a system that fails some kids but not others”… no, the language used is that it is morally unfair (and we are required to prevent it) if some kids succeed because their lot in life put them in a home with books, or a family who values education, or they are just self-motivated, or any other variable that may lead to success outside the public school system. Without saying it they wanted to Harrison Bergeron the crap out of kids.

        Some kids need to be in a structured learning environment. I have students right now who I’ve had in the past who are doing much worse than they did in person. But I also have some students that I’ve had before who are thriving right now. Rossami is right… going virtual has been a boon for some, and it is a bane for some. The answer is not “OPEN THE SCHOOLS!” and it isn’t “STAY VIRTUAL FOREVER!”

        The only reasonable answer is “Let people choose what works for them!” But no…. we have egalitarians running the show.

        1. It’s also true that some students learn differently due to the fact that they’re hardwired together differently than most people, which is why public schools need to be more flexible than they are. Special Ed. programs aren’t necessarily and always the answer either, because they can and do serve to further isolate such kids from the mainstream of society. What’s needed is more of an all-inclusive atmosphere in the public schools.

  3. There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had absolutely no effect whatsoever on childhood education. What _has_ disrupted it is tyrannical governments exploiting mass hysteria.

  4. Keep voting for democrats and this is what you get.

    1. Fun fact – In my last school board election, there were no democrats on the ticket. Not uncommon in my district – they like to claim they’re nonpartisan, but one look at their platforms tells you where their loyalties lie.

      One slate of candidates left literature on my front door. One retired teacher, a former secretary for the state NAACP chapter, and an “education activist”. 3 paragraphs, about a dozen grammatical errors, and one unintelligible sentence.

      Out of 3 slates, they came in 2nd.

  5. The fact that children and their taxpayer parents are consumers in this scenario should guide the decisions made by superintendents and school boards. But that hasn’t been the case since the start of this pandemic.


    The school board in my county (and I would assume throughout the Blue lands) is occupied by retired/former teachers, beholden to the unions.

    1. The problem in the People’s Republic of NJ is not the children.

      The problem is the teachers union and the politicians who enable them.

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  8. How is it that “schools are not the super spreaders we thought” but Trump rallies are always characterized as “super spreader events”?

    1. Because Orange Man Bad, that’s why!

    2. This summer’s leftwing protests weren’t superspreader events, and even if they were, they were totally worth it to combat racism.

      1. As if these protests have done anything to combat racism. On the contrary, the actions and behaviors of many protestors (i. e. blocking traffic and preventing people from going about their daily lives and businesses, and to be late to medical appointments, etc.), unfortunately, has helped exacerbate the problems of racism in our society.

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  10. Where do you get all these images of children sitting in front of computers wearing masks?

    1. Science!

    2. The NSA?

  11. Everyone needs to take a chill pill about schools right now. Things will start to get back to normal in a few months and schools will begin to open.

    A week or so ago I was listening to some conservative radio and some guy called in saying that his 7 year old daughter has regressed to how she was when she was three because of the school shutdowns. Then the fool started crying. Jesus christ what is wrong with some people.y some is a grown man now. But you can be sure of he was 7 today, he would not regress to age three. These parents gotta take a little responsibility and start teaching their kids. Even if you aren’t a teacher, you can still reach them about the real world. Keep their little minds stimulated. It’s not that tough.

  12. Average house price in Arlington VA is $780,000

    You have a school funding issue or something going on there?

  13. Alternate title, “Libertarian Magazine Demands More Government Schools” The mavens at reason are starting to define what it means to be a progressive libertarian.

  14. “Proper education” is in the eye of the beholder.
    “In all countries, in all centuries, the primary reason for government to set up schools is to undermine the politically weak by convincing their children that the leaders are good and their policies are wise.” ~ Marshall Fritz
    “And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.” ~ H.L. Mencken
    “Governments have ever been known to hold a high hand over the education of the people. They know, better than anyone else, that their power is based almost entirely on the school. Hence, they monopolize it more and more.” ~ Francisco Ferrer
    “Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

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