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Tue Jul 7, 2020, 07:55 AM

Something to consider about K-12 education during a pandemic, or any time really.

The caveat to this post is that I am addressing a very narrow topic concerning education. I recognize it does not take into account the real inconveniences and hardships families are facing with their children at home.

* child care for those with younger children who have to leave the house to work
* children under foot for those working at home
* trying to feed and keep the roof over their children's heads for those who have lost their jobs or are under-employed
* dysfunctional family environments posing physical, psychological, and emotional risks to the children
* special needs children not getting the individualized education and attention they require

In this post, I'd like to expound on just one point in this fantastic post by a teacher. https://www.democraticunderground.com/100213709325. Please read it if you haven't already.

"We’re going to be facing kids who are dealing with layer upon layer of trauma, we need to make time and space for that, so stop telling me kids are behind. They’re not any further behind than anyone else. They’re behind some arbitrary lines we drew in the sand so long ago we’re not sure we remember why we drew them."


Let's talk about the notion that missing out on a fully functional school year in a classroom setting is going to put America's school children behind in their education.

In a word. Bullshit.

First of all, the teacher uses a key word. Arbitrary.

While our progressive curricula across the country are by and large quite similar, they also differ from school system to school system. What a fifth grader learns in Virginia is going to cover the same types of material at the same general level as a fifth grader in Oregon. Except maybe the fifth grader in VA's social studies class this spring is focusing on US and VA state history while the OR kid's social studies class is getting an introduction to the Sumerians, Greeks, and Romans. This is a real world example by the way, and any kid or parent who has relocated during a school year can attest to these abrupt changes when plunked in the new school, especially mid-year.

I graduated high school after attending six different schools in six different systems. I had the ancient civilizations drilled into me and never encountered substantive US history until 7th freaking grade because each school system I transferred to had world history in my grade's curriculum.

My high school science department's standard progression ran like this:
9th grade - Physical Science
10th grade - Biology
11th grade - Physics
12th grade - Chemistry

My children's high school science department's standard progression:
9th grade - Biology
10th grade - Chemistry
11th grade - Physics
12th grade - Specialized Elective Subject

For reasons I won't get into as they are irrelevant, I home educated my first two sons K-8 and my third son K-6. We were a hybrid of structured and unstructured schooling methods and probably put in a grand total of maybe two hours every day of what most people would consider education. Not really grasping what those arbitrary lines might be, I was terrified when I enrolled them in school that they would be "behind."

They weren't. The first two graduated high school with AP diplomas and the third is going into his senior year with even higher grades and SAT scores than his brothers. The eldest graduated FSU magna cum laude last year and the middle child was on the President's List at FSU both semesters of his freshman year.

I'm not saying that to brag about my kids (mostly). I say it because when spread out over 13 years, these arbitrary lines don't matter. I say it because kids are inherently curious. If you put educational materials of any kind within their reach, they'll do something with it. Maybe it won't be the stuff we think they should be learning at that time, and maybe there are subjects and concepts we need to push them in a little (math in my household). In the long run it isn't that big of a deal.

Now let's talk about gaps in education instead of unaligned curricula.

How detrimental is it to give kids a "gap year" when they are 5, 10, or 15? Why do we think it normal that most of the kids walking across the stage at high school graduation are 18 years old? Does it really matter if they graduate at 17, 19, 20?

Yes, children will probably lose some of the material they learned previously if they aren't reinforced during the gap. But what they are most likely to lose are facts, not concepts. My dad lost most of his fourth grade year to polio. Instead of holding him back, they put him in with his classmates when he returned to school. He struggled a bit in the first few weeks, but then settled right in and graduated with them eight years later.

What I'm trying to inelegantly say here is that a concern about children "falling behind" in their education need not factor into the equation when making decisions about whether to re-open schools at the public policy level or send our children to school at the family level. We can, and should, make this a public health and safety issue first and foremost. That includes addressing the infrastructure at our crumbling schools, making sure families have their basic needs met, bridging the digital divide, getting materials into students' hands, and as the teacher in the post linked above said, "we need to meet our kids where they are."

When it comes to whether or not their overall education will suffer if students are not sitting in a classroom for 18 months in 2020-21, I can assure you that in most cases, the kids will be alright.

Congratulations if you made it to the end, climbing down off my soap box now. Be safe everyone!

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Reply Something to consider about K-12 education during a pandemic, or any time really. (Original post)
Pacifist Patriot Jul 7 OP
Squinch Jul 7 #1
Pacifist Patriot Jul 7 #2
Mariana Jul 7 #10
lostnfound Jul 7 #3
lindysalsagal Jul 7 #4
Pacifist Patriot Jul 7 #6
ChazII Jul 7 #5
2naSalit Jul 7 #7
Pacifist Patriot Jul 7 #8
2naSalit Jul 7 #9

Response to Pacifist Patriot (Original post)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 08:17 AM

1. For very young school children - preK, Kinder, and 1st and maybe even 2nd grade - this

"gap year" is probably beneficial to their brain development.

The curricula currently in use for those grades works in opposition to what we know about brain development at those ages. The less time kids spend sitting at a desk writing small things on paper, or sitting on a floor listening to a teacher for periods any longer than 10 minutes, the better for their development.

Up until age 6, they should not be learning academics. They should be learning self-regulation using gross motor activities (things like playing Duck Duck Go or Red Light/Green light, etc), gradually upping their developmentally appropriate short attention spans, and exploring the world through drawing, playing with textures and colors, gradually moving down from gross motor to fine motor skills. ABCs and numbers can easily be incorporated into these activities, but they should not be the main focus and they should not be drilled. A typically developing child's brain is simply not well equipped yet for drilling or memorization, etc. Kids should be playing with each other, using imaginative play, developing social skills and developing the ability to deal with each other without adult assistance.

We completely skip over all of these essential life skills that should be developed in these early years. We go right into what used to be a first or second grade curriculum of letters, numbers, writing small things on paper, sitting at desks for extended periods. It is no wonder that we have seen an explosion of attention deficit disorders and social difficulties among older children.

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Response to Squinch (Reply #1)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 08:36 AM

2. I completely agree with you.

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Response to Squinch (Reply #1)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 01:18 PM

10. They're also giving the little kids homework

just to make sure that even when they aren't at school, they don't get a break from sitting at a desk and writing small things on paper.

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Response to Pacifist Patriot (Original post)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 08:43 AM

3. Some learn to be confident and self-directed, away from school social pressure

Those with a parent at home who isn’t too busy working may find it a great chance to be a fully human again instead of the compartment known as “student”.

To be human beings, not human doings, for a while.
Summertime as a child for me: I read Dickens one summer, a geometry book the next. Built little boats to float and grew a garden with my mother. Tennis lessons. Friendships.

All unstructured childhood, in those summers.

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Response to Pacifist Patriot (Original post)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 08:51 AM

4. I don't know at what point that teacher made those assertions: Week 5, 10, but

As a retired K-12 teacher, I beg to differ.

This graduating class will see significant losses across the board when their final data scores are compared to previous cohorts.

And it's not just the content:

They're losing self-efficacy every day they're not challenged to strive beyond their baseline skills.

They're losing practice in being individual, autonomous selves. School is a middle ground where they get to practice self management in a framework where they can watch it modeled by the other students. Parents actually can ask too little of children and it's too exhausting to keep demanding independence. It's easier to cave in and let them be lazy.

Even if they're acquiring new content in a home setting, the processes are actually more important, and navigating the school interface is necessary. Accessing and interpreting information and validating the competency of sources is the new education, rather than 19th century memorization.

Writing and reading will suffer. They just will, especially for anyone with personal learning challenges. Those students must have other student work around them constantly to pull them along. Working alone with a limitation is a brick wall.

Sure, there will be individuals who will be fine. But as a class, this is a disaster.


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Response to lindysalsagal (Reply #4)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 09:43 AM

6. I respect your opinion.

We'll have to agree to disagree about the long-term impact of lacking school structure for one year out of 13 for most children.

Cheers!

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Response to Pacifist Patriot (Original post)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 08:51 AM

5. If wishes were horses...

I wish more folks thought like you.

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Response to Pacifist Patriot (Original post)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 11:26 AM

7. The structured education system we have

was designed with industrial intent. We were schooled to work in the factory of our choice, basically. That also meant that education was structured like a manufacturing industry where only a defined and focused progression was acceptable, all else was insufficient and had little to no consideration for human variation thus requiring us to all conform to one paradigm and that's it. At least for the working class, the wealthy and connected have always had more options for variance as individuals... a nasty little carryover from European aristocratic social hierarchy.


I like your assessment's conclusions, they are based on acknowledgement of the natural progression of learning and understanding which is more important than strict timeline progression which is self defeating, in its essence, for all but the powerful and wealthy who hoard all resources for exchange.

And congrats to your students who are faring well in their being intelligent people who are able to navigate our crazy mess of a world!

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Response to 2naSalit (Reply #7)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 12:37 PM

8. If you can stomach it, I have a mommy brag about my middle son.

He was a freshman at FSU this past year and finished his second semester online after Spring Break. His original plans entailed getting a job this summer. When the pandemic shut downs resulted in widespread job loss and job reduction, we decided as a family that we would prefer any available jobs go to people who need them to survive and provide for their families. Instead, since he had to be home anyway, the kid chose a couple of courses already designed to be online classes to take this summer.

But that's not really what I'm bragging about. In addition to online course work, he has volunteered with Organizing Together 2020 and spent hours and hours texting people about register to vote and mail away ballots. He contacted a Democratic candidate for state rep in our district and talked himself into a paid job (very modest monthly stipend) as a virtual field coordinator to organize volunteers and coordinate texting, emailing, social media, and phone banking efforts for the campaign. I love that he wants to make a difference, even in a district with very little chance of Democratic success in that race.



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Response to Pacifist Patriot (Reply #8)

Tue Jul 7, 2020, 12:46 PM

9. It's also

proof he had a good teacher and leadership is one of the lessons he learned. Good for all of you. It gives me hope for that generation. I am pleased to see the wonderful people my nieces and nephew have turned out to be. Those old enough have all graduated with honors from noted academic institutions and gone on to be successful professionals, the rest are on their way. None were home schooled but they have navigated well in spite of many obstacles.

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