Divisiveness and the Education System

A couple weeks ago my hometown held a “Let Them Learn” rally in response to schools shutting down across the state. I found this slogan to be particularly odd, as if one side was fundamentally against allowing children to learn, while also implying that the learning ends outside the walls of the school, discrediting the incredible work the teachers across the country are doing. I think each person on either side of the argument surrounding pandemic education can agree that children deserve the best education possible; getting back to school safely is what everyone desires, and it is important to keep in mind how much each side cares about this. Discourse is healthy and quite necessary in huge decisions like these, however, to imply that one side does not care about the well-being and education of students is a disservice to the decision-making process as a whole. It speaks to a greater issue in the decisions within education across the country. Everyone wants students to receive the best education possible while being safe, this is not a controversial statement whatsoever. 

This week I came across two different articles relaying two very different experiences for schools during a pandemic. One conveyed the elite Boston suburb while the other Community school 55. Both Brookline and the Bronx want nothing more than educated, happy children, though the way they go about it may be different they each have the same goal. As we maneuver through the coming months it is important to focus on what everyone has in common to obtain the best education possible for children across the country.

The two articles I read are from drastically different places trying to come to the same solution of providing their students with the support and education they deserve. The New York Times highlighted the reopening of New York City’s Community School 55 and The Slate writes of Brookline, an extremely elite district outside of Boston. One of the wealthiest districts in the country has the same goals as a much larger inner-city district. Two drastically different groups grapple with the same issue, one with endless resources and the other decidedly lacking in those departments. Both share the passion and desire to allow their students to succeed in a safe environment. The resources may vary but the goals remain the same. The comparison of these two situations demonstrates the shared hopefulness surrounding our school system, a hopefulness supplied by the fact that everyone does cares so deeply and wants what is best for the students of their school.

An interesting part of these conversations surrounding reopening, especially about the wealthier district, is that the decisions are being made by those who will not be impacted by these consequences. This type of decision-making process is indicative of many throughout this country. The people making the decisions are not those who will face the potential consequences. Teachers in the NYT piece shared the possible impacts being in school may have on their families and their own well-being. The Slate highlights the peculiar lack of educators within the discussions in Brookline. I am not certain what role educators should play within this decision-making process, but to prevent the union and individual teachers from the talks does not seem productive in any way. Most people would agree that they should have some input in this important manner. Big decisions like this require experts, and they are not allowing the teaching experts to convey what they know within the walls of the school. Epidemiologists are obviously the most important perspective during a pandemic (and abundant in Brookline), and we should listen to their opinions because they are the experts we need. Just as when you are making decisions regarding classrooms, teachers should be perceived as the experts that they are. The teachers and union members were not even allowed in the meeting to decide their fate. And while the decisions are primarily for the children it is the teachers who are far more at risk than the average student. The video in the NYT article demonstrated the teacher’s obvious desire to be in the classroom, but also addressed the obvious potential dangers they fear. Regardless of what a person may believe in this particular matter, I believe the majority of people would also hope that the teachers would have a say in the matter. Not only does it affect them, but they are also most knowledgeable on the education side, a very important perspective on the decisions surrounding a school.

I hope, like everyone else, that we will be able to achieve some form of normal in the coming months and that the hard work done by every educator across the country has paid off. Everyone is working towards the same goal of reopening and hopefully that may be achieved soon. Though at times disheartening, I am choosing to have faith that our education system will make it through this difficult period more knowledgeable than before; that they will be able to walk away having acquired a greater knowledge of every student and educator within their walls. The teachers in the NYT video demonstrated passion and kindness and the desire to learn and help children, a sentiment shared by thousands of teachers across the country. No matter the state of the school system, remote or in-person, these teachers want the best for their students and that shone through in the video. The perfect scenario would be in-person, but for the time being everyone is doing what they believe is best for the students, and in discussing these factors we must acknowledge the mutual desire for the well-being of our children. In an extremely divisive time in our country it is important to remember that within the education system everyone’s goals united, and the children’s safety and education must prevail above all else.

I encourage all to read the articles I have referenced above and linked below! Please leave any thoughts you may have in the comments!

https://slate.com/human-interest/2020/12/school-reopening-teachers-unions-parents-brookline-massachusetts.html

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