The COVID-19 Pandemic has revealed how corporate influence on our education system has sorely failed our students. Rather than relying on the expertise of educators, who best know the individual needs of our students, district administrators have been scrambling to replace their experimental technology initiatives which have little pedagogical value. (Prior to the outbreak, our district had spent $119 million on curriculum initiatives which have proven to be ineffective.)
Given current circumstances, standards for mastery of content have been lowered, stifling our kids’ creativity and critical analysis, while favoring a one-size-fits-all curriculum. Consider the following before the imminent transition of our education system to online learning:
Students are now limited in their interaction with their teachers, e.g., high school students now see their teachers two to three times a week for an average of 15 minutes per session. The one-on-one exchanges are now minimal, at best. (Our student to teacher ratios are typically 25 to 1; with class loads of thirty-five not uncommon.)
Families in areas such as the economically-disadvantaged Chamizal Neighborhood, have limited access to WIFI, despite attempts to provide hot spots and laptops. Even when communication companies offer “free” service, such efforts entail having to commit to 1-2 year contracts which are financial burdens for struggling families.
In households with multiple children, access to online learning is limited by the bandwidth available. Time and coursework management is left to individual students who may need nurturing in terms of emotional development and skills acquisition.
Students designated as Special Education (SPED), Limited English Proficiency (LEP), and Economically Disadvantaged, are the ones bearing the brunt of the transition. Services typically rendered for these kids have been restricted, leaving their parents to provide support of which they may not be prepared for. No doubt, with the transition to online teaching, there will be a push to empower online charter schools, which may result to gradually close public schools after the pandemic runs its course.
Perhaps we need to acknowledge the hypocrisy of current initiatives that claim to address inequities, when in fact, merely perpetuate them.
It is quite evident in the morass that our healthcare system currently finds itself in, which can be attributed to Neo-liberal influences on their management and operations. One can merely look to the lack of coordination of resources, and shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ventilators as examples of a failed federal business approaches to social services.
Parents, students, and teachers must be included in the design of a post-pandemic education system, rather than those that seek to address, but fall short of encouraging civically engaged and critical thinking students. There are numerous teachers and educators who are devoted to serving our children, and we are eager to step up to the task.
Xavier Miranda has been an educator for thirty-three years, having served at the secondary, college, and university levels. He is a member of the El Paso American Federation of Teachers, and the Democratic Socialists of America El Chuco del Norte Chapter, as well as a founding member of El Paso Grassroots, firstname.lastname@example.org