On Education in the Pandemic

14 Jul 2020

To parents, educators, students, and anyone else who understands that figuring out our schooling situation should be paramount right now:

There are many issues associated with the pandemic. My two biggest concerns (besides public health and the economy) have to do with domestic abuse and education, and they kinda go hand in hand. We need kids back in school for a number of reasons. They need the structure. They need to be mentally stimulated and to grow intellectually. They need to learn how to build relationships. They also need a place to escape violence if there is abuse at home, and a way to signal for help. Finally, we need kids in school so that parents can get to work.

However, students also need to be kept safe from contracting COVID-19 or transmitting it on to their community. The ideal scenario, therefore, is that kids stay home as long as they receive some type of distanced education that will equip them for the next step in life. If a student has access to a computer and an Internet connection, we need a standardized digital curriculum for every grade level set in place by experts and educators at the national, state, and local level. Their teachers can reinforce this framework through bite-sized Zoom sessions and add supplementary teachings that jibe with their personal approach. Parents or guardians should be expected to contribute 30 min – 1 hour a day to assist their child through the lessons, acting as a pro tempore teacher’s aide.

Some form of this already exists with home schooling, but most parents and students know how boring online-learning can get and how quickly Zoom Gloom can set in. We’ve stripped all the fun parts of school attendance (the incentives have always been recess, lunchtime, and hanging out with friends). Therefore, we need Hollywood studio-level programming interwoven in the school curriculum to keep young people socialized, entertained and engaged. If my children are eager to communicate with their friends over Fortnite, veg out on YouTube, and marvel at TikTok personalities all day long, they should theoretically be willing to sit in a digital classroom that follows the same playbook. I’m thinking Bill Nye meets School House Rock for 2020, but re-imagined as fun courses led by The Rock, Yara Shahidi, Addison Rae, or Naomi Osaka. Learning can be gamified, paired with popular music, and hosted intermittently by recognizable personalities, especially those who can teach a skillset (think MasterClass for the kids – How do Draw by Takashi Murakami. Coding with the FaZe Clan). When I was growing up, we had educational shows like Channel One and Sesame Street. In the age of streaming and content creation, we should be supporting and funding more “TV” like this for the next generation, especially in an isolated year. And – along with the oversight of education departments and teachers, this should be a united effort across studios and networks, game companies, the music industry, social media platforms, and sports leagues.

This begs the question of how to accommodate families who don’t have access to computers or the Internet. Since there are less students in physical schools, we can take advantage of wide open playgrounds and parking lots to set up tents and have students gather outside in properly spaced seating arrangements. This would be especially effective now while it’s still warm during the summer. They can view and learn from the same material that’s broadcasted online for the rest of the students.

I’m sure I’m missing a lot of important things here. I admit, I know nothing about schools, I am not an educator, I design clothing and write for a living – I am entirely naïve and think this is a simpler fix than it is. So, I will apologize for any ignorance. At the very least, I think we need to pump more money into education than ever. Many of our societal ills can be attributed to the poor education in this country, especially for underprivileged and marginalized youth. Also, in addressing the coronavirus’ strain on our economy, most parents can’t focus on their jobs until they trust someone to focus on their children. So, what will keep the children focused? And how do we prepare them for success?

—X—