Yes, remote schooling has been a misery—but it’s offering a rare chance to rethink early education entirely.
The litany of tragedies and inconveniences visited upon Americans by COVID-19 is long, but one of the more pronounced sources of misery for parents has been pandemic schooling. The logistical gymnastics necessary to balance work and school when all the crucial resources—time, physical space, internet bandwidth, emotional reserves—are limited have pushed many to the point of despair.
Pandemic school is clearly not working well, especially for younger children—and it’s all but impossible for the 20 percent of American students who lack access to the technology needed for remote learning. But what parents are coming to understand about their kids’ education—glimpsed through Zoom windows and “asynchronous” classwork—is that school was not always working so great before COVID-19 either. Like a tsunami that pulls away from the coast, leaving an exposed stretch of land, the pandemic has revealed long-standing inattention to children’s developmental needs—needs as basic as exercise, outdoor time, conversation, play, even sleep. All of the challenges of educating young children that we have minimized for years have suddenly appeared like flotsam on a beach at low tide, reeking and impossible to ignore. Parents are not only seeing how flawed and glitch-riddled remote teaching is—they’re discovering that many of the problems of remote schooling are merely exacerbations of problems with in-person schooling.