Despite the pain, COVID-19 offers hope for change: Steven Greenhut

Posted on: April 15, 2020

Government agencies and public utilities are the most preposterous examples of stasis. We can (kind of, sort of) complete some tasks on the Department of Motor Vehicles website. We can pay our electric bill online. You can check on the status of your traffic ticket on the court website. You can even track an overnight package that you sent via the Postal Service. Mostly, though, these agencies operate as they operated in 1983, or 1965 for that matter.

Even odder, the public schools aren’t appreciably different from when the first public school systems were created eons ago. Oh yeah, we now bus kids to school, float bonds to build fancy gyms and prosecute the parents of truants. But the model is the same. Your kids sit in a classroom for a set period of time, learning whatever it is the educational authorities have determined that they must learn. Colleges haven’t changed too much, either.

In COVID-19-ravaged New York City, the schools are shut down for obvious reasons. An unintentionally humorous New York Times article reported on the trials and tribulations of a school system that’s figuring out how to implement some form of distance learning so students could still graduate on time. The article quoted one teacher who “had never heard of Zoom until two weeks ago” but “had some familiarity with Google Classroom, unlike many colleagues who only used their computers for email.”

Yikes. At least the New Yorkers are trying, even if the effort has the feel of the old Soviet GUM department store trying to figure out how to compete with Costco. As that state’s schools shut down, the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators called for a moratorium on enrollments in cyber charter schools, according to a recent Washington Examiner report.

To read the rest of this column in the Orange County Register, please click here.

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