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Never Waste a Good Crisis: How NYC Families (And Teachers And Advocates) Can Take Advantage, Too (Part #1)

Ever since New York City School Chancellor Richard Carranza advised colleagues that one should “never waste a good crisis” in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, NYC parents have been in a panic. They assume he’ll use it as a backdoor method for ramming through all the changes he hasn’t been able to make via the prescribed democratic channels.

For the record, the Chancellor is now claiming that’s not what he meant:

For the record: NYC parents don’t believe him.

Especially not after Mayor Bill De Blasio confirmed, “We’re going to try to create a series of changes that bring equity … certainly the screened schools are being re-evaluated…. We’ve been clear in this administration that we are re-evaluating the admissions process across the board and we’re asking important questions about what is fair and equitable going forward.”

Some parents were also up in arms at the news that NY Governor Andrew Cuomo had invited Microsoft Founder Bill Gates (or, at least, his foundation) to help the state “reimagine school.” Cuomo posed the query:

“The old model of, everybody goes and sits in a classroom, and the teacher is in front of that classroom, and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms — why, with all the technology you have?”

To a subset of families, that sounded like Cuomo was hinting that the remote learning they’d been struggling with since March might continue indefinitely.

This subset of parents and students, once again, panicked. Another subset did not.

The news has primarily been filled with moms and dads (OK, mostly moms) tearing their hair out over trying to both work from home and help their children with the multitude of log-ins, live instruction, asynchronous instruction, printed out worksheets, and uploaded assignments, while adorable moppets wept about missing their teachers, their friends, and their group playtime.

But I’ve also heard from moms and dads relieved at no longer needing to rush about in a frenzy, getting kids up, dressed, fed, and out the door in the morning, then grabbing them from school in the midst of errands and walking the dog. Not to mention parents shocked, but, nonetheless, glad to finally see for themselves how much further behind their child was than they’d been led to believe.

Even The New YorkYork Times printed an op-ed from an NYC middle-schooler who explained Why I’m Learning More With Distance Learning Than I Do At School. A sentiment my high-schooler has been proclaiming for weeks.

If there is one point I have tried to stress on New York School Talk, it’s that one educational size doesn’t fit all. That applies to traditional versus progressive learning, ethnocentric classrooms, acceleration, dual language programs, and more.

So why shouldn’t it apply to face-to-face versus remote learning?

As schools in Europe and Asia reopen with examples of social distancing in the classroom, the common refrain has been, “Oh, American kids can never be expected to do that!”

(It’s an old song. European and Asian kids begin learning Algebra in 3rd grade? American kids can never be expected to do that! European and Asian kids learn with up to 40 students in a classroom? American kids can never be expected to do that! European and Asian kids play outside and run errands unsupervised? American kids can never be expected to do that! Is this what is meant by American exceptionalism?)

Since American kids are clearly the dumbest, worst-behaved, least self-controlled kids on Earth (what? There’s another conclusion to be drawn from the above? It certainly couldn’t be lowered expectations from those in charge, could it?), why not lean into that assumption? And do it while engaged in my (though not the Department of Education’s) favorite activity: Giving every family what they want, giving every student what they need.

When schools reopen in September, why not let families decide whether they prefer face-to-face or remote learning?

To be continued….

What do you think?

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