By Alexandra V. Maragha
As the COVID-19 pandemic surges around the world and now in the United States, it has provided greater insights into the American mindset and further into the readiness and value of education in America.
With the federal stay-at-home order continuing through April 30, 2020, schools across the country have postponed or entirely canceled classroom instruction for the rest of the year and have now shifted to at-home practice and elearning.
Depending on the funding individual schools and districts received to have access and use elearning tools and techniques into their everyday curriculum and instruction, the economic and racial divide of education has been further exposed.
Schools with low-income families in low-income areas have been hardest hit, as they might not have access to learning tools, such as laptops or tablets, for students to check out or have their own devices to use at home. Likewise, access to internet service might not be available for families to afford or residential rural and urban areas might not be equipped to provide high-speed or Wi-Fi access.
Even if tools such as learning devices and internet access are available, the fact is the overall motivation and mindset of most Americans is not equal to meet the reality of executing education at home. Now, stay-in-place Americans are faced with a true test of priorities each day of how to manage the chaos that COVID-19 has caused in every aspect of life. Structured learning at home, is for many, not critical to establish as the illusion that “normalcy” will return sooner rather than later still is the false hope of Americans.
As the desire for the “return to normalcy” is motivated by financial maintenance and social interaction, education does not rank high for many in the sense of true knowledge acquirement. Most parents are waiting for schools to open and education to be valued only for families to be relieved of taking care of their children. The extended time at home due to COVID-19 has left families and communities hit with the reality of the inability to facilitate learning at home because it was never desired. Realistically, a normal school day routine will not be replicated within any home to resemble the structure of scheduled activities of an eight-hour school day. But the value and structure placed in American homes to give priority to studies, homework, and simply gaining knowledge about any topic is not within the majority.
The intensity of American capitalism keeps families focused on how to provide and keep putting food on the table, leaving a child’s education to be determined by the schools and educators they are nurtured by each day. Beyond the simple purpose of educational institutions, when students come home to further their studies, they might complete what is required for a grade in short-term capacities but might not develop depth and true comprehension for long-term retention and application. Depending on economic, educational, language, social, and racial status, parents may or may not have the luxury or ability to facilitate and cultivate learning in the home, even if they have the intention.
Likewise, the objective of American capitalism finds its niche in exploiting Americans to ultimately be told their desires. Entertainment such as sports, sex, fashion, pop culture, music, movies and shows, and social media and technology furthers the consumption process. Education and any outlet that furthers the consumption of knowledge falls short in terms of financial investment based on consumer interest of the American people. At the same time, those “influencers” and decision-makers at the top maintain this system of consumerism by intentionally oppressing groups from receiving adequate education and thus furthering the value and desire of knowledge in American culture. By limiting education and knowledge among the masses, this is also a technique used throughout history where monarchs and nobility were highly educated within Europe, leaving the masses illiterate to maintain control, influence, and power. Even the battle during the Age of Enlightenment has continued into this COVID-19 pandemic as science and religion have again been fueled against each other.
What the United States will face now, and perhaps as intended, is a generation of youth who will now maintain ignorance. The current value of education and the investment to further prioritize it in the U.S. has not shifted from its current system in place. Lack of funding for school supplies, equipment, programs, support staff, access to institutions, adequate pay for teachers, and the overall American systematic mentality of the importance of education has now been exposed by COVID-19. Education and the value of education are that which is now being tested as an institution to fail, only where individuals such as parents and educators within each community will lead to spreading knowledge in the future.