Written By: Anton Sawyer
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I'm glad to see that since the last reporting I did on Covid-19 there have been a lot more companies with more viable vaccine options. In fact, the first person to ever get a vaccine already happened in the UK on December 8, 2020.
At first glance, it appears that our chances for survival have taken a turn for the better.
It couldn't have come at a better time; state, national, and worldwide numbers for those contracting the virus are all setting new records almost daily. The combination of these ever-increasing numbers, with the amount of time Covid-19 has been attacking the entire world, has allowed us to see more definitive research on the collateral damage left in the pandemic's wake.
There are a plethora of topics to choose from when it comes to the disastrous side-effects of Covid-19:
The fact that Food America—the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization—stated prior to Covid-19, 37 million people in the U.S. struggle with hunger. As a result of the pandemic, that number may rise to 54 million people, including 18 million children in 2020.
The American Hospital Association of America looked at the financial challenges brought to hospitals between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2020, to see how the hospital industry was faring economically.
The results were less than stellar.
Between drug shortage costs, wage and labor costs, non-PPE medical supply and equipment costs, along with capital costs and other financial challenges; the total four-month financial impact was $202.6 billion or an average of $50.7 billion per month.
All are topics definitely worthy of being more closely examined. But there's been one particular element that has seemed to have the biggest "citizens versus government" impact: children and schooling.
Parents have been wanting to have their children return to school as quickly as states will allow. Initially, you may look at that and take a face-value approach; they need a break sometimes.
And although education is critical, there's also a level of wanting the stress reduction provided by their children being gone for hours during the day (especially for those parents who work at home). If you delve into the numbers, you see that there's a substantial reason to worry—not just now, but also for the next few years.
The numbers are not only shocking, they are nationwide.
In the Granite School District in Utah, nearly 14,000 in-person and online students received one or more F grades or incompletes in the first quarter—more than twice the number from the first quarter in 2019. Another 1,200 students received all Fs or incompletes—a whopping five times greater than last year.
Oregon's McNary High School, located in Salem-Keizer Public School district, saw 38% of failing grades in late October—compared with 8% in "normal" times. Also, hundreds of students initially had not just Fs, but grade scores of 0.0%, indicating they simply were not participating in school whatsoever.
These are just a few examples out of many.
The most frightening part about those numbers is the level of "incompletes."
Students not logging on to their classes.
Not reading their assignments or doing homework.
Even the most basic levels of participation are being left in the dust.
Given America's educational standing on the world stage over the last couple of decades, these students cannot afford to be left any further behind.
According to a Business Insider report in 2018, the United States education ranking was 38th in math scores and 24th in science when compared to the rest of the world. The study also found that in 2016—after ranking countries based on their levels of education and health overall—that the US ranked 27th in the world on these metrics. Behind a host of top-ranking countries including Finland, Iceland, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
In order to keep the children moving from one grade to the next, administrators and teachers in Charleston, South Carolina, are raising the possibility of adjusting grading the way they did in spring, where instructors were told to give out a 50% grade instead of 0% grade, to make it less punitive for disengaged students.
I understand the reason why they are doing this. In as far as it pertains to not letting kids with the drive and desire to excel potentially fall through the cracks, this program can work. For those who are not making the same attempts, it's giving a reward to their lackadaisical efforts.
It's like having an event where as long as you show up you get a participation trophy, and for those who didn't bother to show up, having their trophies mailed to them regardless.
There are going to be many who feel that it should be the parent's responsibility to ensure the children are doing what they're supposed to. The only problem is that per a 2019 census study, about 13 million US workers have more than one job. Plus a majority of homes with two working parents see both of them full-time, actively employed, and unable to give their children the time they need to teach them how to flourish on their own.
Outside of the educational aspect, another consideration to account for is the emotional and developmental parts of these childhoods.
Letting them advance a grade without the proper educational foundation is really just constructing a house of cards. You need to know basic math before you can tackle algebra. With this being the second school year to be impacted by Covid-19, there are going to be building blocks missing that are needed for each course of study.
At some point, too many bricks will be missing and it will become painfully evident that not everyone is on the same page. I can promise you that the level of anxiety that's felt from being called out in a class full of peers and not know at all what the teacher is asking you, is enough to cripple anyone.
Holding these students a year or two back would also be socially detrimental on a vast scale.
A paper published in the National Library of Medicine in 2010 showed research indicating that when students are held back (retained), it may bestow advantages in the short-term, but longer-term detrimental effects on social acceptance may lead to the documented longer-term negative effects of retention.
A study was done by doctors Alexander, Entwisle, and Dauber in 2003 found that early-retained children in Baltimore schools, relative to matched promoted children, were more likely to drop out of school in adolescence. I don't know from personal experience, but I can't imagine it being easy for anyone involved in public education to have a couple of years of students that are over the age of majority, still in grade school. Being 20 in high school would only lead to unimaginable amounts of teasing and humiliation.
So what does a society do?
Do we force children to go to school during a pandemic because of the potential educational and social side-effects (even though it might kill the child)?
What I feel we need is a standardized GED-type test at the end of the school year to establish proficiency before moving on.
This will ensure that those who read, studied, and understand the material won't be left behind. On the other hand, those who opted to stay away from anything school-related will be held accountable.
We still have a ways to go before we're out of the woods, but I'm hoping that those in charge can pull together the necessary leadership to carry us through this difficult time.
I'm also not holding my breath ...
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