In a Virtual Learning Environment, Public Schools May Need to Extend the School Year

Photo credit: WCVE

by James A. Bacon

A story I missed yesterday in all the excitement… Two days ago the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) announced a major expansion of Virtual Virginia, the state’s online learning platform to help teachers host virtual classes while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 epidemic. The initiative will enable public school teachers to share lessons and activities with students through June 30.

I applaud the Northam administration for this initiative. I just hope that public school systems find the wherewithal to extend the school year past June 30 for children who need the extra time to complete their learning.

“While there is no perfect substitute for in-person classroom instruction, this is an unprecedented public health crisis and we must do everything we can to ensure all children have equitable learning opportunities,” said Governor Ralph Northam in a press release. “The expansion of Virtual Virginia will help ensure that the closure of schools and interruption of formal instruction this spring does not lead to a widening of achievement gaps.”

Virginia Virginia content can be loaded onto devices for use by students in home without sufficient internet access to support online learning, according to the press release. “Access to the Virtual Virginia platform will be especially helpful for teachers and students in school divisions without robust distance learning systems,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.

This Virtual Virginia expansion follows a previous initiative, Virginia Learns Anywhere, which created a hub of “resources and recommendations” to support teachers in the virtual teaching environment.

Bacon’s bottom line: After Northam’s order shutting down public schools across Virginia, school districts have had to shift to online learning environments in order to complete instruction for the academic year. Some systems, schools and teachers are better prepared for this challenge than are others. Likewise, students vary in their access to laptops and high-speed Internet access. It is entirely appropriate that VDOE provide assistance to those having trouble making the transition.

The standard public school year in Virginia is 180 instructional days or 990 instructional hours. It will be interesting to see how this requirement gets translated in the shift to online learning.

I would argue that instruction should continue as long as it takes for children to master the material, even if it means extending instruction past the traditional end of the school year. Even if it means teachers have to spend a few more weeks teaching and students have to spend a few more weeks learning. We cannot afford to throw up our hands and say, oh, well, maybe we can catch up next year. Next year will be challenging enough without playing catch-up.

I expect it would get tricky persuading some teachers to work longer. Lengthy summer vacations are a perk of the job. Of course, it’s not like most teachers can go anywhere during the COVID-19 shutdown. And it’s not like tens of thousands of other Virginians aren’t getting slammed by layoffs. But perhaps the Governor and General Assembly could consider reallocating funds to compensate teachers for working longer. Educational performance in Virginia was dismal enough before the shutdown. We can’t afford to let it get any worse.

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47 responses to “In a Virtual Learning Environment, Public Schools May Need to Extend the School Year”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Here’s a fun question. Will the school systems that had been planning to start after Labor Day (which is late this September) reverse course and start in August instead? For many that would be an excellent way to pick up some lost ground.

  2. djrippert Avatar

    If teachers are asked to work more they should be paid more.

    1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

      Mr. DJ this is going to be a lot like 1816. The year without summer. A volcanic eruption plus low solar activity meant a world wide absence of summer. In Virginia we had snow in May and frost in June. Farmers tried to plant and replant. Didn’t matter. We had a hard freeze the last week of August. One silver lining was spectacular sunsets thanks to the refraction of light by volcanic dust.

      2020 is the year without school. There is no real way to fix it for everybody. It sure will shape the education of tomorrow though.

  3. I hope the remediation of broadband “deserts” also gets some attention here. The fixes are mostly long-range; so what is being done to bring immediate on-line access to the children who don’t have it anywhere nearby geographically; or whose parents can’t afford the cost of it? Giving computer pads to kids only gets you part-way there. An obvious solution is off-line storage of these teaching materials on each student’s pad, with periodic downloads of lessons completed and uploads of new lessons; but are our on-line teaching methods adaptable to that variation? And is all this being monitored Statewide, or catch-as-catch-can by locality?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Part of the problem except in very rural areas has been fixed. Verizon, Cox and Comcast have programs that offer one broadband connection, including a router, per household, for about $10 a month. And I know Cox offers refurbished computers for $150. I believe these programs are widespread. (I was on a Fairfax County task force that established this a trial program about 12 years ago.)

      Rural areas are a lot tougher challenge. Back in the 2006-09 timeframe, I was helping a lot of school divisions in west-central Virginia lease 2.5 GHz band spectrum to wireless providers. The Great Recession didn’t phase this much but Obama’s stimulus program did. I had 3-5 companies vying for this spectrum but money dried up because no lenders or investors would put money into these ventures until they found out who got stimulus money. By then, all but one of the companies went bust. This is not intended to be a political statement but only a statement of what I personally observed.

      The one that remained alive did everything, including working with UVA, to get something up and running. It defaulted in payments. I worked out a deal for the affected school division so the company could sell its lease at about a breakeven point in the Spring of 2019.

      The FCC is finalizing rules for two reverse auctions for universal service money in rural markets. It’s about $20 billion over ten years.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        The “equity” issue is for kids who normally get extra help from “Title” teachers. The Title teachers are specifically for economically disadvantaged kids who are not on grade level.

        how do you do that in a distance learning environment?

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          We’ll just have to try our best at distance learning. It could be a lot worse.

          Maybe it’s time for all parents of children to grow up and act like adults. Make an effort. How about some PSAs from Northam and Fairfax, encouraging parents to work with their kids during these difficult times? But that’s not the solution. The only people who have to act responsibly are taxpayers.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    Not entirely clear or I’m a little thick. From now on, kids are not going to go a physical school and instead will be learning from home?

    Do we think every teacher will end up having their own teaching “channel”?

    If teaching is gong to be “remote” – does it matter if there are 2, or 20, or 200 kids on the receiving end?

  5. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    Virtual learning has a number of barriers. The number one barrier in Loudoun County is equity. The superintendent and his gang of bureaucratic cronies are obsessed with equity. In other words, we are being held up in the virtual classroom by an overreacting concern that everyone single solitary student can climb on board and succeed. Given the circumstances, a substantial number of students are going to be left behind. The bureaucrats, bean counters, and politicians cannot seem to make up their minds about a “a plan” that they are willing to stick with. They are striving to craft a plan that gets everyone on the train before it pulls out of the station. I hope this train fairs better than “Old 97” did.

    “But it’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville
    With a line on a three mile grade
    It was on that grade that he lost his air brakes see what a jump he made
    He was goin’ down the grade makin’ 90 miles an hour his whistle broke into a scream
    He was found in the wreck with his hand on the throttle
    A scalded to death by the steam”

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      If economically disadvantaged kids get extra help and resources in a bricks/mortar school, what is the equivalent of that in a distance learning environment?

      1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

        That is the $64,000 question.

    2. Maria Paluzsay Avatar
      Maria Paluzsay

      Why are we only considering economic equity? As we reduce our system more and more to online learning, we are playing with educational equity for everyone, not just those with financial constraints. Many kids simply cannot learn without in person engagement. I have been impressed with most of my kids’ teachers as they struggle to create meaningful lessons online, because they know their students and know many of them need a personal connection and individual and group engagement. This element has no economic element, it is a personal learning style (even Aristotle elaborated on this, but in our current situation I recommend reading on David Kolb). If we are going to get stuck on equity, we need to address more than economic equity.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        re: ” we are playing with educational equity for everyone, not just those with financial constraints. ”

        ” Many kids simply cannot learn without in person engagement.”

        Isn’t it the kids who are falling behind or have fallen behind that are a priority?

        some kids will go forward – and some will not – right? Conventional wisdom is that kids with low-income, low-education parents need more resources. No?

        In terms of “in-person”… is that a realistic expectation now?

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    There is peril and there is opportunity. How we approach it, matters.

    If we can figure out a way to actually help economically-disadvantaged kids in a distance-learning environment – it changes everything when we get back to bricks and mortar…

    We talk here often about disruptive innovation. Often we see it as upstarts pushing the envelope but here we have forced innovation to deal with already-disrupted education.

  7. Maria Paluzsay Avatar
    Maria Paluzsay

    As a current parent of a high schooler and a middle schooler, I must say that we don’t need more school time, we need more efficient school time. With the rise in “equitable education” we have downgraded education for the majority. (Before jumping on me, I have 1 kid with a 504 and another who should have one if her mother – me – had the patience to deal with the system. I also qualify as a low-income single family household and I believe our schools are Title 1 schools as our elementary is. I understand disparity in our school system, at least).

    Even in this current situation, it’s not a question of needing more school time or those ridiculous “seat hours”.

    My thought is that we should actually have live classrooms over the summer once we are able to hold classes. Summer school is now virtual, even if a student goes to school – he or she goes to school to sit on a desktop. This is not education. This is memorization. Education is gained through the sharing of ideas.

    Now, back to this idea of equity: is summer school going to cost $300-500 per class, like it does now? And does it have to be this infernal online state program, like now?

    But I digress… I’m looking forward to this disruptive innovation, in hopes that we get not only innovation but actual education.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Maria, you are low income, your kids are considered at-risk/economically disadvantaged – and you think the schools are too focused on…. ???

      Please educate me! seriously?

    2. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

      Be sure and fight for that 504 plan. You have a legal right to this. The bureaucrats can only throw up so many road blocks before they can find themselves in real trouble. A well written 504 plan that is actually implemented can really be a life line to a kid.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        How would a 504 “work” if the schools are doing distance learning?
        Is this considered an “equity” issue?

        1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

          Oh yeah. I don’t know what can really be done. I saw VT is waiving SAT/ACT scores for next year. Is this equity in action? Looks like it to me.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            they’re going to be online: Students May Be Able to Take SAT, ACT at Home Due to Coronavirus
            College Board will offer monthly test dates, in-school option, while ACT plans for a remote option later this year

  8. Maria Paluzsay Avatar
    Maria Paluzsay

    That all the public focus is on the at-risk/economically disadvantaged category is my issue. I am not really worried about the loss of education from April to mid-June, because students (except AP students) learn barely anything after Spring break, a result of SOLs. My concern is how we go forward post-pandemic with online educational options becoming the common means of education, now accelerated because of this situation.

    However, to complete your open ended question, I believe schools are too focused on a baseline general education that is subpar, and to keep putting money and effort into making a subpar education available in the name of equity is catering to political correctness and does nothing to educate our children.

    Have you actually watched a kid learn on VA K-12? It’ll get a kid by, but I wouldn’t call it an education.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      close friends with full time k-12 folks. The goal is the SOLs – every kid to pass the SOLs. Anything more/better is good but first goal is SOLs.

      For kids that are more advanced – whether or not there is “more” for them is dependent on funding for additional teachers/courses – on a per school basis.

      Most all schools have SOL/SOQ teaching positions and what they call “Title” positions. The state helps pay for SOQ positions and the Feds the Title positions – other teaching positions are 100% local funding.

      in terms of going forward – questions:

      1. – kids on schoolbuses?
      2. – kids in cafeteria?
      3. – kids on playground
      4. – kids in classrooms
      5. – kids in bathrooms

      I know the kids are less susceptible themselves but reading reports that school bus drivers delivering food are being infected…

      I don’t know… will be interesting if they can get back to physical schools.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        SOLs should be suspended until after things get back to normal with regular physical attendance at schools.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          I think they ARE suspended but in terms of the normal goals of K-12, it is to get as many kids as they can to be on-grade level for SOLs.

          I’m not sure what the goals are for kids that are disabled. I know there are several categories of “disabled” and that they are a challenge for the school system because it takes special teachers, special facilities, etc… last I heard it cost 30-40K per kid. Do you know the cost in Fairfax?

          1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            Let me work on that one.

    2. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

      Where I teach in Loudoun County, Edmentum has been adopted as the Virtual Learning tool. All the work is really done. Totally self guided. It even grades everything for you and tells you who is behind. My only true task is getting kids to actually participate. Tomorrow’s teachers? They may not be needed. It will be a powerful tool to control what “content” is taught. My instincts tell me that kind of control and power should not be trusted.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Edmentum sounds pretty neat. Is it one that can be downloaded to a device and taken home without having to be connected to internet?

        In terms of what “content” is taught. The beauty of online is that kids and parents are free to gain whatever additional knowledge they want and if they don’t want the public school – they can disconnect from public schools also – correct?

  9. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “However, to complete your open ended question, I believe schools are too focused on a baseline general education that is subpar, and to keep putting money and effort into making a subpar education available in the name of equity is catering to political correctness and does nothing to educate our children.

    Have you actually watched a kid learn on VA K-12? It’ll get a kid by, but I wouldn’t call it an education.”

    I sorely wish Maria was a regular contributor to Bacon’s Rebellion. Her keen insights and ability to express them so clearly, succinctly, and well, are worth their weight in gold.

  10. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd


    A good while back you briefly spoke of taking off a significant amount of time from teaching in normal school to “educate” a group of special needs kids (perhaps troubled kids) that resulted in a significant measure of success. That event you briefly spoke of intrigued me. Does it have any relevance at all to the new host of issues raised by the current constraints and resultant opportunities in public school education? For instance some two decades ago I developed a long distance learning program (creative writing), a kind of tutoring program of a high school kid to fill a gap in that kid’s school curriculum, one that the school ultimately incorporated into its normal curriculum, after its success long distance.

  11. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    There is no doubt that unique distance learning programs would empower a certain number of students. It is hard to replace the value of a top shelf teacher. The intangible extra mile with that special gravy on top cannot be transmitted digitally.

    My old friends at the Fredericksburg Regional Alternative School were very talented. Nick Mamarella and Scott Walker really had great ideas and plans that worked. One of the key things they achieved in a recession school budget was a trained psychologist. Most of the expelled kids were dealing with some really tough business out of school. That psychologist was worth her weight in gold.

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: “extra gravy” – they make a difference in many kids lives…

    I guess I’m a little surprised that the State does not mandate and fund a psychologist for alternative schools… and agree… many of those kids are messed up and need help – beyond the academics but without that help, they will not make the academics either.
    Some, maybe most, are these “discipline” problems that Jim often advocates removing from regular classrooms… as if these alternative schools don’t exist! 😉

    Do you know what “distance learning” is used? Is there a state standard or a list of acceptable ones?

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      I agree.

      Of course, it depends on the competence and moral courage and ethics of the psychologist. In real life that is a very big if, often becomes problem not solution, as is happening in Virginia in spades, race hustlers such as we find in Loudoun County, thanks to Virginia Attorney General’s office.

      Thus, is there a state standard or a list of acceptable ones? You ask. If there is in Virginia, then forget it.

  13. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    Things don’t look so chipper for the distance learners in Fairfax. By the time the kinks are worked out it will be Mothers Day.

  14. LarrytheG Avatar

    That’s gonna happen. We’re going to see a lot of “updates” as such software is going to become much more than an “add-on” to education. As it moves to a more central role, expect changes. I think Fairfax and other larger school systems are going to lead the way and is in a much better position than rural schools who just don’t have the resources – money or manpower to do what the places with more resources can and will do. The bigger school systems will lead the way.

    Second – note the two things going on at the same time. First, local govts are taking huge revenue hits and guess what is the biggest single expenditure for them? That’s right – schools. What that means is going to play out in many ways that will include false starts and re-dos.

    Every kid is going to get their own device loaded with software like you alluded to like or similar. The software will “work” even when not connected to the internet which will become an important aspect to kids who do not have good internet.

    Software is going to become “better” for economically disadvantaged kids who need more “help” – they’re gonna get it in the software – which will do more of what you said: ” Totally self guided. It even grades everything for you and tells you who is behind.”

    ” My only true task [as a teacher in a remote learning environment] will be
    to get the kids to do their work.”

    Then you said: “It will be a powerful tool to control what “content” is taught. My instincts tell me that kind of control and power should not be trusted.”

    Perhaps. I do not align with that kind of thinking in part because with a whole bunch of people involved – they all have different ideas about what should be taught. The public schools have an impossible job trying to please all of them.

    That will lead to the offering of different styles of software so there will be choice but all of them will guide to the same academic standards for language, math, science,

    There actually MAY be MORE time for kids to learn since there will be no “activities” like gym or playground and breakfast/lunch or other classes nor transportation to/from time.

    The teachers I know speak of limited time slices they end up having between all these other activities – and they count right down to the minute. That will change dramatically – all different.

    Software will “time” the kids – and grade them frequently and the teachers job will be to ride herd on the ones that are not putting time on task, etc.

    For special ed – and “in person”, I don’t know. I’m sure it may be worked out but the big problem is that kids that go back and forth between parents and teachers when either parents or teachers can be infected… can kids essentially carry that infection from home to school or vice-versa.

    That aspect – getting the answers to that – might actually then be used to inform about whether or not or when kids can return to bricks/mortar schools or remain in “distance learning”.

    Finally, all this blather about the public schools being fancy baby-sitting services is going to be reassessed especially by the parents who do have kids and have to deal with them on a 24/7 basis instead of handing them over to others to deal with.

    big. BIG changes – we’re being forced into them. No more arguments about whether we change or not – we WILL!

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Larry, you have just described and condemned us all, and all of our children, to the ultimate dystopian nightmare, a version of Animal Farm and 1984.

      Indeed, maybe we can do your solution even better, do away with all our bodies and touching altogether, solving everything.

      Relax, this virus will pass. Even maybe political correctness and social justice and equity will pass, along with the other leftest claptrap such as that all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others, and the state will take good care of us all, and make it all that social justice happen, if we just do as we’re told and get out of the way.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Indeed, I am coming to believe that the only real solution to protect and educate our kids is to get them the hell out of public education altogether, particularly so in Virginia with its government today.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          You may well have your wish but I suspect not in the way you think.

          The whole concept of public education is going to be re-thought and my bet is that the vast majority of people will STILL WANT public education and the same old boo-birds will continue to blather to no effect.

        2. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

          I believe that in the days ahead there will be a quiet Exodus from public education. Where will kids be going? Mom and Dad are going to seek out alternatives. Home schooling and private school are options. I think this crisis will have a creative effect of opening perhaps a new door that has not been carefully considered before. Now which door is that? I don’t know. Perhaps if public education had to compete for scarce resources, for example the “kid”, a better outcome could be the result.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            We totally agree. How this plays out is not known right now but it could well end up with a kind of “exodus” of those who already do not care for public schools and this crisis forces them to find alternatives.

            The public schools may well offer various kinds of distance learning sofware for “free” and people will decide if they want the public school version or their own.

            If the State sets academic standards as a condition to get a State Diploma/certificate – people may choose – after their own home schooling to let their kdis take that test or they may just apply to college and college will determine if they are academically fit.

            All these things are on the table now.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        You’d be abjectly wrong guy, as usual. You limit yourself with your ideology.

        Conservatives ought ot LIKE this. Kids will advance purely when they pass the tests – and they can go as fast as they want if they are talented.

        Parents can decide WHAT to let their kids learn – as long as they meet the standards which are and will remain objective and fact-based.

        Their are parents already ahead of this curve – they homeschool.

        There are schools already ahead of this curve – they are alternative schools.

        the education world is going to be entirely disrupted – and I would have thought that Conservative types would be excited and looking forward to it but alas … apparently not all, not yet.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Now of course you result to insult, per usual.

          In fact the public schools systems in urban Virginia have already collapsed, as Maria Paluzsay explains. Parents are fleeing those systems in droves, because their kids are being ruined.

          The only public schools systems in Virginia that show improvement are those more rural systems that have escaped the state system by work around tactics. The recent attack by the State’s General Attorneys office on the Loudoun school system is nothing more that brute attempt by the state to bring local schools systems to heal. It’s nothing more or less than fascist state tactics, growing by leaps and bounds in Virginia.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            So the schools are now on their institutional butts… SOLs suspended and parents have more control over what their kids learn than ever before, right?

            and you call that ” the ultimate dystopian nightmare, a version of Animal Farm and 1984.”


            did I misunderstand?

            One would think right now – at this point in time – “public school” has been so completely disrupted that there is more opportunity than ever to re-mold it.

            Of course one has to be in the real world on that – and that means somewhat in the realm of what others want. Yep.. it’s a real pain when reality imposes actually allows other voices to weigh in on what to do – and the wacadoo fringe folks get marginalized – as usual and really as it should be.

  15. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Retract the 1965 Medicare/Medicaid Act, and the 1986 Emergency Treatment Act, then open the doors for business. Problem solved.

  16. I actually agree with Larry that COVID-19 could prove to be a highly disruptive event — disruptive in the way that Clayton Christiansen uses the term “disruptive innovation.”

    Conservatives ought to LIKE this. Kids will advance purely when they pass the tests – and they can go as fast as they want if they are talented.

    Parents can decide WHAT to let their kids learn – as long as they meet the standards which are and will remain objective and fact-based.

    Their are parents already ahead of this curve – they homeschool.

    Run with it, Larry, you’re making sense this time.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Cheese and Crackers! That’s the phrase a friend uses when expressing amazement!

      Yes… this is IT. This is THE time when those who resent and object to the public school hegemony can actually challenge it.

      For the parents who have computers and internet, nothing the Schools do can prevent them from pursuing education on their terms!

      While the K-12 leaders wring their collective hands about “equity” and what to do about it – what they CANNOT do is hold the other kids back if their parents want to move them forward.

      There is a PLETHORA of academic knowledge available now , dozens of software companies offering a wide range of academic options and paths for K-12.

      Even when or after this mess is over – and the public schools want to go back to business as usual – there will be opportunity for parents to weigh in and if they don’t like it – and they know their kids CAN get an education at home, there IS going to be a revolution!

      You Conservative types – this should be an academic-based wet dream! (Jim might remove this)…

  17. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Jim says: “Conservatives ought to LIKE this. Kids will advance purely when they pass the tests – and they can go as fast as they want if they are talented.

    Parents can decide WHAT to let their kids learn – as long as they meet the standards which are and will remain objective and fact-based.

    There are parents already ahead of this curve – they homeschool.”

    Yes, Jim, I agree. The conservatives and all affluent folks will be fine, indeed they will be far better off, but the rest of the kids will be left with public schools still collapsed around them in Virginia, only far worse. We have seen this before. Here’s my earlier quote from Bacon’s Rebellion post “Room Clears” Coming Soon to a School Near You?

    An October article in The Atlantic magazine speaks brilliantly to what is going on here and why.

    “When the Culture War Comes for the Kids” is written by Atlantic staff writer George Packer. He is also the author of “Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century” and “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.”

    Mr. Packer’s article is long, detailed, and speaks powerfully to many issues afflicting today’s culture, including our schools. Below are a few loose extracts. Read the whole article linked in below to do it full justice.

    “The gaps in proficiency between that separate whites and Asians from black and Latino students in math and English are immense and growing.”

    “Our zoned elementary school, two blocks from our home, was forever improving from a terrible reputation … students were wandering around the rooms without focus, the air was heavy with listlessness, there seemed to be little learning going on.”

    … an elderly black women who had lived in the neighborhood a long time and understood all about our school dilemma … scoffed at our “zoned” school … “Don’t send him there,” she said. “That is a failure school.” It was as if an eternal curse had been laid on it, beyond anyone’s agency or remedy. The school was mostly poor and black. We assumed it would fail our children because we knew it was failing other children. That year, when my son turned five … we applied to eight or nine public schools. …”

    “Around 2014, a new mood germinated in America – at first in a few places, … but growing rapidly with amazing rapidity and force, as new things tend to do today. It grew upward toward the end of the Obama years, in part out of disillusionment with the early promise of his presidency – out of expectations raised and frustrated, especially among people under 30 … this new mood was progressive but not hopeful … hope was gone. At the heart of the new progressivism was indignation, sometimes rage, about ongoing injustice against groups of Americans who had always been relegated to the outskirts of power and dignity. And incident – a police shooting of unarmed black man, news reports of predatory sexual behavior by a Hollywood mogul; a pro quarterback who took to kneeing during the national anthem – would light a fire that spread overnight … fed by (much older and deeper injustices). Over time, the new mood took on the substance and hard edges of a radical egalitarian ideology …”

    Politics becomes most real not in media but in your own nervous system, where everything matters more … because of guilt or social pressure … In the winter of 2015-16, our son’s third grade year, we began to receive a barrage of emails and flyers from his school about (opting out) of upcoming tests. … One black parent told me … standardized tests are the gatekeepers to keep people out, and I know exactly who’s at the bottom … It is torturous … because they will never catch up, due to institutionalized racism.” Our school became the citywide leader of a new movement …”

    The bathroom crisis hit our school the same year. … Within two years, almost every bathroom in the school, from kinder-garden through fifth grade, became gender neutral. … All that biology entailed – curiosity, fear, shame, aggression, pubescence, the thing between the legs, was erased or wished away.” The school didn’t inform the parents… who learned about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to bathroom after holding it all day. Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door …”

    The battleground of the new progressivism is identity. That is the historical source of exclusion and injustice that demands redress. … When our son was in third or forth grade, students began to form groups that met to discuss issues based on identity – race, sexuality, disability.

    “… In politics, identity is an appeal to authority – the moral authority of the oppressed. I am what I am, which explains my view and makes it the truth.

    The politics of identity starts out with the universal principals of equality, dignity, and freedom, but in practice it becomes an end in itself – often a dead end, a trap from which there’s no easy escape and maybe no desire to escape. Instead of equality, it sets up a new hierarchy that inverts the old, discredited one – a new moral cast that ranks people by oppression of their group identity … (that) for all its up to the minuteness carries the whiff of the 17th century, with heresy hunts and denunciations of sin and displays of self-mortification … an atmosphere of mental constriction in progressive milieus, the self censorship and fear of public shaming, the intolerance of dissent – these are the qualities of an illiberal politics …”

    I wished that our son’s school would teach him civics. By age 10 he had studied the civilization of ancient China, Africa, the early Dutch of New Amsterdam, and the Mayans. He learned about the genocide of Native Americans and slavery. But he was never taught about the founding of the republic. He didn’t learn that conflicting values and practical compromises are the lifeblood of self-government. …

    The fifth grade, our son’s last was different. That year’s curriculum included the Holocaust, Reconstruction, Jim Crow. The focus was on “upstanders”—individuals who had refused to be bystanders to evil and had raised their voices. It was an education in activism, and with no grounding in civics, activism just meant speaking out. At the years end, fifth graders presented dioramas on all the hard issues of the moment – sexual harassment, LGBTQ rights, gun violence… a plastic bag smokestack sprouting endangered animals … Compared with previous years, writing was minimal, and when questioned, the students had little to say… They had not been encouraged to research their topics, make intellectual discoveries, answer potential counter-arguments. The dioramas consisted of cardboard, clay, and slogans.

    … Our daughter wasn’t immune to the heavy mood. She came home from school one day and expressed a wish not to be white so she wouldn’t have slavery on her conscience. It didn’t seem a moral victory for our children to grow up hating their species or themselves …” End of Quote

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  18. LarrytheG Avatar

    Of course a lot depends on whether the bricks and mortar school facilities actually open this fall and if they do, how much will be the same as before and how much not.

    I still wonder since schools eat up half the budgets of most localities how shortfalls in revenue will play out. A lot of non-school local govt is not easy to cut without harm to functions like water/sewer, police, ems, etc…

    So schools are going to be the focus of what can be cut in my view.

    And so one asks if they were force, what would they cut?

    And logically, the part that the locality has to fund 100% without any state SOQ match – is probably going to be on the block.

    The Title teachers are Federally funded so what positions are not state or federally funded?

    So that’s my guess – the positions that are 100% local funded will end up on the block.

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