These past few decades have been witness to great change. It is hard to imagine that the Covid Pandemic will not increase this rate of change; that the pace of change will be slowing down anytime soon. Looking back, the advent of the microprocessor and all that followed changed the world forever. Looking forward, the COVID-19 pandemic, too, will little doubt change the world forever. The one gave us the means to do things differently, the other, the desperate need to do things differently. The pandemic has forced us to rethink things like education, office work, retail, healthcare, work commutes, construction, … .
Education was already under great stress. Over the past several decades, as more and more mothers went to work, as poverty and drugs took their toll, as the social fabric become more tattered; schools k-12 were being asked to take on the additional role of being parent. Tasked to do more with less: money is needed. All sorts of schemes have arisen for schooling children for less. Privatization was the favorite of conservatives; surely there must be a way for the market to do all this that needed to be done that wouldn’t require their paying more taxes. For forty years and more now, education has been a victim of the Magic of the Market con. As with many another essential service, a great toll has been taken by this great ruse.
Truth be, fact is, the biggest problem with k-12 education isn’t teachers, or teachers’ unions; it’s one of underfunding. The nation needs to step up; to put up the money. The money for facilities, counselors, teachers’ aides, tutoring, internet, computers, … .
Even with 35 students per classroom, teaching is still way too labor intensive. Teaching may be a labor of love, but then we all know about the problems with labor. What if we gave each student internet access, taught online? Surely, some clever programmer, or university research group, could come up with an algorithm that would be better, or at least almost as good as, the classroom teacher. Should we give artificial intelligence a try? Computers are being, have been for some time now, used to supplement/augment teaching. No doubt, a lot has been learned with the remote learning programs schools have developed during the pandemic that can be incorporated.
In some parts of the nation, for the while of the pandemic, schools have gone hybrid. Hybrid teaching, with some kids in class, alternating with others online, is being beta tested. Generally, this means the teacher will be using a camera, a mic, a laptop in conjunction with a Promethean Board and probably a Chromebook; all the while on Zoom. Other Zoom, nothing new other the greater amount of combining. To teach, one needs to be a juggler, a studio engineer, … . The good parts of all this will no doubt remain in use long after the pandemic ends. Teaching, even in K-12, is ever employing more technology.
The selectivity of the private and charter k-12 schools have left the public schools with a greater proportion of those students with learning and behavioral issues; a tsunami that has been hitting the middle-schools and that is now hitting the high schools. More counselors, more paras, more assistants, are needed in order to deal with this consequence.
As shocking as it might be to say, to hear, higher education has become a business. A really big business built on brand and presumed necessity. An advanced degree from a prestigious institute of higher learning is thought to virtually guarantee financial security and more. The big name brand universities school the sons and daughters of the world’s wealthy at a handsome profit; improving the trade balance. Even a little bible college can tap into this foreign student demand. Tap in or tap out; no degree relegates one to a hard life with little hope. Everyone needs a ticket to ride! The Marketing 101, and Life 101 of it all.
Time was when a degree from a prestigious institution likely signified a well rounded individual.
Today, it is more likely to be all about advanced training in a narrow field. The ticket is still considered well worth the price; if by hook or crook one can afford it. Throw in graduate degree and one has a first class ticket. Of late, careers have often come with a huge 30 year mortgage, aka, a student loan.
As with K-12, during the pandemic, a lot of higher education has been online. Some form of online Higher Ed has been around for a while. For some time professors have used recorded lectures when they were going to out of town that students could watch in the classroom or download. During the pandemic, its stream or Zoom. In this time of greater usage of the video/online lecture, tuition has stayed the same; and the Professors’ offices are still ridiculously small. What’s up with this? Where is the $40-50k tuition going? Worse yet, how did tuition at state universities and colleges get to be so high? If the bachelors degree is essential, the education therefor must be also. All roads, even paths, are infrastructure.
On the horizon, out of sunset, comes the Magic of the Market, aka, University of Phoenix copy cats. What do we know about online learning? We know that it can be a relatively effective means of teaching. But, what about the rounding of individuals? Without the give and take of classroom, student union, …, on-campus debates, will too many online learners turn out ill formed? Half-baked? How to implement the give and take of discussion, the bright light of of being challenged, …, achieve the rounding? Zooming on in, we are about to find out, and the Magic of the Market of it all says that the prestigious ones, too, are going to have to come up with a response.