The Kids Still Aren’t OK

I’ll start by pulling rank as columnist emeritus and eject from this polemic the gentleman in the bow tie and madras blazer. We get it: you’ve read Rothbard (but couldn’t make it through Man, Economy, and States, no less its addendum mini-book Power and Market) and think public schools are Satan’s assembly line. Your made-for-Mises take is duly noted. I’ll just file it carefully in this lattice receptacle by my feet, next to the used Kleenex.

Now, out you go. Shoo! The other readers care (I hope!) what I have to say. Don’t make me call the anarcho-cops to aggress against you.

With the Lew Rockwell fanboy booted, we can have a real discussion, e.g. telling you what I think while you ponder and reply to your computer screen. The perfect column colloquy! Our topic: public education, learning loss, and COVID-inspired lockdowns.

Actually, the real topic: how liberals ruined something else, part sixty-two-million-hundred-thirteen. No, no, make that hundred-fourteen, after President Life-Alert ruined pedal cages.

More than twenty-eight months after the Wuhan bug shuttered schools for a year or more, America’s premier newspaper is at long last acknowledging the physical and psychological damage caused by closing class.

Surprise, surprise, the kids, contra Dubya, have fallen behind. “At this rate, elementary school students may need at least three years to catch up to where they would have been had the pandemic not happened, and middle school students may need five years or more,” reports Sarah Mervosh, citing a NWEA study.

A shame. The average sixth-grader will now have to wait until at least their sophomore year to sneak a Camel Light. What? They’re called Camel Blues now because implying the original smoke was “light” on the carcinogens was deceptive? And kids don’t suck cigs anymore, but “Juul” instead? This stupid country.

Rite of adolescent passages aside, stupid isn’t an off-the-mark description to describe the policy of imposed learning loss. Adult ignorance is a bequest. Last spring, the Grey Lady published a similar report: “In a survey of 362 school counselors nationwide by The New York Times in April, the counselors—licensed educators who teach these skills—described many students as frozen, socially and emotionally, at the age they were when the pandemic started.”

It turns out when you flip a child’s world upside down, they don’t always land on their feet. NPR backed up the Times reporting with its own dispatch on how teachers, some who have only just returned to the classroom, are struggling with stunted cognitive growth. Here’s fourth-grade teacher Tiki Boyea-Logan on what awaited her last fall: “I feel like at the beginning of the school year, I basically got second graders, because that’s the point where they were in school full time.”

The schooling gap is compounded with increasing evidence that students struggled to socially develop thanks to widespread masking post-lockdown. Some cities, such as the masque capital of the country, are only now relaxing face-muzzle mandates. So even after in-person reading, writing, and arithmetic returned, the fourth educative “r,” relationality, was inhibited.

Trading two years of maturation in exchange for safety from a virus with a 0.0002% mortality rate in children? You’d have gotten a better deal on a Vegas-area McMansion c. 2006. But that’s the tradeoff we—as in our elected politicians and unelected public-health poohbahs—made three Marchs ago. School students got an in-class sabbatical while grandma was stuffed into a spike-protein sty, the door bolted shut behind her. Stay home, save lives, lose 3 million kids. It’s called collective sacrifice, you anti-science knuckle-dragger!

The media deserves a fair share of the blame for the whole debacle. Christine Rosen of Commentary asks where the mea culpa is for a credulous press that “failed to subject to any serious critical scrutiny the public health bureaucrats whose claims conflicted with the evidence before parents’ eyes.” How many Twitter accounts were banned for questioning the wisdom of forced Zoom learning? How many aren’t yet reinstated for posting memes of masks as feminine hygiene products? And how many loving, attentive parents were deprived of carping about having to babysit in the local moms Facebook group, instead of putting down their smartphone and actually helping their toddler Crayola in Minnie Mouse? (Sinner, heal thyself, this writer mutters.)

An apology is not forthcoming, I’m afraid. Randi Weingarten is too busy playing leathered dominatrix to the CDC to say sorry. So where do tax-paying parents go to get a refund on the shoddy pedagogy? Not your local school board meeting. You’re more likely to be cuffed as a Timothy McVeigh wannabe than get a prorated check.

Recourse options are limited–non-existent, really—because of the chokehold teachers’ unions have on state governments. The only tangible payback in disenrolling your kids from district school, and shelling out for charter or private. Or really sticking it to the communitarians and going the homeschool route.

The real tragedy is the parents who can’t afford to, or lack the time and know-how, swap the local P.S. for private. Their children remain mired in woke curriculum and absent standards. Many schools preach “social and emotional learning” over knowledge and facts, which ends up being what Robert Pondiscio calls the “pedagogy of the depressed.” Classroom drills separating students by race, introducing sexual topics in kindergarten, condemning the United States as intractably evil, calling algebra a variant of “white supremacy”—these practices pass for proper pedagogy in public schools. And what about the original common-school purpose of contemplata alias tradere? Well, that sounds like a rich, white guy thing, and therefore verbally oppressive.

So not only did little Johnny and Sally miss two years of 1619 Project lessons, they can only damn America at a seventh-grade level instead of ninth.

Then again, maybe the Hoppian fella in the quaint digs was right. *Scrambles off page to find the dismissed Atlas Shrugger in the documentary section of the site.* Hello! Mr. Anti-State! Your point of view on government didactics is welcome again!

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Taylor Lewis

Taylor Lewis writes from Virginia.

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  • Sorry, this is nuts. For decades We, the Trampled, have argued for the abolition of the Education Department. When the Golden Opportunity finally arrives, Parents mysteriously bail and demand Government Mandated Baby Sitting Service be reinstated. In spite of Youtube, Prager University, thousands of DIY instructional blogs and outlets vast herds of Adults mindlessly follow the crowd over the buffalo jump of stupidity. Back in the day Slaves illegally learned to read by candlelight, families invested in copies of the Bible regardless of their cumulative literacy and men routinely congregated at the General Store to hear the news read by the learned among them. This civilization will deservedly reap the reward of reckless insouciance .

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