Aftershocks of a pandemic

“The parents weren’t just upset about all the screen time their kids were logging. They were upset about what they saw on those screens. For the first time, millions of moms and dads could watch, in real time, their children’s teachers teaching.”

That’s just one more aftershock from the great pandemic of the twenty-twenties.

We have all become aware of the workplace upheaval in which the world’s biggest corporations and the state bureaucracies of the planet – not to mention the real estate industry – are all grappling with the existential phenomenon of working-from-home. Pre-pandemic social communication had already made something of sea-change in our lives but the infliction of lockdown, while not perhaps being the mother of Zoom and its fellow inventions, was certainly the booster rocket which sent them into orbit, giving us meetings at our finger-tips and a new meaning to dropping in on family, friends and neighbours for a chat.

The architecture of the entire teaching-learning edifice which our world has known for the duration of what we call modern times now looks like it is in the process of a radical redevelopment, if not a wholesale demolition and rebuild. Not least among its structural features facing radical change is that which has taken care of which is perhaps its most lovable and most precious responsibility, elementary education.

Post-pandemic, millions of new families are moving to undertake the elementary education of their own children.

And why not? Are we so blind that we cannot see the logic, the justice and the beautiful privilege that the best educated generation in human history have the ability, and should have the right, to educate their own children. “Education bureaucrats, leave those kids alone!”

Barri Weiss’ Common Sense on the Substack platform spells out some of the details of this apparent landslide freedom movement in a guest post from another Weiss, Suzy by name, (sister, cousin?). In an age when the family has been put in greater danger than it has been in over one hundred years this is really good news. Not since the Marxist revolutions of the early part of the last century tried to obliterate the family, has it been so threatened. This movement is a real sign of hope. And this is not just for children but for the whole of western society. This is a revolutionary counter-revolution, a whiff of grapeshot moment of the kind in which Napoleon tore into the murderous zealots who had taken control of the French Revolution.

Throughout the western world – and increasingly encroaching on the societies and cultures of the rest of the planet – progressive elites with their bizarre readings of human nature, and what they think they can do with it, have penetrated education systems like a dry-rot penetrating the fabric of a building. That ordinary families with common sense and their feet on the real ground might take over the education of their children in their formative years is an anathema to these elites. The progressivists, academia and the teacher unions which they dominate, will resist but they must not be let undermine this most natural of movements.

These are some of the insights into this revolution which Suzy Weiss gives us in her post. The entire post is here.

In March 2020, as the coronavirus engulfed America, Kristen Wrobel got the news: “We heard on Friday that there would be no school for two weeks. Which just turned into no school.”

That was the last time her children — one in third grade, one in first —  were in a classroom.

In the beginning, they did the remote-school thing. Wrobel, a 42-year-old stay-at-home mom with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, called it a “nightmare.” The Zoom sessions, the Italian lessons on Duolingo, the stuff she had to print out, the isolation, the tears, the nagging, the shuttling the kids between her house, near Burlington, Vermont, and their dad’s, a half-hour away.

“Everyone was freaking out all the time,” she said. 

By May, at the risk of violating state truancy laws, Wrobel had stopped fighting and let her kids log on (or not) whenever they felt like it. It was, she said, “the darkest hour before dawn.”

That September, she started homeschooling. She didn’t like all the restrictions her kids’ private school had implemented: Students seated six feet apart. Masked. In wedding tents. Outside. 

She figured she’d send her kids back to the school in 2021, after everything had gone back to normal. 

That was then. Now? “There’d have to be a revolution in schooling.” 

She’s hardly alone. Wrobel is one of hundreds of thousands of moms and dads across the nation who have decided to become the principals of their very own, very small elementary schools. 

The number of kids going to school at home nationwide has doubled over the past two years. In 2019, there were about 2.5 million students learning at home. Today there are nearly 5 million. That means more than 11 percent of American households are educating their children outside of traditional schools.

In Wrobel’s state of Vermont, homeschool applications are up 75 percent. And that’s in the northeast, where regulations are strictest. The phenomenon is exploding across the country. In North Carolina, the site for registering homeschools crashed last summer. In California, applications for homeschooling tripled from 2020 to 2021. In Alaska, more than a quarter of students in the state are now homeschooled. 

In Texas and Florida, parents are not required to notify the state, so it’s hard to know exactly how many kids are learning at home. But just one South Florida school, Jupiter Farms Elementary, saw 10 percent of its student population withdraw for this school year. Almost all of them are being taught at home.

The American Schoolhouse was in serious disrepair before 2020 — about that no one would disagree. But the events of last year tore the whole thing down to the studs. First, the pandemic. Then, the lockdowns. Then the summer of unrest: George Floyd, the protests, the riots, the mea culpas. Many local school boards seemed more concerned about teaching critical race theory and renaming schools than reopening them. Parents didn’t know what to do — what was safe, what was right, whom to trust. It was like being inside a tornado.

These were changes that rocked every American family.  So perhaps it’s no surprise that the homeschooling trend cuts across geographic, political, and racial lines: Black, Latino and Asian families are even likelier than white ones to educate their children at home. 

All of this is undermining the old, Democratic-educational complex — the powerful teacher unions and the office-holders beholden to those unions —  that has long maintained an iron-clad grip on tens of thousands of schools and the fate of tens of millions of American students. And it is forcing a long overdue reimagining of the way we educate children: the subjects they study, the values instilled in them, and the economy for which they are being prepared. 

Maria Magallanes homeschools Zola West, 7, a child who lives next door, at the Magallanes home in Alexandria, Virginia, in April 2020.(Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

For decades now voices have been crying in the wilderness about the corruption of academia and lower reaches of the teaching profession. Instead of getting better they just got worse and worse, crazier and crazier – and utterly arrogant.

Consider what Peter Boghossian had to bring himself to say in this post, also courtesy of Bari Weiss: “…brick by brick, the university has made… intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.”

Shortly after Boghossian ‘came out’ and took on the ideologues ” swastikas in the bathroom with my name under them began appearing in two bathrooms near the philosophy department. They also occasionally showed up on my office door, in one instance accompanied by bags of feces. Our university remained silent. When it acted, it was against me, not the perpetrators.”

There is no doubt, the Red Guards are back and they are not just in the United States. This kind of experience, in one form or another is replicating itself all over the academic world, formerly the free world.

In recent times it was depressingly hard to see from where the light at the end of the tunnel would come that would effectively bring about the change that is needed to bring an end to this cultural crisis. What our society and our civilisation is facing is truly worrying. Perhaps this is what is needed: a new generation, educated in common sense and with a grip on what true human values really are.

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