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Lockdown, distance learning likely to increase social class achievement gap (nature.com)
234 points by infodocket 68 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 350 comments



This is something I did a complete 180 about.

I used to think closing schools wouldn't hurt anybody and that performance would at worst remain stationary. My reasoning was that so much time is wasted at school that it doesn't really make a difference where the learning happens, but I severely underestimated effects I thought were second-order like the familiarity with technology, the digital divide, or even just having access to a quiet, private space where one can focus.

The data really speaks for itself, it's been a disaster.


My SO is an elementary school teacher in a post-industrial urban school. Her students (mostly poor, and crucially almost all with parents who were working in-person through the lockdown) were effectively remote-only from March 2020 until earlier this month, and it's had some substantial visible effects on them. Among other things:

- Missing that in-person school time meant losing a lot of "leaving home" practice for a large chunk of kids. Current second graders were in-person for 6 months of kindergarten, and remote from there. This means there are a lot of mechanical and social things they haven't had to do (sit quietly next to each other, tie their shoes, ask to go to the bathroom).

- The "summer slide" has been much more severe than usual. A large chunk of the students didn't get much education out of being remote for first grade, so a much-larger-than-usual chunk of the cohort are substantially behind grade level for basic skills, especially reading.

- Related to above, there has been a huge backlog of students who need to be evaluated for various special education and disability needs who just haven't been able to be accommodated and who, due to the process difficulties for the last year, probably won't be able to be evaluated based on their data from last year (leaving them severely under-supported for another year while the data is collected).


As someone who's battled with that last point, it's not only the 'intake' side of things (it can be weeks or months before you can get an evaluation, then weeks afterwards before any results can be tabulated)—but even if you do get any kind of evaluation, good luck finding counselors.

Only about 10% of the counselors we called would even call back, and of that 10%, almost all of them said they would not accept any new patients, indefinitely. A couple had openings within a year or so, and one or two had any availability in a shorter time frame.

Not sure what all the reasons are, but I'm guessing it's the perfect storm of more kids needing more services in this unprecedented time, more counselors on the older side retiring early, and funding for these programs being a continual battle.


A local response from some child psychiatrists is that they're swamped by existing patients, as the pandemic changes have been very harsh on kids already having issues with e.g. self-harm or being shut-in so relapsing patients are returning and not leaving much space for new ones.


Yes, for sure in that situation the staff shortage and backlog of students have made a system that is difficult to navigate in normal times essentially intractable.


> Not sure what all the reasons are

It is undesirable work for undesirable pay with undesirable volatility, to many people.


Call me jaded but these are first world problems. Anyone who has access to the internet reads on average more words per day than those who do not. You cannot use the internet and not be literate. No one is going to die from not having a particular type of education. Cramming 500-2k students into box sized class rooms 2-3 feet apart was an idiotic assumption that nothing like this would ever happen (again).

Call me naive but society needs to evolve and entirely redesign itself around this new problem because it is not going away and it will almost certainly not be the last time something like this happens.


Other people use the internet differently. As long as you know what the TikTok icon looks like, you're good for hours.

vxNsr 68 days ago [flagged] | | | | [–]

Yup that’s why every private school that had honest staff and wasn’t bound by the National Teachers Union who were playing political games was in person most of last year.

Kids come first. Until this summer the chance of them getting sick or transmitting was super low, with delta it’s a little higher but with sane precautions most of the risk can be alleviated. In a few years time you’re gonna see real disparities between even religious private school kids (which don’t necessarily have better education standards) and public based solely on who was in person.

If you’re trying to win one over your political opponents get out of this, it’s not game.


> Yup that’s why every private school that had honest staff and wasn’t bound by the National Teachers Union who were playing political games was in person most of last year.

Teachers' unions are so weak in my state that they're nearly worthless as far as contract negotiation & enforcement goes, yet every district I know of in my city had a well-attended online option last year, if they weren't fully online, and in-person was largely "hybrid" (in-person some days, remote other days). The unions had nothing to do with it. Parents and teachers—not their unions, just teachers, directly—drove most of the decisions.


I'm sorry but that's not been my experience at all, in my state the union refused to work in person even after they were vaccinated.


That's fine—my experience was very similar outcomes without a union involved. You asserted that unions were a major part of the difference in behavior between public and private schools, but our public schools behaved much the same way without union involvement. They may not be as major a factor in the outcomes as you expect, or, to put it another way, they may be an instrument of a will that was (apparently) present whether or not the union was.


I know a headteacher from a fairly disadvantaged area in the UK. He said a lot of the kids will never recover.

Hopefully soon, it will no longer be contraversial to say that lockdowns (especially any that lasted longer than the initial "flatten the curve for 2 weeks" we were all promised) caused more harm than good.

For a (Western) society that is obsessed with helping the needy, it's just incredible that something that obviously would hurt the poorest very hardest was also something that could not be disagreed with.


This is almost impossible to quantify because we can't determine how the pandemic would have played out without lockdowns. It could have gone from 600,000 dead in the United States, to 2 million. (Again, we don't know, it could very well have been less than that, or more. :shrug:)

I would say losing parents or grandparents (any primary caretakers really) to COVID would be far more impactful on a child's development than missing a year of school.

I will gladly concede that lockdowns did cause harm, but "more harm than good" is something I'm still not seeing as true.


If it had been 2 million dead in the same period, it would still have been a fairly tame global pandemic, by the standards of deadly global pandemics.

It was pretty clear after the first few weeks that Covid was not the horrible killer that leaves people literally dropping dead in the streets, yet the response continued as if it were. Given the incredible disruption our response to it has caused, that I predict will continue for years and decades, the fact that we can't even say (and probably never will be able to) whether it was worth it, is damning enough.

Most kids lose a grandparent at a young age (I did). I really disagree that it was worse than losing a year of school, and being shut in the house for a considerable period of that. If anything, we have forgotten the lessons that death teaches us, and have lost touch with the cycle of life and death. The incredible aversion to a relatively harmless (for most) disease shows this is the case.


> the fact that we can't even say (and probably never will be able to) whether it was worth it, is damning enough.

Exactly. I assert that for any of these non pharmaceutical interventions to have been worthwhile their effect on “the charts” should be plain and dramatic. You should be able to pull anybody off the street and show them a lockdown state vs a non-lockdown state and have them see plain as day the profound difference.

If you need grad student level statistics to tease apart differences it means even if these things worked, their impact was so minor that the extreme social costs made them not worthwhile at all.


> You should be able to pull anybody off the street and show them a lockdown state vs a non-lockdown state

Keep in mind that the constitution protects free travel between states, so such an analysis only shows what results a mixed response gives.

If you compare Australia to the US, you can see that lockdowns very clearly do work: 1K vs 600K deaths. Even accounting for relative size, that suggests lockdowns produced a 50x effect.

(of course, if the question is "should California be draconian" then this is still very useful information! I'm just saying the answer changes depending on whether California is doing this while still being forced to have open borders with states that aren't locking down, or if the entire country coordinate a federal lockdown)


You cannot simply compare Australia's deaths to US deaths, "account for relative size" and then proclaim that lockdowns are responsible for a 99.99% decrease in deaths. There are countless other factors that have to be considered.


Please read the comment before replying. I said it suggests a difference, which is very different from proclaiming that there's definitely one. And I said 98%, not 99.99%.

The 50x difference is a starting point, not a declaration that there's no other factors.


Comparing Australia to anywhere else is a pretty weak argument. I mean for all you know their case count is way, way underreported. After all who wants to be “that guy” that shuts down an entire city? Who would ever get tested or be the doctor that recommends it?

And besides, look what they’ve done to their citizens basic human rights. Even if it works, is it worth it?


> I mean for all you know their case count is way, way underreported.

I work professionally with numerous cities in Australia, along with having friends and family there, so I don't have any particular reason to believe that under-reporting would produce a meaningful effect (keeping in mind that even if they were under-reporting by 10x, you'd still have a 5x result towards "yes, lockdowns work.")

I also follow a few scientists that track things like "rise in natural cause deaths" to look for under-reporting, and none of them has flagged Australia as a major concern.

> Even if it works, is it worth it?

That's a question we can only really ask after we've answered "does it work", but I agree it's an important one.

The thing is, "is it worth it" really depends on what the effect size is. If we can get that entire 50x reduction in deaths, that's amazing and I'd be hard-pressed to argue that the price they paid was too high for that.

But if we can get that 50x without such draconian restrictions, that's even better. And it's possible that over here we can't get anywhere close to that 50x because we can't do things like "completely close our borders" the way Australia can.


Moreso, I sincerely believe the fear exacerbated by the ridiculous measures and the social isolation especially of the vulnerable and sick (no visits etc.) caused a substantial proportion of the deaths. We are not isolated organisms.

Fear causes stress. Chronic fear causes chronic stress. Chronic stress causes chronic cortisol. Chronic cortisol causes immunosupression.


Indeed. And to flesh out in more detail, we caused:

- lack of sleep/exercise (which destroys the body's immunoregulatory capacities, leading to either a sort of acute immunosenescence like you said wrt fear, or alternatively leading to an overreactive immune system that kills via cytokine storm)

- decline in social interaction

- more time spent inside (which apart from the other correlates, very obviously leads to less sunlight). sunlight => vitamin d + nitric oxide; vitamin d is critical for respiratory pathology specifically, as well as just general health, and nitric oxide is very important as an immunoregulatory compound and as a preventer of strokes

- the general environment of fear/stress/anxiety (again, going to screw up the immunoregulatory balance of the body)


At least where I am (UK, and in particular, Wales), it seems our healthcare system is in the process of failing. It was already doing badly, and our response to Covid has tipped it over the edge. That alone will cause a significant amount of suffering and death.


I think this is being too light on the impact of covid. In places like NYC, where they had refrigerated trucks full of bodies because their morgues were full, or India where the oxygen shortage killed many many people from Delta infection...

I would argue the severe aversion in reaction to the news coming out of NYC wasn't unreasonable, even if it was an overreaction.


Hospitals and related services are optimized for efficiency, not flexibility. They don't like having empty beds that aren't being used, or idle workforces. So when something out of the ordinary happens they can't deal with it while maintaining their normal level of service. As a society we don't seem to want to pay for idle capacity. Human nature, I guess. We could have been building more hospitals over the last year, training more nurses, etc. But that doesn't appear to have happened.


I too saw the widely-circulated picture of the "open graves" in NYC. Somehow they forgot to mention it was just a regular picture of a pauper's graveyard. Funny what fear can be provoked by context-free visual imagery.


> where they had refrigerated trucks full of bodies because their morgues were full

Is that really true though? Because what the headlines of these kinds of stories say vs. what the article itself says usually never match.


It’s kind of true. These refrigerated trucks were on standby anyway because they are needed every time there’s a bad flu season.


And that is what I found for almost all articles of that type. If you read into the article it was never “this is happening” but “we are getting prepared”.


I live in NYC and have a friend in the funeral business. This was absolutely true in the beginning of the pandemic, although perhaps not at every hospital in the city as some were hit harder with patients than others. There was also a backlog in the ability to process bodies (e.g. Getting death certificates, funerals, burial sites or cremations).


While the overall death rate isn't up that much, I've heard that it's clustering a lot more, which means various systems are overwhelmed: We can process X bodies per day but we have a couple weeks where we're getting 1.5X bodies, and so for a while we have a few bodies in refrigerated trucks or other overflow systems.

So... it's sort of true, but it's more of a congestion issue (like rush hour traffic), not a sign of systemic collapse.


Heard from where? Got any numbers for this "clustering"?


I mean it kinda makes sense. Since the beginning we’ve lumped entire continents as a group to compare to another group. When instead this stuff is incredibly hyper localized. I’m pretty sure I’ve even heard “the experts” say this.


> If it had been 2 million dead in the same period, it would still have been a fairly tame global pandemic

Untrue, at least for all of US history [1]. I honestly think this downplaying of the deadliness of COVID belies an agenda. If it was 3x more deadly...

[1] https://www.statnews.com/2021/09/20/covid-19-set-to-overtake...


So according to that article, Covid so far has been 1/3rd as deadly as the Spanish Flu, yet any comparison drawn to the flu would elicit the response of "ITS NOTHING LIKE THE FLU, IDIOT!" ??

Interesting. I'm not downplaying the deadliness of Covid. The numbers speak for themselves.

Spanish Flu had a mortality rate of between 2% and 10%, and mostly killed healthy young adults. Estimates for Covid put its IFR somewhere aruond 0.4%, and it killed almost entirely elderly people.


The burden of proof is on those who promote the lockdowns as an effective strategy to show how they help. This is because without that proof, so many other issues arise from legal, ethical, and practical perspectives that make supporting it not just non-scientific, but also highly irrational.

Legally, what right do our nations have to shutter businesses as they did? Where in the legal frameworks do they legitimately yield such enormous & violent authority over us? Did they do enough to protect & compenate us all against these violations of our rights?

Ethically, is this even a moral way to conduct statecraft during a pandemic? Is scapegoating appropriate at a time like this, and were we right to erode so much of our monetary base to provide the benefits that states did to their citizenry, necessitated by the lockdowns in the first place?

And practically, how many people have been harmed or killed by the conditions of lockdowns? How many people committed suicide who otherwise wouldn't? How much industrial output was sacrificed and how did this impact the deaths of despair that rose considerably over the last 1.5 years? How many people didn't get their cancer detected early enough to survive it? How many people didn't get their emergency medical care due to the chaos caused by lockdowns and perished as a result? Did these figures remain low enough to make the actual policies of lockdown worth it?


Again, people just downvote this stuff. What gives? It is a good faith argument being made here and the poster has valid points.

Is it really that impossible that well meaning, intelligent people can completely disagree with how society handled covid?


I just want to say it out loud. spookthesunset, __blockcipher__, AndrewUnmuted and everyone who shares the same sentiment and did speak up here - thank you all so much! You, folks, are the last straw I'm clinging onto, as the world goes down in a fiery mess. I would upvote all your posts, if I could. Keep speaking, you are saving lives! The amount of lies and outright hostility from everyone in any kind of power since the beginning of "pandemic" is absolutely unbearable now.

My family is under much-lauded, short-and-sharp, snap lockdown of over 230 days in Victoria, Australia. With 9pm curfew and 5km chain leash. Homeschooling three kids, oldest in y12 and youngest in kindy. We are being asked by the premier not to worry, the beautifully effective tools of lockdowns and curfews will be with us even after 80% of fully-vaxed. Masks will be mandatory for years to come. Contact tracing too. Riot police is as enthusiastic about enforcing 100% vaxx, as they were about zero-covid. By beautiful logic, because zero-covid is not attainable anymore, the "health advice" changed overnight and all the restrictions must ... stay the same! Until 100% vaxx, perhaps. Take no prisoners! And invitation-only "journalists" only ask "why not locking down earlier and harder"? I had a good friend confronting me with "you must be wanting to kill ten percent of 60+" and "feeling conspiratorial" when I said I do not support most of the actions taken.

I, personally, did step out of house only a handful of times during the last two years. Wearing facemask gives me acute psychosis. Seeing people wearing them makes me cry. I'm scared that I will start throwing punches if I see police or anyone enforcing this madness. There was no moment in the last two years when I did not feel anger, despair or complete apathy. I defy the curfew and walk my dog at midnight, in the middle of nowhere. If stopped, I plan on claiming "providing care", as it is one of the "allowed" reasons to break the curfew. If asked to whom, the answer will be "myself". I flip the police chopper when I see it loitering. Daily.

I gained 20 kilos, got myself a proper diabetes (I never even had elevated blood sugar before this), losing my eyesight, having chest pains and all that. My wife has been cut from minuscule support for a life-long medical condition, under premise that she is not successful enough in mitigating the symptoms of that condition. Apparently, the support is a reward now. We lost all trust in governments, police, doctors and all sorts of public service orgs. I absolutely not going to any medical place for checkup or vax until mandates are lifted. Which may be never or too late, so realistically I'm looking to meet my end long before my youngest reaches 18. By diabetes, covid, or by my own hand. There is no light. There is no escape. There is no place on Earth where we, realistically, could move. Heck, we cannot look at houses to buy in Vic, yet alone in another state. Cannot visit parents overseas, cannot invite them here. Cannot even send a parcel! There is no advice I could give to my sons. There is only regret that we chose Victoria, that we chose Australia, that we chose to have kids, that we were born at all. We've gone from normal, relatively positive and healthy people to complete wrecks in less than a year. So, however "worthwile" it was for the world, I guess my family will be dismissed as collateral damage.

I'm done for. My capacity to fight is gone. To those utilitarians, who are lockdown enthusiasts and covid evangelists - you may rejoice in knowing the world will be better without people like me. After all, it will raise the vaxxed percentage by decreasing the denominator. This is what we hear from all sides. The feeling that you killed a bunch of people to improve overall mortality statistics must be delightful. I wish you all to live forever with this feeling, cannot think of anything more horrible.

End of story.


And the crazy part is we are right. Our positions are well grounded in data and plain common sense. In ordinary times a common person would completely agree with us. None of our stuff would be subject to so much, well, incredibly awful responses.

Why so many people, even the smartest most grounded people I know, flipped a bit and ignored both common sense and easily accessible data is really beyond me. I truly don’t understand how so many people can ignore what their own eyes and brains tell them.

This whole thing is really something else. It’s gonna piss people off to say it but… this is really the first true mass hysteria of the internet age and while it sucks to be a skeptic it is truly both an amazing and frightening aspect of human behavior to witness.


"Mass hysteria" is exactly what this is, and probably one of the greatest ones in history. I recently read "The Delusions of Crowds", written by E. Bernstein and published in 2021. Bernstein frequently notes that the author of the very well known "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", published in 1841 by Mackay and during the height of the British Railway Bubble, almost completely ignores that now well-known popular delusion.

Ironically, Bernstein had nothing to say about our response to Covid, and only occasionally parroted the accepted platitudes about the pandemic.


As someone who is pretty well read in Le Bon and crowd psychology I still think there are several key differences between traditional mass hysteria and the COVID response in certain countries.


Like?

The formation of large blocs of people who will not tolerate any dissent to the current state of Covid thought, and the scapegoating of those who question or do not fall in line, and a corresponding decline in the social, moral, and economic health of a country, certainly bear striking similarities.


I really feel for you. What kind of pandemic has turned huge numbers of formerly healthy people into overweight, demoralized, and socially isolated individuals? A pandemic of the mind, perhaps.


> This is almost impossible to quantify because we can't determine how the pandemic would have played out without lockdowns.

There is a wide spread of pandemic responses from different countries and regions, so yes, we can make pretty good guesses as to what the effect would have been.

All the various lockdown-supporting studies compare lockdowns to a do-nothing base scenario, where people are essentially assumed to be rolling around naked in a big heap, licking everything and everyone. This is completely false, because people everywhere acted on their own to protect themselves from spread.

And when you compare the effects of the decreased mobility due to ordered lockdowns vs. what people voluntarily achieve anyway, the effect is zero. No benefit, all harm.


Isn't that decreased mobility largely impossible without lockdowns though? I can't imagine more than 20% of workers would realistically have been able to stay home if their employers didn't have to lock down.


Absolutely not, because you could measure a substantial decrease in mobility before any region instituted a lockdown.

You can support working-from-home and furloughing without forcing it. And that's enough.

Last autumn in Sweden, cases started rising, still no lockdown, and people voluntarily decreased their mobility. Everyone I talked to decreased their social activity, skipped out on things, stayed home more. Without being told to. Without being ordered around. It's enough.


>Absolutely not, because you could measure a substantial decrease in mobility before any region instituted a lockdown.

Source?



That isn't historical data

This is https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/changes-visitors-covid?ti...

Shows the trend becomes clear on March 12th, which is 7 days before the first lockdowns in New York. Are you suggesting that the one week delay when everyone bought out all the toilet paper because they thought the world was ending is evidence that the lockdowns weren't needed to affect mobility?


Only in those useless models. I recall one interview on Unherd with one of the British modelers, if more people understood what kind of "science" this was hinged on there would be outrage.


I do understand, and I am outraged. The stastical modellers have given science, and particularly the public perception of science, a terrible blow, as well as the actual outcomes of blindly swallowing their predictions. I'm planning to put together a list of all of the predictions made since March 2020, and what actually happened.


> was also something that could not be disagreed with.

At the time I recall significant disagreement on this point between politicians, the news media, the school boards in my area, and my neighbors. After much debate, our local public schools ultimately did decide to maintain full-in person school for as long as possible due in no small part to equity concerns. Everyone seemed uncertain about whether this was the right thing to do, and I don't recall anyone on either side insisting that disagreement was forbidden.


I was referring to the broader topic of lockdowns in general, but at least where I was, it was the narrative that "selfish" parents who "didn't want to look after their own kids" wanted to keep the schools open, and therefore risking the very lives of the teachers.


That's rough. Some of the discussions here also got heated and a couple people on both sides of the debate did sink to leveling personal attacks and questioning others' motivations, patriotism, intelligence, sincerity, empathy, etc rather than understanding their point of view. It's amazing how damaging it can be to have even a small number of people who have decided to abandon good-faith discussion.

I'm not sure how you prevent folks like that from getting a foothold, but seems like it's worth figuring out.


> something that could not be disagreed with.

Disagreement with the narrative still gets you exiled in many parts. I’ve gotten called all kinds of extremely horrible things by people I know in real life just for asking basic questions. It’s really amazing what fear does to people.


Hell, I got a lecture from someone once for questioning whether cloth masks were accomplishing anything meaningful in a 100% vaccinated workplace with surveillance testing. A lot of authorities are concentrating more on appearing to Do Something against COVID than on the cost-benefit calculation of NPIs' actual impact on preventing disease.


Indeed, we might have a serious issue with illiteracy again.

All over a virus with a 99.5+% survival rate, with 92% of the deaths in the UK in over 75s (and mostly with diabetes and dementia).


The median age of death in many states was well above the average life expectancy of a healthy human. You’d never know this unless you bothered to check the state covid dashboard.


I have maintained for a long time, that this will be regarded as an outbreak of mass hysteria of truly historic proportions.


I'd be curious to hear why you think Western society is obsessed with helping the needy.


As an adult, you should have a basic grasp of things like knowing which societies have large social insurance programs and which do not, rather than being baffled by these basic facts of life.

https://data.oecd.org/socialexp/social-spending.htm

Western society has a historically unique obsession with social insurance programs, to the point where between 20-30% of GDP is spent on social insurance, whereas in other socities the number is much lower. In fact the modern version of these programs were invented in Germany under Bismarck, and the ancient version in the Roman Empire with their bread dole. From the Roman Empire's 'dole' to the hospitals in the middle ages, there was a tradition in Western societies with having the government help the needy. That's not to say that individuals didn't help the needy in many different societies (begging was an occupation in early Islamic societies) but having organized government programs on a mass scale simply to help the poor was the invention of Western civilization during the Roman Empire and continued as a Western obsession to the present day.

Even in the US, the share of national wealth spent on social benefits is 19%, the dirty secret being not that the US spends much less than Europe on things like publicly funding healthcare and education (because the US government spends about the same amount as in Europe), but in the US those public funds are pocketed by well-paid professionals and still the private sector is left with large individual bills, whereas in Europe those same institutions have to get by on the public funds only.

If you want a quick way of shutting someone up who is arguing that the US should have European style funding of universities, tell them we already spend as much as they do in Europe with public subsidies, so the missing step is just making tuition and fees illegal with no increase in government spending. Same thing for healthcare. That will be a cold dose of reality.


"whereas in Europe those same institutions have to get by on the public funds only."

Europe isn't a homogeneous place and you have a lot of private healthcare and educational institutions here. They might not form a majority, but richer people will often make use of them, if they dislike the public option or consider it subpar.

Sometimes not even richer people. I know a lady in Madrid who does not make much money, but gives about half of her income for her son's schooling. He visits a semiprivate school where he gets reasonable education. In her own words, a fully public option would mean that he might not even learn proper Spanish, as only kids of the poorest immigrants frequent it.


Yes, this is a good point. Everything is messier in real life than a few paragraphs can properly portray.

But my main point is that the difference between the national healthcare you see in Europe versus the U.S. is not the level of public spending, but the universal nature of service delivery achieved for roughly the same total public spending. The same thing for university education.

In both cases, the government spends an enormous amount and in Europe that covers a baseline of service (with private spending optional to supplement it) but in the US that covers maybe 1/2-1/3 of your bill, leaving private citizens to still face huge costs for things that are fully covered in Europe. The natural solution -- to cut employment and wages on the part of US healthcare or education workers so that they make do with the public funds they are already receiving -- is rarely advocated by those who want a more european-style system of social insurance.


Are you for real? Find me another culture that spends so much time fretting over people suffering in other countries, or the poor or disadvantaged in their own countries (Covid polices exempted, of course).


Our elites just love flying round on jets to African countries to help, if you run a foundation you’re seen as a good person. The defining musical event of the 80s that still has cultural continuity today was Live Aid. Most cities have food banks and soup kitchens too.

I think we still have a notion of “the right sort” of needy though, compare starving African kids to any of the wretched opioid addicts (and their families) that shuffle around North American cities and the sympathy given to each.


Not to mention the fact that a massive part of school is just learning to socialize with people who aren't your family and that you may or may not particularly like.


One thing that rubs me the wrong way about school socializing is that you learn to socialize only with people of your own age. That is a very unnatural group that succumbs to idiosyncratic peer pressures, fashions and groupthink.

I definitely got better at socializing when I left school and started to interact with much more age diverse groups in the wider world.


No this is a good thing. Kids develop at different ages and being around kids their age build up confidence. If they mixed classes too much then the older kids would dominate everything and the younger kids would learn to just shut up.

Especially with girls it’s important for kids to learn self esteem and agency, and they can’t do that when bigger, stronger, smarter and faster older kids are dominating everything in the classroom.


Sounds like post-hoc rationalization to me.

With that reasoning, you could also decide that classes shouldn't be mixed-gender, because boys might bully girl or girls might bully boys, and it's better to keep everyone in a group of people exactly like them.


It’s obvious you don’t have children because this is actually an issue that is starting to come around.

Educators are finding that mixing genders actually puts a lot of pressure on boys to behave like girls, ie less excited etc so when they act out, they are medicated or sent to the principals office. Separating boys from girls in the classroom might help boys when they are younger.

And girls benefit from being separated especially during puberty. My friend just sent her daughter to an all-girls middle school that specifically targets girls this age so that they can learn to be more confident during the most awkward age of their lives.


This really isn't true though. Some schools have mixed-grade lunches, clubs, some classes, etc. and how can you not categorize interactions with teachers and other faculty as not being in a different age group???


> interactions with teachers and other faculty

Interactions, yes, but I wouldn't call those interactions socialising.

In my entire time as a child and teenager at multiple schools, I don't recall spending any time socialising with teachers and other faculty. Not once, and not even with my favourite teachers who made the most lasting impressions through their teaching, and willingness to teach me more advanced things than on the standard curriculum.

It was pretty minimal at university too. Socialising was with other students.


Social education is not just socializing. It's important for children to learn social dynamics with people who are a different standing as them and their immediate peers.


I agree those things are important.

But the post by inglor_cz you replied to was specifically about socialising being limited to peer ages as a child, not social eduction in general.

Therefore your reply "this isn't really true though" and "how can you not categorise .. teachers" implied socialising with teachers and faculty, not just formal social interactions.

It really is true that many children don't have the opportunity to socialise with people outside a narrow age range at school, and that seems like a legitimate thing to dislike.


"how can you not categorize interactions with teachers and other faculty as not being in a different age group"

These are interactions, but form just a very limited subset of socializing. Most teachers remain fairly distant and unknown. Or at least that was my experience when going to school.

YMMV.


Almost nobody is building meaningful relationships outside of their year group. It's an unhealthy state of affairs that wasn't this way in our ancestral past. A side effect of going for economies of scale in schooling. It contributed to my own immaturity as a teenager. I would've been better off with actual friends older than me and especially some actual friends older than 25.

This is one thing home schooling has going for it, where the social life is built around activities with other home schooled kids who likely differ in age. It's much harder for kids to get caught up in the typical pet immaturities and stupidities of their age group.


In my American public school, and likely where the parent is from, there are not mixed-grade lunches, clubs, or any classes, until around 9th grade or 14ish years old. Interactions with teachers and faculty is extremely limited by the ratio (at least 1:20) and the context ("You need to remain quiet and do as we tell you").

Kids that have siblings, neighborhood friends, or social activities like boy scouts, which generally include children over a range of ages, really appreciate it.

It sounds like your school had access to this stuff already though, do you think it was valuable?


Yeah - mosr schools are frankly missocialization. It "works" because it is a largely synchronized one which sets the norms which are accepted.


I'm wondering: Do we understand the long-term impact of this lack of "social school" from how homeschooled kids do post-education?


There are a wide variety of homeschool types. But in general, homeschool parents make conscious efforts to ensure the kids get social activities.

In standard school, there are very rigid age-based hierarchies. Sixth graders rule over fifth graders, who rule over fourth graders. And the adults rule over all of them. And then you have the cliques, etc.

You'll find that such hierarchies do not exist in the homeschool world, and the kids are better for it. If the homeschool environment is religion-based, you'll probably find that the children do not know how to interact well with people in other religions, but you still have excellent interactions between age groups.


I'm not in the US, we have a far smaller culture of homeschooling here from what i read, but due to my pre-dev activities and social engagements (i was young and full of hope :) ), i met a bit more than two dozen homeschooled children.

They all did pretty heavy extracurricular activities. Keep in mind that i met them in a particular time, either as a youth camp counselor or as a "street educator" (not really, basically i animated open physics classes with experiments/construction for kids, think Kiwico but free and with social settings).

They also were quite late in STEM, even those with engineers parents (definitely not the majority), but at least bilingual (i saw a 10 year old girl speaking 4 languages and playing violin better than i did). The most "advanced" i saw (at least in mathematics principles and understanding) where those with a formal musical education. Most of them could play at least one instrument, but those who understood underlying music principle were definitely more likely to "get" physics and engineering for some reasons. I think pattern recognition is definitely important for people to understand STEM work, and that can explain my limited, anecdotal data.

Another common point is that each of their familly were fairly religious (or spiritual rather), but not close-minded. I think around half were christian (not really defined), and the other half were more new-age. No Chomsky day for any of the famillies.

[edit] It's quite unfair from me, putting them in boxes like christian and new-age. Let say around half of them believed in a single entity we could call god creating the universe and guiding humanity, and the other half believing that the universe himself (or Nature, or the soul) guide them. I'm pretty sure one couple were active dualist proponents


Anecdotal, but I grew up in a cult that encouraged home-schooling. While I was lucky and did not get home schooled, nearly every person I know who did was socially stunted in some way.


I wouldn't say the homeschooled people I have encountered were "stunted" but definitely "different enough to not gel smoothly with the rest of society." They kind of just run in totally different circles: They socialize but with a totaly disjoint set of kids. All their friends are from their church and they don't know anyone in public school, their parents take them to totally different movies (Christian movies, no Marvel superheroes), listen to totally different music. Can't talk sports with them because they literally can't name a football team. No culture overlap at all. Totally siloed off in their own world.

Maybe these traits are specific to Christian homeschoolers and not homeschoolers in general, but frankly I have never met someone who was homeschooled because of secular, rather than religious reasons.


I don’t think life would be worse off if I never watched popular movies or if Football didn’t exist. I have actually given this some thought given recent events.

These last two years have changed my perspective. While the vast majority of people were bathing in hand sanitizer, hoarding toilet paper, locking themselves away in quarantine, and avoiding elevator buttons, the people who were least in tune with popular culture (Religious, rural, etc.) seemed like the most rational actors. In my opinion turning off the TV and ignoring mass media, sports, culture is probably the most healthy thing a person could do.


> I wouldn't say the homeschooled people I have encountered were "stunted" but definitely "different enough to not gel smoothly with the rest of society."

IME, the homeschooled people raised by people (homeschooled or not) to whom that description does not apply also do not tend to fit it, but people to whom (again, homeschooled themselves or not) that description does apply are overrepresented among those choosing homeschooling for their kids.


Personally I was homeschooled and sports was one of the main points of common ground I had with kids from "regular school"


There is a wide range of socialization that happens in homeschool. Some kids are practically hermits, only meeting other kids during church. Other kids have a full schedule of extracurricular activities that rival HS and college kids.


As a parent of three home schooled children, the social aspect is always brought up by those not informed about home schooling. My kids are socialized through various group activities (P.E, dance, piano, art classes etc.) and with close friends. They also have friends of various age groups since they are not forced to socialize with kids of their age group as they would in public schools. Overall I find the social aspect to be of higher quality than my experience as a kid going through public schools. One big benefit is not having to deal with being bullied, which is very common in public schools.


There's this joke I often see about homeschooling: "I didn't want my kid to miss out on the high school social experience, so I beat him up and stole his lunch money."


This is not universal but there are often times groups of homeschooling families that get together and have their kids socialize. It is likely significantly less than at school but probably changes the formula a bit.


The counterargument is that it's an artificial socialization. You are put in a group based on age; an axis we don't segregate on beyond school. It means you are mostly being socialized by other kids of the same age. It's the blind leading the blind. It's cliques. It's bullies. It's mean girls. I think it's a special kind of torture for both the body and mind.


And there's not really an age where this stops either. Socialization is an ongoing life-long process. I'm sure all the exceptions will be in my replies but we need social interaction in order to not go crazy. And with our shitty hyper-individualistic culture, work and school is the only non-parasocial human interaction a lot of people get.


I've taught English to undergrads (mostly freshmen), on and off, for 13 years, and it's apparent that no one I'm aware of has a great model for teaching reading and writing skills online, at least to college students. Most of the efforts I've seen attempt, mostly unsuccessfully, to replicate the classroom model, or attempt what looks mostly like a busywork model. College students are likely more motivated on average than K-12 students. It's possible for the highly motivated to learn a lot, but, for the median student, things look much grimmer.

I'm not a luddite and would love to see successful online education that works at least as well as offline. So far, I'm not hugely optimistic, for the median student: https://seliger.com/2013/08/19/computers-and-education-an-ex....


To be fair that's a very hard problem.

I have no formal teaching experience, but I taught several competitive mathematics seminars for elite high school students. Transposing the classroom model is unsatisfactory, working remotely strongly encourages you to pursue asynchronous models. But on the other hand a lesson is more than just a youtube video, you definitely want some degree of interactivity.

It sounds really silly, but I wonder if internet-first models like Twitch streams with rich interactive chats are actually closer to the solution.


I think there's this expectation that online/computer based education would reduce/eliminate teachers and allow for mostly unsupervised learning, and I just don't see how that would work for reading and especially writing.

Maybe reading, a bit, because a lot of people will get most of the way there with learn by example and a couple check ins. And then lots of practice.

Writing seems difficult to computerize. And having a classroom full of students doing roughly the same thing seems a lot less labor intensive than each student at their own pace with a teacher available with enough context to appropriately critique and encourage and provide useful resources.

The arithmetic portions of elementary mathematics seem a lot more amenable to computerization. The computer can easily judge the answers, and while it takes a lot of time and practice to master some of the skills, the breadth of skills is really not that deep, so there's not a whole lot of context that needs to be considered when help is needed. I don't know that this still holds at higher level math, but there's parts that might. On the other hand, group instruction can allow for peer assistance with tricky things which may help both parties understand the material more.


> It's possible for the highly motivated to learn a lot, but, for the median student, things look much grimmer.

I'm starting to think most classes could be split in two when doing online education.

There's a percentage of students that are highly motivated and that don't really need a lot of supervision. A teacher could split them into a group and assign them (a lot) of reading and follow up at a regular cadence. They should be encouraged to have a daily conference call, not necessarily with the teacher, to work together on problems or discuss books.

Else these students are stuck in a lecture where, let's face it, half the time is spent doing "classroom management" for problematic students.


It can be an easy mistake to make. Too often we assume that everyone is high functioning and higher than average aptitude with higher than average support. I'm sure all those kids did okay during distance learning. It is all the other kids that will struggle. We forget that there were kids in our classes that struggled even with the full support and structure of school. I think it may allow us to change our approach to education moving forward. We had a forced experiment that created a lot of data. Hopefully we all learn something from it.

I always take it back to a conversation I've had with co-workers about meetings. Frequently, people all leave the same meeting with different expectations and understandings. This is despite a long meeting, discussion, white boards and back and forth. Communication is hard and a skill we tragically under develop. Education is the same, you have abstract concepts that must be converted into internal mental models by students at different levels and abilities.


I agree with this for like 95-99% of people. I do think there are a few internally motivated students who will thrive in this environment. Obviously you can't make policy around those few, but it would be interesting to give students the option going forward now that there is some sort of infrastructure set up around remote learning. The primary issue I see is that a large group of very non-motivated students will probably take advantage of this option and just slack off even more. These are the ones that need the in person structure the most.

Overall though, agree that it has been a total disaster apart from being a rare learning opportunity for policy makers.


Yeah, I agree that a mixed model can possibly work, but I worry you'd be running into similar problems as those that came out during the pandemic.

I'm a big believer that meritocracy and an ethics of self-motivation can genuinely help disadvantaged but talented people, but that requires offering them a place where they can dedicate themselves to developing that talent. I worry that talented but poor people would actually those that get hit the most by mixed solutions like that.

> I agree with this for like 95-99% of people.

Honestly, K-12 education is completely useless for the top 5% in the first place. You simply can't design a system around those people.


> I agree with this for like 95-99% of people. I do think there are a few internally motivated students who will thrive in this environment.

No doubt. Perhaps ironically, outliers that thrive on independent study (I likely would have been one of these people) drive inequality up!


my high school actually had a good structure for this kind of model. all class attendance was effectively optional and there was no homework outside of a few big quarterly projects (every classroom has a drawer full of practice assignments you could refer to as-needed). you were essentially given complete freedom... provided your gpa stayed at least 3.0, if you fell below you'd be put on academic probation which required you to come to class and do homework etc until your grades improved.

in general i dislike the notion of 'unmotivated students' more often ime you have kids who not being provided an educational experience that aligns with their motivations.


> Obviously you can't make policy around those few

But you can carve out a path for them.


Once enough time has passed to give proper retrospective stats, I am very curious to know if there is a clear dividing line between the harm of remote learning at the elementary grades compared to high school or college or if it gradually tapers off in later elementary school into the baseline education reduction in high school.

I'll also admit to not thinking that a missed semester of school was a big deal. Why'd I ever think that? I only thought of the glacial pace of American middle and high schools and elementary grades simply skipped my mind entirely. There's no way to teach a child to read over Zoom.


What do you do for a living? I also found school to be a huge waste of time but I was a very high IQ kid. When I would be stuck at home I would just read books or mess around with chemical reactions. Plus I had a very comfortable middle class life. But the average IQ kid cannot self study like that and the average income family may not have a private room for the kid to study, may have abusive situations at home, etc.


> What do you do for a living?

I'm a software developer, I have been working from home since the pandemic started and that's probably what led me to my initial opinion - I had almost no drop in productivity and I (wrongly) assumed school wasn't kinda sorta like my job.

> I also found school to be a huge waste of time but I was a very high IQ kid.

I was top ~1% as well. I agree K-12 is inherently useless for the top few percent, but I still think "normal" school is massively wasteful, even when you only take into account the middle 90%. Most of it just felt fake if I'm being honest: dumbed down versions of reality fed by teachers to students with the mutual understandment that it's all bullshit, so that eventually there's going to be a garbage test where the teacher knows the grades in advance.

I'm Italian though, not American, so YMMV.

> average income family may not have a private room for the kid to study, may have abusive situations at home, etc.

Yes, completely agree. I thought they'd be second-order effects but they weren't. My parents were working class but I don't recall money ever being a pressing issue, we were "poor" but not "really poor", so that might have skewed my perspective as well.


I know people who have special needs and others who have terrible internet where the parents and kids can’t video at the same time. Remote learning is just one problem, we need the full spectrum of school activities and programs too! All of those little things that communities have built over the last few decades really really matter!


I commend you for changing your opinion. That is no small task these days.


Don’t forget those who had to work during the pandemic. Many many high school students whose families were in a bad position financially had to work and would frequently be listening to zoom class while working a cash register for example. How effectively do you think they could listen and participate, or even care?


I'm not convinced this was a common thing. Source?


I will comment that I kind of love this process of fact finding. We could have an endless political debate a about teaching methods, tech in the classroom, distance learning, teacher quality, school funding and so on. We could have an unquestionable doctrine that smaller class sizes lead to the best education or other maxims. We could have heartfelt beliefs in teacher compensation. But at the end of the day, you try something and it either works or doesn't work, and you really and truly have an opportunity to learn what works best. The best possible way to honor the tough years that students had during the pandemic is to supercharge our learning about learning, take the distance education lessons to heart and let previous dogma be overturned with new best practices.


Another reason why accessibility is so important. Someone might be doing their homework/research from a smarttv or hacked kindle.


To me, going remote significantly improved my life. I have ADHD and in classrooms with people around my i cannot focus at all :( Now because of covid, my university not only livestreams all the lectures but also uploads the recordings. It's absolutely perfect for someone like me. I still go to some lectures and exercise groups for social reasons but i stay home 2-3 days a week and on those days i can just hyperfocus completely.


It's a HUGE issue when you look at low income, lower class individuals. A lot of the kids in those circumstances only get reprieve from their terrible home lives by going to school.

This is not to say it doesn't affect kids in other income classes but the effect is far worse on the lower class.

The younger the child is the worse as well.


For more I think is having someone around to ask questions of.


> First, we review research showing that social class is associated with unequal access to digital tools, unequal familiarity with digital skills and unequal uses of such tools for learning purposes

I have several friends who are elementary and middle school teachers. This echoes what they’ve been saying: The pandemic response among parents has been starkly divided across class lines.

Families with stay-at-home parents are, obviously, the least impacted. However, many of their children from less well-off households simply disappear completely during quarantine periods. The problem is so bad that they have scheduled time each afternoon to try to call all of the parents whose children didn’t log on to the remote learning session (with their school-provided computers with school-provided cellular connections). If they can reach the parents at all they often indicate they don’t even care that their kids were absent because they don’t believe in the distance learning. The indifference is mind-boggling as a parent, but it’s real.

That said, leaving schools fully opened at all times wasn’t really a viable option. Kids may not be as vulnerable to COVID as adults, but put 20-30 of them in enclosed rooms and the virus will spread. Local school districts here tried to stay open as long as possible but they quickly ran into a lack of teachers as the teachers became ill (multiple times in several cases) or simply quit because they couldn’t risk it for themselves or their families at home.


> The indifference is mind-boggling as a parent

Imagine you were raised by parents who had unpleasant experiences with formal education and/or by parents who had an attitude themselves of "my kid isn't getting any use out of those six hours" anyway. That's often the mindset behind the attitude, not so much as that parents don't love their kids and want what they see is the best for them. (Of course there's plenty of abuse and full-on neglect motivating such absenteeism, too.)


It's amazing that private schools were somehow able to operate.

Perhaps instead of doing something didn't work, we just split the kids into 2 groups, Monday-Wednesday, and then Tuesday-Saturday. Then we'd only have 10 - 15 kids per class. Give them more self directed study and homework. Have some pre-recorded video classes they can do on other days and have a proctor to help handle a larger # of kids.

There are many alternatives to remote only learning.


> Perhaps instead of doing something didn't work, we just split the kids into 2 groups, Monday-Wednesday, and then Tuesday-Saturday.

While that might be good for reducing the achievement gap, it doesn't help parents who are being kept from returning to work by the need to care for their children


Completely agree, but it's better than 100% remote which is what happened.


> it doesn't help parents who are being kept from returning to work by the need to care for their children

I’m not sympathetic to parents that view school as daycare.

I feel bad for those kids, but the education system shouldn’t cater to this behavior.

I feel like these kids are also consuming a larger share of education resources due to goofing off, etc because their parents may not be involved enough or setting higher standards/expectations for their kids.

It always gets framed as the hard working low income family who values education as a generational vehicle of mobility. The stereotypical immigrant family with mom and dad both working 3 jobs.

However, I feel like that is not the norm. There is a lot of people who just don’t care about education except for the free daycare and meals it provides. Many parents care more about their kids place on the sports team/etc than their test scores. They’ll let there kid play video games all day then cry about how remote learning doesn’t work.


Boys and Girls Clubs of America did this much of the Fall 2020-2021 school year while schools were remote; they created learning "pods" of 6 students to work remotely with one staff / volunteer.

The idea being to limit the exposure / quarantine size, facilitate remote learning where it was otherwise unavailable.


A lot of public schools in MA did just that. Our school district had two cohorts, one of which was in school Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri one week, the other the next week, alternating. Fully remote Wednesdays, ostensibly to do cleaning/sanitizing. Parents could also opt for their kids to be fully remote, and some kids (e.g. those whose parents were teachers, not necessarily in our district) were in school full-time, except Wednesdays.

It was definitely much better than remote-only.


I live next to a private school, and they did not close down at all. It's a pre-k - 5th grade school and the kids have been wearing masks the whole time (still do) even at recess. IDK what other measures they have taken, but they certainly have had in person school the entire pandemic


The idea of split time was discussed in the public system here in Canada in many places, at the start. But come summer the general attitude and public discussion seems to have taken a very all-or-nothing turn.


Somehow nobody seems to feel a need to justify why would we make any changes* to in-person schooling. Instead it just seems to be a foregone conclusion that having kids in school is dangerous.

Why is split learning even on the table? Who are we trying to protect? The kids? The teachers? Are most people in these hyper-partisan democrat areas (I'm speaking from a US perspective, but it's largely the US that has voluntarily wrecked now almost 2 years of education) aware that the kids are not at serious risk of COVID? Are they aware that, not only is the mortality of common comparisons like Influenza way higher, but that the common rebuttal of "but what about long COVID" is basically an evidenceless assertion and there is no evidence that children are getting permanent damage from their largely asymptomatic COVID infections? Are they aware that, even if it were right to try to prevent kids from ever getting infected with SARS-2 (spoiler: it's not), that we don't even have quality studies proving that going to school is even associated with greater COVID infection?

Are they aware that, unlike the H1N1 pandemic, it's actually pretty miraculous that SARS-2 almost entirely spares children? That therefore to undergo these measures like school closures and constant indoor masking of toddlers, and 6 foot distancing, and plastic dividers, and restricted extracurricular events, has no relation to actually keeping children safe, except insofar as those measures very clearly harm the wellbeing of children?

I weep for what we've done to children throughout this. We as adults are supposed to be the ones saying, "hey, even if there's risk to us adults, you guys are more important, and we're never going to ask you to sacrifice your life out of some misguided effort to prevent the transmission of an endemic highly infectious human coronavirus, and on the contrary we will make whatever sacrifices are necessary to keep you guys growing and developing". Instead we turned around and said, "kids are inherently gross, they're spreading this killer virus like crazy, if they develop a cough and hug their grandmother and the grandmother later dies of COVID then they killed their grandma".

As someone who lives in California - which together with New York and Illinois has led the country in absurd and ineffective and incredibly authoritarian COVID policy - I feel like I don't recognize my fellow citizens.

* Well, any changes because of COVID specifically. Obviously there's things like later school start times for teenagers, etc that are no-brainers that should have been implemented long ago


> Why is split learning even on the table? Who are we trying to protect? The kids? The teachers? Are most people in these hyper-partisan democrat areas (I'm speaking from a US perspective, but it's largely the US that has voluntarily wrecked now almost 2 years of education) aware that the kids are not at serious risk of COVID?

It was to protect staff & their families, and generally reduce community spread.

Schools this year, that are fully back in person, are barely holding it together. There aren't enough subs. Trying to go fully in-person everywhere last year probably would have fallen apart, for that reason. It still might, this year. It's bad.

I agree that the harm outweighed the benefit by a long shot if we're talking just about the kids, but I don't think we'd have been able to keep fully in-person school running last year anyway. The ones that went in-person suffered badly, in some cases worse than fully-online cohorts. The only way to fix it would have been a policy of having teachers & students who very likely were COVID-exposed but not actively ill-feeling come in until it was proven that they were COVID-positive—but that policy would also have increased spread, so I wouldn't guarantee that'd actually improve the situation of having too many staff out for quarantine.


> It was to protect staff & their families, and generally reduce community spread.

There is no evidence that school closures had any positive impact on community spread, FWIW. Hell, even for Influenza, which kids are much less resistant to than they are for COVID, studies have often found that school closures are counterproductive due to actually ending up with an increased number and diversity of contacts/events.

> but I don't think we'd have been able to keep fully in-person school running last year anyway.

But why do you think this? Are you aware that many parts of the world have returned to fully in-person school for several months or longer at this point? That here in deep blue parts of the US we are unique in our rabid devotion to denying children in-person school?

> The ones that went in-person suffered badly, in some cases worse than fully-online cohorts.

[Citation Needed]

> The only way to fix it would have been a policy of having teachers & students who very likely were COVID-exposed but not actively ill-feeling come in until it was proven that they were COVID-positive—but that policy would also have increased spread, so I wouldn't guarantee that'd actually improve the situation of having too many staff out for quarantine.

First of all I actually reject the premise that avoiding spread is necessarily a good thing. Indeed it only prolongs the epidemic stage and as the rise of variants like Delta have shown, even rushing out vaccines in an unprecedented amount of time hasn't actually allowed people to avoid the virus. I should also mention that for teachers who are quarantining (which remember is also a result of policy, you're not talking about teachers being unable to teach due to being sick, but rather being forbidden from in-person teaching because they or someone they know hit a positive on a PCR test), they could still teach remotely to a class of in-person kids (yes you might need some other adult to oversee things, but I'd wager even without such supervision you'd still have far better results than the unmitigated disaster that "distance" learning has been)

The kids who have survived distance learning have done well in spite of it, not because of it. They have access to tutors and learning pods and actually have a quiet space at home to do work, and actually have parents that give a shit. Not everyone has those resources.

But yeah I really want to hammer home the point that, the only possible way in which we wouldn't have "been able to keep fully in-person school running last year" is purely itself an artifact of absurd COVID quarantine policies, and has nothing to do with an actual lack of staff nor an actual crippling health problem preventing people from being able to work.


It’s really a shame this stuff gets downvoted. I really wish people understood that it is quite possible for a well intentioned person to completely disagree with almost all of what we’ve done. In fact it would be highly unusual for all “smart” people to take one side of an issue.

> But yeah I really want to hammer home the point that, the only possible way in which we wouldn't have "been able to keep fully in-person school running last year" is purely itself an artifact of absurd COVID quarantine policies, and has nothing to do with an actual lack of staff nor an actual crippling health problem preventing people from being able to work.

I suspect we will eventually “discover” the same with hospital capacity. When you test everybody on the way in and then have all positive results follow strict, labor intense quarantine protocols regardless of patient symptoms… yeah you will have problems with capacity. Imagine if they tested all patients for other viruses and did this sort of thing…

A lot of the problems we’ve experienced the last year and a half are self-made. Testing everything under the sun for covid and then acting on positive results regardless of symptoms is gonna throw a wrench in just about any machine.


The main problem with hospital capacity was ICU beds though, not all the trappings around the bodies in those beds. People didn’t get put in those beds just due to a positive test. Fundamental issue was that our system isn’t built to handle the sort of excess load a disease that leaves someone in an ICU bed for weeks causes. If covid killed who it killed quickly it wouldn’t have been nearly as much of an issue.


I think what makes me the saddest is that the pro-lockdown pro-school-closures pro-vaccine-passport-to-engage-in-society people never seem to think that the onus is on them to prove anything.

They don't need to prove that school closures aren't deleterious.

They don't need to prove that the supposed epidemic of long COVID is actually real.

They don't need to prove that the missed medical appointments and missed routine non-COVID vaccinations aren't going to outpace the supposed benefits of doing the epidemiological equivalent of hiding in your closet from the monster (SARS-2).

They don't need to account for second-order effects, such as the fact that "avoiding" COVID for a month or two is really just postponing it and that we exist in a state of dynamic equilibrium with the countless pathogens we're surrounded by.

No, they just get to assume that their intervention de jur is without harm, and conversely that COVID is the worst thing ever and that SARS-2 is 10 times as deadly as all the other shit we don't spend an excessive amount of time worrying about (Influenza, OC43, noravirus, rhinovirus, you name it)


Agree. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And it isn’t the skeptic’s job to prove any of that. Logic and science got flipped on its head.

It’s truly remarkable.


Because like many issues these days, it has taken on a religious fervor.


>Hell, even for Influenza, which kids are much less resistant to than they are for COVID, studies have often found that school closures are counterproductive due to actually ending up with an increased number and diversity of contacts/events.

Can you link to those studies? The big story last year was that cases of/deaths from influenza dropped worldwide[1].

[1]: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flu-has-disappear...


> The big story last year was that cases of/deaths from influenza dropped worldwide[1].

There's a huge difference between "influenza plummeted worldwide" and "influenza plummeted worldwide as a direct result of school closures [or lockdowns, physical distancing, and universal masking]". Influenza did plummet worldwide. Indeed, it did so even in places that didn't go to nearly the same extent as the US did as far as school closures and the like. That should already hint at you that it's not actually related to what we did intervention-wise (which also makes sense given that everything we did was ineffective at slowing the spread of COVID more than a marginal amount [granted, SARS-2 spreads more easily than Influenza so it's theoretically possible the COVID measures were completely ineffective for COVID yet were completely effective for Influenza, but seems farfetched])

To me the most plausible explanation is that of viral interference: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30950360/

> Since the interferon system can control most, if not all, virus infections in the absence of adaptive immunity, it was proposed that viral induction of a nonspecific localized temporary state of immunity may provide a strategy to control viral infections.

Briefly, infection with a virus causes one's cellular hackles to get raised, so to speak. That is to say, that infection with virus A leads to a ramp-up in innate immunity, particularly cell-mediated innate immunity, which decreases the probability of being infected by virus B in the ensuing days/weeks. The paper I linked is about leveraging that intentionally, but obviously it's a mechanism that occurs naturally as well. This next point is orthogonal to our discussion but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that SARS-2 is, in a sense, actually the ideal candidate for intentional exploitation of viral interference, given how readily it infects human cells and how in large swaths of the population it is very non-threatening (and yes, in a small proportion of the population it is very threatening)

--

So to tie it back to the Influenza dropping, I suspect that viral interference was quite significant, and that altered social interactions accounted for a big chunk of it as well. Specifically, it seems like social networks got much more "local". There was still people going out and doing stuff, but overall the average person was significantly less likely to visit extended family, attend large events, etc. This is somewhat related to the lockdowns/forced shuttering of businesses, but I think a lot of it was broader than that as well.

---

> Can you link to those studies [regarding influenza and school closures]?

I'll start with one review that does seem to suggest a benefit in school closures for Influenza: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/2/e002149.short. It has the usual problems associative studies do, but in this case specifically the confound of regression to the mean is incredibly great. They mention as such in the results:

> However, as schools often closed late in the outbreak or other interventions were used concurrently, it was sometimes unclear how much school closure contributed to the reductions in incidence.

Here's one from Hong Kong. I really like their discussion because it points out just how difficult it is to actually show a link, given the way epidemic curves naturally rise and fall and the delayed natural of intervention impact: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2609897/

> Although we can only speculate, given the limitations of an uncontrolled natural experiment on the population level, routine surveillance data did not detect a large effect from the school closures. In particular, we noted a decline in laboratory isolations of influenza viruses that preceded the intervention and the lack of association between school closures and Rt. In fact, sentinel data may not accurately represent the incidence of influenza in the underlying population because, for example, other cocirculating upper respiratory viruses contribute to overall influenza-like illness consultation rates. Laboratory data, however, should be less affected, and extra testing in response to the heightened awareness of influenza activity might have artifactually lowered the positivity rate. The epidemic curves generated from the surveillance data showed a decline in cases that may have naturally concluded without any intervention. We note the difficulty of making inferences directly from changes in epidemic curves because changes in the epidemic curve may lag behind changes in the underlying transmission dynamics by at least 1 serial interval, as has previously been shown for severe acute respiratory syndrome

-

This next one is more about the ethics, but I think the abstract is pretty sensible:

"Mitigating Pandemic Influenza: The Ethics of Implementing a School Closure Policy" - https://journals.lww.com/jphmp/Abstract/2008/07000/Mitigatin...

> Pandemic influenza response plans have placed a significant emphasis on school closures as a community mitigation strategy. However, school closures raise serious ethical concerns, many of which have been largely overlooked. First, evidence of this intervention's efficacy has not yet been firmly established, calling into question whether it will be useful against the threat. Second, school closures have the potential to create serious adverse consequences, which will disproportionately affect vulnerable populations. Thus, policy makers should focus on gathering more evidence about the efficacy of school closures and on strengthening communication and transparency about the strengths and weaknesses of any school-closure plan that they decide to adopt.


> > but I don't think we'd have been able to keep fully in-person school running last year anyway.

> But why do you think this? Are you aware that many parts of the world have returned to fully in-person school for several months or longer at this point? That here in deep blue parts of the US we are unique in our rabid devotion to denying children in-person school?

Because they're—US schools in my city—barely managing this year, due to staffing/substitute shortages? I'm not in a deep blue part of the US, incidentally.

> > The ones that went in-person suffered badly, in some cases worse than fully-online cohorts.

> [Citation Needed]

I have insight into districts that accidentally ran experiments for this, by running in-person and fully online programs concurrently. I can't share the numbers (they were in internal documents, with only some presented at school board meetings, which I certainly didn't save links to). Look at education & public policy journals in the coming years, should be some "fun" results (spoiler: everything was extremely bad, not just online learning)

> First of all I actually reject the premise that avoiding spread is necessarily a good thing.

.... ok.

> [quarantining teachers] could still teach remotely to a class of in-person kids (yes you might need some other adult to oversee things, but I'd wager even without such supervision you'd still have far better results than the unmitigated disaster that "distance" learning has been)

The amount of planning and support you need to make this work, on short-ish notice, under the constraints and in the environment schools were operating in, makes it unrealistic.

Overall, you're severely underestimating the disruption this has all had on in-person schooling, and the stress it's added for staff. You're overestimating how much extra work and (perceived, if you like) risk teachers were willing to take on, before they'd have simply quit.

> But yeah I really want to hammer home the point that, the only possible way in which we wouldn't have "been able to keep fully in-person school running last year" is purely itself an artifact of absurd COVID quarantine policies, and has nothing to do with an actual lack of staff nor an actual crippling health problem preventing people from being able to work.

I 100% guarantee you there'd have been a significant loss of staff at schools in our area if you announced a policy that all staff & students were to come in unless actually too ill to attend. You'd have had serious problems with sick-outs among the rest. Again: schools would have been crippled due to staffing reasons. You may disagree with what those people chose to do in response to that policy, but it's what they would have done. Source: I know a shitload of teachers in my area, and all of the ones who could afford to walk away from their job, spent most of last year right on the cusp of doing so, and they were absolutely serious about it. That kind of policy would have pushed every single one over the edge, instantly. Again, I'm not even in a "deep blue" area (rather more red than blue, in fact). I assume that effect would have been even worse in "blue" areas.

Your plan would not have worked, for staffing reasons. In-person school this year is barely working... for staffing reasons. That's just a fact, source: go talk to any public school teachers or administrators and ask them how the substitute supply situation is going, and how school attendance is going (80-85%ish daily attendance rates are common this year). Get ready for some stories. Attempting it last year would have gone even worse.


> I 100% guarantee you there'd have been a significant loss of staff at schools in our area if you announced a policy that all staff & students were to come in unless actually too ill to attend. You'd have had serious problems with sick-outs among the rest. Again: schools would have been crippled due to staffing reasons. One thing that is absolutely baffling to me is why this is a problem in the US, when there are other places in the world that simply do not have this problem.

I'm Swedish, and none of my friends with school-age kids have mentioned any problems with this. Schools were open, and only older kids (16+) did hybrid or distance learning to keep them out of school and reduce spread, because it was deemed that they were old enough to handle it, while smaller kids weren't.

But there's no hysteria anywhere, everyone just kept chugging along. I have plenty of friends' kids who got infected, but recovered. Their teachers got sick, and recovered. I have teacher friends, I don't know if anyone of them got infected, but absolutely no-one has been afraid or hysterical about the situation or thinking about quitting their job because of the pandemic.

And everyone agrees that distance learning is absolute shit for kids, and those of my friends with high-school aged kids can clearly see that it was bad for their kids.


> I have teacher friends, I don't know if anyone of them got infected, but absolutely no-one has been afraid or hysterical about the situation or thinking about quitting their job because of the pandemic.

There's a difference in how US teachers are treated, under ordinary circumstances, versus those in Sweden, I expect, that accounts for some of this. I'd not be surprised if the average US teacher is always closer to quitting than the average Swedish teacher.

> But there's no hysteria anywhere

Whether it was hysteria or not, the fact was that an awful lot of US teachers were ready to quit last year, if they couldn't teach remotely or in an environment with masking + distancing + quarantine-after-exposure. Enough that there's no way they could have had normal in-person school last year, over the whole country, especially while also trying to do distancing and such (you can't go to 40+ kid class sizes to try to make up for lost staff, and still distance). Again, quarantine-after-exposure policies and burn-out mean they're having serious trouble staffing schools this year. It would not have gone better last year, and trying to open in person without quarantine policies or remote-teaching options would have driven out so many teachers that it would not have made matters better.

> And everyone agrees that distance learning is absolute shit for kids, and those of my friends with high-school aged kids can clearly see that it was bad for their kids.

All school have suffered for what'll be 2.5 years, when this school year is over—if we're optimistic, perhaps 2 years total, because maybe the second semester of this one will markedly improve. Most schools are almost entirely back in-person this year (some still have online options, but I don't think they've had as many takers as those options had last year) and it is not going great. Not as bad as last year, but it's still not normal. Hopefully next year is better.


> Whether it was hysteria or not, the fact was that an awful lot of US teachers were ready to quit last year, if they couldn't teach remotely or in an environment with masking + distancing + quarantine-after-exposure.

Right, and this mindset simply doesn't exist in Sweden and many other parts of Europe.

This fear doesn't exist there.

The average American is horribly misinformed about the actual risks of covid, many young healthy Americans still believe the unvaccinated risk of death is about 10% for them, they're off in their estimate by four magnitudes. It's absolutely unbelievable how misinformed they are, and how they're allowed to perpetuate this unfounded hysteria unopposed.

I haven't seen similar surveys for Sweden or other European countries, but from talking to my friends and family, it's clear that their risk estimates are much more in line with actual reality. And consequently, their fear level is much more proportional and rational than that of the average American.


> The average American is horribly misinformed about the actual risks of covid, many young healthy Americans still believe the unvaccinated risk of death is about 10% for them, they're off in their estimate by four magnitudes. It's absolutely unbelievable how misinformed they are, and how they're allowed to perpetuate this unfounded hysteria unopposed.

I'm sure that's a factor, and it may even have been the main one, but of the people I know who were talking about quitting, it was more like, "if you make me choose between ever letting my kids see my elderly parents for the entire school year, and working, I choose the former" or "my kid has cancer and is receiving chemotherapy, so, uh, yeah, I quit if you're gonna make me come in and risk COVID exposure". That kind of thing. It wasn't "this might kill me" (though, for a few older or ill ones I know of second-hand, it was) it was "this will limit my life in ways I don't accept, or it would be personally irresponsible" with some sentiment of "having schools fully open is socially irresponsible" on the side. All this on top of some serious burn-out from the COVID-stricken end of the 2019-2020 school year and the scramble and uncertainty of the Summer, which was its own special mess.

I agree with you that people in general have badly mis-calibrated their risk assessment when it comes to COVID, and concede that it's entirely possible that poor risk-assessment was actually the main driver of teacher resistance to returning, nationwide—though that's not what I personally saw.

Incidentally, there were lots of parents demanding a remote option last school year, too, not just teachers. The parents alone might have been enough to make it happen—though they may well have been acting on the same poor risk assessment you bring up, of course. That's possible.


Thank you for your posts and insight. As a teacher, the number one thing I ask people with the opinion you're replying to is: "How many teachers do you know who have died from Covid?" If the answer is 0, I will take their point of view with a huge grain of salt. For me, the answer is > 5, and they contracted it in school. These were not extremely old or sick individuals.


How do you know where they contracted it? Given the variable multi-day incubation period, it's usually impossible to reliably determine the point of infection.


They were isolating except school.


You’re sure that you know these >5 adults enough to make that statement confidently? What about their significant others?

IMO you are clearly making an unfounded assumption


> IMO you are clearly making an unfounded assumption

That would be an unfounded assumption.


>mortality of common comparisons like Influenza way higher

Source? I see 188 pediatric deaths from flu in the 2017-2018 season, and 464 for covid over 1.5 years.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/2019-2020/2019-20-pediatr...

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm#Se...


You need to adjust for the total # of infections. We can also talk about the of covid/with COVID distinction but frankly we don’t even need to go there. But suffice to say Influenza and COVID deaths are measured very differently


> Somehow nobody seems to feel a need to justify why would we make any changes* to in-person schooling.

Here in Canada we responded more aggressively than most parts of the USA. While we never had a lockdown that ordered us into our homes in most of the country, we generally shut nearly everything non-essential besides health, food, supply chain, etc. towards the start and then started re-opening various businesses and facilities. Schools and daycares (private and public) closed in March 2020 along with most workplaces.

That justification seems self-explanatory enough. We intended (and still intend) to contain the virus from doing too much damage too quickly until we're all vaccinated. (The vast majority of Canadians have still not been exposed to the virus because of our more drastic reaction. In terms of the virus alone, we did control it better because of it.)

So at that point, it became a question of when and how to re-open under conditions that would prevent the spread of COVID-19 sufficiently. That includes in the schools. I supported the lockdowns in March 2020. But we seem to be unable to navigate the discussion into the next phase of living with this. We cannot sacrifice child education, and the more of us are vaccinated and less likely to get ill, the more compelling the argument to resume truly normal education becomes. (In person education re-opened in September 2021 here in Ontario, but the doomsayers are already calling for closures, and many students are remote.)


> While we never had a lockdown that ordered us into our homes in most of the country

This is not accurate? Ontario was very explicitly under a stay-at-home order for many months in the winter & spring; you could (technically) be charged for leaving your home for non-essential purposes


> Instead we turned around and said, "kids are inherently gross, they're spreading this killer virus like crazy, if they develop a cough and hug their grandmother and the grandmother later dies of COVID then they killed their grandma".

But boy, wouldn't that suck? I have a couple thoughts here:

1) Kids spend a lot of time with adults, so yes, they could get grandma sick. They could also get their teacher sick, or the school nurse, or other support staff. Good luck convincing the teachers to put their health on the line; they're already underpaid and overworked.

2) Several metro areas have been running short on pediatric ICU beds. COVID is way less risky for kids, but still risky enough to overwhelm our medical system, so preventing spread should probably be given some level of priority.

On the whole, I'm glad that our school systems moved fast to figure out an alternative solution during the pandemic. I'm less glad that we haven't tried other strategies as those alternative solutions have shown clear gaps in effectiveness, and I'm upset that children who depend on the school environment for socialization, focused learning, and even food have been left behind.


I'm upset that there are children who depend on the school environment for food.

And it isnt even a small number of children at that.


Agreed! It’s a problem that the US hasn’t spent nearly enough effort on, and the pandemic pointed a big ugly spotlight at it.


>Perhaps instead of doing something didn't work, we just split the kids into 2 groups, Monday-Wednesday, and then Tuesday-Saturday. Then we'd only have 10 - 15 kids per class.

In practice this would get you two groups of 30-40 kids in each class - but they didn't need to build a new school they were planning on.

I'm from an area that used to have one high school. It now has 8 in the area. I had a class of 1100. This year with the additional schools it is around 1000.


> Perhaps instead of doing something didn't work, we just split the kids into 2 groups, Monday-Wednesday, and then Tuesday-Saturday. Then we'd only have 10 - 15 kids per class. Give them more self directed study and homework. Have some pre-recorded video classes they can do on other days and have a proctor to help handle a larger # of kids.

A district I have good insight into did a split-week schedule similar to that, with online portions for the "off" days, plus a completely separate online program for parents who wanted their kids 100% remote. Unlike some other districts around here that outsourced the online program to one or another terrible companies when offering both options, this district ran their own fully-remote program.

The results were that both groups did terribly but the in person group did worse, despite high levels of near-zero engagement at the online school (i.e. a double-digit percentage of kids basically didn't do school at all). The actual effect of that half-on-half-off schedule in practice was that ~half as much material was covered right off the bat—few of the kids took the online component for the "off" days seriously, and teachers had a hell of a time trying to arrange things so that even could work in the first place, and mostly failed at it or gave up—but then, it gets worse: in-person means people will get COVID, and will expose others, even with fewer kids around at a time reducing the rates, it still happens. So now you've got some weeks with whole classes at home, pretty much not doing school, lots of teachers out and calling for subs, and sub shortages leading to baby-sitting rooms, basically, with too many kids in them to realistically teach—incidentally, this is still happening all over in our city, as the sub shortage remains very bad.

> It's amazing that private schools were somehow able to operate.

Our kids are now in a private school for this school year (the above was not our district last year, incidentally, but another nearby one) that stayed open all of last year and had minimal issues with "quarantining" or viral spread. How? 1) Cut extracurriculars, especially sports—public school parents would never allow this, sports kept running through all of last year and were only barely interrupted the year before, shutting them down was not an option unless school board members all wanted to lose their next election and probably get some death threats and experience some vandalism, 2) powerful air purifiers in every room, 3) everyone masked & distanced and took it seriously—again, compliance issues at public schools are less of a problem at some private schools, 4) no-one constantly pushing to relax measures the second the local infection rates trended slightly down—they had much better and more consistent planning. This year? Vaccine mandates for staff, and high levels of (voluntary) vaccination among eligible kids.

As with other cases where (some) private schools do better than most public schools, dealing with COVID better mostly had to do with those schools getting to select who they have to deal with.


Private schools didn't have insane months-long "remote learning" because they're accountable to their students/families, who pay tuition and choose to attend that school over other schools. It's free market capitalism at work and it's beautiful.


> If they can reach the parents at all they often indicate they don’t even care that their kids were absent because they don’t believe in the distance learning. The indifference is mind-boggling as a parent, but it’s real.

Is it because they don't believe in distance learning or just learning in general? Maybe they relied on school as a glorified daycare. Education was just a side effect.


In the UK, opportunities for the working class are certainly much harder to come by. Entrance to many professions is closed-off by not going to the right private school, not having the money to pay for tuition to get into a grammar school or not having enough money or connections to work for free as an intern. Our government, businesses and the media are mostly run by privately educated individuals. We don't have "the American dream". It's not unsurprising to see why some parents might see state education as just day care.


Aren't unpaid internships mostly for industries that have shitty job prospects anyway?

I mean, I know unpaid internships are widespread in things like fashion design and poetry and journalism - but there's no need to do unpaid internships if you're trying to get into programming or accounting.


My point was that when people turn on their TV and they don't see people like them in the media and in the arts, it must not exactly inspire.


I don't think relying on primary and secondary education as glorified daycare is class-specific, or all that surprising a statement. Plenty of my HS and college classmates who are successful economically were complaining publicly about having to "deal with" their kids during the day while trying to work.


I can talk a bit about private schools.

Many of them adapted quickly. Outdoor classrooms, meeting at parks. Tons of flexibility from teachers / staff. Very quick remodels of spaces - ie, take a wall out of a classroom so it open straight outside with a rolling door etc, very high levels of ventilation. Some doing weekly testing - test on Thursday, turn in Friday, results by Sunday to make decisions on stay at home / come in. Vaccine mandates for all adult staff.

In other words, for parents of private school students, the value of in-person learning is clear, and the schools are delivering it.

The risk in an outdoor classroom, students and teachers masked, teachers vaccinated, is relatively minimal. Student viral load in terms of spread is not so high either from what I've heard. Even inside, with in and out fans running, significant ventilation I'm not sure risk is as terrible as its made out to be.

We'll see how this all plays out. From what I've seen, those kids are doing great (and yes, camping trips replaced sleepovers etc in these families - but their kids remaining socially engaged with friends etc).


> In other words, for parents of private school students, the value of in-person learning is clear, and the schools are delivering it.

There's nothing surprising about that. You have a group of parents with money and a desire to educate their children in a particular way, so they went ahead and spent the necessary money and put in the necessary time to make it happen. That doesn't help much for the parents that have to send their kids to an underfunded public school in a big city.


The thing is, these schools in some cases do not charge a lot more than the funding allocated to the local public schools.

What they do have obviously is incredibly flexibility and there really was no option in folks mind to cancel all in person learning. So they just do everything they can, small pods / cohorts, split schedules for recess, split day schedules even and all the other steps.

So I wouldn't say money, but the time and decision velocity was there. Teachers WERE going to be teaching, and the admin (with teachers and parent council) basically said, how do we make this work.

The secondary win was that this let parents work from home! So they could stay home in peace and quiet and avoid spreading stuff around.

I'm seriously curious what the larger model of learn from home was in public schools? How do these parents work and progress vis a vis their colleagues who send their kids to in-person learning?

The folks I know with kids in school actually did very well career wise, they were 100% on it for remote work, got lots done without commute or kids or if on an in-person job were 100% there (usually with an N95 mask if school demanded that).

If anything, if folks were struggling you'd think in person would be even MORE critical for both parents and kids.

Note that my local suburban public school has TONS of field space outside to set up some tents and outside classrooms.

Some links as to what this looks like sometimes:

https://www.greenschoolyards.org/covid-learn-outside


Private schools that did well with in-person learning last year could take measures public schools couldn't, and had much better compliance rates for things like masking and distancing. For instance, parents wouldn't let public schools suspend sports programs. There'd have been actual, physical violence if that'd been seriously attempted, lots of places. Private schools? Might be a thing they could do (and many did). Many public schools have to deal with kids who couldn't be trusted in outdoor classrooms, or face parent agitation when they take kids outside in anything but perfect weather (this is a weird phenomenon I've seen repeated at a couple private schools vs. public schools in the same area—the private-school goers want their kids out unless the weather's so bad they'll lose fingers to it even if they're bundled up, or there's an intense thunderstorm or something, while the public schools have been cowed into only taking kids out if the weather's quite good; I don't know what causes this).

Private schools could plan better because, despite supposedly being more beholden to their paying customers then public schools are to their constituent families, in practice they seem to have an easier time saying "nope, this is how we're doing it, deal with it", for whatever reason. They didn't have to pay any mind to morons trying to strip all protective measures every time "the numbers" started to look a little better, or lose planning time & focus to misguided planning for those sorts of things.

Private schools may already have had things like longer and more recesses than nearby public schools, so already spent a larger portion of the day outside—public schools have cut recess down to almost nothing, chasing those sweet, sweet test scores.

Private schools also may have had both the money and the leadership to get things like ventilation improvements or other expensive measures done fast. Public schools were crippled by indecision, and various factions pushing for things to go "back to normal" ASAP, fighting any spending or policies that acknowledged this would be a problem for more than a very small number of months and trying to deal with it in those terms.


We looked at a private school, but ultimately opted for virtual K. The other thing this private school had going for it was class size. Way smaller than what public schools have to put up with.


> You have a group of parents with money and a desire to educate their children in a particular way, so they went ahead and spent the necessary money and put in the necessary time to make it happen.

I don't even think it's a matter of money, but you nailed it on the head with the desire part. Some public schools actually get more funding than private ones...

Private schools get to filter out applicants. They only get applicants from families that are interested in education (and willing to spend a little bit more on it than average) and they are allowed to expel students that are not compliant.

That significantly lightens the teacher's workload and makes it easier for them to adapt.

Keep in mind in a public school classroom there will be a percentage of kids that don't want to be there and that will disrupt at much as they can no matter what. And, thanks to the Pareto rule, probably get 80% of the teacher's attention and energy. Some magnets schools manages to bypass that, but they are slowly being shamed and bullied into not doing [0].

[0] https://thelowell.org/8815/news/board-of-education-announces...


I think there have been enough studies now to show that the problem with most public schools in the U.S. have little or nothing to do with underfunding. Thomas Sowell's recent book, "Charter Schools and their enemies", shows that Charter schools with less funding can insanely outperform public schools they compete with in inner cities, even though the public schools have more funding per student.

https://www.amazon.com/Charter-Schools-Enemies-Thomas-Sowell...


I have not read Sowell's book. Do you know how he addresses the issue of self-selection? For example, with cost: Some kinds of students require orders of magnitude more resources than others due to health/behavioral/developmental/poverty-related issues. A school that is able to attract specific families or expel specific students should logically attempt to minimize the number of these kinds of students and therefore we would expect them to have significantly lower "per pupil" costs than average. Comparing such a school to one that must accept all students is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

As a personal anecdote I used to manage an academic department that was highly ranked. I'm proud of the faculty and curriculum but to be perfectly frank the biggest factor in our success was that our ranking attracted top-tier applicants. At the level we were at, the differences between us and similar institutions mostly boiled down to that initial self-selection.


He addresses all of self-selection, demographics, and discipline directly in the book, if I remember accurately.

First, to address self-selection as a primary cause, Sowell specifically compares the outcomes of students who won the charter school lottery versus those who didn't, and shows the performance gap between public and charter schools remains even when only considering students who entered the lottery.

Second, Sowell purposely compares schools that have as similar demographics as possible, including racial makeup and economic status. He also attempts to control for location differences by comparing schools that are co-located in the same building or are located within a small distance of each other.

Finally, he specifically calls out charter schools' ability to enforce stronger discipline and even expel students as a distinct competitive advantage, one that the teachers unions recognize and are trying to undermine. He also believes that relaxing discipline in the name of reducing disparate outcome among identity groups has a direct causal effect on worsened education in public schools.

To me, with regards to discipline, the lesson to be learned is that public schools need to be empowered to enforce stricter discipline as well. There is no justice or fairness in allowing a small minority to disrupt the education of a willing majority. A few of the discipline-related anecdotes Sowell shares in his book are heart-wrenching, including one story of a student punching a pregnant teacher in the stomach, telling her he was going to punch the baby right out of her, and finally returning to school the next day with no imposed consequences for his violent behavior. I don't know how any student could learn in an environment like that.


With respect to cost, I'm not sure any of these points refute the hypothesis that charters cost less per pupil primarily because they are able to offload the most expensive students. And if that is true then increasing the number of charter schools will simply increase the concentration of the most expensive students into fewer schools that have less funding to deal with them. At that point we can either acknowledge that expensive students require an order of magnitude more money or we let them pass through to the welfare and justice systems. In either case it doesn't seem like we're saving society money by switching to charters, we're just shifting it to other parts of the budget.

With respect to educational opportunities that seems more compelling. But as Sowell alludes, I suspect you could get a similar effect by allowing public schools to enforce stronger discipline and make it easier to suspend or expel difficult students. On that note I'm surprised to hear that teachers unions are opposed to that now. I've certainly heard that unions are an obstacle to getting rid of poor-performing teachers, but I rarely hear of them being an obstacle to dealing with difficult students. At least a couple decades ago the AFT was actively pushing to make it easier to expel students for things like drugs or weapons in school.


So I think an underlying assumption you have that I want to scrutinize is that misbehaving students are costlier from a monetary perspective, or that they require more money spent to handle them, or that spending more money will result in better outcomes for these students. This assumption may or may not be true, but I think it is valuable to question it and expect some evidence to support it. For instance, it is quite possible that stricter and more rigorous discipline in schools could benefit misbehaving students far more than any spending increase in the school system. Likewise, there may be certain cultural norms or expectations in charter schools that have far more impact on misbehaving students than spending increases.

I think the far more important point, however is that some charter schools are working phenomenally well for the underprivileged and doing so with less funding, and that there are valuable lessons to be learned from that fact, which lessons are at risk of being ignored or lost. However, instead of either trying to learn from these charter schools or allow more of them to be created, teacher's unions and the government officials they support via campaign funds are openly hostile to them, as the book details. These adults are clearly acting in their best interests, not in the interests of the children they are claiming to serve.

With regard to government policy in general, there seems to be a complete disincentive to analyze policy in retrospect honestly, determine successes and failures, and learn from the past in order to influence future decisions. With government policy, intent often matters more than results, as intent earns votes. This can easily lead to perverse incentives.

As an example, it's easy to claim good intent when proposing to spend more money on schools. But, if we want to actually help children out, results matter more than intent, and it seems very clear that, past a certain point, pouring more money into the public school system has little to no impact on educational outcomes. Instead, we should both be looking at other factors, and we should be allowing for more competition so that we can iterate on more ideas more rapidly. The relative monoculture of the public school system, combined with perverse incentives among both the government and teacher's unions, seem unhealthy for society and for our children.


To be clear, I am not arguing in favor of teachers unions or short-sighted politicians. I am not arguing that our education dollars are being well-spent since it is clear that we are spending more to get worse results. I am not arguing that increased funding has a bigger impact than improving discipline.

But it does seem logical to me that given a set of students, some of them will end up costing more than others. To give a trivial example, a student who repeats a grade costs more to educate than a student who skips a grade, just by virtue of spending an extra two years in the system. Similarly, it seems logical to me that students who can't afford lunch, need additional ESL or special-needs teachers, are physically handicapped, are violent, etc will cost more than the average student. (And sure, kicking that violent kid out lowers your costs, but it simply shifts that cost to the juvenile detention system.) Assuming the above is true, any school that is able to attract slightly more low-cost students or discourage slightly more high-cost students (however they are able to do so) should enjoy substantial cost savings.

> some charter schools are working phenomenally well for the underprivileged and doing so with less funding

I do not dispute that there are positive examples. From the statistical analysis I can find the overall effects seem mixed: in some states charter-school students do better (on average) than public school students, in some states worse, and in some states like Ohio there's simply more variance between charter school students. And since I do not know is what this effect is due to I'm not sure to what degree this approach scales. For example, do charter schools work equally well in a region where there are no more public schools left for them to dump difficult students onto?

One way to test this would be to randomly assign a population of students into a public school system and a charter school system, give them the same funding, and require that each system accommodate even the most difficult students who have special needs or disciplinary issues. (Not necessarily in the same classes, just that they are responsible for their education.) If charter schools have better educational outcomes in such an experiment then I would find that truly compelling.

I think it's absolutely useful that states are taking such different approaches to charter schools though, and I think eventually that will give us the data we're looking for.


Public charter schools can't pick and choose their students the way private schools do. They have to take students with special needs, discipline problems, etc. Expulsions can only be done in extreme circumstances.

The real advantage of charter schools is parent engagement. Parents usually have to specifically ask for their children to be placed into charter schools. That's a signal that the parents take education seriously and will impose some discipline on the children.


The US spending is on a per student basis is on par with other OECD nations[0], it is incumbent upon the teachers unions and department of education to explain why they can not achieve what the rest of the world has with the same funds, not the taxpayer to throw more money onto the bonfire.

[0]https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cmd


US schools serve as a de-facto provider of social services. Think free lunches and breakfast, school nurses, screening for disease/disabilities, sports and multitudes of after school activities to keep kids occupies until parents return, transportation to/from school, etc. Those services are a separate line-item i (I imagine) every other country.

A better and more instructive comparison would be money spent only on instruction, adjusted for PPP and maybe student poverty.


I can't find that data, but I doubt that a couple of minimum wage lunch ladies and a school nurse are why our schools have to cost twice as much as everywhere else. Other nations provide transportation as well, all of Europe doesn't live in areas with public transit, despite that perception.

As for sports, if sports aren't moving the needle academically then we shouldn't be funding them. If other nations priotized education over sport, and got better results we should learn from them.

Just throwing more money at probably won't do anything, what is likely is that they will double down on the strategies that aren't working.


My point is that its not as simple as concluding the US wastes money and is ineffective at teaching. The schools in the US do a lot more than instruction, and work with a different set of students.

We certainly could learn from what works around the world, but comparing raw numbers is simply not helpful.

We can also learn from what works in different states. For instance, Massachusetts, as a state, has PISA scores that are on par with the best in the world.


I just don't see a basis for calling them categorically underfunded.

For example, New York State has the highest spending per student $24,040 and is ranked 14th in this survey[0] while Virginia is ranked fourth and only spends $12,216. Massachusetts spends $17,058 and tops the list.

A honest look at the school system may reveal that some parts of it are underfunded, but it will likely also reveal parts that are overfunded. I suspect a lot of progress can be made by being better stewards of the money they currently have, and therefore suggest starting there. Ultimately any taxes come from the wallets of families supporting the children we are trying to help here, making them poorer needs to show benefit to be justified.

[0]https://wallethub.com/edu/e/states-with-the-best-schools/533...


> If they can reach the parents at all they often indicate they don’t even care that their kids were absent because they don’t believe in the distance learning. The indifference is mind-boggling as a parent, but it’s real.

maybe because for the working class the classroom is seen as one of the last places where working class children can receive a tiny bit of the patience and encouragement that is needed to help develop a child's own learning process. i am talking about 'holding hands during the first attempt' encouragement. encouragement together with a viable learning path/trajectory that is focused on creating resilient learners.

the parents say that they don't believe in 'distance learning', not school it's entirety. it's disingenuous for you to insinuate that the two are the same. they're not.


> whose children didn’t log on to the remote learning session (with their school-provided computers with school-provided cellular connections).

That's just laziness.


I commented about this easily and obviously noticeable change based on anecdotal observations on HN late last year. Even simply observations of politicians getting away with not practicing their own guidelines and sending their own kids to private tutors while locking down everyone else should have woken up people. I got a lot of negative comments ranging from how I was advocating for putting kids and their elderly parents at risk and what not. It’s like everyone has completely forgotten about all the other side effects and have tunnel vision of covid only. Last week, CDC came out showing how the obesity rates in youth has doubled during the pandemic. All these decisions will have long term consequences which people get silenced over.


I also got down-voted for suggesting the same, a year or so ago, it turns out the people who suffers the most with a lock-down, are not hanging out here in HN, go figure.


Just an observation - many people on HN work in the tech or similar industries which can be performed by working from home. They have a hard time relating to others who don’t have the same luxury.


My job is performed better from home because I'm not in a loud open office.

For purely selfish reasons I hope endemic covid is bad enough that wfh becomes the norm.


Worrying about nothing but Covid is a luxury.


> Last week, CDC came out showing how the obesity rates in youth has doubled during the pandemic.

Do you have a link to the CDC saying that? I found [0], which claims the rate went from 19% to 22% --- far from doubling.

[0] https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/0...


i think the person meant to say that the rate of increase doubled



Yep, this is the one I was referencing. Thanks.


Basically, beneficial environments are anything but guaranteed. Plus, quiet is an underappreciated luxury good (and an underappreciated aspect of public libraries); seriously, poverty is so loud.


> quiet is an underappreciated luxury good (and an underappreciated aspect of public libraries); seriously, poverty is so loud.

this is one of the most compassionate things i've read today. thank you


Agreed, thank you for this. I think we should do more to defend quiet spaces.I work for a library, and much of the emphasis is on creating "collaborative" spaces. Those are important too, and I fully understand the irritation librarians have with the "shhhhh!" meme. But public silent spaces are rare, and may be a truly under appreciated resource by people who have the means to access quite private spaces.


The compassionate part I was talking about was the acknowledgement that kids today don't have the equal opportunities in schools that many claim they do. Environmental context (rich family or not) matters.

"quiet is a luxury good" + "seriously, poverty is so loud"

Having said that, I do agree with your point about the need for quiet spaces.


Agreed. When I started doing online school, I figured I would work on my bed, next to my wife, and have the TV on playing "King of the Hill" or something else I've seen a million times and thus could tune out.

That was definitely not the case; I found that trying this just made me worse at studying and worse at watching TV. Eventually I cleaned my basement (which I'm lucky to have), put a desk down there, and made that my "don't bother Tom cuz he's studying" zone, and it was much easier as a result.

I cannot imagine that I would have completed school if I were living in a one-bedroom apartment.


Which is a reason why we need more aggressive laws around noise pollution. Leaf blowers, excessively loud motorcycles and cars and potentially purely cosmetic renovations in dense areas should be illegal or heavily taxed. What gives anyone the right to spike my cortisol and raise my risk of dementia and other negative health outcomes just so they can exercise their stylistic preferences when quieter substitutes exist?


I notice this in SF. The well off parents had private tutors pretty quickly after school closed and even middle class parents would split the bill across 5 kids.

They didn’t miss a beat at all. While the lower income families struggle with virtual classes while the parents tried to make ends meet.


This. Just like with various decriminalization laws, the poor suffer the consequences while the rich feel no consequences of their “deeply caring” policies.


And we all went along with it! And gladly shot down anyone who breathed a defiant word! Oh how we never learn.


This comment seems a bit flippant. The choice was distance learning (something) vs. close down schools entirely and... ban students from learning at all?

There was a pandemic and I think in many districts they made as good a switch to digital learning as they could and tried to be effective. Unfortunately we had a black swan event so its a bit disingenuous to act like "we never learn"


There was a pandemic that basically left kids untouched, and frankly barely registers on the scale of deadly pandemics for almost everyone else.

Let's at least be honest about it - the decision was made to avoid any risk of disease and close schools, and instead pass on the negative effects to those unable to prosper in the new learning regime. That is, those without private tuition, and/or a stable home environment with some kind of suitable space to focus on online learning. In my opinion, the education and welfare of children should be somewhere near the very top of any priority list, and in this case, we have utterly failed them in our scramble to be "Covid safe". Has anyone noticed that the near-retirement-age folks at the top of the power pyramid seem to be doing just fine, as they demanded everything be shut down to "protect" people like themselves? Fortunately, my kids are young enough that I may never have to tell them anything about this pandemic.

Edit: And do you know who will pay for all of this? Me, and people like me. I will be burdened with the societal and economic costs of this for the rest of my life, just because I have a decent enough job and a family I cannot fail.


It’s not flippant at all! People you know in real life would scream in your face if you dared challenge the idea that kids have to be in school. In fact you still see this now!

When the average person thinks getting covid comes with a 10% chance of dying… this crazy reaction starts to make sense. People are literally terrified out of their minds by covid.

Source: http://covid19pulse.usc.edu/


Or do what Sweden did, and never close the schools at all, and still end up with overall mortality (across total population, not just kids) less than most US states.


I mean, plenty of countries never closed their schools down. Or at least not for very long. SF schools were closed from March 2020 to Aug 2021.


And the governor of the fine state of CA sent his kids to private school for the entire time.

Also, closing school for "just" a year and half is an enormous disruption to education.


A year and a half is an eternity for a kid. Remember how long summer break felt as a child? Or a whole year?

Society stole children’s childhood from them for a disease that doesn’t even affect kids.


Surely there was a third option of keeping schools open. I’m not a parent and am not sure whether that was the right option, but that your comment doesn’t even acknowledge it is part of the problem.


In the UK, even before COVID there was a government funded Pupil Premium programme [1] which gave funding for disadvantaged pupils to get private tutoring.

Additionally, during COVID, there is a new National Tutoring Programme which allows all schools to get funding for private tutoring [2].

I think it's really important that private online tutoring shouldn't be restricted to well-off parents, as it just perpetuates the poverty gap.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pupil-premium/pup... [2] https://nationaltutoring.org.uk/


Exactly. I was a private tutor thru 2020 and this was my experience - it was much less “I’m falling behind” clients and more me just teaching the content since the online group instruction just wasn’t working.


So what happens if high/middle class parents discover that the results are superior for this solution?

Do you force them to send their kids to public school in order to bring up the lower income children?


What? Private schooling and home schooling have always been a thing. Why would they be forced?


People are constantly trying to ban private and home schooling. Commonly stated justifications for mandatory public schooling include reducing class divide, fighting extremism, etc.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/04/private...

https://taipd.org/node/307

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/05/law-school-pr...

https://www.ncregister.com/news/french-government-seeks-to-b...


People have been trying to do a lot of things - hasn’t been successful.


Instead of bring the public schools up to the level of private schools the solution is to get rid of private schools? That seems utterly ridiculous. If private schools do better than public schools should emulate them instead of banning the competition.

I am reminded of the Rush song The Trees

> Now there’s no more Oak oppression. For they passed a noble law. And the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw


>Instead of bring the public schools up to the level of private schools the solution is to get rid of private schools?

It depends if private school superiority (or professional tutor superiority) is better in ways that can even be emulated in public schools. For one thing, a lot of their differences are due to exclusion.

On the face of it, I rather doubt that it's possible to raise public schools in the West to that extent.

Of course, there's more to it than that. Public schools in the US have achieved some degree of the nature of private schools purely by geographic segregation.


This is true, but I think there are ways we can mitigate this. A voucher system could help fix some of these issues and allow some kids in crappy inner city schools to get out and go to a better one.


An interesting angle to that is the continuous sorting that goes on.

You end up with some schools with the worst of the worst, and heaven help anyone stuck in there. How do you construct those places? Do they have a SHU?

Given our current infatuation with 'fairness' another issue arises. What happens when the good schools, given a voucher system, and the bad schools tend to have people who look alike within them. Should there be outrage?


We are already in the situation where some schools are better than other schools (regardless if they are private or public). This wouldn't change with a voucher system. It is impossible to have perfectly equal schools. Some teachers are better than others and that will always be the case.

Currently kids in the inner city are poorer and stuck in the crappy public schools. Even if their parents wanted to send them to a different school they couldn't afford it. It seems clear to me that the current system is not working for the poor and lower middle class.

The worst case situation would be nothing changes for kids in bad schools. They were going to bad schools and continue going to bad schools. The best case scenario would lead to some kids currently in bad schools going to better schools. This would allow them to get a better education which would be impossible in the current situation. I won't deny that some kids would still be stuck in bad schools, but I fully believe some will get out.


My point is more that a voucher system would tend to hollow out bad schools, taking out the more high-functioning kids. Perhaps they would hollow out the ranks of teachers as they'd prefer to work in a safer/less crazy-making environment.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate the idea of vouchers.


Their presence hasn't threatened to depopulate public schools yet. When (if) it does, you can expect pushback.


Yeah, eventually lawmakers will, but will probably keep their own kids in private school the whole time. Just like the UK's abolition of grammar schools.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34538222

tl;dr "It's not fair"


> Do you force them to send their kids to public school in order to bring up the lower income children?

As in, peer learning? It's the schooling systems job to accommodate and support, not kids?


Can that be forced?


i don't think it can be forced but before the pandemic there was a social stigma reinforced by many that homeschoolers were weird and anti-social. When the pandemic hit so many kids became home schooled that the stigma was lost because everyone was doing it. The pandemic was a real setback for those on the anti-homeschool crusade.


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