Friday, July 30, 2021

Good Reasons to Support Universal Free Online Education


If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you know that the Straube Foundation advocates for universal free online education.  That means education at all levels, particularly at the higher levels, available online, at no cost, for anyone who wants it.


The past year-and-a-half of Covid restrictions, and education-related data released recently, highlight the relevance of this mission.


The costs of college are going up, and families’ ability to pay the full cost is going down.  Recent estimates suggest that, including supplies, room and board, the cost of college can exceed $70,000 per year.  And that’s not for an expensive Ivy League school.  Many families do not have to pay that full cost, relying on scholarships, grants and student loans, to make up the difference.  But even with financial assistance, the annual “How America Pays For College” report suggests that families on average pay $26,373 per year for college.  Given the level of job disruption caused by Covid shutdowns, these college costs are no longer manageable for many families.  Does that mean their kids should not receive a college education?  Of course not.


There are also non-financial costs associated with attending school in person.  Being in a crowded, poorly ventilated, classroom for many hours increases exposure to Covid and other illnesses (which are enjoying a resurgence due to reduced immunity from extensive mask wearing).  There is an ever-increasing risk of physical violence at schools (79 school shootings have been reported this year so far, with ~115 school shootings for each of the three years before (2018, 2019, 2020)).


If we add in the diversity of learning styles across the population, and the ability of well-designed online classes to accommodate each learning style, it becomes clear that universal online education, available at no cost for all educational levels, would be a great benefit and equalizer in our society.


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Argument for Continued Online Learning in non-White Communities


A recent OpEd in the New York Times entitled “Don’t Kill Remote Learning.  Black and Brown Families Need It.” really spoke to me.  I’ll let you read the full article yourself, but highlight some of the main points.


·      Families of color are hesitant to send their children back into the classroom, due to fear of having the children contract Covid or become asymptomatic Covid carriers.  Many adult persons of color have jobs where they are in constant close contact with other individuals.  Vaccinations of adults in communities of color are moving slowly, and children under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated at all (yet).  All to say that the cumulative risk of being exposed to Covid remains very high in non-white families.  Sending their children back to in-person school simply increases the risk.


·      Children in families of color suffer from debilitating medical conditions like asthma and diabetes at far higher rates than white families.  This can prove a challenge for regular in-person school attendance, and also increases the risk of poor results if an affected child contracts Covid.  The option of online schooling provides these families an option for effective education for their children with chronic illnesses.


The OpEd concludes as follows:  School districts shouldn’t add to the burdens of the families already suffering from educational and health disparities. Remote learning should remain available even after Covid is no longer an epidemic.”