Written By: Jemille Q. Duncan
Many students have been irresponsible throughout this pandemic. For obvious reasons, I have no interest in being around them. But some students have no choice. Despite the pronounced risks, administrators are forcing students back into school.
On the list of reasons not to return to school, the sheer size of schools is at the top. There are at least two hundred students, plus faculty, at any given school. Most of those students get to school by riding SEPTA—which is often crammed with maskless riders. Because of the number of students and their exposure to dozens of people, someone will probably come to school with the virus. It seems this wasn’t enough to sway school administrators because schools are still set to be in person. And for what? To shut down again and return to virtual learning when someone brings COVID into the building? That is dim-witted. It’s also irresponsible in light of the surge of delta variant cases—which is more contagious than the original virus. None of this would matter, however, if schools remained virtual.
Remote learning had the benefit of zero health risks. It also increased efficiency. Before the pandemic, class time was spent doing busy work: forced note-taking and worksheets. During virtual learning, teachers spared students of all the fluff. We got the lesson and practiced the skill. Simple.
Because of this, there was also enhanced independence, demanding students to be disciplined. Teachers couldn’t patrol the classroom, looking over shoulders, ensuring that work was being done. If students completed assignments, they did well. If they didn’t, their performance was likely abysmal. This reflects the real world; no one holds your hand while following through on your responsibilities. I relish that autonomy, and it is proper for young adults to have it. One might go further and say that independence should be expected of students—namely, high schoolers—who are an earshot from adulthood.
The fact that students complained about having that autonomy is troubling. It means they lack the preparation and discipline to enter adult life. This has intense implications for several facets of society: parents, community, family, and education. As for the education system, students’ scant life preparation shows that schools’ pre-pandemic expectations failed to set them up for success. If students are uncomfortable taking charge of their academic success now, what were they doing before? If students can’t handle measly school assignments, what else can’t they handle? This should trouble us all.
In sum, I have two assertions: the virtual setting is the most practical for safety, and its structure is the most appropriate for young adults. This non-hand-holding, no fluff structure should be carried into the in-person setting—whenever society is ready for that, right now, we are not.