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Reject the False Narrative

I am a huge fan of the American rock band R.E.M. One of my favorite lyrics is from the song Begin the Begin, “Silence means security, silence means approval.” I don’t know about you, but I feel like every day, there is something I shouldn’t be silent about…Today, it’s the statement made by Trump about how Biden will “Abolish the suburbs.”

If you’re not clear why this language is problematic, a little history. In the 1920’s a developer named JC Nichols was building suburban developments in Kansas City. Simultaneously, cities also began implementing zoning and deed restrictions. Nichols became a prominent developer noted for his charitable work…he also “was among the first developers in the United States to promote the restrictions. From 1908 through the 1940’s, the J.C. Nichols Co. built dozens of subdivisions in the Kansas City area that prohibited housing sales to blacks.”

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Great vs. Good

Here we are amidst, perhaps, one of the most difficult conundrums facing public education in a long time. What do we do when it comes to the return to school this Fall. We have essentially 3 options and each has their own challenges. Full-time, online instruction is not ideal for many students for a variety of reasons…full-time return to school is dangerous for children, teachers, and school staff…partial return and partial online pose a seemingly infinite number of logistical and other challenges

Here we are amidst, perhaps, one of the most difficult conundrums facing public education in a long time. What do we do when it comes to the return to school this Fall. We have essentially 3 options and each has their own challenges. Full-time, online instruction is not ideal for many students for a variety of reasons…full-time return to school is dangerous for children, teachers, and school staff…partial return and partial online pose a seemingly infinite number of logistical and other challenges…

So what do we do?

There is no great solution. I will not be proposing one. However, I will quote the aphorism “Do not let the great be the enemy of the good”.

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Has access to the internet become a fundamental right?

“The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the state to guard and maintain that right.”
~Constitution of North Carolina, Article I, Sec. 15

Every state in the nation has an educational mandate. Some states, like North Carolina, go a step further and enshrine it as a fundamental right. Students in North Carolina have a fundamental right to a “sound, basic education.” What exactly does this sound, basic education look like in our new COVID-19 world? Regardless of where you stand on the issue of quarantining, the reality is we are going to see a very different educational landscape for the foreseeable future. District leaders here in NC and throughout the country are preparing for additional closings next year and periods of “remote learning.” Aside from the instructional challenges for educators, there are real material challenges for students in a remote learning environment. Without access to high quality, reliable broadband service, it is impossible to even begin to address these challenges. As a result, children throughout North Carolina (and the nation) are falling and will continue to fall further behind those with adequate resources.

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The Waiting

“The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to heart
The waiting is the hardest part”
    -Tom Petty

I don’t know about you, but this song feels more relevant to me now than ever before. Little did I know when I left my job six months ago that my life – and your life – would be so dramatically altered. The COVID-19 Pandemic has left all of us in a waiting game of sorts – waiting to get back to work, or get a haircut, or visit the gym, or to get back to school or college, or just waiting on the plans to reopen the state and resume a somewhat more normal life. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Teacher educator, public education advocate and policy wonk. Dr. Michael Maher has dedicated his career to positively impacting the lives of children throughout North Carolina.

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