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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 three 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.”

What do I mean by this? Without a clear best solution, my family will try to do our part to contribute to a good solution. For our part, we have chosen to enroll our daughter (high school junior) in the virtual option for the Fall.

So what?  Why does this matter?

Do I think full-time, online is the “best” option for her? No. I know the best educational option for her is full-time, in a classroom, with a teacher. However, I believe if you have the ability to enroll your child in the virtual option, you should. What do I mean by “ability”? Do you have at least one person at home (or is your child old enough to be left home alone)? Is your child able to manage their own time and learning? Do you have the capacity to support your child’s learning (device, broadband, etc)? Is your child in High School or Middle School (apparently young children are less likely to be Covid vectors)? If you answer yes, the online option might not be the best learning option for your child, but it is the “best” for everyone. Let me explain.

I recently wrote about the need for investments in broadband infrastructure and the fact that children throughout our state lack both hardware and access. These children need to be in school.  Roughly 26% of our children in North Carolina face food insecurity. These children need to be in school. Thousands of children in North Carolina have specific learning needs and teachers and support personnel are critical to their education. These children need to be in school. Thousands of children in North Carolina have a parent (or parents) who are essential workers. These children need to be in school.  

One thing I can do is keep my child at home this Fall because another child needs to be in school more than she does. Keeping one child at home might not make a huge difference, but if those of us who can keep our children home do so, perhaps it makes an awful situation slightly more manageable.  

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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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