By Xavier Miranda
The pandemic has revealed how corporate influence on our education system has sorely failed our students. Rather than relying on the expertise of educators, who best know the individual needs of our students, district administrators have been scrambling to replace their experimental technology initiatives that have little pedagogical value. (Prior to the outbreak, the El Paso Independent School District superintendent had already spent $119 million on curriculum initiatives that have proven to be ineffective.)
GIven current circumstances, standards for mastery of content have been lowered, stifling our kids’ creativity and critical analysis, while favoring a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
Consider the following before the imminent transition of our education system to online learning:
Students are now limited in their interaction with their teachers, e.g., high school students now see their teachers two to three times a week for an average of 15 minutes per session. The one-on-one exchanges are now minimal, at best. (Our student-to-teacher ratios are typically 25 to 1; with class loads of 35 not uncommon.)
Families in areas such as the economically disadvantaged Chamizal neighborhood, have limited access to WiFi, despite attempts to provide hotspots and laptops. Even when communication companies offer “free” service, such efforts entail having to commit to 1-2 year contracts that are a financial burden for struggling families.
In households with multiple children, access to online learning is limited by the bandwidth available. Time and coursework management is left to individual students that already need nurturing in terms of emotional development and skills acquisition.
Students designated as special education, limited English proficiency and economically disadvantaged are the ones bearing the brunt of the transition. Services typically rendered these kids have been restricted, leaving their parents to provide support of which they may not be aptly prepared.
No doubt there will be a push to empower online charter schools, and gradually close public schools after this pandemic runs its course.
Perhaps we need to acknowledge the hypocrisy of current initiatives that claim to address inequities, when in fact, these merely perpetuate them.
This is quite evident in the morass that our health-care system is in, as a result of similar neoliberal influence on their management and operations.
One can merely look to the lack of coordination of resources, and shortages of personal protective equipment and ventilators as examples of a failed business approach to a social service.
Parents, students, and teachers must be included in the design of a post-pandemic education system, rather than those that dismiss notions of civically engaged and critical thinking students. There are quite a few teachers that are devoted to serving our children, and are eager to step up to the task.
Xavier Miranda is a longtime educator and a member of El Paso Grassroots and Democratic Socialists of America Chuco del Norte.
Cover photo: Students at Powell Elementary School worked on an art project last year. (Photo by Leonel Monroy/El Paso Independent School District)