As the new year approaches, most people want to look ahead. But as educators, we must also look back at the past nine months. Last March, our educational system was upended like a giant rock in the forest, revealing unpleasant things in the national soil that we knew were there all along but refused to see.
Inequity in American education in all its ugliness has shown itself in this pandemic. The pandemic has highlighted the architecture of unjust systems that impact communities of color at a higher rate than white communities.
We see it in reports about urban, poor public schools struggling to get technology to their mostly Black students. We see it in economic circumstances forcing neighborhood school closures amid a national crisis when so many families are suffering already. We see it in University City, where some students thrive in comfortable households with parents listening within earshot of virtual learning and ready to support their child. And yet other students, mostly Black, are having to navigate alone around heartbreaking obstacles to education that go far beyond bad internet access.
It is hard for students to concentrate when parents work odd hours, leaving children to manage their own and their siblings’ online learning lives. It is hard to tune in when their extended Black family has been hit the hardest by the pandemic and, yet, their support group for everyday survival extends dangerously beyond the walls of their household bubble. With sickness so close, it is hard for parents to overcome fear and send their child to school — even though research finds that schools with social distancing and mask protocols in place are far safer than other environments in a pandemic.