COVID-19 and rethinking grade school

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Like most people, my kids are now home from school. At first, I’m sure most kids celebrated, like mine did. Yesterday was a turning point for my youngest daughter though, because when she told me that she was going back to school in another week, I told her that wouldn’t happen.

My prediction is that we don’t go back to anything normal until at least April. While I don’t believe the gloom and doom, 12-18 month recession, Fallout-style post-apocalypse robbing your neighbor for toilet paper worldview that seems to get pushed around, I also don’t think this will quickly resolve itself. We are going to hunker down for a lot longer than anyone imagined. This is not like a hurricane, where the storm passes and normalcy is restored in around 1-2 weeks. It’s going to take a while.

In the aftermath, it’s going to change grade school education. Right now my kid’s schools are struggling with how to fairly teach classes. I say “fairly” because there are still kids that don’t have internet at home, so simply saying “Move your class online” isn’t always going to work. Worse still is that we have lots of parents that just don’t care about their kids education and viewed school as the babysitting service so they could go to work. Normally teachers could cover up this problem, but COVID-19 is tearing that scab off.

There will be a bunch of kids that will benefit from learning at home. People will be surprised to find that in terms of hours of education per day, schools are fairly inefficient at teaching high-performing children. That’s a combination of large class size and the 90/10 rule of poor performing children, where you spend 90% of your time teaching the bottom 10% of your class. At home, in the right setup, a high performing kid can blow through lessons quickly when there is no bullying, food fights, and other distractions.

When these kids go back to school, schools will want to hold them back. We’ll hear about “social development” problems of skipping a grade. But that’s not really an issue. The problem is we view grade level and age as linked, even though we know that some people mature and learn faster than others. In the past, these kids were one-offs because there just wasn’t a lot of them. It’s going to become much more obvious when thousands of kids nation-wide test high enough to merit skipping a grade.

The reverse is true too. Plenty of kids won’t test high enough to merit passing their grade. In many cases it won’t be there fault. Many kids benefit from the structure, discipline and food that comes with school, and too many have parents who can’t or won’t provide a decent home to learn in. We cannot abandoned these kids. As a nation, we should be planning to hold summer schools to catch these kids up.

Perhaps COVID-19 can change how view grade school education in general. Instead of linking age to grade level, we focus more on testing and placing kids according to their performance, giving kids that are high performing more challenges early on. This means they graduate sooner and have more chances at a younger age for higher education. For kids that struggle, why are we not regularly providing summer school? We know the kids that aren’t doing well. Making them come to summer school, both to finish their current grade and to get a jump on the next grade, might be the ticket to better performance. It also gives us an excuse to pay teachers more and give them full-year compensation.

COVID-19 sucks, but it might be what we need to change our old views on grade school education.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Donald Trump & The One Pitch Media

Before the Corona Virus took sports away from America (other than Dynasty baseball which you should sign up for at once use code USA2 for a free month till March 31st and join my leagues) the biggest scandal in sports was the revelation that the Houston Astros were stealing signs illegally during their 2017 World Series Championship season.

The reason why this matters so much in baseball is that a batter has a fraction of a second to decide to swing at a pitch or not. Knowing what is coming increases the odds of a big clutch hit and decreases the odds of a rally killing out.

This is why it’s so important for pitchers to have more than one effective pitch. The more pitches his has the more different deliveries a batter has to be ready for.

And of course the opposite is also true. If a pitcher only has one pitch. unless he’s hall of fame pitcher Walter Johnson (“You knew what was coming but so what?“) that pitcher isn’t going to last long in the majors as the batters will eat him alive.

These days the media is a lot like that pitcher with only one pitch.

For three years the media has thrown the same “orange man bad” pitch every day without ceasing. Practically every single thing the media has said and done from press conferences, to news reports to town halls has been driven by this message.

Now at the start when people were 1st seeing that pitch it could have some effect but after three years we’re reached the point where the administration in general and President Trump in particular see that pitch coming and can hit it every time (in fact President Trump has been hitting that pitch for quite a while). In fact even republicans in the house and senate have reached the point where they are taking the media’s best pitch and driving it up the middle for a hit.

Even worse for the media than President Trump seeing that pitch coming, the American people are seeing it too. Such was the case yesterday during the update on the Corona Virus from the White House.

Yet the media even now has only one pitch in their arsenal the Orange Man Bad pitch. It was growing old in a time of prosperity and full employment, in a time of national and international crisis this pitch, when contrasted to the substance coming from the White House is easy for President Trump to knock over the wall.

The American people because of the crisis have been watching and listening to the daily updates from the President and his team on this subject. The President and his team have been sober and straight on what they’ve said and done and have spent their time talking substance. When people are looking for information and the only thing in the minds of the press is: “How do I nail Trump?” they not only look petty but come off as completely uninterested in informing a public desperate for info.

Even worse at a time when people’s lives are at risk and their lively hoods are at state the whole “woe is me” bit from elite media plays even worse.

This inept and obsessed media is one of the President’s biggest assets and for all his rhetoric I suspect he wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.

Never have a seen a man so lucky in his enemies.