By Simon Tang
The ensuing conflict between parents and teachers over the response of the school systems across the nation, and in Loudoun County, make evident one fact: both facilitators of our education are part of the bigger problem.
In a way, the teachers and the parents are really one in the same. To contextualize this, consider two powerful politicians: Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In short, both are politicians who influence and conduct policy in 280 characters or less, both are polarizing figures within their respective political parties, both appeal to a specific base in their political party as opposed to the entire party at large. Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are basically the same people a few generations apart and on opposite sides of the political spectrum.
Why does that matter in a discussion about education and school reopenings?
Because teachers and parents are essentially fulfilling the same roles in a different conflict: while parents are calling for in-person schooling for their children, the Loudoun Education Association (LEA) and its members have called for 100% distance learning. Both, however, ignore larger problems just as Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez do in the political sphere.
Where is student input in any of the positions that parents and teachers have taken?
Parents are concerned about their children’s education, but what about the kids themselves? Where do they find themselves in trying to answer this challenging question? And what about the concerns for teachers’ children?
This negligence works both ways.
In a statement released on Monday, July 6, the LEA said, "As the voice of employees, LEA conducted an all staff survey and provided the results to LCPS Administration and the School Board in early June. Unfortunately, vital employee input was not incorporated into the development of LCPS’ presented plans."
"As the voice of employees... Unfortunately, vital employee input..." It sounds like LEA’s concern for students is minimal.
While the educators’ concerns are important, if "academic growth, physical safety, and emotional well-being of our students" is most important, doesn't it make sense to consider the students’ own concerns?
What is incredulous is that neither parents nor educators seem to understand the fact that their conflict does not help students, but neither did their “partnership” in pre-coronavirus times. Both parties subverted students' autonomy and their ability to become learners together. Now they are just doing it apart.
In the background of racial injustice, the killing of George Floyd, the shooting of Breonna Taylor, the sexual assault of Vanessa Guillen, it is important for us, as a society, to come together to ask and answer the questions surrounding racial violence. These events are not isolated; they are part of a larger problem in this country. In the same way, the challenges we face in education – of helping students become the agents of their own education, of addressing racial inequity within schools, of services for students who need special accommodations – are not isolated problems. They are part of a larger failure.
Now, I am challenging you to realize that today’s social and political ills are connected with flaws in our education from yesterday. The problem is a lot bigger than a simple comparison of Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the names of those fallen in the cause for social justice.
In a political climate such as this, is it not important that the next generation receives the highest quality education? The students of today will be the policymakers of tomorrow; serious changes to our political system and status quo must start with how we educate students.
Educators and parents playing the role of politicians in our homes and in our schools does little to empower students; they are the same as politicians focused on reelection in the fall. Just as politicians are seemingly interested in challenging the racial status-quo in this country, educators and parents are seemingly interested in the welfare of students. But how much is self-serving, posturing, and virtue signaling?
For this – our education system – to work, students must be the driving force of their own education. Students must be empowered to think and act of their own free will. What we have now are options – and no solutions – just as in the real world where there are options but no clear solutions to our social ills.
I realize that this writing does not provide an in-depth answer about the question of race in the United States, nor about the many questions about schools, but my conclusion is this: the only solution to the social and educational problems we face today is to convert students to life-long learners, and it starts with changing the minds of parents and educators in our homes and our learning environments. They must recognize that students should be included in the solutions, not ruled over and compelled.
Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” The only solution now is to take a shot.
Because no one else