Distance learning and snow day defense

Even though we intuitively know that the virtual school is not the same as the real school, in a culture where representations are confused with the original, distance learning becomes accepted. Maybe Korzybski’s adage should be updated to say, “The computer is not the classroom.”

In 2014, New York State passed a $ 2 billion bond law to improve technology in schools. In February of this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved $ 60 million in technology spending for 72 school districts across the state, with $ 16.7 million, the second-largest item, allocated to “school connectivity.” In my little neighborhood in upstate New York, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on software and other distance learning programs, and one of the snowy days of this school year, much to my kids’ dismay. , was declared a virtual learning day. It is difficult not to view some of these decisions through the lens of a sunk cost error.

A snowy day embodies the opposite of sunk costs; it results from a cold appreciation of the present, and for a child this spontaneity engenders a sort of rationalistic carpe diem. When I was in elementary school in the 1980s there was no website to check or an automated call system in our small town in New Jersey to alert families if there was a day. snow, and it was not mentioned in the news. Instead, moms (it was usually just moms) had a phone channel – my mom would get a call from another mom, then she had to call the next mom on the list. It was a literal manifestation of the phone game, but the message was too succinct and obvious to be muddled along the way. If the floor was covered in white early in the morning and the phone rang, I knew it only meant one thing: glorious freedom.

I grabbed my red plastic slide and either dragged our yard, which had a gentle incline from a wooded area to the open plain of the main yard, or headed to my school, 10 minutes from my house. . There, behind the building, was a massive hill leading to a field, offering hours of sledding. Often a dozen children gathered there; however, oddly enough, just as often I was there alone, quietly in my own world, sometimes for hours, the only sounds my boots cracked in the snow and the sssshh of the sled race down the hill. Eventually I would make my way home and enter through the basement, where, due to my temporary snow blindness, I undressed in disorienting near darkness, despite the bare bulbs of the recessed lights. Upstairs, bagged hot chocolate, with miniature marshmallows revived in the hot liquid, was savored.

The novelty of these days of breaking the routine, reveling in the outdoors, and connecting with nature instead of sitting in a classroom, casts a melancholy resonance all these years later. With a few tweaked details, my kids, now 10 and 12, pretty much replicated this routine every winter on their own… until their canceled snow day earlier this school year. (Their schools had a hybrid schedule at the time, so half of the students didn’t miss a day in person anyway. Although they all missed the day off.)

Even for the small minority of students who need or prefer distance learning, the value of a surprise vacation in the snow remains a factor to consider. The belief that eliminating a fortuitous day off a few times a year will “catch up” with children on their studies, while avoiding a period of too ephemeral unstructured and often autonomous play, explains why so many American students are overworked. working but under-educated.

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