Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Champion For Equity In Education

During my high school days, the boys were taking a class on automotive while the girls were in a home economics class. My son, on the other hand, really enjoyed taking a home economics class in middle school. He learned how to bake, how to cook, and how to sew. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was uncomfortable in her home economics class as she longed to join the boys who were doing shop in school. Equity in education involves not only equity in race or socio-economic status. Equity also includes gender. Educating all means educating all, no exceptions. Ginsburg's opinion on the Supreme Court decision to force the Virginia Military Institute to include women in its admission illustrates her firm belief that we are all still working toward the more perfect union in which there are no more people excluded or ignored. Ginsburg's tenure in the highest court of the United States truly embodies what we are seeing in yard signs nowadays: "In This House We Believe: Black Lives Matter…

Physical Activity Is Now Even More Important While Schools Remain Virtual

Fairfax county public schools have been opened virtually for two days now. After all the classes, my children and I ride our bikes in our neighborhood. We spend some time in my children's former elementary school, which has a nice and empty parking lot. With five to six hours of staring at a laptop screen, children do need a break. Their online classes have been running smoothly yesterday and today. There was, however, one incident today in my daughter's class. The teacher lost his wifi connection and got removed from the online class. As soon as this happened, some of the students started playing loud music with explicit language. The chat box was filled with the "f" word and there was chaos. Online classes are indeed very challenging especially when the technology does not cooperate, but even with no technical glitches, there remain huge intrinsic challenges in a virtual classroom. Screen fatigue is a real issue and even with breaks between classes, sitting idle in…

What We Now Know About SARS-CoV-2

Earlier this year, we were hoping that the novel coronavirus will be less threatening during the summer period. Cases in the United States had continued to rise and countries in tropical areas were equally vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. We also thought that the virus was spread mainly by droplets which probably did not travel as far as 6 feet from the source. Now, there is enough evidence that SARS-CoV-2 could be airborne and therefore, could travel much farther. What remains, of course, is the required conditions before we could safely open schools. There is no possibility of transmission if there are no active cases. This condition unfortunately remains elusive at the moment. A vaccine seems the only way to get out of this predicament but in all honesty, a safe vaccine is still so many months away. But we can control this pandemic if we understand its transmission and act accordingly. And one thing is clear, we must avoid indoor gatherings. Using data on SARS-CoV-2 transmissi…

"What About Us?"

Pretentious advocates of equity may sell you "school choice". Do not be fooled. As we witness a display of arrogant and wishful thinking during this week, I received yesterday a copy of a book that captures what really takes to achieve limitless possibilities. In the new book from Solution Tree, "What About Us?", it becomes crystal clear that at the heart of a successful school is a spirit of teamwork where teachers learn from each other by humbly sharing practices based on evidence and courageously learning from their mistakes. "School choice" only encourages competition, which is simply the opposite of what is badly needed to support every learner in our classrooms. It is not competition, but collaboration that is imperative. The problems basic education face cannot be solved by one teacher in isolation, a predicament any contest dictates. The challenges we face cannot be solved by schools competing against each other for there is simply so much to lear…

When Both Faith And Science Are Abandoned

We can definitely choose to live in an alternate universe, where the United States of America does not lead the world in the number of cases of COVID-19. We can pick instances to prove a point. We can pick someone, including myself, to demonstrate that some individuals can climb out of poverty. Why stop there? There is always a possibility, however minute, that a poor individual can hit the jackpot in a lottery. "You’re far more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime (1 in 12,000) than win the lottery (roughly 1 in 258.9 million)." Who cares? But even faith should not change the words, "For God so loved the world" into "For God so loved America". Yet, we do it. We can easily abandon both faith and science when we choose to live in an alternate universe, one that fits every single prejudice we have. We can choose to live in a fantasy world. Everyone has that right but we must choose leaders who uphold the truth. It is not true that "this el…

What Online Education Has Forced Us to Do

It is difficult to see what is good with regard to having education confined to an online setting. My son was watching some sort of an orientation from his high school two nights ago and it was painful. The presentation was simply a transplant from what schools in our area normally had done in-person. In-person was not as mind numbing since one could always smile and socialize with other parents and for students, with their friends. Without the opportunity to mingle with other parents and students, there was nothing really "live" in that synchronous session. Yet, there must be something good about the learning platform that the pandemic had forced on all of us. Alfie Kohn talked about three things on his blog, all of which concerned grades. Fall semester had not started yet for me, but we had to give qualifying exams to our PhD students. So I had to write my own exam and in an online test, a multiple choice format was the easiest to compose.

Assessment is of course required i…

How Much of Learning Would Be Lost This Coming School Year

Basic education in both US and the Philippines this year will be largely online. I have heard from several experts on online education that takes at least a year just to develop an online course. Certainly, what we will see in a few weeks is not really online learning but just an emergency type of instructional continuity. There is simply not enough time to build online courses and provide the necessary training to instructors. With this in mind, the learning loss this academic year in elementary, middle and high schools can be significant and researchers at McKinsey & Company have recently warned, "These effects - learning loss and higher dropout rates - are not likely to be temporary shocks easily erased in the next academic year."

So even with average remote learning, which is probably already a high bar for schools to reach since there are just barely weeks to prepare, a student stands to lose 3-4 months of learning. In the Philippines, remote learning faces huge chal…