Is remote schooling “leaving children sad and angry”?


The Washington Post says it is:

Some children are doing fine with remote school; some even prefer it. But many others are. . .suffering emotionally, mentally and even physically from so many hours, often alone, in front of a computer screen.

To gauge the struggle, The Washington Post asked parents nationwide to share stories and artwork produced by youths participating in the mandatory home-school experiment, garnering more than 60 responses from families living in 18 states.

School-age children are losing interest in food. They are complaining of back pain and burning eyes. They are developing feelings of depression.

It is unsurprising, even predictable, experts say, and likely to get worse the longer school campuses throughout the country remain shut down.

“The strain on kids is enormous,” said Matthew Biel, chief of the child and adolescent psychiatry division at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “Your 7-year-old wants to be recognized when they raise their hand. Oftentimes doesn’t happen on Zoom. They want to be able to make a comment, make a joke with a peer — can’t do that, no chatting allowed. Wants to be able to get up and walk around the classroom and move — can’t do that, we need to see your face on screen.”

The Post lays it on thick in the anecdotes it serves up. And there’s the question of the extent to which the sadness and anger of children who are learning remotely is tied to other limitations imposed on them during the pandemic.

However, I think it’s beyond dispute that, for many students, remote schooling is far less effective than the real thing and that, for many, it takes an emotional toll.

If school closings were producing non-trivial public health benefits, it might be a close call whether, on balance, they are good public policy. However, the experience in Europe, where lockdowns are common but schools are generally exempt from them, strongly suggests that schools can remain open with little if any health risk.

According to this report from NPR:

Across Europe, schools and child care centers are staying open even as much of the continent reports rising coronavirus cases, and even as many businesses and gathering places are shut or restricted. Countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy appear to be following the emerging evidence that schools have not been major centers of transmission of the virus, especially for young children.. . . .

Johannes Huebner, the head of the pediatric infectious disease department at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Hospital in Munich, recently told NPR correspondent Rob Schmitz that scientific studies have not detected high rates of transmission in schools. “Most of the infections are brought into the schools by adults, by teachers, and then spread among kids. But most of the time, it’s only single cases. It’s two, three kids, five maybe that get positive.”

(Emphasis added)

In France, the number of new reported coronavirus cases is decreasing sharply. They are also declining in the UK. In the U.S., the number of new cases remains about where it has been (so too in Italy and Germany), even though school shutdowns are widespread.

Consider, as well, the experience of Rhode Island. According to that state’s governor, a Democrat, only about 1,245 of the 98,000 students attending school at least partially in person have tested positive for the virus. 950 of the nearly 50,000 students learning remotely have tested positive.

The evidence that keeping schools open increases transmission of the virus is simply lacking, as far as I can tell. The evidence that closing schools hurts children seems indisputable.

I was always told that liberals are “all about the kids.” Maybe in Europe they are, but not here, it seems.



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