The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago:
Returning to School in a Pandemic

Aug 24, 2020

It’s that time of year. Schools around the country are going back into session, or preparing to. Many school districts, including LA, Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are starting with almost all students attending remotely—which is to say, from home, over the Internet.

But in Chicago at least, the city and the school district have not solved the basic problem of distance learning: technology. Most families were able to get at least one computer—but that’s not enough for the many families with more than one child. The mayor, the district, and Comcast promised that everyone would get Internet access. But that did not happen. In fact, even for people with Internet, the Comcast service many in the city get is not strong enough to provide the seamless live video feed needed for class. Many teachers faced this problem alongside their students.

In addition to technology, in order to be successful in distance learning, every student needs a quiet place to get onto “class,” and freedom from other responsibilities—like work or childcare. Students from the working class are less likely to have these things. A reasonable society would make resources available to make sure all students have them, in whatever form they need during a pandemic. But in this society, the pandemic increases the “education gap” that already exists between working class and better-off students.

The federal government proved only too happy to shower billions to prop up the bottom lines of corporations, banks, and the financial system. It might not be simple to safely provide students with a good education during the pandemic—but it would be possible if the money were spent on the scale that has been provided to the corporations. A society run by workers would figure it out. The government we have does not even try.