The Spark

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

Remote Learning
—Widening the Social Divide

Jan 18, 2021

The pandemic has been a disaster for education across the country. Like much in this society, its ills do not fall on all students equally.

Remote learning is an isolating experience. Students find themselves cut off from much interaction with their friends and other students. That isolation leads to increased anxiety and depression among students. And it also places an additional barrier between themselves and their teachers, counselors and coaches.

Then, for working-class students, an obvious disadvantage is access to technology. Remote learning requires an up-to-date computer, a good internet connection, and a quiet place to work. Working-class students are more likely to have an older computer. Remote learning means every child needs access to their own computer. Some students are stuck trading off the family computer with their siblings. Students often want to speak in remote class, but hold back because their household is loud—with siblings, family life, or parents who are working remotely at the same time they’re trying to learn.

Older students whose parents perform “essential work” often take on childcare, or must oversee their siblings’ education at the same time as their own. Or if their parents are among the millions who have become unemployed during the pandemic, they may find themselves compelled to take jobs in grocery stores or takeout restaurants in order to fill in the gap in income.

For the millions of children who are homeless, hungry, and without health care, school is often the one place where they feel safe and where they are taken care of. Now, students living in an abusive situation find themselves trapped. One child specialist notes that many abuse reports originate from teachers and other school workers—as she says: “The more eyes watching out for a child, the better off that child is.” And with remote learning, at best, the teacher sees the child through a screen—if they see them at all.

Of course, the wealthy are able to solve problems with their money. They organize socially distanced learning pods, hire tutors. They even hire personal teachers—many of whom have quit their jobs, either out of frustrations with remote learning, or feeling at risk in person.

This society is awash in money—but very little is being put toward maintaining the education of working class students during this deadly pandemic.