Spoiler: “Learning Loss” Is A COVIDious Myth
By Allan Shedlin
Grampsy and Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group
Talking about “learning loss” doesn’t make sense to me.
You can’t lose learning. Instead of bemoaning so-called “learning loss,” we should be focusing on “learning gain” and the steadily growing student behavioral eruptions.
During our disquieting and covidious times, a new school year is well underway. It’s taking place during a period of truly unprecedented global conflict, political turmoil, and natural disasters, leading to widespread human suffering – amplified in our awareness by unrelenting and pervasive media coverage. Children and teachers have returned to classrooms during a time of extraordinary worry, uncertainty, confusion, misinformation/disinformation, and bellicosity. And this is compounded by the disappointment that, after more than 18 months of uncertainty, the school year has not begun as hoped. There are still so many unanswered questions and whatever cravings we have had for a closer to “normal” post-pandemic time have been dashed.
It’s inescapable that these toxic conditions have an impact on our children and their schooling, as well as on those entrusted to their care – at school and at home. How might we begin to get a better grip on what students are really learning?
How might we begin to shift the focus from “learning loss” to “learning gain”?
In changing this focus, we must consider the panoply of elements that enhance or hinder children’s learning. We need to consider the place of schools in the broader culture and the variety of players and conditions that have the biggest influence on children’s learning. We need to redefine what “learning the basics” means.
As I think about this from various perspectives, no matter which hat I wear – former teacher/principal/education policy advisor, activist, parenting coach, parent, or grandparent – I’m concerned. Actually, I’m more than concerned, I’m worried.
The traditionally stabilizing and predictable roles schools have played in our lives have been compromised by forces beyond our control, as well as those we are running out of time to get a grip on. This new school year has begun during a “go away closer” time, a Lewis Carrollian rabbit hole that seems to suck us into areas of ever greater confusion:
Perpetuating the toxic “us versus them” nature rampant in our national divide on an obscene array of so many basic and vital issues – a time during which leaders act more like school children during playground name-calling and worse. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear during one of their exchanges, “I know you are, but what am I?!”