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Society not ready, yet, for online learning only

Many public schools in the United States are ending the academic year early or plan to do so, The Associated Press reports. In some, use of distance learning via online tools has been pronounced a disappointment.

Come August and September, when we hope American children return to school, millions will be behind academically.

If it has done nothing else, COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of in-school education, given the current state of our society and culture.

With students in the classroom, teachers are able to provide both comprehensive learning and individualized attention that simply is not possible online. Part of the reason for that is that when teachers have children in front of them five days per week, they can serve as enforcers. By that we mean simply this: Millions of American children live in homes where, for one reason or another, education is not the priority it should be. The coronavirus epidemic has aggravated the problem. A significant percentage of students simply are not buckling down and doing the at-home work assigned by teachers — and their parents are not policing them in that regard.

This does not mean distance learning is a failure or should be considered one for the future. It would tragic if online learning fell victim to COVID-19, as it holds out the promise of improvements in quality and reductions in cost. It also would empower families, if it was taken seriously. But it requires the proper parental guidance at home. The world is inevitably moving online in every aspect of our lives. Learning will not be an exception.

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