What is a School?

Previously: The Case Against Education

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

In a belated triumph of sanity, schools around the world are closing their doors in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The debates about schools closing make it clear how schools provide value.

Here in New York City, and in many other places, we are refusing to close to schools until (two weeks after the) last minute because schools provide free meals to poor children.

The other stated reason is because if children are not in school, their parents would be unable to work, and some of their parents are healthcare workers or cannot afford any missed paychecks.

(In the case of universities, we also have places like Harvard that took away students’ housing and thus left them with no place to live.)

These are good, real concerns. We need solutions to these problems.

But we also now know what real problems are being solved.

We have school because our society believes that one cannot leave children unsupervised or terrible things would happen, for very broad values of children. We also have school because we don’t have another way to ensure that children get to eat. And in some narrow cases, we have a very partial fix for a housing crisis.

Clearly, regardless of what the best solutions are, one could goal factor for these problems much better than ‘mandatory schooling.’

The concern that I have heard literally zero people mention is that closing the schools will prevent children from learning.

I do realize that no one is grappling with how long this is likely to last, and that in the long term they would raise this concern.

But still, I find all of  this enlightening. And refreshing.


This entry was posted in Coronavirus, Rationality. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to What is a School?

  1. dehowell says:

    Also consider that the cost of missed classes is longer term and can be compensated for later, whereas hunger and lost work have immediate and threatening effects. Just because no one is talking about the lost learning doesn’t mean that no learning is happening or that’s not an important function for schools.

  2. Doug S. says:

    Yeah, these are the short term effects of closing schools. The long term effects are somewhat different…

  3. Agree with dehowell. What the media is pointing out is that more basic and imminent needs than education are also being provided by the school system, and that whatever you think about the educational value of the lost days is, you might agree that it matters less than the hunger and parental lost income.

  4. Oskar Mathiesen says:

    Also worth noting the social effects. Danish students in the age groups 13-15 was asking to go back to school for weeks before the schools opened for them. (The schools where open for young kids quite early)

  5. Pingback: Covid-19: My Current Model | Don't Worry About the Vase

  6. Pingback: Covid 7/9: Lies, Damn Lies and Death Rates | Don't Worry About the Vase

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