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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Tadross

Top 10 Ways COVID-19 Changed Education, Maybe Forever

The pandemic has turned us into a society of strange habits which at first were so out of the ordinary that they went unnoticed. Now, it looks like many of these conventions are here to stay. These new norms go beyond masks and hand washing, and have consumed our lives, largely in the education system.

These are the top ten educational changes caused by the pandemic which - for better or for worse - are likely here to stay.

10. Incomplete Socialization

From Speech & Debate to Cross Country, many high school clubs have gone online or been cancelled to stop the spread of COVID-19, cancelling and complicating student interaction. In activities such as debate and Science Olympiad, unreliable online judging systems have not been able to reward students on the basis of merit. A few weeks ago I judged a debate tournament via Zoom. The audio consistently cut out and I could hardly distinguish between each two-person team of debaters.

Many students opt to not participate in these activities due to the perceived unfairness, which is particularly fatal socially for freshman and other new students. Groups for students to meet friends with similar interests now hardly exist.

9. Perpetual Online Schooling

As long as our society prioritizes the pandemic above all else, it will be near impossible to eliminate online school. My high school, which is one of few to offer daily in-person classes, still needs to allow online school. Even students who have initially decided to take in-person classes can choose to skip school at any given time under the guise of feeling sick. Such absence frequently occurs on the day of Calculus Tests or American History Quizzes.

In online school, test answers can be Googled or testing eliminated outright. It is unlikely that this will end any time soon. Schools are held to high standards of sensitivity, and the first school to mandate in-person classes will easily be "cancelled" by the news and students on social media. Quarantine has enhanced the power of social media for exchanges of information, thus strengthening such "cancel" culture. I believe that online classes are important to offer, but this attitude could persist to a point in which we are being fueled by ideology rather than genuine health concerns.

8. Replacing Physical Social Interaction

A study from Pennsylvania State University shows that social media usage has risen during the pandemic because people have relied on it for health information. Have you noticed that since the start of the pandemic, people have more frequently shared news on their Instagram stories and satirized current events on TikTok? Increases in social media usage are likely a result of the hysteria surrounding COVID-19 and subsequent declines in socialization.

Lack of contact with peers results in declining mental health. This past summer during the pandemic, several counties reported suicide rates up to 70% above their historical average. Various opposing facts on social media lead to increased levels of distrust and pressure users into thinking the same way as others. This can cause anxiety and fear as we try to present the best online persona possible.

7. A World Without Water Fountains

Last week, my Physics teacher raised that water fountains will likely never be seen again post-pandemic. Many people knew that these were unsanitary before, and the pandemic was likely the final straw in their elimination. At my high school, these are covered with red "hazard" signs to prevent their use. Water fountains will likely be easily replaced by bottle filling stations. Still, it is sad to think that we may have drunk from a water fountain for the very last time without even knowing it.

6. Decreasing Restraint as a Form of Discipline

My high school, which used to use detention and demerits liberally, has nearly eliminated their use. Discipline is impossible in online learning, and dismissed as superfluous physical contact even when students do attend school. At my high school, staying after school is not permitted, making detention impossible. In many ways, this has not been a problem. Student rebellion is a result of suppression. When we are not in school for seven hours each day, being asked to comply to rules ranging from being quiet in the hallway to getting to each class exactly on time, there are no rules to break.

COVID-19 has bred a culture of relaxation in both teachers and students. This easing mindset may be here to stay.

5. Increased Student Liberty

At my high school, the strict uniform of a blazer and tucked shirt has transformed into sweatshirts and rolled skirts - relaxations permitted out of pity for wearing a mask for the mask mandate. If teachers punish students, they may risk spreading COVID-19 or asking for too much from students during a difficult time. Essentially, the pandemic has mandated an increase in personal liberty because any interference can be deemed insensitive.

Proximity is control, and the pandemic has accelerated the future by giving students the power they have been demanding for a long time.

4. Cooperative Studying

Online learning and shorter school days along with relaxed disciplinary standards make learning a more cooperative experience. Students often take tests in their own homes or are primarily graded on homework, meaning they can cooperate with other students to find the correct answers for homework and boost their grades. Most importantly, however, students have not fully escaped the quarantine attitude of day-to-day freedom. During quarantine, students pursued projects ranging from song writing to spending more time with friends. Not willing to give up such pastimes, they have innovated to complete homework while also focusing on their own interests.

3. Increased Political Engagement

When people began to rely on social media for news on COVID-19, our nation's hyper-focus on media permeated interest in every other social and political issue. This interest did not end with COVID-19 or the Black Lives Matter movement. Once students began posting about BLM, they turned to social media to learn about everything from the Yemeni Civil War to the 2020 Election. Come November, many of my classmates who previously expressed aversion to politics were heavily interested in the events of the election.

COVID-19 has bred social engagement by both freeing up time and creating a culture of sensitivity. Beginning with first-hand experience of the pandemic, our nation has zeroed-in on the debate between idealistic sensitivity and moving on from difficult times ranging from the pandemic to women's rights to international affairs.

2. Students Unafraid to Challenge Teachers

As stated before, proximity is control. Without disciplinary action, students are exposing their discriminatory high school experiences on the internet. Not only are students not being punished for these behaviors, but online school and school days in a single classroom mean that there is less gossip about it, and they are less likely to cause drama or get in trouble. Even students who attend school only speak to the same few people each day, reducing information circulation and making students bolder on the internet.

1. The Entire Conception we Used to Have of School

Unfortunately, nothing will go back to normal after the pandemic. Discussions of "going back to school," no longer exist with the same expectation, as every plan to return omits extracurriculars, sports, or student interactions which are everything we used to know of high school.

As a society, we are now working toward a new conception of schooling - a conception which is causing poor mental health and stealing water fountains, but also liberating students and enabling more effective exchange of ideas.

Just like every event in history, we will make it out. If we end up on a different end, it will feature exciting new conventions to explore and enhance via our collective effort.

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