Photo of inside Ottawa high school during COVID-19 pandemic./ Contributed Image, The Sputnik Photography.
Christian is a recent graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University with a BA in the Dept. of Human and Social Sciences.
As you all have just experienced, the school year has begun despite protest and warnings from educators and healthcare experts against the reopening of schools and the “return to normal”.
In post-secondary, the organization of a COVID education is hastily prepared and the safety and quality of learning is questionable at best.
We all remember our elementary, middle, and high school years back when we did not socially distance at all and tended to be rebellious with the rules when the adults weren’t looking. The more adventurous of us did it even if under supervision and that’s the problem; kids don’t listen. Even if we were to place ourselves and our buddies at risk, a good number of us still took risks if it meant acting on our dumb impulses.
Adults tend to forget that youngsters still do not have a fully developed prefrontal cortex until the age of 25. Meaning that many of you in undergrad, as well as alumni like myself, still do not have better judgement. We can give in to our impulse behaviour instead of understanding the risks and having a well-developed action plan.
So how can the Government of Ontario and the rest of Canada seriously think that a hasty plan for bringing kids to school would help mitigate the spread of COVID-19?
We literally saw just how stupid young adults can be despite the initial outbreak attention in the beginning of the year. Queen’s University students still ran St. Patrick’s Day parties and cottage excursions with mega car shows/ rallies with hundreds of people attending in Ancaster and Wasaga Beach recently.
Kids are showing up to elementary schools, and we know how unhygienic they can be, so is it really a surprise that elementary schools in Niagara, Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, and others are reporting cases of COVID-19 among the staff and children?
Photo inside Ottawa highschool. Student sits with less than half the capacity in a classroom./ Contributed Image, The Sputnik Photography
I don’t care how “socially-distanced” and “re-organized” the education system claims to be, they are still cramming hundreds of rebellious kids into the same school buildings. Which did not magically expand mind you, and really the new systems just overcomplicates learning for both educators and students.
Not all are fortunate enough to have internet access or state of the art laptops, and many educators still cannot navigate online teaching and zoom meetings. This school year should honestly have been held back despite all the whining of just getting it done and over with. The government should have acted with the people actually running the schools instead of forcing them to handle it themselves.
Teachers are expected to deliver material to both online and in-person classes, five days a week. Navigating how certain assignments or activities can be transferred online is a process that can take hours.
Many educators are overworked and worried about their own health on top of the students’ and unfortunately the students feel rushed to absorb new material in a less engaging way. High school students are suffering and not meeting their true academic potential, on top of having their health at risk. Despite how certain people feel, dumping a heavy assignment workload on students does not help them learn the material better, rather the opposite.
Many school boards across the province including the higher population areas like Ottawa and Peel opted to teach high school students in a quadmester approach. This means in a half a semester (approximately two months) students are expected to learn two courses, with them alternating between weeks. This immense crunch time has put more mental stress on high schoolers who do not have the option to opt out or defer a year like in university/ college.
This brings us to the post-secondary institutions, which include you my beloved Golden Hawks. As you probably realized, you are just worn out and overly stressed by this crazy new environment and do not lie, you are not absorbing the material like you should. The bombardment of assignments that come to you with a multitude of deadlines just make you want to quickly find the answers in your texts, plug and chug, and move on.
This is not what higher education should be about.
I see and hear the cries and lack of motivation that students and faculty are facing because of this ridiculous pressure of getting back to business. The stress is immeasurable, and people are paying high amounts only to get limited yet burdensome education. People are not learning properly this way; the current state is molding leaders that are worried more about deadlines than good quality work and critical thinking skills.
Based on ongoing trends, I predict a significant drop in returning students and future applicants to post-secondary which can further harm universities/colleges. Our younger generations have been shafted by the greed and pride of those leading us right now, and worse of all is that people are dying needlessly for it.
The whole mentality of just sucking it up and getting over it will not work in this situation, and this requires thoughtful planning and well-informed decision making by honest and intelligent leaders. Unfortunately, our leaders prefer to stroke their own ego and make it seem like they are doing favours for you, when in reality they are placing you at risk and making you pay for it via taxes (how are we ever going to pay for all that CERB?)
So what do we do?
First, stop wishing for things to go back to normal. Not only is it very unlikely to happen soon, what we had for normal was never “normal” to begin with. Our elderly have long faced horrible conditions and abuse long before the exposition by the Canadian Armed Forces throughout the pandemic. Thousands of current and former students in post secondary are more financially unstable and moving back in with parents.
Our healthcare systems have been heavily lacking and unprepared worldwide, we lack trained healthcare professionals but are bountiful in conspiracy theorists and anti-maskers/vaxxers. Our means of long-distance transportation (planes, ships, railways) have focused on profit over safety and quality of travel, which have led to numerous infections spreading.
Once we accept that things will never go back to normal, we need to work together to plan an effective way to fix the education system, overcome the challenges COVID-19 and other future diseases can bring, and survive through the economic downfall that will inevitably shatter the world order as we know it.
Brace for impact because we are going to have a rough ride these next few decades. Get educated, put aside politics and biases, bring anything you can to the table and help those around you.