Public schools in the United States effectively utilize a variety of tools to address numerous societal inequities; tools like individual education plans, culturally responsive teaching, ethnic study programs, restorative justice practices, among others. A public school is a complex organism that is not complete without the sum of its parts; parts like teachers, students, administrators, coaches, cafeterias, hallways, bells, and classrooms. All the school practices aimed at increasing equity have been functionally stripped away with the recent closing of schools all across the country. Yes, it must be said, even in the midst of a global pandemic when priorities are shifting on a daily basis. School is an experience that cannot be replicated online or even from a “distance.”
When societies find themselves in crisis, inequities increase dramatically, but also become more apparent. In no way can the closing of schools lead directly to further educational equity. The best of what is happening right now in public education in the United States focuses on the mitigation of increased inequities. The recent rise of online education epitomizes educational inequity. Internet should be an affordable public utility, but it is not. Reliable internet remains inaccessible to a significant percentage of students and families in the U.S. The image of twenty elementary age students in a Zoom meeting with their teacher is the very essence of what it means to be privileged under COVID-19 quarantine.
Fortunately, there is a medium that is free and utilizes technology that has been evolving and becoming increasingly affordable for well over 100 years, television. Some movement has been made to utilize public television in district and statewide distance learning efforts. However, much of this movement has been toward merely drawing parallels between existing PBS programming and specific academic standards. This marks a move in the right direction, but ultimately exists only to exacerbate the inequity around internet access. If students with internet access get a personalized experience with their teachers through Zoom, Google Classroom, and the like, then students without internet access deserve the same personalized attention.
All the school practices aimed at increasing equity have been functionally stripped away with the recent closing of schools all across the country.
Teachers are creative. Teachers are resourceful. Teachers should take over the television air waves and provide a plethora of original content. In a time of social distancing when much journalism is done via mobile phone, teachers have at home the tools necessary to produce short videos that could then be curated into television quality programming. This is a time for bold innovations and widespread sharing of resources, and television provides the medium for maximum saturation.
The following pre-release episode of “Mr. Baker’s World History” was produced with an iPad, desktop computer, television, and a podcasting microphone. Television producers are invited to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for broadcasting rights.
The Google Form used for Bellwork is available here. Teachers will need to create their own copy of the form in order to be used in Google Classroom.