Let 9-year-old children focus on learning

Published 11:43 am Friday, September 2, 2022

There was some news this week that should concern us all, especially educators and parents. The pandemic has set back 9-year-olds in reading and math by as much as 20 years.

We can’t even begin to absorb the magnitude and ultimate consequences this loss will have on every facet of their lives, not to mention the socio-economic-political stability of America.


The National Assessment of Educational Progress began tracking student achievement in the United States nearly 50 years ago. The results of recent tests were released this week. It was a national sample of 14,800 9-year-olds, and the results were compared with the results of tests taken by the same group just before the pandemic took hold.


Simplifying this, it means that far fewer 9-year-olds can show even a partial understanding of what they are reading. Fewer still can conclude from what they have read what a character is feeling. For those same students, the drop in math scores means they might know simple arithmetic but cannot add fractions using common denominators.


OK, some will say, we will just work with those students and get them back up to an effective level of knowledge. I’ve never taught school, but I’m inclined to believe that moving the scores of those 9-year-olds to the level they should be at is something like pulling your own teeth. The resistance is far greater than we can imagine, and the likelihood that they will regress even more is great because they are more prone to give up and disregard the life raft.


All of this comes as we have arrived at a critical juncture in education. We have devalued, mistreated and abused educators so much that many have left or plan to leave their profession. They have watched aghast during the pandemic as some parents and wannabe parents have assailed teachers and librarians with accusations based on some numbskullery notions about what kids should read. Some of those same people have less than a rudimentary working knowledge of grammar, spelling, sentence structure or the value of comprehensive cognitive skill.


Because so many teachers have decided they will no longer go to work and be subjected to the vagaries of a once-noble job that is being twisted like a pretzel by shrill, loud and often profane citizens, a few states have decided they no longer feel their K-12 educators should be college trained and educated. If you can stand and breathe, you can teach, they believe.


Now, some want to politicize education. Meanwhile, 9-year-olds everywhere are at risk of never achieving what their grandparents–perhaps even their parents–did.


But if we continue to bend ourselves backward to political meddlesomeness, those 9-year-olds may qualify to become teachers.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com