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November 28, 2023

NYT Revisionist History on School Closings

Conservatives warned about long-term negative results for children’s education, and The New York Times finally gets it.

In yet another instance of conservatives being able to say “we told you so,” the New York Times editorial board recently discovered that “The Startling Evidence on Learning Loss Is In.” The editorial observes, “The school closures that took 50 million children out of classrooms at the start of the pandemic may prove to be the most damaging disruption in the history of American education.”

Golly, who knew? (That was rhetorical.)

Meanwhile, back in the spring of 2021, the Times pushed the opposite position. In an op-ed published in April of that year originally titled “Parents, Stop Talking About the ‘Lost Year,’” author and Times columnist Judith Warner argued that concerns over months-long pandemic school closures and the negative impact on children’s education were overblown.

At some point, the Time updated and softened Warner’s title to “How to Help Your Adolescent Think About the Last Year,” but the teaser still expressed the original sentiment: “Hint: It’s not a ‘lost year.’ Also, the screen time with friends? It’s good for their mental health.”

The article went on to downplay the whole problem. “Experts say some of [parents’] worries are justified — but only up to a point,” Warner said. “There’s no doubt that the pandemic has taken a major toll on many adolescents’ emotional well-being. … And there’s no question that witnessing their loneliness, difficulties with online learning and seemingly endless hours on social media has been enormously stressful for the adults who care about them the most. … Despite all of this, [therapist and school counselor Phyllis] Fagell, much like the dozen-plus other experts in adolescent development who were interviewed for this article, was adamant that parents should not panic — and that, furthermore, the spread of the ‘lost year’ narrative needed to stop. Getting a full picture of what’s going on with middle schoolers — and being ready to help them — they agreed, requires holding two seemingly contradictory ideas simultaneously in mind: The past year has been terrible. And most middle schoolers will be fine.”

Note that last sentence: “most middle schoolers will be fine.”

Evidently not. Indeed, the Times editorial board is now ringing the alarm bells over a generation of Americans behind in their education. School shutdowns have, the editors say, “set student progress in math and reading back by two decades and widened the achievement gap that separates poor and wealthy children.” So, which is it? Middle schoolers will be fine, or American educational progress has been set back 20 years?

As our own Mark Alexander observed early on: “The school shutdowns, which have enormous impact on families, are based in part on the lowest common denominator factor — the parent who is going to send their child to school sick because it was not convenient to keep him or her home. And when Americans begin to figure out the economic consequences of the state and local actions which have shuttered schools, events, and businesses, there will be political HELL to pay.”

The scribes at the Times and all over mainstream media were big proponents of shutting down schools for the entirety of 2020 and beyond as they perpetuated the flawed notion that protecting the most vulnerable — the elderly and immune-compromised — meant sacrificing the future development of the least vulnerable — school-age children.

Ironically but predictably, the Times is arguing for more government funding and intervention to fix the very problem the government caused.

Poor leadership was most clearly displayed in Democrat-run states, which opted for totalitarian, one-size-fits-all polices that maximized negative impacts across all of society rather than using a sensible conservative approach that used targeted actions aimed at protecting the most vulnerable while also seeking the least social disruption. Of course, the Times and other Leftmedia outlets decried the latter approach as equating to wishing death on others.

Three years on, and they’re acting like they have just been exposed to the notion that taking kids out of school would have seriously negative consequences down the road. And the most ridiculous thing about it is their call for more government “solutions” for America’s “learning loss crisis.” The Times editorial board geniuses write, “A collective sense of urgency by all Americans will be required to avert its most devastating effects on the nation’s children.”

Now they tell us.

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