I’ve been trying to tack down this education-related pandemic frustration that has been bugging me.
This fall colleges have been trying to figure out how to approximate a normal educational experience for students (and normal tuition-dollar revenue) despite the drastic difference of online/remote learning or limited physically-displaced and masked in-person engagements. College management and educators—sometimes working together or other times working at cross-purposes—both agree they want education to continue and universities to survive the unknowns of a pandemic economy. So this fall education has continued as safely as possible by distance and digital.
All of the urgent pandemic-effort, deployment of resources, and earnest effort to hold shit together until things can “go back to normal” is great, but reminds me of how broken everything already was. The approximate-the-normal pandemic-solutionism of our present moment intent on delivering education has remained blind to the fact that our students *are still* robbed of the education they borrow for by the burden of working low-wage jobs. And most of these are in spaces nowhere near as pandemic-safe as campus. And the foreknowledge of the crushing debts that will come due upon graduation still haunt students, influencing their current decisions. And, upon graduation, the debts will constrain student options for living their best lives for all of us.
The university works to keep students COVIDSafe on campus, but students still go to work at Target or McDonalds and they still take on massive debt. I have heard it said that the pandemic has “met us where we are”—exacerbated preexisting problems. In this sense, “remote learning” is just the latest step away—the latest distancing from—an educational opportunity that has already been retreating from students for decades.
I guess what I’m circling around is this: Even before the pandemic arrived, student debt and meaningless low-wage part-time jobs were already making college remote education.