Despite heroic efforts by administrators, teachers, parents and students to keep learning alive in the face of a complete and unplanned shut down of infrastructure, the global pandemic marked—by anyone’s standards—a tough, frustrating, heartbreaking period for the American education system. For some, COVID-19 seemed to be the problem. But, in reality, this unprecedented event simply brought into sharp focus issues that have been bubbling away beneath the surface for a very long time. From standards, to equity, to prejudice, to debt, education is a microcosm of the problems we must wrestle with across the country. And right at the center of this fraught debate is the population that we typically turn to for hope—children and young people.
Like so many other institutions being called into question, the U.S. education system is ripe for a reassessment. How did it get here? Do the beliefs and practices maintained out of tradition still apply to the worlds of today—and tomorrow? And if there are shortcomings in need of revision, what is the path forward, and who will lead the way?