The New York Times (NYT) has belatedly acknowledged the growing body of evidence that school shutdowns have cost students dearly in terms of math and reading test scores, note observers.
“Remote learning was a failure,” stated NYT senior writer David Leonhardt in an article titled “Not Good for Learning,” on May 5. Leonhardt reported on a study published by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University titled “Consequences of Remote and Hybrid Instruction During the Pandemic,” which reviewed Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test data for 2.1 million students in 10,000 schools in 49 states, plus D.C.
The study revealed that, on average, students who attended in-person school for nearly all of the 2020 and 2021 lost about 20 percent of the math learned in a typical school year. But students who stayed home fared much worse, losing an average of about 50 percent of math learned in a typical school year.
‘Catastrophic Educational Losses’
It is impossible for mainstream media outlets to ignore the growing evidence that the economic lockdowns and school closures were a costly mistake, says Jeffrey A. Tucker, founder, and president of the Brownstone Institute.
“Not even The New York Times can deny the crisis caused by the shutdowns, which affects the whole of society, especially the catastrophic educational losses,” said Tucker.
The Leonhardt article marks an about-face for the NYT, which should be held accountable for its early and persistent supporter of shuttering the economy, says Tucker.
“What’s outrageous is the lack of responsibility here, said Tucker. “The NYT essentially began this era with its promotion of COVID lockdowns. The losses are incalculable. We need honesty not only about the effects but also about the cause. Their own venue was a major player.”
‘Not New News’
The Harvard study gave the NYT cover to admit the lockdowns were a failure, says Tim Benson, a senior policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, which co-publishes Health Care News.
“What is shown in the Harvard study is not new news,” said Benson.
In 2021, NWEA, a nonprofit group that develops and administers education assessments for public school districts across the country, published an analysis that shows the devastating effects of shuttering schools on children, says Benson.
“NWEA reported back in December on how ‘historically marginalized students and students in high-poverty schools were disproportionately impacted by school closures, and that this learning loss could cost all American children about $2 trillion in lifetime earnings, about $43,800 for each kid.”
The economic cost of learning losses worldwide was analyzed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says Benson.
“The OECD estimates that learning losses from pandemic-era school closures could cause a 3 percent decline in lifetime earnings and that a loss of just one-third of a year of learning has a long-term economic impact of $14 trillion,” said Benson.
‘School Shutdowns Were Never Justified’
From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was evidence school-aged children were among the lowest risk groups for serious infection or transmission of the SARS-CoV2 virus, says Tucker.
“The experience of Sweden shows that the school shutdowns were never justified,” said Tucker. “Even based on demographic data from January 2020, we knew this already. The elites sacrificed a whole generation of school kids, and the public is demanding answers now. Rightly so.”
Additionally, a study released in January 2022 showed masks and lockdowns were ineffective. The meta-data analysis of previously published research by three economists from Johns Hopkins University, Lund University in Sweden, and the Danish think-tank the Center for Political Studies found that restrictions reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2 percent.
However, Newsweek tried to discredit the study in an article titled “Did a Johns Hopkins Study ‘Prove’ Lockdowns Don’t Work? What We Know So Far, ” published on February 7. The article criticized the study for not being peer-reviewed and cast doubt on the results because they were publicized by “right-leaning outlets,” including The National Post, The Washington Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
The article did not offer a factual rebuttal of the study but quoted Seth Flaxman, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford.
“Smoking causes cancer, the Earth is round, and ordering people to stay at home (the correct definition of lockdown) decreases disease transmission,” said Flaxman. “None of this is controversial among scientists. A study purporting to prove the opposite is almost certain to be fundamentally flawed.”
Teachers’ Unions Kept Schools Closed
The teachers’ unions bare much of the blame for students’ educational losses, says Benson.
“The Harvard study showed this learning loss was especially pronounced in bluer states where teachers’ unions had more political muscle to throw around to keep schools closed as long as possible,” said Benson. “If the unions had their way, and the pushback from apoplectic parents wasn’t so pronounced, schools would still be closed.”
The lockdowns were about politics, not public safety, says Benson.
“The unions used the pandemic to try to leverage whatever they could politically, lumping in non-education-related demands—including Medicare for all, rent cancellation, the implementation of wealth taxes, and defunding police departments—in discussions about when to ‘safely’ reopen schools,” said Benson. “This travesty lies entirely at the feet of the teachers’ unions, the more radical members of their rank and file, and the politicians who enable them to maintain their monopoly on education.”
Kevin Stone (email@example.com) writes from Arlington, TX