Sep 2020

How a pandemic exposed – and may help fix – inequalities in education

Written by Stephanie Hanes

There is a question, though, at the base of all of this work. How should students – particularly students of color – experience education? What does it mean to go to school? What is the purpose of learning?

It’s an area that Dr. Kirkland, of NYU, has been pondering a lot recently. As tough as this pandemic has been for families and schools, he is conscious that, for the first time, many children have had the opportunity to see what it’s like to not walk through metal detectors every day. It’s the first time that no students have been suspended and the first time they haven’t gotten in trouble with teachers or school police.

The question he’s been asking, he says, is “what does a joy-based education look like?”

It’s an issue on the minds of many education disrupters. “You have a system that’s built on the opposite of what we know motivates people,” says Mr. Horn of the Clayton Christensen Institute. “There are very few opportunities to feel successful in it; there are very few opportunities to tackle the problems that are interesting to the students themselves; there are very few opportunities to make learning joyful. It’s why every kid starts off excited in kindergarten, and they get to high school and the word they use about school is ‘boring.’”


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