“Kids these days.” It’s a familiar refrain around the holiday table when older adults regale us with tales of walking to school 10 miles uphill (both ways) in the snow.
But let me tell you about kids these days—they are remarkable.
Kids these days are brave. Dozens of local teens fearlessly spoke up to the elected officials who attended PCCY’s virtual town halls and called for more money for their schools and more government protection from over-policing of their communities.
They revealed the emotional impact of the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, their renunciation of racism, and their personal struggles with remote learning, social isolation, and missing important rites of passage like graduation ceremonies. (You can read about it in our Annual Report.)
Yeah, kids these days.
Kids these days had no choice but to adapt to remote learning. We’ve heard horror stories of the virtual classroom—unstable internet connections, limited student attention spans, and teachers continually adapting their lessons plans to meet technological restraints.
Penn Wood High School Junior Nasharie Stewart was so poignant at the Delco Teen Town Hall when she talked about having so few textbooks in the classroom that students resorted to sharing. Now, “students are at home trying to continue their education, some without ideal internet access. Now more than ever a good, quality textbook for students to maintain their studies and not fall behind is essential.” How do you share a text book when social distancing?
Add to that the inequity that is a preexisting condition in Pennsylvania education. Too many Black, Hispanic, low-income, and immigrant families have language barriers, spotty internet connections, poor or no technology, and crowded housing that makes it really hard to find a quiet space to learn.
Then we learn that, in the face of so much adversity, elementary school students in one of the state’s poorest districts are showing extraordinary levels of persistence. A School District of Philadelphia report revealed that the pandemic has not drastically altered elementary student reading performance. This is hopeful news in months of education trepidation. Much credit is due to the teachers but, WOW, our kids really stepped up and showed how determined they are to learn despite the pandemic.
Knowing how much kids are clinging to hope for a normal life, PCCY launched the #TeachOurKids campaign to force school leaders to answer the technology and digital divide that seemed impossible. (You can read about it in our Annual Report.)
And as children and teens were clamoring for structured online lessons, we launched the Check Before You Choose campaign so parents could make informed decisions about cyber charter schools. (The truth is cyber schools have never done well educating and they cost taxpayers millions. You can read about it in our Annual Report.) Our youth may be resilient, but they need protection from programs that fail them.
Taking a cue from students’ persistence, PCCY has relentlessly called on the U.S. Senate to pass a stimulus package that will give families a lifeline and help dynamic students like Nasharie stay focused on success. Maybe lawmakers should read the newly released PCCY Annual Report, When the World Stood Still, PCCY Stood Up for inspiration about standing up for kids.
Because “kids these days” deserve a better tomorrow.