The Inevitable Conflict When Schools Reopen

Many students across the world have been receiving an education online in recent weeks for the very first time.  They are gaining new experiences with their families, along with new experiences with their neighborhood peers, and hopefully reading books to further their own independent education.  Many students have always done this, and many more are now discovering it for the very first time.  But when students return to their brick-and-mortar schools which they previously attended, student-to-teacher conflict will inevitably rise. 

Upon return, students may see many of their teachers as lazy or unprofessional, now that many students personally and individually know that factual content is widely available on the internet and said information may not be widely shared, nor allowed within brick-and-mortar school settings.  The restrictions that are placed on students within school settings may continue to hinder their learning, and without pushback, students will fall back into the same trap where they existed before.  The games and gimmicks that previously existed within many school-based settings may now be seen as the waste of time they truly are, and student participation in such events may dramatically drop, much to the dismay of many educators and administrators themselves.  However, this awakening among the student population may create a chain-breaking event that will undoubtedly create public and verbalized conflict within such school-based settings.

I seriously doubt that today’s students will take the return to such dogmas lying down.  For example, many school district administrators, including superintendents themselves, are encouraging or requiring their teachers and other school employees to engage in what are being called “Vehicle Parades.”  These parades are made up of school employees who collectively drive in a giant line of their own cars, and honk their way through their students’ neighborhoods to remind the students that they still exist and that the teachers are still there to teach them.  Or, perhaps school employees are engaging in this activity believing that if they do so, they will not lose their students to an online homeschooling environment that is far heathier. 

Put yourself in the shoes of a middle school or high school student for one moment.  Would you want your teachers and administrators showing up in your neighborhood honking their car horns loudly by your house, as you are learning quietly within the safety of your own home?  The irony and ridiculousness of these “vehicle parades,” and other activities like them, are palpable. 

Now that American students, and frankly students across the world, have experienced the true nature of self-driven learning, their willingness to return to their “schools of old” will be met with hostility between students and their parents first.  This interpersonal home-based conflict will be inevitable.  Many families will now be grappling with what to do for their child as they witnessed their child experience a formal education beforehand, where violence, depression, indoctrination, politicization and conformity routinely dominated their school-based environments.  Now that those very students have had the chance to breath on their own as an individual, while still learning and receiving an effective education where the content is limitless and free from the above distractions, many students themselves will take the initiative and suggest to their parents that they remain a homeschooled student within an online environment, with a self-driven attitude.  If this is met with resistance from their parents, conflict will inevitably exist.  If these students who prefer the homeschooled online environment are forced to return to their old school, this reintroduction into the brick-and-mortar school environment may set in a newfound level of clinical depression among America’s youth.  This is not an exaggeration.  At this stage of the game, what kind of student would really want to return to their formal brick-and-mortar school, knowing what they know now about receiving an education, and having the time to compare the two environments from a healthy and objective standpoint? 

If these students who are not interested in returning, do return, I would be willing to bet that the inevitability of student-to-teacher verbal conflict will hit an all time high.  Students will now be vocally calling out the gimmicks and the games as a waste of time, where in the past they may have put up with it quietly and passively.  They may ask or tell their teachers what to do within the classroom, specifically regarding instructional methods, all while using the online format as an example of what previously worked for them at home.  How long will it take before teachers and administrators push back when their own students, now in mass, are telling their own instructors how to do their jobs?  How well do you think teachers and administrators are going to take such logical pushback from students?  What if this pushback comes from the parents themselves?  Perhaps a reorganization of the schools will take place, or perhaps it won’t.

Regarding higher education, students who were previously forced to live in dormitories and pay exorbitant amounts of money (while being forced to sleep next to complete strangers), are now realizing that they can live at home, work part-time and receive an equally beneficial education online, without having all of the unhealthy distractions thrust upon them that college and university life have to offer.  If these students do return to their brick-and-mortar colleges and universities, will the same conflict erupt between students and their professors, as predicted within K-12 environments?  Again, my guess would be yes.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that given the personal time students have had by themselves, these college and university students are already investigating how to leave their current schools and enroll within an online environment where they can attain the same degree they were previously earning. 

The educational revolution and awakening that is taking place right now will create a snowball effect that will positively impact generations to come.  More questions will be asked.  More answers will be sought.  However, more conflict will inevitably erupt between students and their instructors -- because if restrictions on learning factual content are placed on students, in particular in America, such divisions will not stand unless one side gives way.  My hope is that students and parents positively engage in this fight, and my hope is that teachers, administrators, and professors learn -- that they may not be the “experts” they think they are.

Dr. Sean M. Brooks is the author of five books including; Violence Among Students and School Staff, and Purposeful Deception.