Distance learning using the internet has made it more difficult for K-12 teachers and parents to diagnose individual needs, provide models, direct activities, provide feedback and assess the effectiveness of learning.
It is more difficult for elementary students to develop thinking, reading, writing and mathematical skills. It is more difficult for secondary students to learn content and develop skills in essential areas such as history, social studies, literature, mathematics, natural science and the fine arts.
Teachers, parents and students worry that past learning will deteriorate and that future progress will be impeded.
Content and skills have received the most attention since students were sent home, but moral excellence and good mental health are more important goals. Teachers and parents face a greater challenge in promoting values, good character and happiness in these uncertain and turbulent times. The question must be asked: What are the characteristics of the people we hope our children will become?
Honesty is the primary foundational virtue. Lies cannot be tolerated. Liars deny, deflect and distract. They cannot be respected or trusted. They are typically more interested in manipulating people for self-serving ends than for benefitting others.
Coaches emphasize the importance of playing by the rules and not cheating. Sports are supposed to help participants be gracious in defeat and humble in victory.
Science teachers stress objectivity, the scientific method, and replication in the search for truth. Reliable facts and sound reasoning must be respected. Environmental educators encourage students to be good stewards of the resources and health of the physical world.
Social studies teachers promote ethical relationships among people. Effective leaders of successful societies strive for unity instead of divisiveness, compassion instead of derision, sharing instead of selfishness, service instead of exploitation, generosity instead of stinginess, and justice instead of injustice. Students must appreciate the responsibility of being informed and active voters in our democracy. Students must fight gerrymandering, attempts to keep voters from participating and tally tampering.
Health educators and psychological counselors are dedicated to promoting physical, mental and emotional health. They encourage students to care for their bodies by exercising, eating nutritious foods and seeking medical care. They help students overcome the harmful effects from being taunted and bullied.
They help students cope with disappointments and fears, persist at difficult tasks, forgo obsessive-compulsive behaviors and establish priorities.
Teachers and parents must guide students so they become adults who are worthy of emulation.
Gary A. Negin of Redlands is a professor emeritus of education at California State University, San Bernardino.