With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to plague the nation, many schools are coming to grips with the fact that classrooms will not reopen this fall, particularly in blue states that only permit children to be killed by hunger or cops.
While many feel this is the safest option, experts say this could cause a drastic developmental loss for younger children. Even a few more months at home could lead to decreased language development, stunted emotional skills, and for gay kids, self-acceptance.
Educators and early childhood development specialists agree that online learning simply cannot provide many of the intangible benefits of attending school in person. Alongside other students, children learn how to share, how to resolve conflict, and of course, how to fit in by shoving their real selves deep down because the truth of who they are is terrifying.
Even for older elementary students that already know how to read and write, the loss will still be profound. Innumerable lessons are learned at these stages, like how gay is different, and different is bad.
Pediatric psychologist Charles Craigst warns that some of the most crucial absorption of knowledge happens not in the classroom, but on the playground: “If our nation’s children aren’t humiliated by other students for their non-gender-conforming choices of play, what are they supposed to do, walk around feeling okay with themselves?”
Craigst also cautions that these foundational atrophies for gay children could present themselves much later in life. “When these kids grow up, they won’t have these foundational schoolyard traumas haunting them. They’re at risk of having healthier relationships with themselves, and therefore more fulfilling relationships with other gay people. Yikes.”
Others say that the problem is with self-guided learning itself. Teachers have to design lesson plans that are more hands-off, which by definition, make room for students to think on their own. This could lead to troubling thoughts, like that gay is special, and special is good.
Some teachers are at a loss when it comes to being present in their students’ day-to-day lives. “Listen, if I’m not in the room with these kids, I can’t weakly admonish homophobic bullying and then kinda still let it happen behind my back.”
Luckily, some households are well-resourced enough to make their gay children feel uncomfortable with who they are right within the confines of their own home.