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NY Times says school COVID closures may be ‘most damaging disruption’ to kids’ education in U.S. history

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The New York Times editorial board penned a new editorial on Saturday stating that the school closures enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic “may prove to be the most damaging disruption in the history of American education.”

The editorial provided a reflection on the “significant” learning losses stemming from keeping around 50 million kids out of the classroom because of the virus, and urged elected officials and the education community to move quickly to heal some of the damage.

The paper came to these points after certain mainstream media outlets supported these same closures. Some media figures have continued arguing they were good decisions.

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California elementary school kids in Los Angeles wearing COVID masks.

The New York Times editorial board composed a new piece lamenting the damage that COVID-19 school closures have done to children. (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

The editorial opened with a dire assessment of what COVID-19 closures did to America’s schoolchildren. It stated, “The evidence is now in, and it is startling. The school closures that took 50 million children out of classrooms at the start of the pandemic may prove to be the most damaging disruption in the history of American education.”

“It also set student progress in math and reading back by two decades and widened the achievement gap that separates poor and wealthy children,” it added.

To compound the issue, the board noted that learning losses “will remain unaddressed when the federal money runs out in 2024.”

As such, this generation of students “will experience diminished lifetime earnings and become a significant drag on the economy,” The Times added, citing economists.

The editorial lamented that school administrators and politicians are not mobilizing the country to meet this issue, noting that combating it requires a “multidisciplinary approach,” starting with “getting kids back on solid ground,” and replacing “the federal aid that is set to expire.”

It also detailed how an “epidemic of absenteeism” is compounding the challenge of rehabilitating these students. 

The board wrote, “students who grew accustomed to missing school during the pandemic continue to do so after the resumption of in-person classes. Millions of young people have joined the ranks of the chronically absent — those who miss 10 percent or more of the days in the school year — and for whom absenteeism will translate into gaps in learning.”

The piece also mentioned how these kids are “also vulnerable to mental health difficulties that worsened during the pandemic.”

Citing the CDC, the Times said, “more than 40 percent of high school students had persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness; 22 percent had seriously considered suicide; 10 percent reported that they had attempted suicide.”

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The New York Times once pushed for the COVID-19 school closures its editorial board recently claimed harmed American K-12 students. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

The editorial concluded, “The learning loss crisis is more consequential than many elected officials have yet acknowledged. A collective sense of urgency by all Americans will be required to avert its most devastating effects on the nation’s children.”

Despite its current concern over the closures’ harm to American students, New York Times reporting in 2020 advocated for school closures despite the risks. 

In a March 2020 piece, the Times wrote, “More and more schools have chosen to close in the past few days, reflecting a growing consensus that the benefits of closings outweigh the harms, especially since many of the harms can be mitigated.”

It added, “The immediate goal is to flatten the curve so that the peak infection rate stays manageable. With better testing and screening, it’s possible to imagine keeping schools open and still protecting families. Failing that, and we in the U.S. have been failing so far, school closures and significant physical distancing are starting to look like the best bet.”

In an analysis piece from August that same year, the Times laid out which parts of the country should safely reopen schools, and which should not. At the time, it advised most of the country to keep schools closed.

However, the Times also made the opposite point. In a November 17, 2020 op-ed, contributing opinion writer Aaron E. Carroll lobbied against closing schools. In a piece entitled, “Are We Seriously Talking About Closing Schools Again?” he cautioned, “Cases have definitely been more common in school-age children this fall. But when schools do the right things, those infections are not transmitted in the classroom. They’re occurring, for the most part, when children go to parties, when they have sleepovers and when they’re playing sports inside and unmasked. Those cases will not be reduced by closing schools.”

Other mainstream media figures, like MSNBC anchor Mehdi Hasan, are still arguing that school closures were necessary and have claimed the same learning loss that the Times is currently lamenting is a “myth.”

As recently as this August, Hasan claimed on his MSNBC show, “Because the myths about children and COVID, that kids aren’t really harmed by it, that school closures were a massive and avoidable mistake, that they caused learning loss and mental health issues, those myths, and they are myths, dangerous myths have endured for so long, become so ingrained, so pervasive.”

Hasan has frequently attacked critics of masking and shutting down schools due to the pandemic. In 2022, he mocked concerns about the ongoing learning loss seen in schools.

“And it kills me to hear so many people pretending to claim they care about school closures or ‘learning loss’ from the pandemic, and weaponizing children for political purposes, while ignoring the 200,000+ *orphaned kids* the pandemic created in America *alone*. Sickening tbh,” Hasan tweeted.

The Times did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. 

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Fox News Digital’s Lindsay Kornick contributed to this report.


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