“School starts in 5 minutes” I tell my sons. Since the stay at home order went into effect, I’ve been their new teacher. And I’m still in my pajamas. These last weeks have been challenging, to say the least. The novel, unprecedented COVID-19 virus has changed us all: upended our normal routines, disrupted our daily rhythms, and altered the way we work, relax, and socialize. As the weeks pass, we adjust to the new normal. Albeit with a bit of grumbling.We adapt as best we can, because that’s what humans do.
The challenges are more daunting for those of us with school-age children. With schools closed, we meet a new challenge: we are now personally responsible for the education of our children. We have help, of course, via the internet. Teachers across the country have spent the last weeks heroically re-working their lesson plans for online use, so that our kids won’t fall behind during this crisis.
All good, right? Not so fast. It’s difficult to access online resources without high speed broadband connectivity. Many have no connectivity at all. A study published last year found that 31% of U.S. homes don’t have high-speed internet access. That works out to roughly 100 million people. Without broadband connectivity, the children in 3 in 10 of U.S. households will have significant difficulty accessing online learning materials. Many of them will fall behind, and some may never catch up. It’s clear that we need to bridge this digital divide, and fast. Universal broadband internet access, regardless of location or income, is now crucial to our children’s future. It’s going to take a lot of collective political will to make this happen, but we must. Because every child deserves an equal shot at pursuing their hopes, dreams, and ambitions.
Here at KW Works, we have partnered with local educators and organizations like the Children’s Literacy Network in an effort to develop accessible, online, educational software for the next generation. But unless we can guarantee each and every child has access to these new tools, success will be limited. So, our humble plea: let’s get busy. Let’s urge our representatives at all government levels to close the digital divide and bring the benefits of the internet age to all Americans. Our kids are going to have a lot of challenges in this new era: getting a good education shouldn’t be one of them.