Online education has plenty of pros and cons. Like everything in this world, rich kids have the advantage over poor children. Online learning is opening up educational opportunities that were unheard of before the turn of the century. Thanks to COVID-19, though, America needs to take a hard look at all online education.

Even if internet service were available to all young people, which it's not, many lower income families simply could not afford the basic costs. Consequently, a large portion of poor city kids would not be able to study from home, and would have to depend on public library facilities, which would defeat the need for social distancing. Thanks to Lake Region, high speed internet is available to rural residents who can afford it. But not everyone can afford their service either.

Large corporations have been holding extremely effective online training classes for 20 years. Entire systems have been developed for those companies at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. It is common for a senior technical writer to earn $100,000 dollars or more per year just to develop online training courses. Presently, Oklahoma is totally unprepared for the high cost of developing adequate online educational systems and would be forced to turn to outside sources. Moving to online programs without proper funding and development could have devastating results on an entire generation.

Make no mistake, developing online education is hard work and requires highly intelligent, well-trained computer experts who are also excellent instructors. Teachers and former teachers with computer science degrees often make the best online developers and trainers, but a simple teaching degree is woefully short of the expertise needed to design and implement worthwhile training. Consequently, online education will eliminate most present-day teaching positions. Probably, 75 percent of those teaching two years ago would be out of work if online education became the norm. The best, most experienced teachers will find themselves looking for early retirement or a new line of work. Teachers know this. Most politicians are probably not smart enough to realize what online education will do to the teaching industry and the American lifestyle.

Online classes will virtually eliminate physical bullying, but it will likely increase cyberbullying. It will also eliminate the social interaction kids get from attending a real classroom. Social interaction is often more important than hard skills, such as math or grammar; adults without grammar or math skills can survive quite well in society, but a generation without social skills could be catastrophic. Online and video classes would also eliminate school sports, closing doors to kids looking to turn athletic prowess into scholarships and prestigious jobs.

If kids no longer went to school, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and other staff positions will cease to exist. Corporate America generally employs one secretary for every 100 employees, sometimes the ratio is as high as 1 to 500. But losing cafeteria workers would have the worst impact on poor students. Without public schools, free or subsidized school lunches (and breakfasts) would cease to exist, and those programs are the only meals available to some children.

Students who see the value of education and want to work hard for their futures, will, through online education, far surpass their less motivated peers, which will widen the gap between educated and non-educated adults. On the flip-side, kids who have no interest in their own education and only want to disrupt classes and prevent other students from learning, will find themselves totally shut off from the rewards of education. Any present-day teacher can attest to the chaos created by troublemaking students.

Mark Stepp is a retired senior technical writer and former newspaper reporter/editor. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and a graduate of Northeastern State University with a BA in education and journalism.

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