“Appalling and Unacceptable”

Weighing the Cost of the Covid Lockdowns

As the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, the costs of the pseudoscientific lockdowns are now being felt all across the globe: economies wrecked, livelihoods lost, and now we’re seeing signs of a lost generation of young people. A new report published by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) has revealed that schoolchildren in the United States have fallen behind by almost a year in core subjects such as math and reading as a result of mass school closures and other draconian pandemic measures.

The study, which examined a representative sample of 4th through 8th graders, looked at how locked-down children performed in comparison to students of the same age before Covid. About one third of locked-down pupils didn’t meet the lowest reading benchmarks. Furthermore, the report shows there was a steep decline in math skills as a direct result of the lockdowns. Commenting on the results of the study, Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education said, “I want to be very clear: the results of today’s nation’s report card are appalling and unacceptable…. This is the moment of truth for education. How we respond to this will determine not only our recovery but our nation’s standing in the world.”

The report showed an 8-point decline in core learning objectives. To put things in perspective, a 10-point decline represents a full year of learning lost. These highly alarming revelations are the direct result of abrupt transitions to online learning, as well as the highly disruptive social distancing measures implemented over several semesters. What’s more, the same report revealed that the longer the pupils were engaged in online learning, the more they fell behind. Educational psychologists have long known that kids who read poorly in elementary school are far more likely to fall behind and drop out of full-time education in later life. Michael Petrilli, President of the Education Reform-Focused Thomas Fordham Institute responded to the report with these sonorous words: “There is a very high risk that - probably especially for the older kids that have gone through this - that there are going to be gaps in their education that just never get filled.”

As a long-time academic tutor to high school students, I have also seen the insidious effects of lockdown in my own work. For example, 2022 has seen a significant uptick in the number of students requesting private tutoring, as significant gaps in their subject knowledge in maths and the physical sciences have come to the fore as a result of wholly inadequate remote digital learning. Subject knowledge normally consolidated at these stages of learning were either unknown to them or, at best, poorly understood.

An Epidemic of Depression

The NAEP report comes fast on the heels of another disturbing study conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of Birmingham UK, which showed an enormous increase in clinical depression among first-year undergraduates during the two-year lockdowns. Four hundred and thirty-four students completed a questionnaire to assess depression, anxiety, and mobile phone addiction. A total of 216 were assessed in 2020 and a further 218 in 2021. The study, published in the open access BMC Psychology Journal, found that incidences of depression increased from 30 percent in 2020 to 44 percent in 2021.

Interestingly, the same study showed a strong correlation between mobile phone addiction and depression, increasing from 12 percent in 2020 to 21 percent in 2021. Instead of enjoying new and culturally rich experiences in vibrant social settings, many students suffered the physical and psychological effects of loneliness, isolation, and depression after having to sit for hours on end in front of a computer screen taking dictation from academics on Zoom. Experiences normally enjoyed during university life were simply inaccessible to the vast majority of college students.

From Despair to Joy

All of these revelations make for depressing reading. Secular psychologists, of course, will advance their own theories about the data, but as I see it, it’s the very secularization of all aspects of life that may lie at the root of so many young people falling prey to the demons of depression, anxiety, and mobile phone addiction. As our once strong Christian nations surrender to materialist and humanistic philosophies that rob life of any transcendent meaning, young people are much more likely to grow up in homes woefully devoid of any knowledge of God, leaving them more susceptible to all kinds of emotional and psychological maladies.

Yet God feels deeply for us and loves us enough to bring light to whatever darkness we might be in. After all, Jesus, our great high priest, paid the ultimate price for us by shedding his precious blood on a Roman cross. As the psalmist declares, “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

is working on a new book, Choosing Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, which will be published by Springer Nature in late 2023.

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