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COVID-19, public schools, and the death of sales resistance

By Douglas Marolla

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.

The hardest thing for any salesman to overcome is sales resistance. But what if you could eliminate all sales resistance? Public school, particularly in the black community, accomplishes just that. Over the past two years, the damage that’s been done is greater than expected.

Now that we’ve gotten through the Novel Coronavirus era, our students have barely a wisp of intellectual fortitude. For two years, our students in New York were able to log on, get credit, and pass not only all their classes, but also their New York State Regents exams. Because the “virus” was deemed by the upper echelon educators to be so traumatic, our students were not required to sit for any of their major subject state tests. Nor were they pushed at all during “remote learning,” as we were instructed to go easy on them.

Our educational overlords determined that the level of pandemic trauma was so great that academic integrity was unnecessary.

Things were so “traumatic” for our students that they would log on to Zoom and sleep. Or play the game “Among Us.” Or go outside. Most simply logged on to their computers and Zoom, rolled over, and went on their phones. Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok were going full speed. 

We were told not to have our students put the cameras on during Zoom calls (to see if anyone was paying attention) because it was a “traumatic time” and our kids from modest families might be embarrassed. So, no cameras. For over a year I looked at a grid of names in black backgrounds and tried to teach. My method was to run things like a live stream. I have no idea if it worked. I also have no idea how many students tried to learn. If you knew you were going to get a passing grade for simply logging on, how hard would you work if you were 15-years-old? Be honest and brave in your answer.

We did have plenty of passing grades, however. Here at the high school, the 9th graders who were pulled out in March of 2020 are now seniors. Practically the entire graduating class has not had to do any work to get their major exam credits or class credits. Asking for standard levels of work is a non-starter. Assignments that used to garner a page of thought get a few sentences. When asked to discuss a topic out loud, our 18-year old’s flounder about horribly.

When you’ve been asked to do practically nothing, then asked to do something, it doesn’t work. We wouldn’t ever think of doing such practices with sports – but with academics it was acceptable. The active literacies – speaking and writing – are at all-time lows. Even in the sports world, and we are a top basketball school in New York, the passionate arguments about which teams and which players are the best are not to be heard. Remember how the guys in the back of the class, if it ended 5 minutes before the bell, would argue loudly about the teams they loved? Not anymore. Explanation takes effort, after all. It’s that bad.

And yet, there is a more sinister aspect of the Novel Coronavirus era. Sales resistance, as I mentioned above, is gone. The visceral sense of being sold a bill of goods is gone. The tripwire sensitivity to nonsense has been obliterated. Our teens have been engineered to think on only a surface level. The questions they come up with are basic.

Because I have lesson plans from the past decades (I’ve worked in schools since 1996), I run some of the more thought-provoking material by students and… nothing. The job of public school was always to teach young people how to follow orders and be good employees. Perhaps the only American institution to succeed in its mandate is the public school system – if we are being honest. 

Anything put out on the phone or on social media is gospel. There is little to no pushback. If it’s on TikTok, it’s real. If content is in a short, easily digestible chunk, it’s fine. Anything needing work or a good round of questions is out – and out big.

So, when you see young people buying into clownish fads, you now know why. When you hear something ahistorical and brazenly inaccurate being repeated and believed by someone at the high school level, you know why. If you’re wondering if “you’ll own nothing and be happy” might have a chance, or “build back better” might get a foothold, the answer is an unequivocal YES. 

There’s no resistance. The dumbing down that occurred from 1972 – 2021 was bad enough. Now that the Covid era has worked its dark magic on black teenagers, they will fall for everything, as they haven’t had to stand for anything.

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Douglas Marolla

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