The Latest Barrier to Education: Lack of Technology

In her piece for The 74th, Kerry Kennedy argues that access to technology is a necessary linchpin to level the educational playing field, especially in a time of online learning.


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Kerry Kennedy speaking to students at New York City's Hunter College High School. (Ojos Nebulosos Photography)

In developing its public school system, the United States deliberately departed from the traditional European model of channeling students from wealthy backgrounds into rigorous academic tracks and those from the working class into vocational ones.

Instead, as Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz note in their book The Race Between Education and Technology, the aim was to provide universal comprehensive education to every child.

Over the past 200 years, the nation’s public schools have fallen short of that goal on occasion, and the courts have interceded, as in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal” education wasn’t, in fact, equal at all.

Today, another American divide of race and class in public schools has emerged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, one whose presence is likely to remain a fixture even as lockdown restrictions begin to ease.

With schools shuttered from coast to coast, virtual learning is the only option for the country’s 50.8 million public and 5.8 million pr