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The Coronavirus Revolution: How Social Distancing Can Change America for Good

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of the novel coronavirus that emerged in 2012 (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases via NIH)

The coronavirus crisis is tragic on many levels: thousands of Americans have lost their lives, millions are out of work, and millions more feel cooped up, overburdened, hopeless. Yet the crisis could inspire two revolutions in how Americans work and how they educate their children.

Businesses across the country are directing their employees to work from home. This massive experiment in remote employment will produce a great sorting of two kinds: it will show which jobs cannot be done from home and it will teach many workers how much they value the office environment.

Many employers require their workers to come into the office when their work can easily be performed at home. A wide range of information work can easily be performed at home, so long as an employee can stay motivated and can have the necessary tools available at home. The coronavirus crisis will likely teach employers that far more jobs can be done from home than they imagined. This will likely inspire innovative thinking about the nature of remote work — and it will likely encourage more employers to let employees work from home if they wish.

On the flip-side, many employees who truly appreciate the office atmosphere will learn that they cannot stomach working at home. It is hard to erect barriers between personal life and work when an employee chooses to work at home, and many remote workers find the experience rather lonely — especially when stay-at-home orders preclude social interaction both on and off the clock. As many employers learn the value of remote work, many employees will learn the value of the office.

The coronavirus revolution at work may lead more employers to allow employees to work from home and it may lead many of these empowered employees to choose office work for their own reasons. The crisis has forced the employment process to become more flexible, and that can end up better for both parties.

A coronavirus revolution may also come to family life. As children are forced to stay at home with their parents, so many schools have failed to provide a curriculum for students to keep learning at home. This failure of schools is not to be celebrated, but it does provide parents with an opportunity to take the lead in their children’s education.

Resources are available for parents who have been left in the lurch. CoronavirusHomeschooling.com provides curricula and advice, as well as a homeschooling community to help parents in this confusing time. Sam Sorbo, an actress, radio host, mother, and homeschool advocate, has also launched a series of videos to encourage parents on the homeschooling path.

“Maybe this crisis is an opportunity, I certainly hope it is,” Sorbo told PJ Media in an interview this week. While homeschooling is difficult, Sorbo insists that it is not as hard as parents think, and she encourages parents to realize that they are far more competent in educating their children than they think they are.

The mother insisted that parents have been indoctrinated to think that they don’t have what it takes to teach their children. “It took me more than three years to wrap my head around just how brainwashed I had been,” she recalled. “I felt incompetent just because I was taught I was incompetent.”

“We grow up thinking that’s what we have to do with our kids. You’ve been taught that it’s hard because that’s job security for the educators,” she said. She said she did not mean to minimize the hard work of educators, but she insisted that parents can teach their own children. Meanwhile, the education system has been failing children, with even top graduates needing remedial lessons in math at the college level.

Homeschooling is a real option, and the coronavirus has forced parents into a homeschooling trial by fire. The coronavirus revolution may teach parents that they truly do have what it takes to educate their children at home. It may also teach them just how essential school really is.

Schools also have an opportunity to learn from this crisis. Many have taken classes online — especially at the college level. Perhaps this crisis will lead to more variety in educational opportunities as schools adapt to a mandated social distancing strategy.

The coronavirus crisis has already encouraged other forms of remote interaction such as telemedicine. Many doctor’s appointments can be handled remotely, and this crisis should teach lawmakers and providers the value of remote options.

In each case, those who control the system need to learn the value of flexibility. If more parents choose to homeschool because this crisis showed them it was a real possibility, state and local governments should make homeschooling easier. If employees find themselves to be more efficient when working from home, employers need to make that an option after the crisis is over.

The coronavirus revolution may optimize work, education, and home life. While the crisis is truly a tragedy, Americans should take the opportunity to learn from it, as well. Flexibility can make work and education more efficient and fulfilling, and those in positions of power should allow a more flexible lifestyle after the crisis is over.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.