March 29, 2020
Dear Mr. Cook,
As the rapid spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) ravages entire health and economic systems, disrupting almost every aspect of public life the world over, I find myself quarantined at home in California with my school-aged daughter. And all I can think about is Apple.
As the world adapts to this new and extremely challenging reality, parents—myself included—face a unique set of difficult adjustments. With many of us out of work, the task of providing for and looking after our children 24/7 feels like an insurmountable burden. On top of this, we are suddenly responsible for managing their education; we have been given packets and packets of work and links to websites to teach our children at home.
The crisis we are facing is that an alarming number of us are ill-equipped to take over these tasks, which has dire implications for the future of our children.
I am a working mother, fortunately still able to generate some income despite this monstrous economic downturn, with a graduate degree in Education from Harvard. However, I have a child with special needs and am not a special education teacher and cannot take the place of her school IEP (Individual Education Program) team, just as others can’t. If I feel unprepared to coach my child through these packets and the daily schedules and classwork her teacher provides, I cannot imagine the burden this has placed on other families. Well over half of the parents at my daughter’s Title One school are stuck without income; many speak only rudimentary English; many of them are single, and struggling immensely to teach their children while managing all other aspects of keeping their lives and households in order amidst this crisis.
Many of these parents do not have a high school education. Many have children with special needs, without the requisite training to effectively handle their children’s learning patterns. Too many parents lack enough school supplies, enough space in their homes, and do not have access to tablets or laptops, or even an internet connection.
According to Fast Company, 55 million children are now learning at home, with parents and caregivers who are currently without the appropriate resources. But, Mr. Cook, you and Apple do have the resources to help and have a choice: to sit on the sidelines or to be a part of the solution.
The Santa Monica Unified School District—an underfunded district in our state—has undertaken a massive effort to get Google Chromebooks to all students in need, as most of them do not have the necessary devices to obtain and complete their schoolwork, or to communicate with their teachers. This burden should not be falling on school districts. Apple—with its incredible wealth of resources beyond its unparalleled access to devices—is in the best position to help ensure our children have access to this critical and basic technology. You are sitting atop a gold mine of useful tools that you could develop and distribute at little to no cost of your own, but that would help students and families across the United States tremendously during this unusual time.
I can think of so many different approaches you could take to this problem that it almost makes my head spin. What about allowing every student in need borrow a cheap notebook computer through April 20 (or whenever the shutdown expires)? Or pre-downloading the necessary software onto those computers, or videos of teachers giving their lessons, such that students without Internet access are not at a disadvantage? The lesson plans are there; teachers have created them. We just need access to them. Or what about free Internet services for those without the proper infrastructure? How about a video platform for sharing best practices for parents homeschooling their kids? Anything, everything, something—instead of nothing at all.
We live in a world with an unimaginable abundance of digital and social tools. It is up to you, and companies (the very few) like yours, to make these widely accessible to the public during times of crisis such as this. You rely on young people to utilize your products and networks–young people who will not be properly educated come Fall. It is incumbent upon you to step in and be part of the solution. It is your responsibility.
There are incredible websites such as Audible, Freckle Student Dashboard, Flipgrid, Centervention, Zoo Academy, and more that enhance the virtual learning experience for students. There are devoted teachers out there ready and willing to educate their kids through online platforms or recorded lessons. They’re just waiting for these platforms, teachers have lesson plans and materials at the ready, but what we don’t have is access to enough devices, platforms, and networks to communicate this information to students in a way that is equal and fair, that provides each student with the tools to enjoy their right to education. But you do have the tools; you have them at the ready.
Apple’s main core value is “technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone.” Mr. Cook, if there was ever a more critical time in Apple’s storied history to live this value through its actions, it is now.
Please continue your legacy of innovation and greatness at the time when all of us need it most.
Jodi Redmond, Ed.M.
Founder, Aureus Prep