Dear Mr. Pichai,
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 with my school-aged daughter. And Google is what’s on my mind.
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. And in many cases, inadvertently misman- aging their education because we don’t have the necessary equipment or knowledge.
The pandemic crisis is obviously real but there is another crisis just as real, just as frightening, and that is an alarming number of us are ill-equipped to take over these home-schooling tasks.
As an example, my daughter’s Title One school (which receives federal funds to meet students’ socioeconomic needs) has around 500 students. More than half of the parents at our school are without income; many speak only rudimentary English and don’t even have a high school edu- cation. Many are single, and struggling immeasurably to teach their children. Many have chil- dren with special needs, obviously without the requisite training to effectively handle their chil- dren’s learning plans. They don’t have school supplies, enough space and most assuredly do not have access to tablets or laptops or even a basic internet connection. I could increase the list ad infinitum.
Mr. Pichai, we need your help. And we need it now.
Look at the facts, knowledgeable sources anticipate that 50-million children, K-12, are now learning at home with parents and caregivers who are without the appropriate resources. But, Mr. Pichai, you and Google have the appropriate resources. You have a choice: To be part of the problem or part of the solution.
An underfunded district in California has undertaken a massive effort to get Google Chrome- books to all its students that need them simply because they can’t afford them. They actually can’t even talk with their teachers. This burden should not be falling on school districts. This is basic technology but so critical. Google, you are sitting atop a gold mine of useful tools that you could develop and distribute that would help students and families across the United States dur- ing this inexplicably tumultuous time. In fact, I venture to add your involvement could actually save families. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s a fact.
I’ve been on the front lines of the educational wars and we are losing this one because we don’t have the proper ammunition. We are out.
According to school officials across this great nation that do provide the Chromebooks to fami- lies, principals worry about next year. They now they won’t see those Chromebooks ever again. Not because people are greedy or bad but because they lack the basic tools to necessitate their
children’s education. So many schools have reached out to Google but to no avail. The situation is not regrettable—it is critical. And you can help.
The Coronavirus COVID-19 has brought this glaring problem to the forefront of our society. One might say that’s a positive development. The problem has been around for years but now it’s been thrown into the stark sunlight of a very cold day.
School closures are going to continue indefinitely. School officials are announcing changes every day about how to reach the students. Some have announced they are going to switch to video learning by April 20, so the last seven weeks of the school year will be conducted using this platform.
We live in a world with an unimaginable abundance of digital and social tools. It is up to all of us to pull together to make this work. It’s up the schools, it’s up to the teachers, it’s up to the admin- istrators, it’s up to the families, it’s up to the students and, yes, Google it’s up to you.
You need young people to use your products and networks to make the profits you enjoy. That’s good. That’s America. But these very same young people will not be properly educated come Fall. They will be lost in a wilderness of ignorance.
As you have intoned so many times before in your core values—your “Ten Things”—that include “Democracy on the web works,” “The need for information crosses all borders,” and “Great just isn’t good enough.” With all due respect, Mr. Pichai, if there was ever a more critical time in Google’s storied history to exhibit these values, it is now.
Jodi Redmond, Ed.M.
Founder, Aureus Prep