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Children suffer strongly from homeschooling in Lockdown

by Finn Jagow and Bernd Schoepe Wednesday, Jan. 05, 2022 at 3:36 PM

The situation, which UNICEF described as a "catastrophic education crisis" at the beginning of March, continues. In addition, errors, stereotypes, misjudgements and trivialization prevail in the discussion about children, Corona and digital distance learning.

Study shows: Children suffer strongly from homeschooling in Lockdown

by Finn Jagow and Bernd Schoepe

[This article published on May 23, 2021, is translated from the German on the Internet,]

The situation, which UNICEF described as a "catastrophic education crisis" at the beginning of March, continues. In addition, errors, stereotypes, misjudgments and trivialization prevail in the discussion about children, Corona and digital distance learning. That is why here is a necessary postscript on e-learning in the Corona crisis and its consequences. By Finn Jagow and Bernd Schoepe.

"You can also just close your eyes – a great human ability, and still almost unrecognized, not to see something that is in front of your eyes, because you don't want to see it."

Joseph Weizenbaum, Course to the Iceberg. Die Verantwortung des Einzelnen und die Diktatur der Technik, Munich / Zurich 1987, p. 31.

"Education must be a priority in health crisis response and reconstruction plans."

Audrey Azalou, UNESCO Director-General, told AFP.


1.1 Pedagogical interpretation of the child and youth lockdown

On 21 March 2021, we published – first on the website of the GEW magazine Ansbach[«1] – our study, which we carried out with three classes of the 11th year of two Hamburg district schools on the consequences of distance learning in the second school lockdown. For quick information, we have added the short version of our study results, which we then wrote as a press release, as an appendix to the following text here.

For two main reasons, we felt compelled to continue the evaluation of the results of the investigation into the situation of our students. Firstly, we are now in the fifth month of the school lockdown, which in Hamburg as well as in other federal states still affects a large number of pupils (most of them in Hamburg). This means that the situation that UNICEF described at the beginning of March as a "catastrophic education crisis" ["2] continues. We had to react to this. Secondly, since then we have become even more aware that in the discussion about children["3], Corona and digital distance learning or e-learning in the school lockdown stereotypes, trivializations, a sometimes frightening lack of problem sensitivity and many errors and misjudgements prevail. Together, all this continues to lead to the fact that a "prevention coalition", which we increasingly perceive as depressing, which acts in panic mode, fails to finally show ways out of the educational catastrophe in society and above all in politics. These are, as we will show, more necessary than ever. In this respect, the text can also be read as a cry for help from two extremely concerned educators.

After our observation of the course in corona policy and the measures taken and discussed in January showed that greater uncertainty about the duration of the closure of the schools must be expected, the idea arose to find out more about the situation in which our students have been since mid-December. In the meantime, as can not be repeated often enough, we are in the fifth (!) Month of the school lockdown, which still completely affects most students in Hamburg. And there seems to be no end in sight. Only in the final classes was switched from 15.03. to hybrid or halved classroom teaching (under stricter protection conditions with two tests per week).

A "new normal" has quickly emerged in schools – also due to the great commitment to digitization. In view of our dramatic research results and other, actually unmistakable alarm signs from pediatrics and adolescent medicine, psychiatry and sociology as well as childhood and educational research – which are nevertheless not perceived – we are challenged to radically question this "new normal". For this reason – and because the story continued after our study – we decided on a kind of postscriptum, which we want to be proactively understood.

Here's a simple thought experiment: What would we have said two years ago if we were given the scenario: "Several weeks, even months of school closures due to a "new" virus; There is only contact with the students on digital channels, the lessons are completely converted to online formats", and would have said that this assumption is quite realistic, we should mentally prepare for it?

Would we have thought this possible? Or wouldn't we have laughed in disbelief and thought this was a more or less successful joke? Would we even have been inclined to believe that we would get used to the new conditions at record speed and that everything would adapt to such a dystopian-looking science fiction scenario in the shortest possible time or submit to it? In fact, many colleagues now seem to handle online schooling as a matter of course and see it as such. Of course, on the one hand, this speaks of a professional attitude, which thus proves its suitability for crisis – after initial, above all technically conditioned snaking. A test that, all in all, was passed well. This means that through a great deal of effort, it was possible to largely ensure the digital supply (we speak here for the city-state of Hamburg). This should not be played down.

On the other hand, however, this approach irritates us because it makes the difference disappear, which does not just appear as the difference between the digital and the analogue. How can it be that we (want to?) fit into an arrangement for learning as seamlessly as possible, which ignores all human contexts in which school learning otherwise takes place or, due to its technical character, does not have these contexts in which learning is always socially embedded? The artificiality of the arrangement of communication in every video classroom conference is obvious to everyone. If the "teaching process" there becomes more predictable, more predictable – at the price of liveliness. Interaction mutates into a shrinking form, both the communal nature of the learning situation in the classroom and the presence, the spontaneous, facial expressions, gestures, language, the "idea of the living" in the lessons, which are often experienced as otherwise leaden and infinitely boring (if you can still remember your own school days...). What gives the school itself charming moments of tension to the students, who are not particularly fond of it and perceive school rather as a source of displeasure, and sometimes gives it a surplus of the unpredictable, has disappeared. [«4] Fortunately, it is not so rare in the analogue that this also benefits learning in a loop movement, because it enriches and strengthens the relationship with the teacher as well as the bonds in the class community.

And what happens to teaching and education when the "human factor" is reduced until completely ignored and the company is converted to technical assurance far less of the pedagogical and didactic aspects than of the purely technical content and requirements? [«5]

Anyone who makes an honest effort to give the disruptive experience from the thought experiment the appearance of a "new normal" runs the risk of not being so easily aware of this conversion work (which is currently being done in abundance) that many students can no longer get rid of the impression that e-learning means having to teach themselves everything that "comes along" in the "analogue" school. Only this "self-teaching" takes place under conditions that are by no means freely chosen, extraordinary, even historically unique, in my opinion under highly crisis-ridden circumstancesthat mean a break with all routines of learning and teaching. While in analog teaching, however, the contents are taught, i.e. taught, since teaching in principle (unfortunately not empirically) always means responding to learning difficulties and comprehension problems, the actual clarification process, which leads to learning success, is delegated here by detachment from the common practice space of the "here and now" into the domestic sphere or better "outsourced" – to where everything is currently taking place! This leads to a perfection... of excessive demands! But this remains, which makes everything much worse, out of the focus of the camera. And no one speaks into the microphone. Or: Who sees and hears the social isolation and loneliness that online teaching causes? [«6] And even if he saw something in this "new normal," did he feel (co-)responsible for it? [«7]

The faster we get used to the format of online learning – since it is also repeatedly recommended to us as the most promising future model for the entire education system or its progress ["8] – the lower the time and attention quantum to track down everything that is decoupled and lost by this artificial learning setting. However, since e-learning is propagated louder than ever as a solution to the problem in and for the crisis and beyond – when it is actually only a stopgap[ «9] – we lose the sense of what has been disconnected and lost through the disruptive through which our actions are realigned. However, this does not dissolve, but rather adds up on the back of our digital bustle to the heaviest mortgage of the biggest education crisis to date[10], into which we have fallen through the corona measures policy and in which there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. Rather, with the renewed amendment of the Infection Protection Act, there is a threat of further tightening.

In one way or another, these thoughts gave up the latent structure of meaning for the plan, which, as I said, arose in January and about which we – two colleagues who had been friends since our student days – were able to communicate very quickly.

1.2. The study's approach and its results in the light of a failed policy

In February – under the impression of this ongoing uncertainty, which on the one hand gives life and one's own actions something floating unreal, on the other hand something irrevocably heavy, immovable – due to the fact that we as educators are denied any influence at all on the duration and design of this time – we then designed the questionnaire and gave it to the students: inside sent. From the outset, the project was intended as a voluntary invitation to self-awareness and reflection. An opportunity to break out of the hamster wheel, which was shifted from the school to the domestic area and accelerated, as it were. We wanted to counter the paralyzing situation we face on a daily basis. That is why the emphasis on the extracurricular nature of this study was particularly important to us. Under no circumstances should the impression be created that participation in it is a "compulsory event" or quasi an "extended homework". Our aim was to address the students holisticallyin order to pave the way more easily for them to take a holistic position on e-learning in the context of their entire life situation (i.e. not fixated on the role of the pupils, in which the teachers' expectations are always anticipated in the reactions and answers). [«11]

This holistic approach is also sorely lacking in the current discourse on the question of an appropriate concept of health. For an appropriate concept of health, entirely in the sense of the WHO["12], would have to be used as a guideline for government action in the fight against the pandemic in order to be able to legitimize the consequences to be derived from the concept of health at all. In particular, we miss the systematic consideration of human rights, especially those of the most vulnerable groups (children and the elderly), which, with health protection based solely on COVID-19, has placed politics in an increasingly unbalanced position with respect to numerous other, conflicting needs for protection that would have to be weighed against each other in a democracy. In the eyes of many citizens, this imbalance is making politics increasingly inconsistent and thus less credible. After all, the coronavirus and the declaration of an epidemic state of emergency do not summarily abolish the common good orientation in the political decision-making process.

In view of the missing comprehensive analysis of the general social danger situations, the responsibility diffusion with the political decision makers and the "system relevance" of areas, to which the question of their functional keeping open or (continuing) dysfunctional closing is coupled, an overcoming of the almost manic fixation on the corona infection case numbers - which strictly speaking are only positive tests - and the absolutely set view exclusively and isolated on the SARS-CoV-2 infection event would be necessary. It has long been evident that different groups in society are affected to different degrees by the risk of infection. It would be appropriate to place the particularly vulnerable groups at the center of the policy of measures and to develop concepts for them that are as tailored as possible. It is just as clear that the measures cannot be limited - as up to now - to the defense against the virus danger, since for young people there is only a very small risk of becoming seriously ill with SARS-CoV-2.["13] This means that the vulnerability of children is different from that of risk group members, previously ill persons and very old and frail people, but therefore per se must not be given less attention. If the state, in the form of its government, accepts that for more than five months - and including the first lockdown a year ago, even longer - schools remain largely closed, the children's charity UNICEF speaks of the greatest education crisis, and the UN meanwhile warns of a globally lost "Corona generation" of today's under-18s["14], it must be asked which "system" is actually "relevant" for the government? This much is certain: In any case, it is not a system in which the interests and needs, the development opportunities and the aspects of intergenerational justice of children and young people are given priority. For there, from the point of view of sustainability, such serious decisions would also have to take into account the long-term consequences resulting from the consideration or non-observance of this group (a group which - without counting their families / or the number of single parents - still consists of about 14 million people) by today's politics in the overall calculation of the social damage or damage limitation by the measures against COVID-19. In this context, the development argument in terms of inherent law and inherent time must finally be taken into account by policymakers:

"The time factor plays a central role in young life phases. A year in the everyday life of young people has a different social, qualifactorial, physical and personal development dynamic than in adulthood. The consequences of the restrictions in childhood and adolescence are permanently inscribed in the biographical course. Therefore, it is necessary to cushion and compensate for the consequences."["15]

As long as the developmental argument is not taken into account, it must be assumed that the immense problems of children and adolescents will continue to be subsumed under the rubric of "collateral damage"["16] - which is tantamount to their marginalization. This is especially unacceptable because the Federal Republic of Germany, by signing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, has committed itself under international law to recognize the primacy of fundamental rights and protection needs for children and adolescents["17].

For example, the study "Crisis-appropriate children instead of child-appropriate crisis management?" by Michael Klundt, a professor of child policy from Magdeburg, stated as early as June 2020,

"that practically all decisions and measures of politics during this time" (the Corona crisis, note F.J. / B.S.) "have been made in violation of international law and in violation of federal law without giving priority to the best interests of the child. (...) Children would have suffered particularly from restrictions such as contact blocks, exclusion from education, and bans on playing and sports fields. The situation of families had also taken a back seat in the relaxation debate. (...) The needs of children and young people were almost not mentioned at all. They also had the feeling that they were being reduced to their role as students, while almost all other non-school areas of young people's lives were completely ignored. (...) The sparse studies available so far also showed that, with regard to child poverty in Germany, the social gap had widened."["18]

Instead of at least the time after the first lockdown being used collectively by those with political responsibility at the federal and state levels to work through the obvious blind spots in crisis management, the only change after the decision of a second child and youth lockdown was that now largely - with a few exceptions - the supply of online instruction could be established in the individual types of schools.

As mentioned earlier, this can be considered a success. But only if one does not take into account the statements from the studies on the neglect, even disregard of children's rights["19]. In March 2020 it was still comprehensible by the crisis and panic mode, which broke in quasi over night at that time, that the state, due to the missing information and/or scientifically difficult data situation over the danger of the SARS CoV-2 virus, issued general and rigid measures, orders and prohibitions over nearly all ranges - up to those of the corporate structures within the economy. After more than 15 months of the Corona crisis, the second lockdown and the so-called "third wave", it is no longer reasonable, based on a multitude of evidence-based investigation and research results on the virus, its infectivity in relation to different ages, as well as the validated statements on the general risk of infection emanating from SARS-CoV-2, to continue to pursue such a target-ineffective Corona containment policy on the basis of such unspecific, blanket measures, which generates an almost incalculable amount of "collateral damage" in several respects.

As early as January 2021, a panel of experts advising the NRW state government on corona policy, whose members include virologists and medical ethicists, as well as economists, warned:

"The tiresome narrative that this time the crisis could be overcome in the long term by these often all-too unspecific measures is neither factual nor purposeful in terms of the social mood." For that, he said, it is first necessary to "better grasp the structure and dynamics of what is happening epidemiologically. For it is astonishing and unacceptable that still too little is known about infection sites as well as the dynamics of the epidemiological events since the lockdown in spring 2020."[20]

So, while on the one hand, according to Claudia Kittel, head of the monitoring office for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at the German Institute for Human Rights, one allows the rights of participation of children under international law to be ignored in Germany["21], on the other hand, one reduces the lives of children and adolescents to their pupil:in roles and pretends that distance learning is an adequate substitute for further school closures.

However, it is the alarming characteristic of all studies conducted so far on the living and learning situation of children and adolescents under the forced conditions of homeschooling that the psychosocial preconditions of learning are negatively correlated with learning success in 70-90% of all cases. This means that for the vast majority of homeschooled students there is no progress in learning, but rather - depending on the parents - massive regression in learning. 10 - 30% of the students can only maintain their level of achievement, but significantly not improve it["22].

In addition, homeschooling under the conditions of a historically unique inclusion of an entire generation of children and youth is having an increasingly dramatic effect on their mental and physical health.

Meanwhile, the glorifying discussion about the supposed opportunities that "digital education" brings to schools as a savior in the distress of the Corona crisis continues unabated, if only one knows how to use it properly (namely, above all, fully comprehensively, as the pages on the Internet sponsored by the digital lobby want to suggest to the reader). In fact, it brings a cognitive dissonance into the field that seems increasingly difficult to resolve. What additional assumptions have to be made or at least considered in order to get explanatory ground under one's feet here? To this end, the "shock-therapeutic"["23] implementation of digital distance learning must necessarily be seen in the context of the neoliberal restructuring of the school system that has been turning educational landscapes upside down for the past 30 years or so["24].

In addition to the supposed measurability of learning and education - supposed, since learning and education cannot be measured! - unification, standardization, transparency, datafication and centralization are the key terms for this economistic deformation of education. What this amounts to in the context of the role of digitized distance education in the "brave new neoliberal world" was recently hinted at by the Vatican's former apostolic nuncio (ambassador) to the U.S., Carlo Maria Vigano:

"We know that (...) 'distance education' is given with very serious psychological consequences for children and young people. Today, with this operation, the foundation is being laid for the possibility of one day standardizing the lessons offered over the Internet by deciding which teachers may give lessons and what they have to say, and I wouldn't be surprised if this customized form of education soon involves an ever-decreasing number of teachers: a single history professor for all the students of a nation, with a program that is tightly defined and controlled. This is not a distant reality, requiring every student to join online. They can no longer fall back on a teacher at their own school because that teacher has been forced into retirement or removed from teaching as a consequence for not following the orders of the powers that be. Nor should we be surprised if the new 'teachers' (..) become nothing more than artificial intelligences."["25]

That despite these well-founded warnings, the positive image of online learning continues to exist reminds us strongly of what and how a pioneer of computer research, MIT professor and later critic of artificial intelligence development, Joseph Weizenbaum, answered a journalist's question, "But surely it cannot be denied that with the help of the Internet many people far apart can communicate with each other who would not have known each other before?" Except that in the case of homeschooling, one would have to replace the word "friendship" with the words "learning" or "teaching."

Weizenbaum's replica:

"But they're not learning about each other now, either. In the U.S., there are countless projects aimed at getting American kids to connect with kids in Australia or elsewhere over the Internet. They write mails back and forth" (Note F.J. / B.S.: Today they would Skype and maybe send Snapchat videos of themselves) "exchanging ideas. This creates the illusion that American kids are getting to know Australian kids. But it's not. They're not getting to know them. Rather, they occupy themselves with their computers instead of, for example, playing with their schoolmates or local children. There is no human encounter taking place, but a pseudo-encounter."["26]

And, one must add today: Just as online friendships are pseudo-encounters, so is home-based distance computer education. To avoid misunderstandings: This is not to claim that learning (age-appropriate and appropriately guided) cannot be done on the home computer. But it is part of the signature of a crisis that - if, like the Corona crisis, it throws one almost completely back on one's private living environment - the systems of material and cultural family reproduction become unstable, e.g. by job worries among parents, additional financial burdens, double burdens due to the demands of homeschooling and home office (especially in cramped living conditions), worries about children due to lack of education and their falling out of social integration, care and supervision problems with parents continuing to work outside the home, psychologically growing burdens due to continued social quarantine. In such situations, too many life-world conditions stand in the way of learning at home.

Furthermore, it is important to be mindful of the categorical difference between home and school-based learning when evaluating digital distance learning:

"School learning is by its very nature not a technical but a subjective and interpersonal event. Learning at home is not a mere change of place and course, but a completely different educational system with different prerequisites, goals, and forms. While school elementarizes learning processes and objects, develops and unfolds them, guides them step by step and systematically to complex understanding, out-of-school learning - including domestic learning - is immediately much more complex, closer to life, unregulated, chaotic and only 'elementarized' and systematically developed to a very limited extent, e.g. when practicing. This does not give a higher value to one over the other (...), but it does mean (...) that home learning cannot possibly be the mere continuation, prolongation, or substitution of school."["27]

What else has to happen for us to recognize the placebo nature of e-learning? Especially once we have identified the domestic sources of interference that consistently interfere with learning requirements? When will the now broad-based studies that can give us a far more secure knowledge than we had a year ago about the effectiveness of online instruction prior to its widespread use in the Corona crisis get the attention they deserve? For example, the meta-analysis conducted by school educator Klaus Zierer, University of Augsburg, involving 600,000 learners from three nations, demonstrates very large learning deficits:

"The result is clear and not surprising: in all countries studied, school closures with distance learning have led to a negative effect on the part of learners. The decline in learning performance corresponds on average and extrapolated to one school year to about the loss of half a school year. It is thus greater than the duration of the lockdown itself, because they exacerbate the captured learning lags over the course of the school year due to a lack of educational support measures."["28]

In the interest of our children and youth, whose futures are currently being gambled away by policy, we appeal to all those of good will to now finally limit the damage of a policy that has not been thought through and correct the mistakes that continue to define and increasingly negatively shape the Corona containment policy agenda to this day:

"Ultimately, based solely on mass PCR testing (rather than the actual viral threat), an entire generation was collectively traumatized for the first time - outside of wartime. Proverbially overnight, politicians and school authorities in particular (but not only) turned children into "little adults," the object of fear, conjecture, and error."["29]

What has happened since...

Relevant facts, developments and findings that continue to be ignored by politicians

2.1 Ongoing situation in homeschooling: The living and learning situation of our children and adolescents becomes more and more precarious

In the meantime, several representative studies from the time of the first lockdown in 2020 are available, which point out the devastating situation of children and adolescents and the great learning losses due to school closures as well as the desolate psychological situation of students. On the one hand, there is the above-mentioned study in the Netherlands[30] conducted by a team of international educational scientists from Oxford University, which - although the Netherlands is miles ahead of Germany as far as distance learning is concerned - states a hardly existing learning progress and devastating social and economic effects, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, whereby it can be assumed that the situation in Germany is even worse, "[t]he study on the Netherlands took place under the ideal conditions of a lockdown of only eight weeks in spring with a high level of digitization of schools. The latter is not known to exist in Germany," says education economist Ludger Wößmann of the Ifo Institute in Munich["31]. But the Copsy study conducted by the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf["32] also found that children and young people already suffered severely psychologically from the Corona situation in the first lockdown, and currently four out of five of the children and young people surveyed feel stressed. The health behavior of children and adolescents has deteriorated, the diet is unhealthier - meanwhile, newly published statistics indicate that children consume 30% more sweets and 31% of parents say in surveys that their children have gained weight in the lockdown["33] they no longer play sports, do not meet their friends and there are more fights in the families, an increase in problems at school and the proportion of children and adolescents with a reduced quality of life has increased from 30% before the pandemic to 70%, in the second survey period December 2020 to January 2021. In the process, the Copsy study found in another survey in the middle of the second wave that 45% of respondents perceived the second lockdown as even more stressful than the first lockdown.["34]

2.2 Underprivileged children and adolescents are deprived of school opportunities.

However, this survey was also conducted several months ago, and there are currently discussions about a third wave of school lockdowns. It seems important to us to take another look at the situation of the young people we surveyed, which has worsened since then, from the perspective of social-cognitive competence promotion and the consequences of a continued failure to promote the cognitive potential of a certain segment of students. In this context, it is important to note that many of the students interviewed came from a so-called KESS-1 school. This is a student body where UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fiore's statement that "the most disadvantaged children [...] pay the highest price"["35] comes true. The Hamburg Social Index, theoretically based on the sociological theory of capital founded by Pierre Bourdieu, has been in existence since 1996. It attempts to describe the different framework conditions of Hamburg schools caused by the various social and cultural compositions of the students and ranks them on a scale of 1-6, where 1 stands for very difficult, 6 for very favorable social conditions.["36] For the calculation, both students and their parents are surveyed in writing and regional structural data are used. Thus, in addition to the proportion of unemployed or the voter turnout in the statistical area, the cultural capital, for example, with the number of books available at home, the educational qualifications achieved by the parents or the number of museum visits, the economic capital in the sense of income, the social capital in the sense of leisure activities and parental educational aspirations as well as migration information are included in the database.

The schools included in our study are district schools (at which it is also possible to go to the Abitur in nine years instead of eight at the Gymnasien) and have a social index of 1 and 4, respectively. For estimation purposes, only seven secondary schools (all of them district schools) in Hamburg have a so-called Kess factor 1, 12 district schools in Hamburg have a Kess factor 4.["37] Only 7 district schools have a higher Kess factor 5 (all in the well-off districts of Blankenese, Walddörfer, Poppenbüttel, Bergstedt, Niendorf or the reform schools Max-Brauer and Winterhude). The district schools studied can thus be considered representative of the lower and upper segments of the district schools in the sense of the social index. It is noticeable that especially at the district school of the lower social segment the situation gets worse the longer the school closures continue.["38]

As part of the KESS surveys, competency tests in the areas of German, English, mathematics, science and social studies are regularly conducted at schools, and student questionnaires on subject-related attitudes and self-concepts are evaluated. A close look at the results shows that there are serious differences in performance in the urban area between schools, but also within schools. A difference of 15 points indicates a learning gap of about one school year. For socially disadvantaged students, KESS evaluations suggest an interpretation against whose background the results of our study [39] must appear all the more alarming. For example, students at KESS-1 schools are one year behind in spelling and reading comprehension compared to the average of all district schools in Hamburg. In science, the learning gap is even more glaring, with a gap of 30 points, or two whole years of learning. This is a backlog that even district schools have only a few months to make up. And with 25 out of 38 school weeks now not regularly taught, this will have consequences in the course of the last year. In German, well over half of the students only perform in the lower two performance groups. In the natural sciences, three quarters of the students only achieve in the lower two performance groups.

And this is despite the fact that almost half of the students are certified as having above-average or very high cognitive potential by the learning level tests! These are students who, under the conditions of appropriate support, should achieve above-average results. Precisely this support has now been completely eliminated for them for 25 weeks. If we take a closer look at individual students, we can see that they are up to four years behind in their learning, which means 85 out of an average of 146 achievement points. And this with an above-average cognitive potential certified in the same study. It is obvious that students with this kind of achievement gap are unable to "teach themselves things. To deprive them of more than half a year of the three years they have left to prepare for the Abitur, and to close almost all opportunities for personal development, borders on assault.

2.3 Do we accept the traumatization of a whole generation? Brief Phenomenology of the Consequences of the Child and Youth Lockdown

And this drastic injury suffered by this particularly vulnerable group is certainly noticeable from a teacher's point of view, because as the length of the school closures increases, so do the responses to e-mails, messages, or other attempts at contact that are still possible under these circumstances in keeping with the pandemic. Of the almost half of the students in the learning group who are often no longer present during the video conferences, some have at least signed off or excused themselves (more and more frequently, by the way, directly for psychological reasons), but the other half are then tried to be reached via Messenger or other means, only to receive the response in the afternoon at around 4:00 p.m. that they had unfortunately overslept. On the other hand, the work results of other students usually arrive on the e-mail account between 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m., which bears witness to a spreading insomnia and confirms the virulence of dissociation problems and dissociation experiences that already came to light in the study and that must be interpreted as complementary to the loss of any psychological support.

That this is by no means to be regarded as an individual fate or a singular phenomenon is shown to us by the reactions of other colleagues sent to us, in which it is said, for example:

"My distance learning classes involved learning groups in grades 8, 10, 12, and 13. Overall, I have the impression that these classes had only very limited success. On the one hand, more than a quarter (!) of the students in all age groups had repeated problems with the technology, and on the other hand, many students (about a third) openly admitted that they simply had inhibitions about expressing themselves online. It was striking that low-performing students in particular had problems with distance learning, making significantly fewer oral and written contributions than in analog classes. What complicates the situation is the fact that these students not only stagnate in their development, but for many of them a clear regression can be observed. These students were often unable to answer even simple questions when asked and were therefore unhappy and frustrated themselves. For me as a teacher, it was almost painful to experience that complex learning situations, which I can easily simplify with mimic and gestural means in face-to-face lessons, became insurmountable hurdles in online lessons, because we had to turn off the cameras due to the mostly shaky connections. The weaker students did not understand the problem to be solved and then remained silent into the microphone.

However, this result after a year of 'luring around' should not really surprise anyone, because research in the USA showed years ago that especially after the long summer vacations, during which socially weak students hardly receive any educationally relevant stimuli at home, a dramatic drop in performance can be observed among them. In other words, long periods without school jeopardize educational success for socially disadvantaged students. Whether this gap can be closed again by the usual official patchwork (e.g. selective tutoring and remedial courses by little qualified personnel) may be doubted."

And also from parents' side the misery is recognized - and suffered through - without a doubt:

"In the media, it is often portrayed as if the digital school is the salvation of education in times of Corona - unfortunately, this is only true to a very limited extent. The alienation, the screen work, the isolation and also the way assignments are given (teachers cannot assess what can be worked on alone when assignments are given instead of lessons and there is no coordination process across all subjects), together with the lack of personal exchange, leads to overwork and excessive demands for many students.

My kids are now at about a 50 hour week. They often work until late at night, and rest must somehow be planned in short phases, if it fits into the workload at all. Mind you - weekends included! In addition, there is a bombardment of messages about homework, zoom conferences, etc. that pop up at any time. That would make even some adults go weak at the knees. It seems to me like a preemptive professional management activity, where in some companies you also have to hand over your humanity at the gate."[40]

Whereas the problem for students of sheltered, materially well-equipped homes with a larger living space arises more in the form of increased pressure to perform and additional enormous stress, which is distributed almost equally among children and parents, and the homeschooling requirements force the entire well-rehearsed practical life ensemble into the permanent "fast lane" of significantly increased pressure to perform and stress, students from less privileged families do not make it: inside from less privileged families no longer manage to participate in the distance learning offered because they have capitulated - without or with too little support - to the demands.

But they also do not necessarily, or only very sporadically, come out of their shells with cries for help, saying that they don't know what to do at the moment, that everything feels monotonous and endless (dissociation of time experience), that they have had the same feeling for three months (monotony) and that everyone around them feels the same, that it makes them sad to see what has become of their lives (depression), and so on. Those who manage to properly withdraw from distance learning because they lurch from one mental crisis to another are almost among the lucky few. Others are barely reachable, either by the school's counseling service or by the school itself. Of course, there are also a few who continue to cope with the situation or have come to terms with it. But overall, the situation for at least half of the students is increasingly desolate and there is no relief in sight. In particular, the lack of any prospect of any improvement in the situation is a source of concern for most of them.

However, with regard to the (comparatively few) students who do not suffer through homeschooling as a never-ending malaise, but in some cases even perceive it as a liberation, or at least personally as a relief, it must be said that these are in particular students who have already shown school-avoiding behavior and thus seem to have found in homeschooling a refuge for their souls, which are tormented by school fears, who are able to cope well with learning alone and at home, and who may even be able to improve their performance. However, in the future, when schools inevitably reopen, they will have to struggle particularly hard with their fears and problems, which will then flare up again all the more strongly. School refusal among introverts and students suffering from fears and anxiety disorders will become a huge issue, which will occupy school psychologists and therapists even more than is already the case. The long school closures and a correspondingly later return to school can have far worse consequences for these students than if they had stayed in school all the time, as initial studies also indicate["41].

2.4 Persistent irritations and our initiative as a response attempt

The results of our study, which we evaluated and presented in the text "E-Learning - Zu Risiken und Nebenwirkungen fragen Sie...?", are admittedly only non-representative results of a numerically small sample. However, they fit seamlessly into the overall picture that has meanwhile emerged through "professional" scientific studies. Their negative findings therefore did not encourage us to go back to business as usual after publication. After all, the people affected are our students. And the longer the student lockdown lasts, the more we ask ourselves: Where is the outcry of our colleagues? Where is the initiative of the teachers' unions?

Do we really have to believe that what an old GEW member wrote to us in response to our criticism is a gestalt interpretation of the prevailing attitude among teachers?

"I think that many teachers, according to my observation, quite like to act in distance teaching, at least that is how it is confirmed to me by many GEW members. They are at a distance, they don't have any disciplinary problems, they don't have to respond to the students individually in class and they don't have to differentiate. Digitization yes, if you can learn quickly and easily and thus have less to do..."

We shy away from adopting this reading, however, because it would mean admitting the notion that many teachers might be willing to accept the alienation of this learning situation insofar as it benefits their own convenience.

Relatively soon after the publications, we felt the impulse to continue. We agreed to write e-mails to the media and the parties to draw attention to the need for swift action. We also tried to contact the teachers' unions DLV and GEW.

We appealed to the spokespersons for school and education policy in the parliamentary groups of the SPD, the Greens, the CDU and the Left Party to finally place the concerns of children and young people at the center of political decisions in the discussion about the Corona measures.

We also proposed specific steps to achieve this:

School politician:s in City Hall should advocate for the school board to have the psychosocial consequences of the school lockdown studied and to present an ad hoc plan to support those students who have been almost or completely "cut off" from distance learning.

Public hearing on this issue in the School Committee with stakeholders and experts.

Suspension of performance assessments, grading, and final exams until semi-regular face-to-face instruction is restored for all grades.

Revision of the regulations on distance learning, so that in the special, often precarious psychosocial situation in which the students find themselves as a result of the ongoing lockdown, real care is taken to ensure that the psychosocial stresses do not increase further, but are reduced in the interests of the child's well-being.

Of the media in the Hanseatic city, only the "Hamburger Morgenpost" reacted quickly and published a very informative report on our study within a few days["42]. After all, the Hamburger Lehrerzeitung (hlz), the membership magazine of the GEW in the Hanseatic city, also promised us a publication in its next issue.

Belatedly, we realized that we had not initially thought of one group at all, namely, of all people, the children and young people. This could not be a coincidence, but reflects a central problem in the whole perception matrix of the school lockdown. The groups most affected by the measures are the least likely to be heard in the public debate. As a result, we wrote an e-mail to the Schüler:innen Chamber, but unfortunately there has been no response to date.["43]

2.5 The (re)silencing of our children and the "keeping quiet" of the media

It was only in March of this year that a spontaneous action by Berlin high school students, who made entries on a padlet (digital pinboard) about their mood after months of school lockdown["44], succeeded in generating some national attention. Only after that, it was reported, would "a school psychologist have taken care of the teenagers."

Unfortunately, the media did not stay on the subject. The few articles that have appeared on the subject, for example in the "Hamburger Abendblatt", all report only on the children and young people and mainly allow politicians and "education experts", and at best "child protectors", to have their say. But not the children and young people themselves, they remain conspicuously silent, although the Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it mandatory for them to be heard in such cases, even before measures come into force.

Therefore, we would like to reproduce here at least, representative of many more original testimonies that get under the skin, three documents of despair from the Padlet collection["45]:

"I have headaches and panic attacks every day. Please this must stop quickly.

"I don't get tired. I can't sleep. I have no energy. I want to sit next to my classmates and communicate with the teachers face to face. Please."

"NO teacher was gracious with any grade, or rounded up. Absolutely nothing was taken into consideration."

2.6 On the reaction of the politicians

As far as the reactions of the parliamentary groups in the Hamburg parliament that were written to are concerned, a brief paragraph is sufficient for the governing parties, the SPD and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen.

The SPD did not react at all.["46] The Greens sent us an e-mail from the personal assistant of the spokesperson for school policy, which essentially contained only self-praise about their policy and otherwise made a mockery of the idea of citizen participation that the Greens like to propagate (tenor: thank you for your unsolicited participation - "we'll take it").["47]

The opposition parties CDU and Linke, on the other hand, listened to us. The CDU announced us in an email of the school-political spokeswoman Birgit Stöver to use itself for a public hearing to the situation of the Schüler:innen in the Lockdown.

The parliamentary party leader of the Left Party, Sabine Boeddinghaus, invited us to present our study and positions in the state working group for school and education policy of her party and to discuss them with the LAG members. The event is still pending.

2.7 The reaction of the trade unions

We also received an invitation to an online conference with GEW board members. GEW chairwoman Anja Bensinger-Stolze answered promptly. It is all the more incomprehensible that we have not heard anything from the GEW again, despite inquiries on our part. From the German teacher federation we received to date no answer.

Regrettably, it is therefore only possible for us to express our surprise at the positioning of the GEW in this text. We would have preferred to do this in person, but the silence of the GEW unfortunately leaves us no other choice here. In November, the Hamburg GEW Executive Board still wrote in "hlz" - magazine of the GEW Hamburg:

"We admonish the Senate to involve the Bürgerschaft more strongly in the fight against the Corona pandemic, in order to place the acceptance of the drastic measures among the population on a broader basis of legitimacy (...) The current development is problematic for democracy, the cohesion of society and general health protection."["48]

Currently - in the press statements on the amendment of the Infection Protection Act § 28 - one reads nothing more of such concerns. On the contrary: although the incidence value is not suitable (as a sole value certainly not!) to make scientifically reliable statements about the existing risk of infection["49], the GEW supports the control of the political Corona measures and the newly planned, constitutionally highly problematic[50] amendments to the Infection Protection Act to continue to depend on this false, arbitrarily manipulable measured value. Even more: If the GEW had its way, the (arbitrarily set) incidence value for school closures would be tightened even further than in the government bill from 165 to 100 - a scandalous process, which in our opinion shows how much the discussion of health protection is getting into ever more irrational waters.["51] We find it particularly shameful that the rights of millions of students are not worth a single line to the GEW in these press releases.["52]

3. our proposals

Quite soon after the publication of our study we were asked, what we could point out for alternatives! And although it must be possible to criticize the existing conditions without immediately being forced to make a constructive counter-proposal, we would like to make one or two suggestions here as to how the current plight could be remedied.

3.1 Political proposals:

On the one hand, there are the political proposals that we have already made in the above-mentioned letters to the political leaders, such as a public hearing in the school committee, where interested citizens and especially students can have their say and the school board and senate have to answer questions.

However, it seems more important to us to activate and involve interest groups representing young people and thus also students, such as the German Federal Youth Council, the state student councils, and the youth organizations of the political parties (where are they as representatives of children and young people?) with the aim of holding a children's and young people's summit at which the blatant violations of children's and young people's rights as a result of the measures taken in the pandemic can be discussed and dealt with, and at which perspectives can be discussed with young people.

In addition, it is imperative that the expertise of pediatricians and child and adolescent psychiatrists and therapists be sought. It is hair-raising that quite obviously only virologists decide on measures for infection prophylaxis. Pediatricians and child and adolescent psychiatrists are in a better position to say what is necessary to finally provide better and more comprehensive protection for the vulnerable group of children and adolescents.

It is also important to cast off the rigid corset of the (forced) notion that everything goes on "normally." It can only be interpreted as a sign of mental torpor or high-level repression["53] to pretend that there is no special situation that requires special measures and a creative, imaginative approach to the situation. This also requires much more voluntarism, flexibility, even a certain talent for improvisation in dealing with the crisis - and the courage to do so! What is needed are truly creative ways out of the crisis (and not the postponement of the Abitur examination by a week and the extension of the processing time in the intermediate school leaving certificate by 30 minutes)!

Since the measures to contain the pandemic massively violate the rights of children and adolescents, while at the same time the inclusion of children's rights in the Basic Law is being discussed - which could also be called hypocritical - a central complaints office (which the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides for) for children and adolescents must finally be created, where they can complain in an uncomplicated and low-threshold manner about disregard and violations of their rights.

In addition, there is a need for analyses and processing of the health (late) consequences of the Corona measures for children (physical and psychological), as well as the establishment of a Germany-wide compensation fund especially for minors for those particularly severely affected by the measures. [54] The establishment or expansion of support programs for particularly disadvantaged students is also part of this.

3.2 Practical suggestions for overcoming homeschooling, which is dangerous to health and ineffective

"To make up for pandemic learning deficits (...) we need to create real spaces for togetherness, after many months of isolation at display and touchscreen. Humans are social beings and can only socialize in community. Therefore, we need to design schools much more as a social living space of togetherness and shared learning, instead of isolating children and young people at computers at an ever earlier age."

Ralf Lankau, What can be learned from lessons in corona mode.

In principle, we advocate an immediate and (evidence-based) overdue return to face-to-face instruction for all students.["55]

In cases of increased infection risks (also in schools), we consider hybrid teaching concepts to be conceivable and justifiable, as long as activating, child- and youth-friendly didactical and pedagogical aspects are placed in the center of their design.

In fact, the current unfortunate situation of monotonous, soulless digital distance learning, which causes depression and other psychological disorders in many students, could be immediately mitigated in its worst effects - if we do not wait any longer - by some very practical suggestions.

We have worked out a number of suggestions (which went quickly and was easy for us because they are pedagogically obvious!) that breathe the spirit of the preceding motto from Ralf Lankau's essay on the consequences of the digital-technological euphoria disenchanted by the Corona crisis (as its reality test or "serious case"). Once again, technology seems to be blocking our view of the manifold reality with its opportunities and potentials.

For example, students, since many have lost their part-time jobs as a result of the Corona measures, could be brought together with small groups of 4-6 young people (via a budget to each school - e.g. for honorary staff), who approach the schools with their ideas about what they would like to/can do with the children and young people. They coordinate their offers with the teachers, who in turn find interested students. These could be offers to explore nature or museums, for sports or interesting hobbies etc. Volunteer work would also be possible, e.g. through the German Sports Association (for this, of course, children's and youth sports would have to be permitted again), the volunteer fire departments, technical relief organizations, youth associations and organizations such as NGOs or music, dance and visual arts groups. With these offerings, students would be pulled out of the comatose commute between bed and laptop and brought back into the sphere of real (educational) experience. They would often gain socialization experiences in the fresh air and in small groups with minimized risk of infection in encounters with other people, and perhaps begin to see the real world with new eyes after this long and, at least in part, traumatic cocooning.

A similar idea, especially for students who are just learning the German language (and who have partially unlearned it during the months of lockdown) are language walks or other educational walks with native speakers. These could be pupils of higher grades or students; here, too, small groups can be set in motion together in the fresh air or in the direction of other suitable places. Also cultural-historical, geographical, political, botanical etc. excursions are possible. Excursions lend themselves here.

The cinemas and theaters have been closed for months. Here, too, events for small groups of students could take place. There is, for example, a canon of films worth seeing published by the Federal Agency for Civic Education. Why not use the time and location here to promote media and aesthetic education for students? Visits to the cinema with half the class should also have a much lower risk of infection than a subway ride in rush hour traffic. Why don't we ask the artists who are particularly affected by the Corona crisis to offer workshops for children in the open air or in large, well-ventilated rooms? Since there is enough money (at least airlines, car companies and other globally operating stock corporations have received plenty of it), something could also fall off for the cinemas and artists:inside, both of whom are in a desperate struggle for existence.

Teachers who want to teach after weighing their knowledge of the risks should be given the opportunity to do so. For younger and healthy teachers, Corona falls into the realm of "general life risk anyway." No pressure should be exerted here, but this can easily be ensured by the civil servant status of the teaching profession per se. This decision could certainly be facilitated by the widespread provision of air filters in classrooms. If all classrooms in Germany were equipped with good devices, this would cost a maximum of one billion euros, experts estimate.["57] A billion that would certainly be well invested in the future of our youth (and the youth is our future after all - ?).

School administration, school managements and also some Kolleg:innen should become aware that the alleged success of doing "lessons according to the timetable" cannot be continued, but that the didactic concepts in the lockdown must be oriented to the needs of the Schüler:innen, if these (and especially the already disadvantaged among them) are not to fall by the wayside. To this end, there should be opportunities for participation and real co-design of the school in all schools, also and especially under Corona crisis conditions. Not the placebo co-determination possibilities of the pre-crisis period, but an actual change of school structures according to the needs of those who are supposed to learn in them and (can) find joy in it. One thing is certain: If the post-democratic conditions["58] and the economistic view of man of the pre-Corona era remain in the schools, nothing will improve in them, but everything can only get worse!

Likewise the educational specialists need promptly additional qualifications in the ranges language and Traumaedagogik, fear therapy, integration, non-violent communication and social learning. Without sufficient accompanying measures for compensation in the pedagogical field, the implemented Corona measures will leave behind considerable, irreparable damage to children and adolescents and produce enormous follow-up costs.

4 Conclusion: The Crisis as the Hour of Decision

We see a dangerous tendency among political leaders and decision-makers to compartmentalize and a worrisome ignorance of empirically falsified knowledge and findings that do not fit into their crisis narrative. Moreover, we see many in society who have been misled by fear and by the media's fear campaigns, and who are deeply insecure.["59]

Why is fear a bad advisor? It is because fear narrows our focus. Instead of us gathering all available information about the situation, our position in it, and consequently all possible actions, we limit ourselves to "recognizing" or reacting to threats. It becomes even more difficult when we are dealing with invisible threats, such as those posed by a virus.

So is fear nonsensical? Certainly not. Fear is vital. Without fear, we would not be able to perceive or anticipate danger at all. But then I can and should use my mind to realistically assess the dangers. If I do not do this, fear paralyzes us instead of teaching us how to deal with it productively by living our lives - aware of the risks. A life-preventing fear is a fear that is dedicated to death. Corona hysteria, in this sense - even if one looks at its consequences, which are still trivially and at the same time frighteningly empathy-less called "collateral damage" - is the more deadly danger than that which can ever come from the corona virus itself.

"The word crisis is derived from the Greek, originally meaning "decision." Thus, the current situation should ideally bring about a positive decision for better regional connectivity in the future" (rather than globalization, which is a major endogenous factor for pandemics, note F.J. / B.S) "more sustainability and concern for one's self."[60]

And with this we should start with the children and young people who are completely neglected in the Corona Lockdown. They are in need of our support! By letting the children be children - and first of all and finally (!) by letting them speak for themselves - we also as pedagogues place ourselves on the side of life and thus against death. This may sound pathetic in the oh-so-cool 21st century, but it is our deeply felt conviction. It is part of the figure of the crisis that we ourselves must decide whether we want to serve life and its forces or submit to what Erich Fromm psychoanalytically decoded as the necrophilic character of society ["61].["62]

"The love of life or the love of the dead is the fundamental alternative that confronts every human being. Necrophilia grows to the extent that the development of biophilia is prevented from growing."["63]

Or, as Michael Hüter has put it and as it should be addressed to pedagogy:

"What children and adolescents so urgently need are people and role models at their side, who do not direct illness and death, but the living and life into the foreground of all their thinking, feeling and acting!"["64]

About the authors:

Finn Jagow (b.1966) and Bernd Schoepe (b. 1965), freelance authors who write on topics related to educational policy and the sociology of education, are colleagues and friends who have known each other since their student days and at that time already developed a great deal of commitment and pleasure in writing sociological term papers together ("The Disappearance of Childhood"). Bernd Schoepe is also a long-time active member of the GEW store stewards' group, former store steward and member of the Hamburg Teachers' Chamber. In their main occupation, both authors teach politics, German and philosophy at Hamburg district schools.



Press release on a study by two Hamburg teachers about their students in lockdown, March 28, 2021:

E-Learning: About risks and side effects do you ask...?!?

Study shows: Pupils:inside suffer strongly from homeschooling in Lockdown

By Finn Jagow and Bernd Schoepe

The renewed and continued school closures in the wake of the SARS-CoViD-2 pandemic, now three months in, prompted us to initiate a study of e-learning during the school lockdown. In the midst of "the greatest educational crisis of modern times" (UNICEF), we wanted to get to the bottom of the special living and learning conditions to which our students are already exposed for the second time by asking twelve questions to a total of three 11th grade classes. So far, the German public has shown little interest in this subject, and the media are only slowly beginning to take it on board.

Many responses exceeded our worst expectations. Overall, we can't help but notice that the impact of digital distance learning on our students paints an even more desolate picture than we had previously thought possible or even likely. And, to avoid any possible misinterpretation, this has little to do with the fact that digitization as a technology still does not work well. More than 90% of the students also perceive the e-learning situation as "stressful" or "very stressful" independently of this: the situation is experienced as a dissolution of boundaries, the day-night rhythm is disturbed, many mention sleep disturbances, there is a diffusion of place and time and strong problems with motivation as well as concentration. In addition, the students struggle against great monotony, many tasks and school duties are postponed, pile up and are finally displaced because they are unable to bring order into their home life and learning. In addition, the way of learning is perceived as deficient, as one finds oneself isolated and thrown back on oneself. The problem of communication with classmates and teachers, which is perceived as non-natural, exacerbates the situation, which is often described as hopeless.

All in all, the problems of rhythm, place and time diffusion, motivation, isolation, monotony, concentration and communication that occur in homeschooling come together and lead to a general attack on the health of our students. The symptoms are structural anomie, dissolution of boundaries, loss of support and orientation, desocialization and experiences of frustration - even depression. It is important to emphasize that a large part of the fears are causally related to the measures taken to contain the infections, more precisely the school closures, and did not arise from a corresponding attitude towards SARS-CoViD-2. In this regard, the question of how long the school closures will continue is of most concern to students["65]. This corresponds with what pediatricians and youth therapists diagnose: A dramatic increase in anxiety disorders, depression, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and even acute suicidal tendencies.["66]

From the information given by our Schüler:innen, the impression must be gained that the lives of these young people have indeed for over three months been largely confined to sleeping (or a state of almost complete passivity, indeed apathy) and sitting or lying in front of electronic devices (partly for school-related purposes, partly for purposes tending to the opposite). What this means for the personal well-being and health of our students can already be seen from the figures for the average duration of media use, which in our sample is ten hours a day (compared to seven to eight hours in the first lockdown)["67]. In view of this dramatic picture and the extremely tense psychological situation as well as the suffering of our own students, we are disappointed that apparently far too few educators are still aware of the dimension of this danger to our children and young people, otherwise they and their associations should have sounded the alarm long ago.

It is striking that with the lockdown, the pressure on most students to perform has not diminished at all, but has shifted in an extremely problematic way into their psychological systems as a demand between self-control and external control (or the lack of balance between both demands) that cannot be adequately dealt with, and has inscribed itself all the more deeply. Instead of schools ensuring that pressure to perform in this greatest educational crisis of modern times is taken away from the children who have to suffer it, a school system that is itself apparently highly externally controlled, trimmed only for performance and achievement, exerts even more pressure on deeply insecure students already "immersed" by the lockdown situation. This pressure threatens to cause permanent injury to students' health.

So when will health experts from other disciplines and specialties, in addition to virologists and epidemiologists, really be heard by policymakers before they make decisions and before new regulations? When will educators, who are (or at least should be) advocates for children and adolescents and primarily have (or should have) the best interests of children and adolescents in mind, make the needs and perspectives of the students, who are almost always isolated and suffering in silence in the lockdown, helplessly trapped in the hamster wheel of digital learning stress and exposed to a general psychosocial overload situation, heard loud and clear? If such negative evidence were still needed: children and young people have no lobby in the "lobby republic of Germany"!

The "great experiment" of e-learning, which began a year ago due to the pandemic, has now been tried out for months on the students in the "intensified" reality test. Even though this experiment can be considered a success for our schools from the point of view of providing digital devices and technology, the results of the study cannot satisfy us from the pedagogical, the learning outcomes as well as the educational effectiveness for our students. Instead, the school lockdown shows us abundantly clear: digital distance learning cannot be an adequate substitute for analog schooling.

Here are the most important individual results of the qualitative - non-representative sample survey on students' experiences with online / e-learning during the school lockdown in keywords and figures:

90% of all students perceive the current situation of the school lockdown as "stressful", every second respondent even as "very stressful".

More than 50% of the students rate their motivation as average, 30% as weak and only 17% as good.

Almost one in two assumes that their grades will deteriorate as a result of the lockdowns.

Over 60% miss their friends, 35% miss doing activities with other people. A third miss sports and normal free time.

60% of students say they have developed anxiety as a result of the actions taken by policymakers to address the SARS-CoVid-2 pandemic.

58% get little or no support at home

69% of students say: the school takes only partial account of the special situation, 24% say: it takes little or no account and only 6.9% say it takes a lot of account.

90% of students:are in favor of being able to return to face-to-face classes as soon as possible, 24% can best imagine hybrid classes (mix of face-to-face and digital distance learning) in the current situation if they are given a choice.

The study on the Internet:

["1] For an overview of important results, see also Hamburger Morgenpost ( of 31.03.2021.


["3] According to the definition of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child used here, all young people under the age of 18.

["4] See Carl Bossard: "Contingency, uncertainty and the unavailable: these three key values are therefore constitutive of everyday school life [...] In the random and unavailable, in that which cannot be planned, lies the contingency of this demanding profession. [...] The open and unpredictable is part of teaching. The creative needs a dash of chaos. That is why contingency is omnipresent in school - as it is in daily life; it can neither be completely controlled nor eliminated. On the contrary, in unplannable situations lie some surprising, valuable aspects of teaching." Carl Bossard, Von der pädagogischen Ungewissheitsdynamik,, 20.04.2021.

["5] Ingo Leipner, in his book "The Catastrophe of Digital Education," summarizes in the current chapter on Corona Time the weak points as they have now become apparent from the homeschooling experience. It calls, apart from the superordinate aspects of the data and personality protection and the danger of permanent monitoring: Hardly switched on Webcams of the Schüler:innen (data protection-legally understandably! ), the underutilized possibilities of the interactive functions of digital learning, the considerable social consequences of homeschooling for disadvantaged students who are overburdened at home, the lack of feedback from students so that teachers can assess how the learning situation actually looks, and last but not least, the lack of human atmosphere in online formats, where humor and personal facets come up short. Ingo Leipner, The Catastrophe of Digital Education, Munich 2020, Ch.1, pp.11 - 35.

["6] A very impressive and humanly touching video that every educator should see: and:

["7] Whoever rashly accepts the state of emergency as the new normality should not be surprised if he is perhaps asked one day whether he really did not see or could not see what happened then. Hannah Arendt, probably the most famous totalitarianism researcher of the 20th century, gave us the following cautionary insight: "Every totalitarian system creates ways of one new normality, not even that of a formal legality." A remark that, in the context of now already 13 months of governing on the basis of emergency laws restricting fundamental rights - which took place through the proclamation of the "epidemic situation of national scope" in the German Bundestag of 25.03.2020 - actually deserved to be heard brightly and to have public resonance in the current handling of democracy. Or - as Roberto J. De Lapuente asks rhetorically on 19.04.2021: "So a little state of emergency our democracy can probably cope, right?" And then continues: "History teaches us that a state of emergency is more of a state of exception than a return to normality. (...) In one way or another, fundamental rights will certainly be reactivated. But what has the deprivation done to the perception on our otherwise vaunted values?" Roberto J. De Lapuente, Exceptionally Without Fundamental Rights,

["8] In the pursuit of which, the complaint goes, we were already so far behind anyway that we now had to undertake a truly breathless race to catch up.

["9] "Even perfect digital learning systems will never be able to replace direct human learning by humans. We need good teachers who work with their classes in a way that creates a spark. A spark of enthusiasm (...) Our education system is far from that in many places." Ingo Leipner, The Catastrophe of Digital Education, op. cit. p. 34.

["10] Around 1.5 billion (!) children have been affected by school closures and lesson cancellations in total so far. For more than 168 million children worldwide, schools have been completely closed for almost a year due to lockdowns caused by the Covid 19 pandemic, according to UNICEF. 214 million children have missed more than three-quarters of their classes, See:

["11] In any case, we made an effort to make this as clear as possible to them in our cover letter and to consciously accentuate this holistic approach, which goes beyond the scope of school experience, in the follow-up questions from the students:in.


["13] Reference should be made to the recent publication of the German Society for Pediatric Infectiology (DGPI) and the German Society for Hospital Hygiene (DGKH) on the topic of hospitalization and mortality from Covid-19 in children. According to the report, as of April 11, 2021, the registry maintained since March 17, 2020, in which pediatric hospitals nationwide report hospitalized children and adolescents with SARS-CoV-2 infections, has so far entered 1259 children from 169 hospitals with their detailed clinical courses: "Approximately one-third of the children were younger than one year, one-third between two and six years, and one-third between seven and 20 years. Sixty-two of the 1259 patients (5%) required treatment in an intensive care unit. Since the start of the registry in March 2020, a total of eight deceased children were reported, three of whom had died in a palliative setting. COVID-19 was identified as the cause of death in four children. (...) The observation now made since the beginning of the pandemic that of the estimated 14 million children and adolescents in Germany and, according to the RKI, a total of 78,537 deaths with and from SARS-CoV-2 up to April 13, 2021, only about 1,200 with a SARS-CoV-2 infection had to be treated in hospital (less than 0.01%) and four died from their infection (less than 0.00002%) should be reason to relieve parents of excessive worries about a severe course of the disease in their children." Ärzte-Verband: Eltern brauchen keine übergroßen Sorgen um Kinder zu haben, Berliner Zeitung, 20.04.2021.

["14] Larger national newspapers, such as the Süddeutsche Zeitung or the FAZ, were not interested in the warning that school closures worldwide were "undoing the (developmental) progress of the past two decades." Instead, the Süddeutsche Zeitung informed its readership on 50 lines that "the Finnish sauna has been declared a world cultural heritage" (21.12.2020).

["15] Sabine Andresen et al, Compensating for Disadvantages of Children, Adolescents and Young Adults. Policy considerations following the JuCo and KiCo studies, Hildesheim 2020. Quoted from Jochen Schirp, Children and Youth and Corona, February 2020,

["16] Linguists have rightly declared the term "collateral damage" the unword of the year 1999. It comes from war reporting.

["17] In its statement entitled "Children's Rights in Times of the Corona Pandemic", the German Institute for Human Rights pointed out as early as May 2020 (!) that "in addition to rights to protection, children also have a right to social contact, social participation, play and early childhood and school education. (...) Although adults are also restricted in their social participation as a result of the initial restrictions," it continues, "for children, however, the particular burden results from the fact that they can be inhibited in their developmental steps or even suffer regressions that they can only catch up with with difficulty." German Institute for Human Rights, Statement on Children's Rights in Times of the Corona Pandemic, May 2020,

["18] Child welfare not considered in Corona crisis according to study,, June 14, 2020.

["19] Statement of the German Academy for Child and Adolescent Medicine, Lebensbedingungen-von-kindern-und-jugendlichen-in-der-pandemie-mit-dem-neuen-coronavirus-sar/ and:

["20] Laschet's Corona experts warn of "new non-specific measures," FAZ, Jan. 19, 2021.

["21] In front of the Children's Commission of the German Bundestag, Claudia Kittel stated in an expert hearing on 09.09.2020: "Restrictions of children's rights, as they were made to fight the Corona pandemic worldwide, must be proportionate. If policymakers do not yet have a sufficient knowledge base, they are required to constantly review the proportionality of the measures taken." In this regard, we cannot identify a single policy review, on a changed knowledge basis (whether sufficient or not), of the proportionality of the school lockdown since its five-month duration for most student:ing.

["22] For example, in the study of the Netherlands, which has a "best-case" scenario for digitization thanks to one of the highest rates of Internet access in the world, the Oxford University research team notes as a key finding "that despite these good conditions, student progress fell significantly, suggesting even greater losses in countries less well prepared for the challenges of online education." It goes on to state: "Students made little or no progress in learning from home, in other words." Co-author Per Engzell: "For children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the effects were even more devastating. The loss of knowledge was up to 50% greater for children whose parents did not have a college education than for children from academic families." Spiegel, excerpt of study. In:

["23] See Naomi Klein: The shock strategy: the rise of disaster capitalism, Frankfurt/M. 2007.

["24] See Bernd Schoepe, Die Effizienzgewinne der Digitalisierung aus pädagogischer Perspektive, "The efficiency gains of digitization must be discussed in the context of a new type of control society that represents an epochal break for schooling and education." In this context, digitalization in combination with "new ideological, conditioning and control instances and techniques (...) plays the role of behavior control, profiling and mental programming (vulgo: brainwashing)" (p.4). "In the establishment of an (...) algorithmically and psychometrically self-controlled learning and control regime lies (...) their actual efficiency gain: In their (...) aiming at the cognitive and the behavioral system control and directly acting influence potential, which after (...) implementation in the socialization instance school shall generally break through socially." (S.19).


["26] Joseph Weizenbaum, Islands of Reason in the Cyberstream? - Ways Out of the Programmed Society, Freiburg / Bonn, 2016, p. 30.

["27] Eberhard Keil, Didaktisierung statt Digitalisierung,

["28] In this meta-study, the learning performance of students from the Netherlands, Switzerland and the USA was evaluated. Despite all the differences between the school systems, a comparison was possible due to similar pandemic measures. Quoted from Ralf Lankau, Was sich aus Unterricht im Coronamodus lernen lässt,, 01.04.2021

["29] Michael Hüter, What we should really protect our children from, (preface), 12.01.2021, from: Michael Hüter, Die deformierte Generation, Wer Kindheitstraumata sät, wird Totalitarismus ernten,

["30] on 10.04.2021

["31] on 04/10/2021

["32] on 04/10/2021

["33] More recent results in Thomas Pany, "Not even pseudosolidarity,", 04/20/2021.

["34] For another 45%, the subjective stress has remained the same in comparison between the first and second lockdown, only 10% feel less stress now than in spring 2020. Copsy study, ibid.

["35] at 10/04/2021.

["36] The stated goals are thus, on the one hand, distributive justice in the allocation of additional resources and a fair possibility of comparing schools of similar social conditions.

["37] According to Bürgerschaftsdrucksache 20/7094 of 03.05.13, the last update of the social index, which however for this year again on the agenda seht.

["38] For the Corona crisis situation, therefore, what Jochen Schirp formulated in his text "Kinder und Jugend und Corona" (Children and Youth and Corona) as follows applies once again to a greater extent: "In view of the existing multitude of studies and practical life plausibilities, it is actually almost somewhat trivial to state that the family environment can contribute in a considerable way to a productive educational milieu - or not." In that case, the class- and milieu-specific determinants as barriers to learning fully impact the home e-learning setting. Jochen Schirp, Children and Youth and Corona, op. cit.

["39] In short form see attached text, Finn Jagow / Bernd Schoepe: Press release on the evaluation of the study on young people in lockdown: "On risks and side effects ask...".

["40] From: Barbara Auen: Open letter "Our school system in general and under Corona conditions", March 2021, p. 1f., in:

["41], 12.04.2021.


["43] It would be the responsibility of the school board, for example, to ensure that the state student councils remain viable in the Corona crisis and that they receive appropriate support. This is not only a question of democratic culture, but results compellingly from the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by the Federal Republic of Germany!


["45] The statements of the Berlin students correspond to a large extent with those made by our students in the questionnaire. We refer here to the long version of our text, in which we have reproduced a number of statements in the students' own words.

[46] It was certainly a coincidence that it took us the longest time to find the spokesman for school policy of the SPD parliamentary group. He was also the very last to arrive.

["47] Cf. the programmatic claim that the Greens proclaim on their glossy pages: "We strengthen democracy. We want more transparency of political decisions (...) We advocate more citizen participation, for all people who live here. (...) Civil society engagement sustains democracy. We want to support it sustainably."

["48] Anja Bensinger-Stolze, Frederik Dehnert, Sven Quiring: "Kein 'Weiter so'!", hlz, Hamburger Lehrerzeitung, 11/2020, p.3.

["49] "Drosten predecessor demands: Vergesst die Inzidenz, nur echte Covid-Faelle zählen", "The incidence says nothing about the actual threat posed by the coronavirus, says an appeal to the Bundestag, signed among others by the former chief virologist of the Berlin Charité, Detlev Krüger. The value is unsuitable to decide on the freedom of citizens."

["50] .de.html?dram:article_id=495536, "In the hour of need, constitutional ties do not stop",11.04.2021. "Ex-Richterbund head 'stunned' by new federal plans, sueddeutsche. de/health/health-berlin-corona-plaene-des-bundes-ex-richterbund-chef-fassungslos-dpa.urn-newsml-dpa-com-20090101-210411-99-159803 Supporting this course is becoming increasingly difficult for us as GEW members!

[51] Since the authors are members of the GEW, we are urged to point out in this context what Tobias Riegel recently pointed out on the Nachdenkseiten with regard to the political confusion in this regard and the highly disconcerting mixture of corona political positions in the media and civil society: "Who would ever have thought" (we authors agree with this!) "that one day individual authors would take a stand against the GEW? ), "that once individual authors in isolated articles of the Axel Springer publishing house would engage themselves journalistically more for the rights of the weakest of the society (poor and children), than SPD, trade unions and LINKE together." And he asks, "How can social democrats, leftists and unions just let this disgrace sit on their hands?" Tobias Riegel, The "Empowerment" and the Droning Silence of "Civil Society,", 20.04.2021.

["52] The two press statements can be found on the page of the GEW Ansbach ( The fact that schools are not "drivers of the pandemic" - although the GEW paints a post-factual endangerment scenario on the wall with its press releases - has long been corroborated by a multitude of evidence-based studies as infectiological/epidemiological findings, to which we repeatedly refer in the text and footnotes. With the completely unreflective approval of even more tests at schools, the GEW becomes co-responsible for the fact that schools, if it goes "badly", will not receive any reasonable opening option until the day after never, because the scare stories of any virus mutations prevent this, if politically wanted. The fact that she at the same time pleads for even more tests in schools shows that she has apparently immunized herself against the criticism that these are far too unreliable and would unrealistically drive up the incidence value even further.

On the questionability of the tests, see: as well as Tobias Riegel, Zwangstests für den Schulbesuch sind abzulehnen,

["53] This can be seen exemplarily in the "success report" of the principal of the Fritz-Schumacher-School in Hamburg-Langenhorn in the "Hamburger Morgenpost", who, according to the "Pippi-Langstrumpf-Principle" prevailing in school and authority politics, presents homeschooling as "problem-free", if one "just continues" as before (lessons according to the timetable!) or pretends as if there were no significant differences between regular and home distance learning, which put a heavy burden on the children. The statement also made there that the children can be psychologically "absorbed by the online lessons", we consider to be extremely questionable. Because already in the normal lessons in the normal schools hardly a child can be psychologically "caught up". How then is this supposed to succeed under the often even more unfavorable conditions of online homeschooling? This statement also contradicts the scientific data already available after the first lockdown, which revealed the problems of numerous negative psychosocial consequences that this lockdown had on children and young people. We suspect that the statements of the principal are rather due to the requirements of the windowdressing: One must look as good as possible on the pseudo-market of schools in the spirit of neoliberal competition, which they perversely have to face and supply each other against all reason. And independently of it, how many problems and concerns there are at the schools with the pupils:inside and teachers:inside actually. nach-stundenplan-trotz-corona-37955142

["54] See also here:

["55] The benefits of spacing rules, cohort formation, social distance, and mandatory masks in schools are doubted by scholars. For example, the pre-publication (2020) of a study by the University of Witten/Herdecke proves that 68% of children aged 7 to 12 years experienced stress caused by wearing an MNB (average wearing time 270 minutes), such as irritability (60%), headaches (53%), difficulty concentrating (50%), low happiness (49%), malaise (42%), learning difficulties (38%), or sleepiness and fatigue (37%). There is a lack of scientific evidence and research findings on asymptomatology and infectivity in children. The assumption that children of nursery or primary school age pose a risk of infection has so far remained unproven. From an inquiry of the delegate Florian Kluckert (FDP) of 03 December 2020 to the Berlin House of Representatives it results that the 217 infection cases "kindergarten, Hort" and the 336 in the infection environment "school" reported up to 09.12.2020 "were usually not acquired in the environment school or kindergarten, but were (presumably) entered there by these cases". A total of 701 participants from 12 daycare centers were tested as part of the first series of tests in the Charité daycare center study. No SARS-CoV-2 infection was detected. Only one kindergarten teacher showed a weak positive antibody level.

(Source: Die Freie Linke on pedagogy in a state of emergency,, March 16, 2021.)

For other results of national and international scientific studies on the role of children and schools in the pandemic, see

["56] Good suggestions on this have also been made by Eberhard Keil in "Didaktisierung statt Digitalisierung", op. cit., in the last part of his remarks, which we strongly recommend.


["58] Bernd Schoepe, Die Digitalisierung und ihre Effizienzgewinne aus pädagogischer Perspektive, esp. pp. 20-22, pp.38-40, pp.44-46, op. cit., Jochen Krautz, Bildungsreform und Propaganda. Strategien der Durchsetzung eines ökonomistischen Menschenbildes in Bildung und Bildungswesen,

["59] Cf. Rainer J. Klement, The Corona Fear Campaign, 03/16/2020,

["60] Rainer J. Klement, ibid.

["61] Erich Fromm, The Necrophilic Character, in: Das Erich Fromm-Lesebuch, ed. and ed. by Rainer Funk, Stuttgart / Munich 1985, pp.72 - 86.

[62] Fromm developed the theory of the necrophilic character following his reception of the life and death instinct in Sigmund Freud and his own clinical studies. The interesting thing about the characterization of necrophilia in the characterological sense as "the passionate attraction to everything that is dead, decaying (...) and sick", in our context, is its peculiarity of "transforming, destroying (...) what is alive into something unliving" as well as "the exclusive interest in everything that is purely mechanical" (p.72 f.). Thus, in his examples of the necrophilic character, Fromm not only arrives at the lack of alternative in thinking, which is today one, if not the most important axiom of domination of neoliberal ideology ("TINA" = There is no alternative) - so when he writes that - whoever is driven by this impulse - "is usually unable to recognize other possibilities that do not require destruction" (p.74). He also makes it clear that the necrophiliac character and its manifestations "coincide with the consideration of the simplest and most obvious characteristic of the industrial man of today." Namely, in his focal point of interests are "no longer people, nature and living structures, but mechanical, non-living artifacts" up to "the power-centered mega-machines"(sic!) of our mechanized civilization. If Fromm were alive today, he would probably focus as another manifestation of necrophilia the power that emanates from bare, absolute numbers (such as the incidence values of the Corona regime). A power that suggests we can measure and control everything, and thereby even gain dominion over death. We can easily transfer this description of the threatening victory of death over life in our culture, which Fromm gives here and which is still valid today, to our context of the analog school and the digital distance learning as well as its opposite, the analog teaching. Furthermore, this includes the return to the humane and humanistic sources of education. The latter seems more urgent than ever these days! So when do we start seeing and stop "bureaucratically treating people as if they were dead objects" (Fromm, p.82.)? The circle of our argumentation closes in relation to e-learning and its apparatus logic ("which has displaced interest in all that is alive", Fromm p. 79) at the point where Fromm arrives at the distinction between "looking" and "seeing" in his account of the necrophilic character. For this passage links up logically with the motto of Joseph Weizenbaum that precedes our essay, in which he says in ironic diction that "closing (one's) eyes" is a "great human ability" that he describes as "still almost unrecognized." Both quotations, then, are about seeing and different modes of seeing. Related to the worsening situation of child and adolescent lockdown: Why do we in society "fail to see something that is before our eyes"? Because we "don't want to see it" in our society? Why do we not want to see it? Perhaps because we have already adopted our machines' view of the world and of ourselves? For Erich Fromm, in the thoroughly technologized society, "the whole man becomes a component of the total machinery which he controls and which at the same time controls him." "He has," Fromm continues, "no plan, no aim in life, except that he does what the logic of technology leads him to do" (p.79). - Isn't this also a fitting image for the hamster wheel of "digital homeschooling" in which we have all found ourselves, or rather lost ourselves, as a result of the Corona crisis? And now the aforementioned difference Erich Fromm draws between "looking" and "seeing" comes into play: "Looking," he writes, "is not "seeing": "Seeing is a human function, one of the greatest gifts man has been given; it requires activity, inner openness, interest, patience, and concentration" (p.77 ) - while "looking" by its very nature means "making the act of seeing an object" (p.78), i.e., adapting oneself to the part of the technique or making oneself as much like the technique as possible.

In this sense, to overcome the crisis, which is always a situation of decision, we should overcome the mere "looking" into the technical apparatuses of computerized e-learning and turn back to the side of life. We become biophilic by letting ourselves be inspired, even enthused, by the "art of seeing" and finally making it fruitful for pedagogy again! So when do we start seeing and stop "bureaucratically treating people as if they were dead objects" (Fromm, p. 82)? When do we see that it is and must be our children and thus the future of our world (the whole and not just the parts fragmented by the necrophiliac character) that we serve "through reverence for life" (Erich Fromm) - instead of death?

["63] Erich Fromm, Der nekrophile Charakter, in: Erich Fromm Lesebuch, ed. by Rainer Funk, Stuttgart / Munich 1985, p.82.

["64] Michael Hüter, Die deformierte Generation, op. cit.

["65] In our survey, 56% of the respondents expressed the explicit wish that the lockdown should be ended as soon as possible, 24% can imagine, provided they have options, to continue to have online classes in some cases, and 20% make the decision dependent on the level of incidence or generally on the decision by politics.

["66] See: from 30.01.2021.


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