Speed Reads

for the kids

The academic and mental crisis plaguing American children: 'It is maddening'

American children are suffering mentally and academically — and perhaps more than you might already think, writes David Leonhardt for The New York Times.

For one thing, children "fell far behind in school during the first year of the pandemic and have not caught up," Leonhardt reports. In fact, math and reading levels among third through eighth graders were lower than normal this fall, with shortfalls most pronounced among Black and Hispanic students and students in high poverty-area schools.

Academic life as a whole also has yet to return to normal, with important hallmarks like lunchtime and assemblies "transformed if not eliminated." And districts nationwide have reported seeing an increase in behavioral problems among students.

"This is no way for children to grow up," said one reader to the Times. "It is maddening."

"A lot of the joy and camaraderie that signifies a happy, productive school culture has disappeared," added Maria Menconi, an Arizona-based former superintendent. 

The isolation has even aggravated mental health problems among children and teenagers, leading to a devastating increase in suicide attempts that's most pronounced among adolescent girls

On top of all of that, "gun violence against children has increased, as part of a broader nationwide rise in crime," Leonhardt writes. And school shootings are on the rise, with The Washington Post having counted 42 in the U.S. last year — "the most on record and up from 27 in 2019," per Leonhardt.

Though certain trade-offs are to be expected in the midst of a pandemic, society's current approach towards children has grown less and less defensible — especially given the data we now have regarding COVID in children, as well as vaccines, Leonhardt argues.

"Given the choices that the country has made," he says, "it should not be surprising that children are suffering so much."