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Intelligence Briefing: Should Schools Reopen?

Intelligence Briefing Intelligence Squared

How can we balance public health with the need to educate our children? It’s a historic debate that’s heating up in communities around the country. This week, we explore whether America’s kids should go back to class, if colleges should discount virtual instruction, and just how much we’re spending on reopening schools this fall.

Here’s what we have in store:

– That’s Debatable: Should Schools Reopen?

– Intelligraphic: Back to School: Education Costs & COVID-19

– Double Digits: $36,880

– Points of View: Insights and analysis from past debaters

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Two perspectives on one of the nation’s biggest debates this week.
Should Schools Reopen?

For some, the debate around school reopening is clear: Unless we return to in-person learning, a generation of students will fall further behind, educational inequality will deepen, and our children will struggle to cope emotionally and socially. And, they say, there’s little hope for an economic recovery while millions of working parents are tending to school-aged kids at home. But others, including many educators, argue that well-planned virtual instruction can meet students’ needs while keeping Americans safe. Even if the most stringent safety protocols are put in place, they say, returning to school is simply too dangerous. Should America open its classroom doors this fall?

For: The Case for Reopening Schools

“Millions of parents can’t return to work if their children can’t attend school. Opening the schools is essential to the well-being of students, and teachers and administrators have a duty to make it happen.” – Wall Street Journal

AgainstI Won’t Return to the Classroom, and You Shouldn’t Ask Me To
“It’s impossible to hear about the way parties, day camps and church services have led to outbreaks this summer without worrying about what will happen if kids and adults gather in the fall. It scares me to think of how many more lives will be lost.” – The New York Times



From investing in new technology to transforming classrooms and buildings, schools are spending huge amounts to adapt to social distancing. As Washington debates another round of stimulus spending, we ask: Just how much has America spent to stabilize its education system? And where is that money going?

Education Costs

When one number tells two stories.

The average cost of private college tuition and fees last year

While colleges and universities are investing huge sums to transition to virtual and hybrid learning this fall, many cash-strapped students are calling for reduced tuition. Should virtual learning come at a discount? Or would cutting student fees bankrupt institutions and mean the end of higher ed as we know it?

Forbes: The Case for Tuition Refunds
Forbes: The Perfect Storm for Colleges: Costs Up, Revenues Down


Top insights and news from the intellectual leaders
who have battled it out on the Open to Debate stage.

-When Oxford announced clinical trials for its promising COVID-19 vaccine, the world took notice, and Richard Foster signed up. (Read more via BBC, Richard’s debate on big banks.)

-Federal troops were deployed in Portland last week. Rich Lowry defends the decision and argues that federal agents acted within the law to protect government property. (Read more via New York Post, Rich’s debate on immigration)

-Meanwhile, Jacob Sullum criticizes the move as heavy-handed and contrary to the promise of “law and order.” (Read more via Townhall, Jacob’s debate on Super PACs)

– Looking abroad, Andreas Kluth argues that the pandemic is causing some to question whether the European Union can remain relevant. (Read more via Bloomberg, Andrea’s debate on California)

– In the U.S., baseball is coming back. But can professional sports really survive social distancing? Joe Nocera weighs in. (Read more via Financial Post, Joe’s debate on college sports.)


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