Imagine you’re in high school. You’re dealing with all the regular teen worries, but the real bear is this: a significant percentage of your homework demands 24/7 internet connectivity and your family doesn’t have home access.
The examples of assignments you receive that require internet access are frequent and daunting: Explain and evaluate “fake news.” Situate the current conflict with North Korea in a historical context. Identify the societal complexities that help explain the explosive growth of childhood obesity in America during the last 20 years.
If any of these were isolated assignments that might be fine, because you could likely do them during lunch or right after school. But in most cases, high school students today have several of these assignments made concurrently.
These assignments, like most made by your teachers, must be emailed or dropped into your teacher’s cloud-based Google classroom by 11 p.m. Like most high school students, you’re racing to complete this assignment five minutes before it’s due. But without internet access at home, where can you safely, predictably and productively work until 11 p.m.?
Your aunt has internet access at but she lives a 40-minute bus trip across town. The public library does, but it has a 30-minute computer use limit and, as a young woman, you don’t feel comfortable there late at night. McDonald’s has free wi-fi but it’s noisy, you have to buy food and you can’t linger there forever.
Among the many challenges we now face as a nation, one receives far less attention than it deserves: America’s homework gap.
Although 70 percent of America’s teachers assign homework to be completed online, more than five million families with school-age children do not have internet connectivity at home.
This disconnect leads to dramatic – and unfortunate – effects on kids’ daily lives. Arguably the most profound effects, however, are felt by high school students, whose challenge to complete homework in safe, predictable and productive environments can have lifelong impacts on their ability to achieve their full potential.
With few exceptions, all students are curious, want a bright future and are willing to work hard to earn it. Regardless of the color of their skin or their family’s income level, all high school students deserve access to the internet at home so that they can translate their potential into meaningful achievements.
During the last many years, governments and nonprofits have made terrific progress wiring America’s classrooms, but learning should not end when a student leaves the school building. Students should be able to continue learning wherever and whenever works best for them.
A lack of internet access at home should not be a locked gate that prevents students from achieving success in high school and life. Potential is everywhere. Opportunity not.
John Branam is the executive director of the 1Million Project, a national effort to help one million high school students who do not have internet access at home reach their full potential by giving them devices and free high-speed internet access.