Over the past four months, as COVID-19 has swept across the globe, many politicians and news media have adopted war metaphors to describe the challenges that countries and communities are facing. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutiérrez recently embraced the comparison during his remarks at a G20 virtual summit on the COVID-19 pandemic.

He stated: “We are at war with a virus—and not winning it. This war needs a war-time plan to fight it.”

In this metaphor the enemy is the virus, and our frontline strategy to fight it has been to “flatten the curve” through physical lock-down, with our soldiers being the brave healthcare workers in the hospitals and clinics who are working tirelessly trying to mitigate illness and save people’s lives.

But like all wars—as this one has continued to wage on—as one front seems to die down another one erupts. For example, as we have seen the flattening of the illness curve in some places, we have also seen the economic hardship curve spike in others, with dire long-term consequences on people’s lives and livelihoods. The same holds true for education. As we are beginning to face the prospect of reopening schools—in some places this is already happening—the data on the last three months is starting to come in and we are seeing signs of learning loss on an unprecedented scale that could take the equivalent of years off of the productivity and future earnings of our students, especially those who are the most vulnerable… more