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““Remote Learning” Is Often an Oxymoron”: Article Analysis

Introduction and Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the institution of extraordinary measures to limit the spread of the disease. Key among them is the closure of schools to protect children and teachers from infection. The United States has instructed its learning institutions to suspend in-person learning as it responds to the unfolding humanitarian crisis. One of the options likely to ensure that students continue with their academic development is remote learning.

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Teachers are able to give assignments and maintain contact with learners through the Internet. It is an effective way of ensuring that education continues in the face of adversity. However, there is a debate over the validity of reopening schools while infection rates continue to rise. Some people believe that getting children back in class will worsen the pandemic’s effect, while others believe that online learning is unfair to underserved populations without access to high-speed Internet.

In the article “Remote Learning” Is Often an Oxymoron, Nicolas Kristof (2020) defends the need for reopening schools by explaining how remote learning disenfranchises low-income families in addition to increasing the school drop-out rate. The affected individuals are likely to suffer massive lifetime losses in income that will impact their ability to meet basic needs in the future. His goal is to persuade an audience of policymakers and individuals in the general public who have the capacity to influence governmental decisions in the education sector. Kristof’s strengths include the presentation of credible peer-reviewed evidence, logos, and the ability to connect with the audience, whereas his tone could be more candid.

Analysis and Evaluation of Credibility

Kristof is a distinguished author in view of the fact that his article was published in a renowned publication. This highlights the authenticity of the ideas he presents and allows the audience of policymakers to consider the merits of reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicolas Kristof is an accomplished journalist who has worked with the New York Times, which has been applauded for authentic and factual reporting over the years.

A review of the Media/Bias Fact Check database reveals that the publication is rarely biased, avoids the use of loaded words, and takes pride in maintaining accuracy. The credibility of the author’s views is a strength in the sense that interested parties can refer to his writing when supporting the reopening of learning institutions across the country. Even though Kristof is not an expert in infectious diseases or education, he presents a convincing argument on the impact of remote learning on poor populations within the United States.

Analysis and Evaluation of Tone

While Kristof’s position is factual and evidence-based, his tone lacks the candidness required to drive across the severity of the issue at hand. Even though the introduction points out that the President’s son stands to benefit from online learning as opposed to other poor children, the words lack the openness and honesty required to emphasize the harshness of the evident inequality. His statement that children from affluent backgrounds will be “fine even without in-person learning” lacks the straightforwardness required to stress the pandemic’s impact on education (Krsitof, 2020, para. 3). There are some positive points to note regarding Kristof’s tone.

For instance, his word choice and organizational pattern make the article easy to read. He outlines the reasons why children should return to class during the crisis using a clear and precise format. For instance, he asks his audience to “sort through the evidence” and makes a note of their irrefutable inconsistencies (Kristof, 2020, para. 6). The audience can effortlessly grasp the intricacies of the logical presentation of ideas. Kristof’s lack of frankness is a weak point because it takes away from the seriousness of the challenges presented by remote learning.

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Analysis and Evaluation of Evidence

For the most part, Kristof applies credible evidence to highlight how remote learning negatively impacts the lives of poor children. He uses research data from a Swedish epidemiologist and the American Academy of Pediatrics to support his argument. For instance, he points out how Jonas Ludvigsson’s study concluded that opening up learning institutions is unlikely to impact COVID-19 mortality in older individuals (Kristof, 2020, para. 10). He also presents an opposing view from JAMA Pediatrics, which highlights how children could potentially facilitate the spread of the virus (Kristof, 202, para. 11). Kristof’s use of peer-reviewed studies to support his ideas is a strength because his audience can verify the authenticity of the presented claims.

Kristof’s most substantial evidence is the reference to research on the impact of the pandemic on low-income children. For example, to demonstrate the negative impact on poor children’s lives, he highlights McKinsey’s findings which indicate that prolonged school closures would lead to the loss of several months of education. In addition, he states that the resultant increase in school drop-outs could reduce each of the affected individuals’ lifetime earnings by 80,000 dollars (Kristof, 2020, para. 12). He ends the article by proposing a viable solution to the looming education crisis. He assumes that the adoption of a “Bandwidth for all” program and the implementation of strict infection prevention measures should facilitate access to education for all (Kristof, 2020, para. 15). The use of research evidence helps Kristof connect to policymakers who often rely on factual data to make crucial decisions.

Flaws in Evidence

However, supporters of remote learning can easily oppose his views because he categorically fails to consider the benefits of home-based education. Kristof’s argument would be stronger if he pointed out that psychologists note how campus closures have “exacted harm on students,” especially in situations where families are forced to contend with the pandemic’s adverse effects (Campa, 2020, para. 6). Emphasizing that the benefits of remote learning do not outweigh its negative impacts on low-income students would help bolster Kristof’s viewpoint. For instance, online learning allows students to benefit from more sleep and a less rigid schedule (Campa, 2020, para. 11). However, the economically disenfranchised children will miss school lunches and lose out on learning due to the lack of access to computers and high-speed internet. Highlighting the severity of the effects associated with limited access to education opportunities would make a stronger argument for in-class learning.


Overall, Kristof’s credibility as an accomplished writer and the use of research-based evidence facilitate his connection with the target audience. For the most part, his argument is presented logically, and the main ideas flow seamlessly. However, the article’s tone lacks the candidness required to emphasize the severe consequences of remote learning on low-income children. Despite this shortfall, he manages to present his support for in-class learning in a convincing and professional manner.


Campa, A. J. (2020). Learning, and thriving, at home. Los Angeles Times. Web.

Kristof, N. (2020). Remote Learning’ Is Often an Oxymoron. The New York Times. Web.

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