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The hardships of a world-wide pandemic is not without precedent. The infamous Spanish Flu, which was first discovered in 1918, lasted around 2 years and was proportionally more deadly than the current statistics from the COVID-19 pandemic. At its peak, the Spanish Flu infected around 40 percent of the global population and killed an estimated 50 million people. The labelling of the 1918 pandemic as the Spanish Flu came about because Spain was one of the only countries to report about the illness during World War I. Additionally, the king of Spain, Alfonso XIII, was one of the first major leaders to be infected with the flu. In a similar vein, although considered controversial, some have dubbed the COVID-19 pandemic as the “Chinese Virus” or the “China Flu.”

In many ways, the citizenry of the United States reacted to the 1918 Spanish Flu in similar fashions to the current preventative measures taking place. Most urban communities temporarily closed their K-12 public schools in order to combat the advancing flu. Other similarities between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 include quarantines, bans on public gatherings, and the use of face coverings.

We examine three important questions about how COVID-19 has affected education.


This is the 10th entry in the Critical Questions series.

This Critical Questions entry was created with support from Dr. Sarah McClusky of Ohio Northern University.