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As Schools Open, Kids Learn They Just Don't Matter

Let’s say you’re an American school child.

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It’s the first day of school.

Your parents dress you in your best new outfit – maybe a nice pink jumper with a unicorn on it.

They help you tie your new sneakers – that’s right, two loops and a knot.

Then they put a surgical mask snugly over your mouth and nose, adhere a clear plastic face shield from your forehead down and snap some latex gloves on your hands.

How would you feel if you were a little school kid getting ready for the first day of school, today? Some think our children won't be able to learn enough this year. I think they'll learn too much.

“Off to school, Honey! Don’t forget your antibacterial soap and Clorox wipes!”

What do you suppose would be going through your mind? Would you feel safe? Would you feel loved? Would you feel valued?

I don’t think so.

I mean sure your parents care enough to dress you like an extra from “Outbreak,” but they don’t care enough to keep you home. Or maybe they do care enough but have no other choice. They’re “essential workers”and have to go to a series of minimum wage jobs to keep you fed, clothed and sheltered.

How would you feel about the people who own those jobs? The society that prioritizes keeping those jobs going instead of paying your parents to stay home with you? I mean – sure – the economy needs to keep running, I guess, but what is an economy anyway? Isn’t it just a big game of Monopoly? Players keep rolling the dice and landing on each others’ properties and having to pay rent. Hoping this turn you’ll make it past GO and collect $200.

With the exception of food, there’s nothing you really need outside of your home. If your parents didn’t have to worry about rent or utilities, they wouldn’t have to work. Yes, they’d need to go out to get food but the government could pay them to do that, too. After all, it’s just Monopoly money. It’s just decorated pieces of paper. It has no inherent value… not like human lives.

I mean we’re living through a pandemic here. Leaving the house means exposure to the virus, and the longer you have to go out, the more people you’re exposed to, the greater the chances that you’ll get sick and/or bring the thing back home with you. But someone is forcing your parents to keep on rolling the dice – to keep playing. And your folks never do any better than make ends meet. It’s not people like them who are winning this game – even during a global health crisis.

How would you feel about that?

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How would you feel about the school directors who voted to keep their buildings open and their classes in-person when just a few miles away the kids in a slightly more well-to-do neighborhood get to stay home, protected and safe learning online?

How would you feel about the school board members who compromise and say you only have to be put at risk for half the day or just so many days a week? Would that make it all better?

How would you feel about the governors who demand schools reopen? Or the ones who offer advice but don’t demand anything?

How would you feel about a President who lies all day on TV about the virus, keeps his own kid home and then goes off like a police siren about how you have to get back to school? How would you feel about his billionaire heiress Education Secretarywho spends all day finding ways to undercut and destroy public schools who suddenly changes course about how necessary it is for you to get back to class?

How would you feel about politicians on both sides of the aisle holding self-congratulatory party conventions through ZOOM while proclaiming the importance of you getting back to school in-person?

How would you feel when schools that do open in other parts of the country have massive outbreaks and it has no effect on what the adults prescribe for you?

How would you feel when a student takes a picture of a school blatantly ignoring social distancing and other health guidelines and the only person getting in trouble is the student who took the picture?

How would you feel about school administrators caught hiding or downplaying outbreaks among staff or students?

How would you feel about multi-billion dollar sports franchises unable to keep their superstar athletes disease free yet your local athletic club decides to have practices? How would you feel when your local school teams have outbreaks, the governor or health department advises against school sports but the adults decide to go ahead and do it anyway?

How would you feel when time-after-time the grown ups show you exactly how they feel about you, how little you actually matter, how much everything else is worth and how little they really care about you?

How would you feel if you were a little school kid getting ready for her first day of class this morning? Would you feel safe, valued, loved? What lesson would you take from everything happening all around you?

Some people are very worried that you won’t learn anything much this school year.

I’m afraid you’ll learn far too much.

kids

Steven Singer
Gadfly on the Wall