Some schoolchildren are being instructed to write poems fawning over the coronavirus vaccine, which they are not eligible to receive but which teachers unions have claimed, without evidence, is necessary before school can return to normal.
The “Global Vaccine Poem” project asks children and adults alike to “Read the model poem ‘Dear Vaccine’ written by Naomi Shihab Nye, then choose a prompt to respond to. Add a few lines of your words. Don’t worry about rhyming, don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Simply share your thoughts.”
This was assigned in a 5th grade classroom in Massachusetts.
I'm fully vaxxed and still I ask, what the hell is this? pic.twitter.com/I8HBzIYElH
— Erika Sanzi (@esanzi) May 24, 2021
Nye’s poem reads:
Save us, dear vaccine. …
Children in kindergarten.
So many voices, in chorus.
Give us our world again!
Tiny gleaming vials,
enter our cities and towns
shining your light. …
It’s a quick prick in the arm
You’ll barely notice it …
someday soon? …
Vaccine, please make the air clean!
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Children were 0.00%-0.20% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 9 states reported zero child deaths.”
On Friday, the American Federation of Teachers union tweeted, “In elementrary [sic] schools, until we have the vaccines, it seems like unfortuantely [sic] we still [sic] going to have to keep wearing our masks and keep social distancing because we don’t want outbreaks.”
"In elementrary schools, until we have the vaccines, it seems like unfortuantely we still going to have to keep wearing our masks and keep social distancing because we don't want outbreaks." @rweingarten
— AFT (@AFTunion) May 21, 2021
Since schools do not have the room to fit all children while socially distancing, that could mean no five days a week of elementary school even next schoolyear, should the union have its way. The vaccine is only approved for those 12 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Teachers have repeatedly shifted the goalposts when it comes to reopening schools, even though the director of the CDC has said that schools can reopen safely without even teachers being vaccinated and that teachers are at higher risk of getting coronavirus outside of school than in it.
Nye is the “Young People’s Poet Laureate” of the Poetry Foundation. According to her Poetry Foundation bio, she was born in 1952, making her about 69 years old. Her bio states that “her father was a Palestinian refugee” and she became “an active voice for Arab Americans” after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Poetry Foundation’s funding comes largely from a gift of stock in the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company from heiress Ruth Lilly. Eli Lilly does not manufacture the coronavirus vaccine but has manufactured other vaccines, including for polio.
In February, the company said, “The U.S. government has agreed to purchase a minimum of 100,000 doses” of a COVID treatment, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, for $210 million.
In 2020, the Poetry Foundation seemingly shifted its focus to racial grievance after receiving demands that led to the resignation of its president and board chairman. Its sin was releasing a statement that said the organizations’ leaders “stand in solidarity with the Black community, and denounce injustice and systemic racism.” Critics said that was insufficiently enthusiastic, National Review reported.
Poets who had received grants from the organization, and others with only peripheral connections to it, issued a letter with “demands” including:
- “The President must be replaced by someone with a demonstrated commitment to… creating a world that is just and affirming for people of color, disabled people, trans people, queer people, and immigrants.”
- The organization must acknowledge “the harm done in recent years to Latinx poets, trans poets, disabled poets, and queer poets.”
- It must provide a “greater allocation of financial resources toward work which is explicitly anti-racist in nature” such as “large contributions to organizations such as Assata’s Daughters, Brave Space Alliance, and Project South.” It is unclear what connection those groups have to poetry.
They simultaneously said that poets have access to well-paying jobs, and also that the Foundation — which they acknowledged pays poets well — should give away all of its money.
On April 28, it hired Michelle T. Boone, a black woman who previously served as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, as its new president, the AP reported.
The Global Vaccine Poem project says it is a collaboration between the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University and The University of Arizona Poetry Center.