In a stunning demonstration of the kind of heroism and courage we’ve come to expect from our public school teachers, a recent New York Times article declares, “I Won’t Return to the Classroom, and You Shouldn’t Ask Me To.” The author, public school teacher Rebecca Martinson, pleads dramatically, “Please don’t make me risk getting Covid-19 to teach your child.”
Martinson repeatedly claims that she is “prepared” to jump in front of a bullet for the sake of her precious students, but, somehow, asking her to go to work in the face of a disease which an estimated 99.35 percent of all people survive, is too much to bear. And that figure actually understates the absurdity. According to the American Council on Science and Health, the fatality rate for children is .0003 percent while the rate for adults 20-49 is .0092 percent. As CDC data shows, over 60 percent of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the 75+ age bracket. Add in the 65-74 demo and you’ve accounted for 80 percent of all deaths. What this all means is that, with students ranging from about 4 to 18, and teachers with an average age of 41, schools are predominantly staffed and populated by people who have an exceedingly low risk of dying from the coronavirus.
The flu, though not as deadly overall, kills more elementary and middle school aged children per year than COVID-19. Yet nobody ever proposes shutting down all schools indefinitely in order to prevent that carnage from taking place. Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, along with other media personalities and leftists, have accused President Trump of trying to “kill your kids” by pushing for schools to re-open. Considering the flu is three times as deadly for most school children, why hasn’t Rubin ever accused schools of “killing kids” by remaining open during flu season? That’s a rhetorical question, of course. The answer is that the panicking over re-opening schools is almost entirely performative and political.
Speaking of performative, we’re told many teachers have been prepping their wills and writing “goodbye letters” because they’re “scared as hell” about going back to their jobs. The president of the NEA called re-opening now “unconscionable” and claimed that “educators and parents are being asked to plan for end-of-life decisions.” Some teachers unions are not only expressing horror at being asked to actually do the job we’re paying them to do, but have also published lists of demands that often have nothing to do with education. The LA teacher’s union, for example, sees the defunding of police as a necessary prerequisite to resuming their professional duties.
Given the data already cited, this nationwide panic attack on the part of many teachers and school officials is not warranted. It is also notable that nobody ever expressed this level of horror and outrage over grocery stores and Walmarts remaining open during the height of the pandemic (we also never heard of cashiers and store clerks dying in droves from the virus, which seems like a relevant point here). Presumably, the reason nobody objected to grocery stores and big box retailers keeping their doors open is that most of us judge those establishments as essential to the continued functioning of society. The fact that so many people — even the school employees themselves — want to keep schools closed, must mean that schools have been judged inessential. On that point, as a home school parent, I agree. Or I should say, on that point they finally agree with me. But this agreement marks a rather abrupt reversal.
For my entire life I have been told that the public education system is utterly fundamental to our civilization and our way of life. I have been told that children need the public education experience, and that even the best and most well-equipped homeschool parent cannot provide a sufficient replacement. I have been told that one of the education system’s most critical functions is to properly “socialize” our children. I have rejected all of these arguments. It seems that now the people who made them have also rejected them.
Now, apparently, the education system is so incredibly inessential that we can afford for it to close up shop indefinitely while we wait for a potential cure for a disease that poses a mild risk to everyone below retirement age and an extremely low risk to children. Now it is suggested that Skype calls and Zoom meetings can adequately replace our 700 billion dollar public education behemoth. That is how expendable the whole thing turns out to be. Again, I agree. And I am happy that we have finally reached this consensus. We homeschoolers had it right all along.
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