At no moment in time has Covid-19 really threatened 0 to 24-year old individuals. However as they can spread the virus, the decision was taken to deprive them of schools, camps, sports, arts, and more importantly, socializing.
As the school year is being prepared, the “lockdown” of these children and young persons continues to be a priority. No, Donald Trump was wrong when he talked about immunity. Yes, young people are on average less is less vulnerable to viruses. No, the pro-private school Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, cannot impose the opening of all public schools (that she is trying to crush) without precautions.
Masks and distancing
We will not double the footprint of the planet to accommodate distancing. There is an intelligent way to manage social distancing by being selective. Is the school located in a busy neighborhood? Does the school have its own sporting and gymnastic equipment? Is it in the suburbs or in megacities? Does it apply to all classes the same way: kindergarten to college? Could schools be equipped to provide testing and sanitary equipment? When university students sit around a large table of seminars, they might be close to their neighbors, but the risk is across the table. The same applies to large auditoriums. How different can distancing be in the open air and indoors?
From the beginning, the CDC made the mask conditional to physical distancing. It is not necessarily both. Masks should never have become a political fight. The absurd opposition of the President of the United States to not lead by example in wearing a mask when almost all other heads of state did. This inaugurated a political debate that should never take place. His refusal to be tested discredited him.
Other countries like France and Germany went to the extremes of distancing, which they quickly had to abandon. Physical distancing is an effort but will never be the rule. However, schools were closed for months.
The politics of schools
There is no such thing as a “right” or “left” policy on schools.
Currently, in the United States, it is inverted in a surprising way: one might assume that the liberals favor the children, as they generally speak for the weak. It was not the case: is it because the unions decided to “protect” the teachers and by doing so, deny their mission?
The Economist of this week cannot be clearer: “for students, the pandemic is making life difficult. Many must choose between inconveniently timed seminars streamed into their parents’ living rooms and inconveniently deferring their studies until life is more normal. For universities, it is disastrous. They will not only lose huge chunks of revenue from foreign students but, because campus life spreads infection, they will have to transform the way they operate. The universities’ troubles are piling up.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo indicated on August 7 that NY schools were ready for in-person classes: he is right. Also, the United Nations’ sent today indications of the measures that could allow universities to open in person. It’s realistic and wise.
The choice of the parents
At the end of the day, the responsibility of a child lies with his or her parent(s).
The school system dumped their kids on their lap without any consideration, let alone compensation, their own professional responsibilities, their housing, and equipment. It exacerbated social inequality.
Parents are between a rock and a hard place: they (in the best cases) welcome their children. Depending on age, children enjoy having their parents at home. In many cases, however, the parents work remotely. Torn between those two duties, and sometimes in a smaller and tense home, they experience tension and conflicts.
They feel like bad parents when they do work and bad workers when they take care of their children.
At no moment in time have the decision-makers shown the minimum empathy, let alone responsibility that increased the inequality between schools and families.
Liberate our children
Have we become unrealistic when we have not found ways to address the risks of schooling children? Have universities lost their moral compass and the sense of their missions? No, distancing is not possible: we cannot expand the planet by two or three. It is an absurdity and impractical. The type of measure should never have been considered. Indeed, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine warns that especially younger children are not faring well with remote classes.
We already lost the 2020 spring term. After that, schools had plenty of time to adjust to a better environment, and implement measures at the local level. Universities starting from Harvard have all launched online programs on leadership for this summer. Based on the record of their leadership in this crisis, they should be the first students and get their own medicines. Professors should consider the needs of their students.
Teenage students should also be part of the decision. Their needs are often ignored, and their voices are only heard when things go wrong. They deserve respect even in cases when they are not the ultimate decision-makers. What has the lockdown experience been for them?
Dr. Fauci said “we should try as best as we possibly can” to reopen schools for both the psychological and physical welfare of children and to avoid the effects closures will have on families.
Time for mental health
The coronavirus has been a source of anxiety and sometimes depression, because of the uncertainty around the precautionary measures. And legitimate concerns about one's safety. On top of that, different reactions to the virus can amplify fears.
The looming crisis is a mental health crisis: the medical profession has always despised the importance of mental health. We urgently need to approach the current crisis as a call for life.
As we enter a sixth straight month of remote work, a sprawling mental health crisis is beginning to arise among the US workforce, wrote a group of Harvard doctors and medical students in July 2020.
Schoolchildren and students create their roots and mental balance through social interaction, and so through social distancing. Teachers are not simply transmitters of knowledge, they are educators. Depriving students of this support will harm them and society at large.
Give us culture, sports, and travel back: we must breathe
The current suffocations cannot be maintained. With all the necessary precautions, we must be able to meet people, enjoy culture together, travel around the world. This is now completely strangled for reasons that are highly questionable and prove the materialism of our society and leadership.
We have done enough damage so far. The carnage must stop. Let us live: we know what precautions we need to take. We are facing more risks of mental health diseases, suicides, and depressions than any death of the virus.
Now is the time to choose life and be selective in how we deal with schools.