Dead students learn no lessons

At last, somebody, Sarah Jones, points out that if students get sick from the COVID-19 pandemic, they can’t go to school, and if teachers get sick from the pandemic, they can’t teach. This isn’t the teachers’ fault, but they’re the ones being blamed for asking for some precautions. You know, like making masks available, installing HEPA filtering, like switching to virtual schooling temporarily when case counts rise. And they’re the ones whose own wellness seemingly doesn’t matter.[1] This is all brain-dead shit but we just love bashing teachers.

The trouble with arguments like Angie Schmitt’s[2] is that they conflate several problems:

  • Most kids apparently do learn better with in-person instruction and do suffer a loss of social interaction with their peers in a relatively safe environment.[3] I added the qualifier ‘most’ because for me, primary and secondary education was predominantly and endlessly about being bullied. So when I read Schmitt, I gotta tell you that what I hear is her kids suffering because they can’t beat up on the sort of kid I was.

  • Parents need to pay bills and buy groceries and lack support for staying home to take care of their kids when day care school isn’t available.[4] This, of course, is a policy choice, one arising from our capitalist death cult[5] and longstanding refusal to adequately fund and staff all schools.[6]

  • Even fully vaccinated and boosted people are just really tired of the pandemic and just want it to go the fuck away.[7] It won’t do that anytime soon, of course, in large part due to assholes who refuse to get vaccinated[8] and, especially in the case of the Omicron variant, a refusal to waive intellectual property ‘rights’ to get vaccines produced and distributed around the world,[9] but the desire to get back to ‘normal’ is nonetheless well beyond palpable.

In the balance between risk to quality of learning and the risk of dying, I tend to weigh the risk of dying more heavily. Sorry, I do. That’s obviously a problem for people like Schmitt[10] and even Leana Wen,[11] who neglect that teachers and staff may be among the vulnerable, and that when students get sick, as they are,[12] they can’t learn, and when teachers get sick, as they are,[13] they can’t teach. Virtual instruction may not be ideal; it’s better than nothing at all.[14] And of course, when students are in their graves, well, they aren’t learning anything at all.

  1. [1]Sarah Jones, “We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About School,” New York, January 12, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/01/were-having-the-wrong-conversation-about-school.html
  2. [2]Angie Schmitt, “Why I Soured on the Democrats,” Atlantic, January 7, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/01/democrats-botched-public-school-covid-policy/621183/
  3. [3]Scott Calvert and Ben Chapman, “Schools See Big Drop in Attendance as Students Stay Away, Citing Covid-19,” Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/schools-see-big-drop-in-attendance-as-students-stay-away-citing-covid-19-11641988802; Sarah Jones, “We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About School,” New York, January 12, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/01/were-having-the-wrong-conversation-about-school.html; Angie Schmitt, “Why I Soured on the Democrats,” Atlantic, January 7, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/01/democrats-botched-public-school-covid-policy/621183/; Leana S. Wen, “Omicron is not a reason to keep schools closed,” Washington Post, January 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/06/omicron-is-not-reason-keep-schools-closed/
  4. [4]Angie Schmitt, “Why I Soured on the Democrats,” Atlantic, January 7, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/01/democrats-botched-public-school-covid-policy/621183/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, January 11, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/
  6. [6]Sarah Jones, “We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About School,” New York, January 12, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/01/were-having-the-wrong-conversation-about-school.html; Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities (New York: Harper Perennial, 1992).
  7. [7]Derek Thompson, “Why More Americans Are Saying They’re ‘Vaxxed and Done,’” Atlantic, January 10, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/01/covid-omicron-vaccination-rashomon/621199/
  8. [8]David Benfell, “What we owe anti-vaxxers in a life-threatening pandemic,” Not Housebroken, December 18, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/09/28/what-we-owe-anti-vaxxers-in-a-life-threatening-pandemic/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “The lethal dishonesty of ‘intellectual property’ in a pandemic,” Not Housebroken, November 30, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/21/the-lethal-dishonesty-of-intellectual-property-in-a-pandemic/
  10. [10]Angie Schmitt, “Why I Soured on the Democrats,” Atlantic, January 7, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/01/democrats-botched-public-school-covid-policy/621183/
  11. [11]Leana S. Wen, “Omicron is not a reason to keep schools closed,” Washington Post, January 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/06/omicron-is-not-reason-keep-schools-closed/
  12. [12]Scott Calvert and Ben Chapman, “Schools See Big Drop in Attendance as Students Stay Away, Citing Covid-19,” Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/schools-see-big-drop-in-attendance-as-students-stay-away-citing-covid-19-11641988802; Lindsey Tanner, “Low COVID-19 vaccination rates in kids ages 5 to 11 called a ‘gut punch,’ WTAE, January 12, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/young-kids-low-covid-19-vaccination-rates-called-gut-punch/38749433
  13. [13]Scott Calvert and Ben Chapman, “Schools See Big Drop in Attendance as Students Stay Away, Citing Covid-19,” Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/schools-see-big-drop-in-attendance-as-students-stay-away-citing-covid-19-11641988802
  14. [14]Sarah Jones, “We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About School,” New York, January 12, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/01/were-having-the-wrong-conversation-about-school.html

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