The return to school: Let’s have it both ways
Our children are the promise of our collective future. In prioritizing that future, we must recognize our potential for failure. Have we failed in our duty to protect and preserve our number one asset and promise for the future? We have let our differences and politics take hold of our ability to parent. Leaving our children and their needs by the wayside while we fight and argue about things that do not help, but rather hinder their success, failing to realize we are in danger of losing the next generation by our ineptitude and incompetence.
Our president has failed us in this situation. Although I recognize and agree the media has been no friend to President Trump, I disagree with how he has handled this pandemic. He will not lead by example by wearing a mask, yet he insists we send our children to school in the fall with masks. It is a very difficult dilemma to face as a parent and as an American when our own President preaches one thing and lives another.
Who is talking about how all of this has affected our children, most of whom have been home since mid March 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic? Children know and see so much more than most of us realize. They see the dysfunction we wish they didn’t in our own homes. They see and try to interpret the news of the day and navigate the social media they follow. The reality is they are all watching us and wondering why we, who are the adults in charge can’t seem to formulate a plan to educate and protect them. They see our indecision and it scares them. We will surely feel the consequences of that indecision if we don’t address it immediately.
What the medical experts tell us is that children are less susceptible. Is this a fact or a guess? It is obviously a guess only based on what we have already observed as that is all doctors do as they too are learning. It is very hard to know with any degree of certainty what will happen when children en mass get back together in close indoor quarters even with masks and cleanliness observed. The fact is not enough children have been tested. Those who have been tested and are positive are largely asymptomatic and may (we don’t really know) be able to spread it to other children and adults who may become severely symptomatic or die. I don’t think using our children as guinea pigs without more concrete information is a good idea, do you?
I know virtual learning and kids at home rather than in school presents a socialization problem for them, an economic problem for the parents and all of us collectively, and even perpetrates mental health problems. The bright side of this is that thankfully with the technology we have today, we can educate and communicate virtually. Lower income children must be included as well by providing them the means to connect remotely as needed. This is surely a better means of spending our monies than a complete revamp of all of our schools with barriers and bubbles for each child for a pandemic that may be short-lived in the greater space of time.
This country has the means to do better with remote learning and we should be working at improving that capability as it presents the safest choice we presently have for educating our children. Perhaps as the number of cases goes down, we gradually bring children back into schools in small classes for the youngest ones who need in-person instruction the most and we phase-in children in school over time as the pandemic wanes or a cure/vaccination presents itself which it surely will.
The schools need to plan for both in-person and remote learning. The learning needs to be equally adequate and include some form of social interaction which has been missing from the remote curriculum. We need to recognize what our children need and are missing as they exist in the “safety” of their homes while not requiring we expose them to danger during this pandemic.
Education of our children should never put them in the middle of harm’s way or a political war, but rather seek to give them the learning they need to excel for our country’s collective existence in the future. How can anything else be more important?
Liz Conti lives in Norwalk.
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