The one query that has by no means been requested and answered about reopening colleges
When it comes to teachers, America must have a love-hate relationship with them.
On the one hand, we often hear platitudes about the nobility of the profession and the vital role played by these dedicated people who Americans entrust the development of their children for the lion’s share of each week.
On the other hand, teachers tend to be underpaid and work in underfunded schools with overcrowded classrooms. Recall the year 2018 when teachers from West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Colorado were effectively involved in mass strikes unlike any our nation has seen since the 1930s, motivated by the delay in teacher salaries in these states and the extremely low levels of funding for public education? These work actions were followed by massive teacher strikes in Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland in 2019 for similar reasons.
Teachers in West Virginia said they qualified for grocery stamps. And the fact that the IRS is now granting K-12 educators a $ 250 tax credit in recognition of teachers paying out of pocket for classroom materials effectively institutionalizes the recognition that public schools are severely underfunded.
So much for the nobility.
Of course, when teachers advocate better learning conditions for students and greater support for the profession itself, the slander against teachers – and their unions – increases. Then we hear people just going into work to get the summer off, blahblahblah.
Indeed, the persistent call to reopen schools amid an uncontrolled pandemic has rekindled both defamation of teachers and downplaying the pandemic that once appeared to be reserved to the right across the political spectrum Crackpots, like our previous president.
In January, the nation saw days when we lost 4,000 people to COVID-19 every day. The pandemic is far from under control.
Yet the call to bring teachers back to school was more insidious than previous Republican calls to reopen the economy, even though it meant the loss of lives, especially because teachers actually work and teach, often harder and longer than ever .
Let’s not confuse, as George Will seems to be, the call to go back to school for the call to go back to work. Will complains about the conditions under which some unions “return their members to the classes they are paid to do,” a phrase that grossly misrepresents the reality. Teachers are paid to teach and work harder than ever on them in very adverse circumstances.
Remember when Indiana Republican representative Trey Hollingsworth insisted that reopening the economy was more important than the life that such an action would surely bring?
He set out the choice between opening the economy or closing it to save lives in the following ways:
“Both choices will result in damage to the individual, whether it is dramatic economic damage or loss of life. But it is always the position of the American government to always choose the latter when choosing between losing our way of life as Americans or losing the lives of American Americans. “
Hollingsworth at least recognized the consequences of reopening.
People like Will and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, to name just two of the many voices, are simply ignoring the ongoing dangers of the pandemic by insisting that the CDC has made schools safe.
Let’s listen to what CDC director Rochelle Walensky actually says.
She clarified that the data, science, “does not show much coronavirus transmission when appropriate mitigation measures such as masking, distancing, classroom densification, ventilation, contact tracing, hand washing” are in place and well done. And she also stresses that vaccination teachers should be prioritized as an essential workforce.
Let’s underline the big “IF” and “WHEN” here. There is “not much” transmission when these mitigating measures are well implemented.
Mayor Lightfoot has insisted that teachers return to Chicago Public Schools prior to vaccination and urged the union to reach a compromise.
Compromise With Death? Is that what she means
First, I can tell you, as a resident of the Exhibition City of Chicago whose children attend Chicago Public Schools, many of the buildings are ancient and not adequately ventilated. And as I write, the temperature is 10 degrees, so the windows won’t open.
I myself work at a small state university in Chicago and the administration has moved away from the negotiating table to ensure proper ventilation and safe air quality.
So let’s really listen to what the CDC is saying. First, appropriate mitigation measures must be taken. Our leaders conveniently omit this phrase when berating teachers.
Second, what they call safe is “not much transmission”.
At my own facility, which oversees a large portion of the working class and color students, the prevailing expressions of fear and reluctance when returning to campus come from students themselves, who may take multiple buses to get to school and who live with an extended family, including grandparents.
And while young children are less prone to COVID, they can certainly pass it on and do so on a large scale.
And do we forget that over 450,000 Americans have died so far, of whom 630,000 are projected by June?
In a recent poll, only 37% of parents in Chicago said they would take their children back to school.
This initiative is not coming from families.
And if Lightfoot and others really care about children, their families, teachers, and school staff, just get yourself vaccinated like many districts in and outside of Chicago actually do!
Here is the question our experts and politicians haven’t answered:
Which number did you choose?
That is, how many deaths are acceptable to you to make schools worth opening?
If only ten teachers, staff or students die, is it worth it?
If an asymptomatic student sends COVID-19 to ten people on a city bus, who then each send it to ten other people, is it worth it?
And not just how much death, but how much illness, which can have long-term health effects, do we not yet fully understand?
Please tell me executives and experts what is your number?
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a Chicago state university. A longtime progressive voice, he has published numerous academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, and the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.