Schools and Some More Stuff

By the time this pandemic is over our kids will be as much as a year behind in school. Many are already having both academic and psychological issues due to isolation, including lack of the socialization that being in school provides. Plus, staring at a screen all day is just plain hard to do.

One of the ways schools have tried to minimize these adverse effects is to create a hybrid system, where 1/3 to 1/2 of the kids are in the classroom, which provides plenty of social distancing. As that’s going on, the rest of the kids follow along at home on their computers and the kids are rotated through the system. That only works, of course, when the kids have both computers and internet access, which simply isn’t the case for all kids.

Parts of the country are starting to “open up”, which means that we are incrementally allowing people to patronize bars and restaurants, but with perhaps only 25% occupancy. That provides separation so that we’ll only infect others with this deadly virus when we sneeze. “Opening up” has been part of new surges before and expecting different results now is demonstrably insane. Look for an increase in coronavirus cases around February 20. Open up bars? I have a better idea.

Actually, this isn’t original, but I’m proud to borrow from Vanessa Barbara’s essay in the Times, “I Can’t Believe I Need to Say This, but We Need Schools More Than Bars.” What if we converted bars and restaurants to school rooms?

Let’s see, bars and restaurants have tables and chairs in large, open areas. Check that box.

These are unused or vastly under-used facilities, making them available. Check that box, too.

A neighbor works for a company that runs an office with 1,000 – 1,500 employees. She’s been working from home for the past 10 months, as have her colleagues, and she periodically goes into the office for a short task. She reports that there are never more than 20 people in the entire building. That dramatic under-use of office space is typical across the nation.

Let’s see again: These are places with desks, chairs, great lighting, lots of room and internet service. Check all the boxes.

Another benefit of this kind of adjustment is that it minimizes the number of new teachers we’ll have to hire and train due to extremely small class sizes, because the class sizes won’t have to be smaller.

And yes, this can be done safely, even with the coronavirus unconquered, although with these new virulent strains now spreading that will have to be studied again.

Utilizing these spaces for school rooms could bring bar, restaurant and office renters a few months of financial relief and provide a venue for teachers to do what they are wired to do: teach kids. Our folks who are desperate for a bar or restaurant will just have to learn to live with disappointment for a little while longer.

The point is that we are living in a time when no road maps are available to deal with our challenges. That’s piled on top of our archaic education system format, leaving our kids behind their international peers and with life-long implications for under-performing, both individually and for us as a country. Legacy thinking from past centuries just can’t get the fix-it job done. We’re going to have to be creative now and, really, forever, if we’re to create the best outcomes.

It’s more complicated than transforming bars, restaurants and offices into classrooms, of course, and we humans have an infinite capacity to make things difficult. But what if we were to focus solely on educating our kids – would that simplify things a bit?

Turns out some folks have already done some outstanding work to ameliorate the learning losses our kids have endured, as well as the hits to their mental health. Read this report from McKinsey & Company. Pages 1 – 9 outline the challenges and our ongoing inexcusable education outcome disparities.* If you want to know how we’ll fix what’s broken, focus your attention starting on page 10.

Clearly, what we need is for our leadership to get out front and lead our kids back in school. That’s going to take some creative thinking and it’s going to cost money. All that’s riding on our getting this right is the lives of our kids and the future of our nation.


Covid News

If you’ve been watching (who hasn’t?) you’ve seen that the infection numbers have been dropping for a short while. Not surprisingly, it’s more complicated than  that.

This (used by permission) is from my analytically superior colleague Dave Nelsen, who brought us the story last July of why masks work:

“[T]here are credible people out there who believe .  .  .  that the worst of COVID-19 is still ahead of us. Here’s one such article. FYI, Dr. Peter Hotez is President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute .  .  .

“The basic concern is about the UK and South African variants with their great transmissibility leading to a fourth, yet higher, final wave. Regardless, do not let down your guard. Every protocol that works against “standard” SARS-CoV-2 (masks, distance, good air flow indoors, etc.) also works against these new mutations.” [emphasis mine]

Here’s a link to the report.

Insanity update

You may recall that some of the survivors of the 2018 Parkland, FL school massacre are activists for gun safety reform. David Hogg is one of the leaders and I received an email from him last week, complete with a link to a video of QAnon conspiracy nut job Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Pluto). In the video you’ll see her harassing him shortly after the shootings when Hogg was just 17 or 18 years old, still in high school, and Greene was chronologically, at least, an adult. You have to see Greene stalking Hogg to believe it.

This woman is what is now passing as an honorable member of Congress. If you need more to be convinced of how deeply disturbed, cruel and dangerous she is (read: unhinged), click here.


Some good news

The Biden administration is a week and a half old and has conducted a press briefing daily. The good news is that over these 12 days not a single reporter has been attacked, shamed or insulted by the press secretary, many questions have been answered, there have been no lies about the size of Biden’s inaugural crowd and every briefing has started on time. All in all, it’s what we used to call normal.


A Little Bit of Fun – Plus

Perhaps you missed one of the candidates for president in the last election. Too bad, because he has some sense that is most often missing. Here’s a link to his message and here’s a link to his still available campaign website. Be sure to click the Issues tab.

This guy makes sense in his entertaining, tongue-in-cheek way. Thanks to AT for pointing to him.


*From the McKinsey report: “The pandemic has forced the most vulnerable students into the least desirable learning situations with inadequate tools and support systems to navigate them .  .  .  Currently, the United States ranks 36th in math and 13th in reading in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings.”


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