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.”


Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.


The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Nagging COVID Questions

Reading time – 3:21  .  .  .

On The Hunt

It makes good sense not to put all our eggs into one basket in pursuit of a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. That’s why we have Operation Warp Speed, wherein we are stimulating the development of vaccines along several different avenues to find one that works and to do it as quickly as possible.

We just awarded $1.6 billion to Novavax to develop enough doses of a vaccine to treat 50 million Americans (2 doses each) by early 2021. If they can do that it will be quite an accomplishment, because the world record for vaccine development for a new virus is 5 years.

In addition, “.  .  .  an international group, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, awarded up to $388 million to Novavax in May to make its coronavirus vaccine available globally.” In addition, “In June, Novavax secured a $60 million contract from the Defense Department to guarantee the delivery of 10 million doses to vaccinate American troops for the coronavirus.”

That’s a lot of money to give to a company that has never brought a product all the way to market. Why would we do that?

The Trump Administration is doing its best to prevent transparency of where our taxpayer money goes in pursuit of a vaccine. What we know is that we have sent $4 billion to a total of 6 companies to produce a vaccine and we haven’t a clue how those companies were chosen, whether they have a track record suggesting they might succeed, if there are penalties for failing to produce a vaccine or where the money is coming from – i.e. which existing programs will become underfunded in order to pay these companies to develop safe and effective vaccines five times faster than such a thing has ever been done.

Because of Trump’s secrecy we also don’t know whether there has been favoritism or any other shady behavior involved in these significant public financial awards to private companies. This may all be on the up-and-up; maybe not. But the secrecy may well become damaging to our future health and the sleight of hand would be a scandal in any other administration. Today, it’s just another day at the White House.

Oh, and by the way, vaccines are only valuable to us if We the People take them, and there is considerable resistance to doing so. Only half of us say we’ll get the vaccine when it’s available; 30% are unsure what they’ll do; and 20% of us will refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. How will we deal with that in the absence of strong scientific, medical, social and moral national leadership?

Our Government and Your Health

The mission statement of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) begins this way:

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices;

Sounds great. We want them to ensure the safety and efficacy of the medicines we put in our bodies. That’s why they did the slow work to make sure that if you contract malaria that hydroxychloroquine will be both effective against the disease and safe for you to use.

They didn’t do all the same work looking into that drug when used to treat COVID-19. But they did review its use in VA hospitals and found that it was useless against the coronavirus and an all too likely side effect of that malaria drug used against the coronavirus was death.

Now a Henry Ford study is claiming that the FDA review was flawed and – surprise! – Donald Trump is using that claim to once again promote hydroxychloroquine as a preventative and a treatment for COVID-19.

In the absence of a standard FDA approval based on its guidelines and procedures for safety, efficacy and security, why would Trump promote this drug to fight COVID-19? He’s a total know-nothing about medical and pharmacological science and has no authority to prescribe medications. That leaves us wondering about his motivation for his outrageous insistence on using this drug that has the potential to kill Americans. What’s in it for Trump to do that? Who is benefiting? As always, follow the money.


Click me

Last week Trump told us that he will “put pressure on governors and everyone else” to fully open schools in fall.

  • Nobody knows how to safely open schools in the presence of this pandemic and no nation has ever tried to send kids back to school with a virus raging at the level this one is in America. Said one school nurse in New York, “It feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff,”
  • Click me

    Shouldn’t we instead consider the CDC’s clearly and consistently outlined dangers from this disease and give strong consideration to its recommendations for “opening” as we make decisions for our kids? And doesn’t our own common sense scream in our ears not to do stupid stuff?

  • Gambling with our kids’ health just isn’t a great idea. And caving in to the unhinged and self-serving demands of Donald Trump is exactly as nuts as it sounds.
Where Do You Get Your Information?

This is for our rugged individuals who refuse direction that impinges on their individual freedom or who simply don’t trust easily.

Karen Hughes

If you were to receive your coronavirus advice from a conservative Republican and if the advice were strong, clear and consistent, would you be willing to set aside your personal desires in order to do your part for the welfare of us all, including you?

Then read this essay by Karen Hughes, counselor to the president and undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs during the George W. Bush administration. Yes, that kind of conservative Republican. Then put on your mask whenever you leave home, because we can defeat this pandemic if at least 95% of us take this simple step.

And send along a link to Hughes’ essay to your friends and family who have found reasons not to wear a mask. Surely, they don’t want to put us all at greater risk, so help them to get the message.

Separate and Timely Issue: Voting By Mail

The president, vice-president and a significant proportion of senators and congressmen vote by mail. So do most of our military personnel, as do citizens who travel. Millions of people routinely vote by mail and there isn’t even a whisper of voter fraud to be heard, except what comes from the fraud-spouting mouths of politicians who are afraid for their jobs should the people make their voices heard and the majority at last rules.

Click me to learn about voting by mail in your state.

Because you don’t want to stand in line for hours with unmasked voters, you need to learn what to do to ensure you can vote by mail. Here’s a link if you live in Illinois and here’s a link if you’re a Wisconsin resident. Every state has its own website and procedures, so check for yours. I recommend doing a search on “vote by mail in ______” replacing the underscore with the name of your state. And don’t include the quotation marks in your search. Or you can click on the logo to the left and they’ll direct you. Pay careful attention to the instructions for your state because you’ll have to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot within a defined and limited time range. Then VOTE!

Bonus Question

There are 195 countries in the world. For 10 points, list each country that erects statues to and names their military bases for traitors to their country. Submit your answer below.

Special hint (we normally don’t offer hints): This list is very short.


Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.


The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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