In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, our leaders are making choices that show their priorities.
This week in the state of Tennessee, Governor Lee is forcing a return to schools. This is being done despite a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic across every county of the State of Tennessee. He is requiring this to be done against the advice of the public health professionals and against the pleas of the educators who will be on the front lines of this battle.
President Trump and the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are behind the push for this return.
Ironically, many of those making this push have children who are in private schools and those schools are continuing with remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rationale for this push is an economic one. The claim is that we need to get our economy up and running.
That rationale makes money the top priority. Even more so than the health and welfare of our children and the teachers who are devoting their lives to educate them.
We are facing a new disease for which we do not yet have a vaccine nor a cure. We are still in a learning curve on how to effectively treat the disease for those who get sick. We still don’t know the long-term after-effects of the illness for those who survive. There are many assumptions that have been made that have not been proven true or false.
The things we do know about an effective way to slow the outbreak of the disease and reduce the suffering associated with it are simple. We isolate ourselves as much as possible. When we go out, we avoid large public gatherings in tightly confined spaces. We wear masks. We sanitize. We maintain a respectful social distance from one other of at least six feet. The public health experts make it clear that a faithful adherence to these protocols will bring about a quicker end to this scourge.
The truth is that there is simply no way we can follow the prescription for defeating COVID-19 by cramming our kids into classrooms together.
It is not as if there are no alternatives.
With all the new technologies that are available, teaching and learning can be done in a safe and effective way remotely. This is a time for our leaders to embrace the opportunity to enhance and improve the use of technology to make certain our students continue to learn and to prepare for life in the 21st Century. Rather than fret over students not being able to gather in a physical building, we should focus on developing new ways of teaching and real learning for our children.
Yes. This is different from the way that it has always been done. But these times are different than they have ever been. We now have the opportunity to create a technology-based learning system that will make public education even better than it was before. We can use our resources to improve overall access to that technology so that all children can participate regardless of where they live.
Government can partner with businesses like EPB, Blue Cross, Volkswagen, Unum, TVA and others to improve access and to improve education to meet the new challenges in the workplace. Our students will come out of school with the skills they need to compete in today’s world.
There is a vast amount of research that has already given us effective ways to change our curricula and learning outcomes.
The choice is clear – force children and teachers to return to the old “normal” with the consequent risk of another surge of the disease and the illness and death of our children and teachers that will follow.
Or “take our medicine” by continuing with remote learning until sufficient time has been given for a safe and effective vaccine or the diminishment of COVID-19 by the natural course of virus progression. And use this time to make the education system the best it can be to prepare children to compete in a new work environment.
The short-term economy may continue to suffer but the long-term investment in the health and well-being of the next generation will pay off with bigger dividends in a brighter and better future.
Chair, Hamilton County Democratic Party
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Where were the Democrats clamoring to shut down the economy and schools when the previous administration was faced with the H1N1 virus and directed all testing to be stopped (therefore all positive results to be unknown)?
It is blatantly obvious even to the casual observer that this media fear-mongering and cries for shutting down the economy is simply the latest tactic from the left to attempt to undermine the return of the strongest economy in the world prior to the election.
Does anyone doubt that if the Democrats were to somehow take power in November any of this would exist? The organized riots, left wing DA's and mayors (of which we have here as well) who refuse to protect the police and the ordinary taxpaying citizens is simply the next phase of the get Trump at all costs. Save your hollow rhetoric for CNN or MSNBC.