Thursday, June 04, 2020

Non-Teacher Says Go Ahead and Open School Buildings

Over at the Washington Post, they've got an epidemiologist to write about schools. It's ironic, because when UFT got 108,000 signatures to close Covid-infested schools, the chancellor said we should get 108,000 epidemiologists instead.

The Post, though, settled for only one, Daniel T. Halperin, and he makes an interesting case. He says we should reopen schools. That, for me, was his first error. Schools are already open. I know because I already taught one class today, and I have another coming up soon. It's the buildings that are closed.

But hey, he's an epidemiologist, so why should he have to know that teachers are still working all over the country? That's not his area of expertise. Over the years, I've become used to hearing about education from people who know nothing about it. Evidently, anyone who has money is an expert. Bill Gates. Eli Broad. The Walmart family. Oprah. Those actresses in those anti-union films. You know. Experts.

Why should we reopen schools, according to the epidemiologist?

Of about 360,000 covid-19 deaths worldwide, only about two dozen children are known to have died. For all the recent reports of serious complications among young people, these are statistically rare and, if detected early, most afflicted youths recover within weeks.

You see? It's simple. I mean sure, a few die, but not that many. So if one of them happens to be your son or daughter, well too bad. You pays your money and you takes your chances. But there's more:

There is evidence, however, that as with the earlier SARS outbreak, children who have covid-19 are less contagious than adults. Many children with covid-19 are asymptomatic; in the absence of coughing and sneezing, they emit fewer infectious droplets. Remarkably, contact tracing studies in China, Iceland, Britain and the Netherlands failed to locate a single case of child-to-adult infection out of thousands of transmission events analyzed. A review of studies from several Asian countries identified few cases of children bringing the virus home, and a recent analysis of covid-19 interventions found no evidence that school closures had helped contain the epidemic.

You see?  We did all this for nothing. It's perfectly fine to send all those kids to school. They won't infect each other, and if, by some chance they do, they probably won't get sick. And it's rare that children cough or sneeze, right? And those that do always use tissues and cough into their elbows, and never contaminate anything with their hands. After all, this guy says so, and he probably went to school thirty years ago, so he remembers better than those of us who've been doing it every day of our working lives.

But hey, there's this. A very recent piece in NY Times kind of contradicts this guy
If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak, according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers.

And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.

So I guess it's about who you believe. Do you believe Colombia University researchers, or Halperin? Should I discount the teachers I know who've carried the virus? Should I make believe that some of them did not actually end up hospitalized? Should I ignore the fact that working UFT members can and have gotten sick and died from this awful disease? Or should I believe Halperin and hope for the best?

It basically comes down to whether you believe case A or B, and whether you've decided to err on the side of caution or accepting Halperin. What do you think? Should we all go back and hope for the best? Should we accept his findings and ignore the fact that students actually do sneeze and cough all the time, or that they touch everything? Should we let Covid-infected children go home to older parents and elderly grandparents?

Also, should we let them get on buses and subway trains that may or may not be clean? Should we let them eat in cafeterias that resemble nothing more than the prison mess? 

Will Halperin's message be sufficiently accepted that parents will let their babies go to school? Or should Trump, Cuomo and de Blasio wave it like a flag and say, "Look, you see? It's not our fault that your mother/ father/ grandmother/ grrandfather/ brother/ sister/ uncle/ aunt/ child died?" Will you believe them?

It's all in the eye of the beholder. My eye says this is written by a non-teacher with very little understanding of what goes on in schools. I have extensive experience with such people and their ideas, and none of it is good.

For now, my best instinct is to throw Halperin and his article on the same slag heap we've placed Bill Gates, Common Core, school closings, the ATR and other failed notions.

What do you think?

Update; The school openings in Israel are not working out very well. 
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