The coronavirus has created a conundrum for Americans. On one side of it are teachers; on the other, students and their parents.
I see no easy solution.
Parents and students want a return to in-class learning. Now! They make a good case for the importance of face-to-face instruction, which, by all accounts, proves far more effective then online learning.
Their thinking does not consider that millions and millions of families do not have access to fast and reliable internet connections. Yet those parents who continue to push hard for in-class learning ignore this point.
They understand the hardship the alternative puts their children to. Quality education will open doors wide – or wider – for boys and girls who have it. The days of needing a strong back are gone with the wind.
It is pointless to quarrel with parents.
For their position is not taking into account the risks that educators face. Too many of them are unwilling to put their lives at risk, which is what some of them will be doing if they return to teaching the way they taught before wearing face masks and practicing social distancing became political talking points.
Do not for one second think these issues are not political. America has a president who knows that returning to “normal” improves his chances of winning a second term. Critics of Donald Trump – and those critics are on the political left and right — talk openly about his non-leadership on some of the most pressing issues to face the United States since World War II.
Discarding the science of the coronavirus, Trump has waffled and wavered about how seriously to treat the pandemic, and in his ear are men and women who want normalcy at the expense of a steady, rapid rise in covid-19 morbidity.
The death toll sits at more than 150,000 people. Few of them are schoolchildren; most are men and women who are deeper into their lives.
If you think those men and women sound as if they could be schoolteachers, you would be right.
They have long been called heroes, shaping the lives of a generation of successful people. For all they have done, schoolteachers have seen their hard work pay only meager dividends. They are tasked today with doing more in the classroom with less, soldiering a duty that few others want.
Now, they are asked to teach children whose parents want from teachers what they are unwilling to do themselves. Teachers see the foolishness of such thinking.
In Columbus, Ohio, a score of teachers, joined by some supportive parents, rallied Monday outside the Statehouse to highlight the risks in returning to in-class learning.
Doing so puts the health of all sides in danger, so caution, teachers argue, makes more sense.
Their position, however, worries a lot of parents, who seem reluctant to accept that health worries of teachers should affect learning. Parents seem to be saying that teaching children trumps health concerns.
Many of these parents want high-school athletics to return too. They do not want another coronavirus lockdown to wreck the football season.
Theirs is peculiar thinking. They want from schoolteachers what they have seldom been unwilling to give: unflagging support.
Show that support by paying teachers well, but do not dare ask them to repay you with their lives.