Classrooms can finally be open across the country, but we continue to live with the consequences of putting schools last.
My first-grader is struggling in school. He just turned 6 and can’t read yet. He is very easily frustrated. It’s hard to watch.
A 6-year-old child who doesn’t read isn’t the end of the world. We know he will catch up. His parents are on it. He comes from a house full of books. His two older siblings are voracious readers. We have already found a tutor for him. He’s lucky. I often think of children who are not so lucky.
A recent story in USA Today, titled “Pandemic freshmen are way behind in reading. Experts say it may take them years to catch up,” pointed out that first-graders are particularly at risk academically. Journalist Jackie Mader spoke to education experts who said Grade 1 is ‘the reading year’ and ‘pivotal for elementary school students’.
It’s no mystery why children struggle. After more than a year of schools in blue zones at best semi-open, we have brought children back into classrooms only to make them take senseless and unnecessary precautions that actively interfere with learning.
Last week, my son’s class presented projects. The children were masked and in their classrooms while the parents watched the presentations on Zoom. To summarize the presentations of the 6 year olds: “Skjnskjngpnw kngiwnk plplwoje! The Zoom featured a group of parents leaning in and listening intently to try and catch a word or two of what their child was saying. I totally failed.
You can go to concerts, dinners, Broadway shows. But it is forbidden to be in the same room as the population least at risk of a bad COVID-19 outcome. It’s because our leaders decided that concerts, dinner parties, Broadway shows mattered, when parental involvement in children’s education simply didn’t. They claim there are no consequences to this. There are.
The teachers have received a lot of criticism, but the majority work so hard. My son’s teacher is creative and caring. It’s the whole system, starting at the top with the elected leaders, that’s failing our children.
Parents tell me they feel completely lost on how to make healthy changes. The teacher has no control, the principal has no power. Few know their superintendent. The mayor is out for lunch, and anyway, in New York, school masking rules come from the top. Governor Kathy Hochul locked toddlers as young as 2 in masks indefinitely. Our geriatric governor, much more at risk of hospitalization or death from COVID than a child, is often seen without a mask in the crowd itself.
Last week, The Atlantic published an article titled “We opened the schools and. . . It was good,” about the obvious truth that many of us knew all along: Schools weren’t the dangerous COVID parties that teachers’ unions and their weak political allies portrayed.
But there was absolutely no accountability. In these pages in May 2020, I begged the then Governor. Andrew Cuomo not to put schools last in the reopening plan. It was early in the pandemic, but I wrote ‘we now know the risk of coronavirus to children is miniscule’.
This is not something we discovered at the end of 2021. We knew this all along and were forced to ignore it for political purposes.
The “Now It Can Be Told” plays are there to cover up the fact that teachers’ unions ran the show and spineless politicians made their bid to keep schools closed unnecessarily. We broke kids because Randi Weingarten said so. But it’s not just her. The rot is deep. Unions have sat down with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop policies to keep schools closed. Anthony Fauci went from saying schools should be open to saying they could only open once President Joe Biden’s stimulus package is passed. All forces of the left aligned against the children.
They still line up that way today. Make no mistake: the people who hurt our children last year are still doing it.
The same people who got school openings wrong are now demanding intense masking in schools. Only children should mask all day, every day, with a break only while they are actively eating and drinking. In New York public schools, that extends to masking outdoors. Only the safest segment of the population is forced to live this way.
In a year we will see the articles on how, in fact, masks were bad for kids all along, with no excuses for getting it wrong. Already a Brown University study of cognitive development in young children attributes a dramatic drop in verbal and nonverbal development to masking.
I will do what I must to save my child. But it is high time those responsible were held accountable for what they have done to so many children who will be left behind.