Archive for August, 2020

Unions Favor Safety and Science; Politicians Favor Cheap Child Care

August 31, 2020 Comments off

It looks like the battle over school reopening is headed for court and the ultimate question will be whether science and safety will prevail over politics.

This article from The Hill uses the legal wrangle in Florida as a proxy for the court cases across the country, in part because it is first in line in terms of timing and also because it has clear battle lines.

Florida is first in line because they opened schools earlier than most states and it is the most clear cut because their Governor used his emergency powers to mandate that all schools be opened and providing face to face instruction five days a week or lose their state aid. In a state where parents are outnumbered and many voters are opposed to the closure of schools and the businesses due to the pandemic the Governor’s stance is probably popular with a majority of his supporters.

But COVID 19 doesn’t vote and neither do the children who will be exposed to the disease and, from all evidence will be exposing their parents and other family members to it, don’t vote either. Teachers and parents who are opposed to reopening the schools DO vote and are vocal and organized… and they also have the financial wherewithal to take the state to court where they will argue that science indicates that opening is a health risk.

One thing is very clear: if COVID 19 was running for office it would lose in a landslide. No one likes it and no one enjoys the restrictions it has imposed for nearly six months. That said, in nations where the disease was addressed in a uniform and unified fashion there are far fewer debates about reopening schools because these is also a uniform and unified set of standards used to make the decision.

Is Kenosha WI the Rule or and Exception? Can We Hope to End Police Violence by Burning Garbage Trucks?

August 29, 2020 Comments off

I have a knot in my stomach that I hope this post will help loosen, a knot that is the result of the sequence of events witnessed by millions of Americans over the past few days in Kenosha, Wisconsin, events that I believe would have caused moral outrage a decade ago but now feed into a pitched political battle about law enforcement.

The sequence of events are described factually in this USA Today article that also includes some pictures and videos. In brief, a police officer called to intervene in a domestic dispute shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year old black man, in the back seven times as he was walking toward his vehicle. Peaceful protests occurred the next night, protests that devolved into violent confrontations between some in the crowd and the police and led to some in the crowd setting fire to vehicles and public buildings. The next day, the Governor sent in National Guardsman to protect property and supplement that police as they enforced an 8:00 PM curfew enacted by the local government. Uninvited “militias” who support the police were also present. The next night, three of the protesters who stayed out beyond the curfew were shot by a Kyle Rittenhouse, a White teenager who was a self-declared member of one of the militias. Kyle Rittenhouse was transported from his home in Illinois by his mother, who was a supporter of the police. After shooting and killing two people and seriously injuring another Kyle Rittenhouse was driven home to Illinois were he was arrested the next night.

Since then, several other facts have emerged, all of which provide pro-police-force advocates with some degree of justification for the actions of the Kenosha Police and others of which provide the protesters with some degree of justification for their animosity toward the police:

  • Jacob Blake had a knife in his vehicle under the floorboard on the drivers’ side.
  • Jacob Blake had a police record.
  • Kyle Rittenhouse was not only a supporter of the police, he was an avid supporter of the President.
  • Some of the protesters who pursued Kyle Rittenhouse after he shot his first victim had handguns.
  • All of the protesters and Kyle Rittenhouse were in violation of the 8:00 PM curfew.
  • Kyle Rittenhouse was seen talking with the police before he confronted the protesters
  • Wisconsin is an “open carry” state.

This sequence of events saddened me and the predictable reactions to the events saddened me even more. The fact that non-violent protests erupted into burnings and shootings happened on the week the GOP was holding its convention played into the President’s “Law and Order” campaign and added fuel to the fire that any protests require the presence of law enforcement.

As I reviewed the USA Today synopsis, a series of questions merged, including the two in the title of this post. Questions that, I fear, will be lost in the pitched political battle that is likely to take place in the weeks and months ahead between those who blindly support the police and those who seek justice— which doesn’t necessarily preclude the support of police:

  • Are armed police the best resource to help resolve a domestic dispute?
  • What kind of training do the police sent to break up a domestic dispute receive?
  • What role did Jacob Blake have in the domestic dispute? Why did the police pursue him with guns?
  • Why didn’t the police prevent an armed militia member like Kyle Rittenhouse from entering an area of curfew violating protesters?
  • Why aren’t the organizers of peaceful protests clearly disavowing support for those protesters who engage in acts of violence?

If we ever hope to achieve justice, we need to adopt the non-violent approaches of Martin Luther King, Junior, and avoid falling into the tit-for-tat logic and reactions that lead to conflicts. Peaceful protests can only occur in a society that values the rule of law…. a society that embraces and supports even-handed law enforcement and calls out instances where that is not in place. If Martin Luther King, Junior were alive today he would refute those who attend his marches armed with handguns, those who violate curfews, and those who burn and destroy property in the name of freedom and justice. He would understand and support the rage behind those acts, but seek to channel that rage productively. We need leaders who will be peace and seek peace knowing. as John Lewis did, as the Freedom Riders did, as the children in Birmingham did and as Martin Luther King Junior did, that there may be a price to pay. We will not put an end to police violence against innocent blacks by burning garbage trucks. We will only do so by being peace.


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Unsurprisingly, Reopened and Hybrid Schools are Facing Problems

August 28, 2020 Comments off

In scrolling through the Education news on my phone this morning, I could have chosen any one of 10+ articles describing the complications reopened and hybrid schools are facing. I find these articles to be extremely sad for three reasons.

First and foremost, had our country made a NATIONAL decision to quarantine in place for 4-6 weeks at the outset of this outbreak, none of the debate over reopening would have been necessary. Had we made that decision at the outset, COVID levels would mirror those of other developed countries where reopening is underway with few complications and where students, like other citizens are adhering to mask wearing and social distancing protocols.

Secondly, this is sad because the complications were predictable AND impossible to address through careful planning. With so much uncertainty and so much unknown about the transmission of the disease it is not at all fair to blame administrators for a failure to plan ahead for every contingency. How could they when it was clear that the unknowns by definition were unknowable?

Third, it is sad because it shows that the parents’ and politicians’ concerns for a return to normalcy outweighed their concerns that their children could get or transmit a disease of unknown long term impact to others. The children’s well being is being sacrificed in the hopes that the transmission of the disease will not be exacerbated but with the full knowledge that it is not under control.

After reading and/or skimming several articles I chose this Chalkbeat article about the pending hybrid opening of NYC schools, which looks more and more like a train wreck. At this juncture there is no way to reverse the decision to reopen the most complicated school district in America… and because NYC took the pandemic seriously it is possible that they will not have the same level of disease spread as some other regions… but the stress induced on parents and children will be palpable and irreversible and, I believe, will offset any social gains students might get from gathering in one place with masks and social distance. And that is yet another reason to be sad.