Home > Uncategorized > AP Article on School Closings Underscores The Overarching Problem Stemming from Lack of Unified National Approach, Media Role in Politicization of Pandemic

AP Article on School Closings Underscores The Overarching Problem Stemming from Lack of Unified National Approach, Media Role in Politicization of Pandemic

December 8, 2020

AP writer Sarah Cline’s article on school closures recounts the pushback from parents regarding school closure mandates and, in doing so, underscores the the overarching problem stemming from the failure of the current administration to devise a national means of gathering and collecting data and illustrates the role the media is playing in politicizing the issue of school closures.

From the beginning I have advocated a nationalized approach to dealing with the pandemic driven by the need to gather and disseminate helpful data to states and school districts and the need to have some kind of standard threshold for opening schools. Had such an approach been taken, the debates over opening and closing of schools would have focussed on science; specifically, the debate would be over the validity of the threshold set by epidemiologists and whether it should be raised or lowered based on the recommendations issued by an independent agency like the CDC.  The independent agency, in turn, would now have a drove of data to draw on to make their recommendations which could be national, regional, or state-by-state.

Moreover, if we had a robust United States Department of Education focused on the gathering of meaningful data on student performance and the provision of universal training for teachers, that Department could have identified and disseminated the best practices in delivering remote instruction to students in schools that were closed as a result of the epidemiologists reports. Moreover, a well-functioning USDOE could have provided the funding and specifications for the technology needed to assure that students could continue progressing despite the closure of schools.

Alas, because we are led by a President and a political party who values individual rights over the collective good and power politics over the expertise of scientists and the need for a well functioning government we are now in a Darwinian world where the affluent districts and parents are providing an acceptable education to their children and everyone else is left to fend for themselves. But instead of using this overarching narrative to describe the problem, the media is playing into the divisiveness that had resulted from the decentralized approach to the pandemic. Two excepts from this article illustrate this phenomenon:

In many communities, parents have turned out at demonstrations for school reopenings, often greeted by groups of other protesters including teachers and their union supporters asking for improved safety measures before students return…

Based on data from the state’s education department, around 9% of Oregon public school students have returned for in-person school or a hybrid schedule, a result largely of stringent metrics set by Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, for school reopening.

I am certain many readers took this in without realizing that in doing so they were reinforcing two narratives put forth by the President: schools would open if this pesky “teachers and their union supporters” would worry less about “improved safety measures” and more about the inconvenience imposed on parents and businesses who, presumably, are OK with sending their children into harms way. And I am also certain that many readers saw that the Governor was a Democrat and reflexively rejected her “stringent metrics” because they favored the absence of metrics advocated by the President.

From my perspective media consumers would be better served if the debate about reopening focused on the provision of safety measures and the efficacy of each safety measure and the efficacy of metrics as opposed to their very existence or their degree of stringency. In doing so, the media would be reinforcing the scientific reality that wearing masks and maintaining social distancing IS important if we want to contain COVID and reinforcing the message that decisions on reopening are based on science and not on politics. In so doing they would be helping the public understand that they are fighting a disease that isn’t red or blue, a disease that thrives when the hosts argue among themselves instead of working together to put an end to it. In so doing, they MIGHT help unify the country— something that should not be a partisan debate.

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