This all seems so familiar somehow: ordering a hundred homeschool supplies on Amazon, preparing a schedule, gearing up my mind for the unfathomable idea that I can somehow work full time and homeschool teach my kids full time simultaneously. It’s madness, and yet this time, it’s prepared madness. I guess the old saying, “People plan and God Laughs,” applies tenfold to the current pandemic.
I see schools putting together elaborate and impressive pandemic responses that must have taken countless working hours to construct only to change them a few short weeks later when faced with their own impracticality, and with the simple fact that they may actually do more harm than good. I mean, who in their right mind thinks that a five year old can reasonably keep a mask on all day? Or not touch their friend standing a few feet away that they haven’t see in six months? Or not touch anything at all but what is designated? How was that ever a plan? This level of societal anxiety is truly staggering to me. How, even in the name of safety, could we be so committed to such inhuman unilateralism?
The best plans seem to take these human foibles into mind. You can put up sanitizing stands everywhere, but you can’t mandate a hand washing routine. Who on earth could reasonably enforce that? You can suggest or even plan smaller gatherings, but how in the world could you ban any un-distanced socialization minus that of your roommate, as some boarding schools have demanded? Prisons offer far more flexible terms of accomodation. If we shoot ridiculously high on safe standards, they won’t be followed, short of fascist intervention. There has got to be middle ground between best practice safety routines and basic human need.
But much of that “middle ground” has been lost in the politicalization of the back to school issue due to systematic polarization of the pandemic, according to economist Emily Oster, among others. We must learn to see the other side: we must learn to recognize the merits of both social freedom for children in schools, important to avoid the very real risks of social isolation, and social restriction, important to avoid spikes in infection that will result from no restriction whatsoever. That balance has been ever elusive, and our children are about to pay the price.