This political Melodrama begins with David Brooks in the New York Times of January 28, 2021:
Headline: Children Need to Be Back in School Tomorrow
Sub-headline: Teacher resistance is a disaster for the most vulnerable.
There’s a wave of anti-intellectualism sweeping America. There are people across the country who deny evidence, invent their own facts and live in their own fantasyland. We saw it in the Republicans who denied the reality of the Biden election victory and we see it now in the teachers unions that are shutting down schools and marring children’s lives.
What are the facts when it comes to Covid-19 and schooling?
The first fact is that remote learning is a disaster, especially for disadvantaged students.
Its easy to identify who the ‘villain’, of this Brooks Political Melodrama ! It’s not Teachers but ‘Teacher Unions’ who stand in the way of an ‘enlightened’ return to the classroom. The animosity of The Right to Teacher Unions gave birth to the ‘Charter School’ movement, that seeks to not just undermine these unions, but to decimate both Public Education and these powerful Unions. In sum to place Public Education in the hands of for profit Corporations.
The third fact is that teachers unions don’t seem to have adjusted to the facts. In Washington, Chicago and elsewhere, unions have managed to shut down in-class instruction. The Chicago public schools union is on the verge of an illegal strike, even though 130 private schools and 2,000 early learning centers have been open safely since the fall.
Mr. Brooks’ concern for ‘poorer Black and brown students’ is a pose, to understate the matter!
The fourth fact is that this situation is especially devastating to poorer Black and brown students. Many affluent kids have fled the public school disaster for private schools. It’s Black and brown kids who live in cities with progressive mayors and powerful unions, and those are the places where in-school learning has been closed down.
The reader need only look to the title of the Hartney/Finger paper, cited by Brooks, to gain insight into the political/economic stance of this ‘Report’ :
It reeks of a platitudinous Neo-Liberalism! Is this anything like a surprise?
When all else fails attempt to change the subject: the Republican Party is on trial ! Not to forget that Brooks has been a champion of very specific kind of Anti-Intellectualism: he’s like J. Edgar Hoover, a Leftist under every bed. In this case its ‘Teachers Unions’!
The reader wonders, what is the value of one Student’s or Teacher’s life? Not a question that occured to Brooks?
Rich Lowry’s Politico essay of February 10, 2021
Headline: Reopening Schools Has Become a Bipartisan Issue. Why Isn’t Biden Pushing Harder?
Sub-headline: Biden’s goal should be to exert every ounce of influence that he has to get kids back in the classroom — for their own good and that of the country’s parents.
It’s an old political trick to make an easily achievable goal sound vauntingly ambitious in order to brag about it when it’s inevitably met.
It takes another level of chutzpah, though, to set out as a target something that has already happened.
President Joe Biden sounded pretty resolute about the need to reopen schools on the campaign trail, and the press has portrayed his goal of reopening the majority of K-12 schools in his first 100 days as so far-reaching that the timeline might have to be extended.
Enter White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who explained on Tuesday that the administration defines a school as open if it holds in-classroom instruction at least once a week.
By this metric, the goal isn’t really having more than half of schools open — it’s having more than half of schools still 80 percent closed.
Not only is this a ridiculous standard — four days instead of five of remote instruction wouldn’t be a difference-maker for kids or parents — the country’s schools have already cleared the bar.
According to Burbio, which aggregates event data and runs a school opening tracker, nearly 40 percent of K-12 students are attending in-person schools, and 25 percent are attending hybrid schools. Only about 35 percent are virtual-only.
This goal post moving, from a 25-yard field goal to one that has already cleared the uprights, exemplifies how the Biden team isn’t pushing nearly hard enough on school reopening.
This is an issue that has gone from being something of a red vs. blue battle line last year, with President Donald Trump’s blunderbuss (if correct) advocacy for reopening making it more contentious, to a cross-partisan area of consensus. More and more people realize that on top of a public health and an economic crisis, we have an education crisis with myriad dire consequences, thanks to schools closing or relying on remote instruction.
Appealing to a readership of American Football Fans? He frames his comment in references to the game. The foppish Wm. F. Buckley Jr. would recoil! And rest assured, it’s those ‘Teachers Unions’ that appear as the enemy of an enlightened education policy, during the Pandemic. It the evolving Party Line of the ‘Conservatives‘. It is part of changing the subject, or just shifting the focus, away from the Republican Party on trial!
In intellectual and moral terms, the debate over reopening schools has been won, but political progress has been slow, mainly because powerful teachers unions are standing in the way, especially in big cities.
Nonetheless, teachers unions have fought reopening and help stymie reopening in cities and blue states around the county. Most schools in California have been remote. Elementary schools reopened in New York, but not middle schools or high schools. Chicago just finally got a deal with its union, which was threatening to strike.
After intense lobbying by the unions, most states have put teachers near the front of the line for vaccines (even though Biden’s CDC director has said “vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools”).
The Economist’s contribution to the question is a 39 minute podcast:
Headline: School’s out—getting America’s children back into class
Our weekly podcast on democracy in America
NEARLY HALF America’s children are yet to return to the classroom a year after the pandemic began. President Biden says it’s a national emergency, but he has already diluted a pledge to reopen the majority of schools in his first 100 days. Why is getting back to school so hard?
We hear from The Economist’s US policy correspondent Tamara Gilkes Borr and Adam Roberts, our Midwest correspondent.
John Prideaux, our US editor, hosts with New York bureau chief Charlotte Howard, and Jon Fasman, US digital editor. Runtime: 39 min
John Prideaux, at his plummy Oxbridger best, tells the listener about the longest Teachers Strike in American History, to open this podcast. So without delay, we are in the same territory of both Brooks and Lowry! ‘What are the political lessons for the new administration’ is the question Prideaux seeks to consider, with his guests, all Economist employees, and all three Americans. This portion ends at the 15: 45 mark and is succeeded by a commentary on the birth and evolution of the SAT, and its eventual use in college admissions. Mr Priseaux opines ‘The SAT has not solved the problem of equity in in college entry’.
I will place my faith in the Teachers Unions who have intimate day by day contact with students, and know better than journalistic technocrats, employed by Corporate Media, whose politics reflect the need to follow the Party Line: in sum, the self-serving mendacity of Public Sector Unionism.