Are Schools Essential?
President Trump held a press conference yesterday in which he outlined his vision for the 2020 school year. Some points highlighted from his address are now available online and include these that I think might be of interest:
“It is vital that parents be allowed to weigh both the benefits and risks of sending their child back to school, including the level of community spread and the makeup of their household, especially for multi-generational households.”
“If schools do not reopen, funding should follow students so parents can send their child to the private, charter, religious, or home school of their choice.”
“Under the President’s vision, students and parents will also be offered support to allow them to choose the school options that are best for them.”
I know that a lot of people (myself included) were thrilled to hear the President advocate for school choice and funding following the student instead of being locked into a government school monopoly. This is something a lot of us have been advocating for a long time now.
But just as education-choice advocates began celebrating these remarks, the CDC quietly updated their guidance on school reopening. They gave some pretty good statistics on transmission from children to adults (spoiler alert: it’s practically non-existent) and also compared the lethality of COVID-19 to children with that of other illnesses, saying that COVID-19 appears to be less deadly to children than the regular flu.
The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children. Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults. To put this in perspective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths. Although relatively rare, flu-related deaths in children occur every year. From 2004-2005 to 2018-2019, flu-related deaths in children reported to CDC during regular flu seasons ranged from 37 to 187 deaths. During the H1N1 pandemic (April 15, 2009 to October 2, 2010), 358 pediatric deaths were reported to CDC. So far in this pandemic, deaths of children are less than in each of the last five flu seasons, with only 64. Additionally, some children with certain underlying medical conditions, however, are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
I know the CDC has lost credibility for many, many people because of (among other reasons) the back and forth throughout the whole COVID experience, but these statistics are actually pretty promising. Even if they were only released for possibly nefarious reasons…
The whole post is worth reading because it gives a pretty good window into the thinking of those in government about the role that they should have in the educating and upbringing of children. I’m going to shock precisely zero of you when I say that they appear to envision themselves as the sole providers of all that is necessary and good to children.
The conclusion was that,
Schools are an important part of the infrastructure of our communities, as they provide safe, supportive learning environments for students, employ teachers and other staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work.
Schools also provide critical services that help meet the needs of children and families, especially those who are disadvantaged, through supporting the development of social and emotional skills, creating a safe environment for learning, identifying and addressing neglect and abuse, fulfilling nutritional needs, and facilitating physical activity.
School closure disrupts the delivery of in-person instruction and critical services to children and families, which has negative individual and societal ramifications. The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus.
Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets—our children—while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families.
A lot of that sounds so much like the things that John Taylor Gatto tried to tell us about the government education system, and that we cover in The Tuttle Twins and the Education Vacation.
I have a lot of trouble with the idea—so casually presented—that schools exist to enable parents to work, fulfil nutritional needs of children, and facilitate physical activity, among other things. I also don’t know that I believe that we would suffer negative societal ramifications if children aren’t in the daily care of the state. For a long time, people like me have bristled at what seems to be a never-ending list of ways that the government education system attempts to infringe on the rights and responsibilities of parents and families. It’s so common that it’s just accepted as the norm.
A lot of parents—even those who don’t like the idea of homeschool for their family—really dislike assertions like these that without the government education system, the world would somehow fall into disrepair. I tend to believe that even if the public education system disappeared entirely, new programs, schools, and services would take their place. I mean, we have already seen this happen in response to the shut downs of the last several months.
And I have a feeling that it’s only just beginning.
I guess all we can do at this point is stand by to see what schools decide to do with the information put out yesterday by the President and then by the CDC, and in the meantime continue making the decisions that best serve the needs of our families.
I know a lot of parents are hoping for a reopening of schools because their lives have been totally upended by the prospect of having to somehow teach their kids and also work to support their families. I know that other families are really hoping that their dreams of school choice will finally become reality—with funds following students instead of being tied to services they don’t use.
If nothing else, it’s encouraging to see school choice getting some (positive) national attention. There are as many ways to educate a child as there are children, and the ideal situation would be for parents to hold control over deciding what education looks like for their kids. Monopolies always increase cost and decrease quality, and that’s true of a compulsory “education” system as well.
Which reminds me—did you know that a lot of people use charter funds to buy our books? Something to consider as you’re encouraging friends and neighbors to snag a set of their own Tuttle Twins books!