Every now and again, a new wave of coronavirus sadness hits me. It did the other day. As of this morning, an internet search reveals the current stats worldwide:
(I’m assuming that the + means those added within the last 24 hours.) 😦
As I sit here typing, it is a guarantee that those numbers are increasing–well, of those which are being reported, reported accurately or even being ‘allowed’ to be reported, a whole other issue throughout this pandemic which you would have to ask Mr. Trump and other leaders about. Regardless, the statistics of COVID-19 are astounding and when you have to type them out, all eight digits for example, the shock value is resounding. It really is. Ashamedly, I try not to look at the numbers often for that very reason. It’s flat-out depressing and some days, I just don’t have it in me to deal with the sad reality of it all. Saying that, I hear it for the truly pitiful excuse that it is given that my fellow human beings are the lives/deaths behind those numbers. My people, our people. Our friends, our neighbours, our relatives, our acquaintances, and even our strangers–nonetheless our brother and sisterhoods alike. I should be more brave.
Then, the other night, I was eating my supper and casually scrolling through one of my social media feeds when I spotted something so familiar, yet startling at the same time. It was a kindergarten school supply list for the upcoming school year as follows:
Chances are that we have all seen some sort of rendition of the purple sheet of paper either as a child ourselves or as a parent? Yet, on how many of those lists have you seen hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes and face masks/shields as *required* supplies for the school year? Shoes, Kleenex and a backpack? Of course. Sanitizer? Maybe during cold/flu season, but Lysol wipes and a face mask or shield?!? Call me old and out of the loop, but for some reason, I was expecting things like pencils, a pencil box, crayons, a paint shirt maybe. After all, we are talking about school here. Oh, and keep in mind that the above-mentioned items are for a c-h-i-l-d, and not just any child; rather a tiny individual who is five years old, on average, who will likely be entering school for the very first time separate from any pre-school type of experience. I’ll stop and let you take that information in for a minute–a good, looong minute…
Picture your little one or a little one walking up to his/her school for the very first time in his/her young life–such a momentous occasion. He or she is sporting his/her brand new shoes (if lucky), a specially chosen outfit, slicked back hair with his/her carefully selected Disney or Marvel backpack haphazardly tucked around his/her little shoulders. From behind, everything looks as it should until you catch a side or front view and see his/her mask or shield covering up their sweet face. Then, the partially unzipped knapsack reveals the spout of a bottle of alcohol-based Purell or One-Step. A large, cylindrical shape bulges out of his/her school bag indicative of the Lysol name brand wipes listed on the violet sheet. It becomes crystal clear that the young child isn’t just armed for learning, he/she is armed, or supposedly armed, to fight a deadly virus while hopefully being able to recite the sounds and letters of the alphabet and count to ten or twenty or whatever it is. Oh, and let’s not forget that he/she will have to do all of this while quietly (screaming and crying produce more droplets, mask or not) seated in their desks for hours with all of their belongings at hand (no communal coat rack use) whilst social distancing from their classmates and their teacher, all the while not sharing materials or playing with toys unless they have been sanitized again and again by who knows who since the teacher is intended to be teaching and the child is intended to be learning.
What a joke! Seriously?! Getting a five-year old child to simply sit still long enough, without crying or screaming, to eat their breakfast can be a feat in and of itself at times pre-COVID-19, let alone now. The expectations that would be required of these little ones is ludicrous. Some are even IMPOSSIBLE. Under ANY circumstances. And, anyone (doctorate or not) who thinks or claims that smaller class sizes, rearranging desks and possibly alternating schedules or staggering break times could provide a more feasible solution are sadly mistaken. We are talking about five year-olds as per my scenario and children in general. If you are a parent or grandparent or a coach or a Sunday school teacher or a Girl Guide leader or if you happen to remember anything about being a child yourself, you know all of the challenges that come with raising children on a day-to-day basis, let alone teaching them under ‘normal’ circumstances. As founded in the worldwide statistics at the beginning of my post, it is clear that these times are far from normal. Not even in the same realm of normal. Yet, here we sit in the middle of a pandemic with numbers of those infected and dying climbing daily, hearing report after report of how children will be returning to school in the fall. But, let’s hold on for a minute and re-visit that purple supply list which I started with…
Now, perhaps I’m feeling extra sensitive or something lately, but when I first saw that school supply list, I found it absolutely heart-breaking. Really, really heart-wrenching and maddening and saddening and just plain wrong and I couldn’t shake it; hence I am writing about it. Tell me please, how and why on God’s green earth we are thinking about sending a five-year old child, mere months beyond his/her toddler years, to school with Lysol, 60% alcohol-based sanitizer and face protection to learn his/her alphabet and numbers when thousands of new deaths are being reported daily around the world? No disrespect intended personally, but have we become that shallow as a society that we are willing to risk adding to those numbers exponentially should schools resume since we don’t yet know the full extent of how this virus is affecting children , the transmission rates to adults working with them as well as their own family members? I mean, just look at the most recent data that has come out about the eighty-five babies in Texas who have become infected and the one-third of kids in Florida testing positive for the virus. Those were just two of the links included below that I quickly referenced with many more out there I’m sure; even though kids were first reported to be generally ‘safe’ from contracting COVID-19 and its ill effects, new data is showing that that has changed:
My point is, what is it going to take for us to wake up and smell the coffee here? If the coronavirus numbers aren’t enough to convince us to change our thinking and way of doing things, then what will it take? Sometimes, I have to wonder if a near miss with a completely earth-shattering meteor or comet is in order (not that I really wish for that to happen). Sounds a bit extreme, but did the dinosaurs behave this way before they became extinct and now, they are obliterated as a result of their own poor choices? No one knows for sure what happened to them even though there are many theories out there which have been debated over time. Are WE going to continue to sit back and debate the economy and COVID-19 before its colossal damage puts US on the extinct list?
I get that we are worried about jobs and businesses and such and we should be, but surely we have more creative solutions in the 21st century than putting some of our most innocent, vulnerable parts of our population in a petri dish to see what cooks up over the next while, so that interest rates can climb again, the price of oil and gas can regain their equilibrium and some CEO’s can ‘think’ about hiring back their bottom feeders, namely the rest of us, unless of course they are reveling in how much more money they are pocketing now that their business is virtual and overhead is less. Advance apologies for making generalizations, as I try to emphasize the seriousness of what we are facing. I know that many CEO’S and companies have stepped up in numerous ways to support us all during these trying times, but the reality is that there is a lot of talk and action out there which obviously supports the idea of putting the good of our economy ahead of people’s lives, literally. Will children and schools become the scapegoats as we attempt to ‘get back on our feet’ again?
And now that we know that children are being affected by the virus, I don’t buy the theory which trivializes the risks by saying that it is in the children’s best interests socially and emotionally that they return to school. If their physical health is at risk, the rest of it will not matter, will it? Kids are way more resilient emotionally than we give them credit for, especially if we model resiliency for them. Are there a lot of children living in poverty or difficult home situations who would benefit from the schools doors being open again–another argument I’ve heard for a fall return to in-person classes? One hundred percent, but again, why are we relying solely on schools with mass populations in close quarters amidst a crisis which has proven that distancing is a must in reducing exposure? Shouldn’t we as a society be trying to find every possible agency and/or solution known to man to help these kids, separate from schooling–institutions developed to educate children, not simply house them for the day so that their parents can go off to work. Schools are not daycares or hospitals or cafeterias or mental health institutions. They are schools, future-builders, who have been grossly undervalued and underfunded by governments for decades while being highly criticized for their lack of skill in turning out successful, productive youth. I wonder why. It takes a village, doesn’t it?! Not a building and certainly not a building with budget cut after budget cut–just ask the doctors and nurses how their similar types of cuts have been impacting their work as of late. Health and safety should come first and foremost; above all else, including the stock market and education. Hopefully, the powers that be, parents and employers will realize that alternate solutions are necessary until things look a little brighter on the horizon for all of us.
As to how things have unfolded over the past few months, I know that many folks like myself have expressed the need to rethink our thinking (a.k.a. metacognition) going forward or we are going to lose out even more than we already have and not just with respect to the pandemic. Extrapolate what I’ve said to our planet and the issue of global warming. The virus isn’t to blame for that. We are. Myself included regrettably. At some juncture, however, it would be nice if the continual finger-pointing would stop before the ground beneath us crumbles and the finger-pointing becomes completely irrelevant. I mean, if we are going under never to re-surface again, I guarantee that the thinking won’t be, “But, but, but…”. Instead, it’ll be, “Holy ####, is this it?! Is this the end?” Unfortunately, for some 609 986+ people, our people, the answer is yes.. it is the end. As in no more life to be lived here on Earth. No second chances, no do-overs. If that is not just gutting, totally and utterly gutting, then I don’t know what it is.
Where and when our pandemic numbers will stop growing no one knows and that fact alone should be our motivation to do differently, to do better. As a society, we need to stop operating from a standpoint of more, more, more money and power (greed for the greediest) and the endless fighting over both all over the world, or we are going to be faced with one crisis after another after another with no end in sight, except for our most literal one.