Pascal’s Wager

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) | Issue 125 | Philosophy Now
I anticipated Texas Hold Em.

Blaise Pascal, the noted French mathematician and theologian, once made a famous wager considering eternal life and Christian theology.

In short, Pascal opined that you have to make a bet regarding eternal life based upon whether you believe God exists or not. If God exists, then you might receive eternal bliss (for believing in God’s existence) or eternal misery (damnation for not believing.) If God does not exist, then it does not matter either way; death is the end.

Rational belief would demand that one believe in God because the worst outcome of such belief is the best outcome for not believing: death is the end. But by believing, one gains a chance of obtaining the best outcome, eternal bliss, and avoiding the possibility of the worst outcome, eternal suffering.

What would it look like if we applied Pascal’s wager to the debate about opening school buildings in a few days (mostly southern states) or in September (mostly northern states)?

Using a typical two-way frequency table, we would get something like this:

Covid spread in schoolCovid actually spreadsCovid does not spread
Wager to stay closedEveryone stays healthyEveryone stays healthy
Wager to openSickness and deathEveryone stays healthy
The odds seem better than playing Powerball.

But, you object, that ignores the learning loss children are suffering.

Covid spread in schoolCovid actually spreadsCovid does not spread
Wager to stay closedLearning takes place over the internet, but vulnerable students are at riskLearning takes place over the internet, but vulnerable students are at risk
Wager to openLearning is disrupted; trauma results from students who bring the virus homeLearning takes place in the classroom; nobody falls through the cracks
We have some issues.

Given the first table, a rational person would conclude that schools should remain closed as the worst outcome is equivalent to the best outcome if schools open. The second table is more ambiguous yet the implication is apparent; the outcomes under closure are equal, but worse than the best outcome under opening and better than the worst outcome from opening.

So the wager is clear as far as the health of children and staff, but some ambiguity as far as learning outcomes from allowing children to come to the building versus going all remote.

At this point, given IDEA and the need for public schools to provide a FAPE, that is, a free and appropriate public education, the wager fractures*:

Covid spread in schoolCovid spreadsCovid does not spread
Wager for full closureIDEA students are at risk of not receiving needed servicesIDEA students are at risk of not receiving needed services
Wager for closure, but with extra services for IDEA studentsIDEA students receive needed services at home or in restricted settingsIDEA students receive needed services at home or in restricted settings
Wager to openIDEA students receive services until the system is disruptedIDEA students receive services in their school
Assuming the school system has the resources to expand its homebound services or to bring a limited number of students to its building for the supports they need.

Perhaps the last way (for this piece, anyway) we could look at Pascal’s wager is to think about children ‘falling behind’ as the hysteria rages about a day of learning lost equates to thousands of dollars of wages lost over a lifetime–as if children have no resiliency and cannot make up for lost time later. (Spoiler alert: learning is not an assembly line process. It is true that if General Motors suffers a stoppage on the assembly line, the lost production can never be regained. But education is not an assembly line process.)

Honestly, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) could go on a long rant about something he read in which the author asserted that kindergarten-age students could miss out on essential job training that will diminish their lifetime earnings. [Editorial note: insert a vomit emoji.]

Resilient childrenNon-resilient children
Wager for closureLearning missed out during the 2020-2021 school year is made up during subsequent yearsLearning missed during the 2020-2021 school year will be gained in future years depending upon need and interest
Wager to openNo gap in the learning timeline, but the risk of health-damaging infection must be consideredHave a harder time dealing with academic challenges, so gaps will occur anyway, the health risk must be considered, but yes, will engage in future learning depending upon need and interest
Go to it, Pascal, it’s not as tidy as considering one’s eternal salvation, is it?

You may wish to quarrel with GOT’s table entries as to what each box should say. That’s a good thing because this piece is meant to spark thinking about which course is wise: to open or not to open (apologies to Shakespeare.) GOT does not regard himself as some sage sitting on a mountaintop waiting for you to climb up for his wisdom. He doesn’t have all the answers nor is he always right.

This piece is meant to help sort out our thinking from our emotions. But it is not complete without revisiting that link above that explains Pascal’s wager understanding that Pascal was a mathematician as well as a theologian. In analyzing the categories, we have to determine probabilities for each outcome which, in the end, will affect our conclusions.

What is more probable, that Covid will spread in school buildings or not? We must update our March 2020 understanding with new studies that have been reported over the summer.

If children do not show severe symptoms, is it probable that their health will be unaffected after they recover? We must update our March 2020 understanding with new studies that indicate that even for the young, Covid leaves behind lung lesions and heart muscle damage, as well as increasing the risk of stroke at a young age.

Is it probable that our youth can never recover the learning they missed out on if we keep schools closed? Is it probable that our IDEA students will never be able to make up for lost time? Or do we interpret the wager that we will keep schools closed until a vaccine is widely administered as our best course of action because we can then utilize the vast resources available in this nation to assist our IDEA students and others who need help to recover.

Finally, teachers will take GOT to task if he doesn’t do a table for them:

Covid spread in schoolCovid spreadsCovid does not spread
Wager to closeAt home, teachers teach and live for future school yearsAt home, teachers teach and live for future school years
Wager to openExposed to the disease, many teachers join the statistics of cases, hospitalizations, and deathsTeachers feel a bit silly that they were concerned about their health and lives
In the end, Maslow wants the final word. Survival needs trump those of esteem.

*This table specifies IDEA students, but could be used for any student deemed at risk for other reasons.

Teacher Ethics

As Florida teachers receive reminders about their professional responsibilities in regard to their use of social media and other means to express their opinions about current events, it might be useful to examine their obligations as defined by the Florida Department of Education Rule 6A-10.081 and Section 1012.795 of Florida statutes that covers education.

First, from the statute language that might apply to teachers commenting about school board plans for opening the oncoming school year:

  • Upon investigation, has been found guilty of personal conduct that seriously reduces that person’s effectiveness as an employee of the district school board.
  • Has violated the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession prescribed by State Board of Education rules.

Second, from the FLDOE rule the general principles of teacher ethics:

(a) The educator values the worth and dignity of every person, the pursuit of truth, devotion to excellence, acquisition of knowledge, and the nurture of democratic citizenship. Essential to the achievement of these standards are the freedom to learn and to teach and the guarantee of equal opportunity for all.

(b) The educator’s primary professional concern will always be for the student and for the development of the student’s potential. The educator will therefore strive for professional growth and will seek to exercise the best professional judgment and integrity.

(c) Aware of the importance of maintaining the respect and confidence of one’s colleagues, of students, of parents, and of other members of the community, the educator strives to achieve and sustain the highest degree of ethical conduct.

Third, the rule spells out how those principles look in practice:

(b) Obligation to the public requires that the individual:

1. Shall take reasonable precautions to distinguish between personal views and those of any educational institution or organization with which the individual is affiliated.

2. Shall not intentionally distort or misrepresent facts concerning an educational matter in direct or indirect public expression.

(c) Obligation to the profession of education requires that the individual:

3. Shall not interfere with a colleague’s exercise of political or civil rights and responsibilities.

First take: it doesn’t seem like a teacher, criticizing a school system’s plan about reopening schools during a pandemic, would fall afoul of the provision about distinguishing between a personal view and a school board position. Criticizing a school board/superintendent position or plan would be prima facie evidence that the the distinction has been made.

Second take: coercive attempts to silence public employees from speaking out would seem that the school system, not the employees, are violating (c) 3. Who is interfering with whom’s political and civil rights?

Third take: it’s that talk about diminishing one’s effectiveness as a school board employee as well as maintaining the respect of everyone (ah, the 100% test that is impossible for anyone to meet) that gives the school system the wiggle room to issue a warning to its employees.

FCAAP Recommendations for Reopening Florida Schools

The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued an 13-point list of recommendations for reopening school buildings. What follows is a summary of the entire document, which can be found here. Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) comments are in italics.

One: Vaccinations

Children must be up-to-date on vaccinations. Currently, 70% of 4-year-olds have completed recommended vaccinations and only 23% of 11-year-olds have completed the Tdap. The State of Florida should require the influenza and meningcoccal vaccines as well. Teachers and staff should also receive influenza vaccinations.

Two: Daily screening

Schools should screen daily for symptoms as children arrive. However, temperature checks are not recommended as they are time-consuming and not sensitive to early infection. Parents should check temperatures before sending their children to school. Children exhibiting symptoms associated with Covid-19 should be kept home.

Use surveillance (contract tracing, GOT presumes they mean) to identify persons exposed to the virus. Keep them isolated; send them home.

GOT agrees temperature checks only detect feverish children. Yet, they do prevent parents from sending their children to school when they should be kept home. Parents face pressures of their own and loss of income when they have to take off work to care for sick children. The temptation can be hard to overcome.

three: student cohorts

Keep groups of children together for the entire day as much as possible.

There’s a reason the middle-school model of cohorts has been abandoned and has never been implemented in high school. Given individual needs for remedial courses in reading and math (thanks, NCLB and successor legislation) as well as elective choices, it is not possible to schedule secondary students into cohorts.

four: physical distancing

Everyone stays six feet apart, wears PPE as appropriate, and do not face one another.

Not possible in most schools. Too many words have been written about mask wearing. Schools can probably be more successful than all the hand-wringing about it if they approach children in a developmentally appropriate way. As for having hand sanitizer and other supplies in classrooms, that depends upon the school district and carry-through by school administration.

five: staggering times

Minimize hallway congestion through different start and ending times for classes. Also, it would promote physical distancing. Eat lunch in the classroom.

Not practical. Students would have to be regimented into lines and extra personnel would be needed to maintain distancing along the line. Keeping students in classrooms to eat lunch means they take off their masks and breathe in the airborne viral particles which may remain in the air for hours.

six: restrooms and cleaning

Regulate use of bathrooms, including enforcement of handwashing. Clean classrooms at the end of the day as well as between classes. Ventilation systems should be in good working order.

Not practical in secondary schools. One teacher cannot supervise a male and a female bathroom for hand cleaning. There are not enough custodians to clean every classroom during a five-minute change. As for ventilation, decades of neglect and mechanical breakdowns require time to mend and resources that governments are unwilling to provide.

seven: special health needs

Children with special health needs should do virtual learning. If that is not possible, their individual health plans should be updated to specify Covid-19 accommodations. IEP students should have their needs met.

The special needs of every child must be met regardless of how instruction is being delivered. It is possible to plan and deliver the services needed if school systems focus on those goals, even if the children are kept in virtual formats. But schools will need the resources to fund home visits as required or to set up special areas within buildings for children to come and receive their services.

Parents who are unable to work during the pandemic to take care of children with special needs should be supported with supplemental income. We have the wealth in the United States to provide social services if we want to do so.

Eight: Old Teachers

Offer them virtual settings. Do the same for teachers with health impairments.

What about all the parents demanding face-to-face instruction? There may not be enough virtual settings for all the teachers who need them.

nine: school nurses

Hire enough school nurses to meet the need. Consider partnering with medical schools to provide workers and ask health professionals to volunteer.

There aren’t enough people for every school to have a nurse. There is a nursing shortage, too. Asking health professionals to volunteer after their professional duties are done is like asking a teacher to tutor for free on the weekends after working a 55+ hour week.

ten: handle all non-covid health problems, too

Children will have other health problems and complaints. Treat those as well. Let the nurse have authorization to talk to family medical providers.

Schools in Florida don’t have on-staff nurses. Instead, a clerk is trained to perform basic first-aid and how to administer medicine.

Eleven: school buses

Set up school buses to maintain physical distancing in the seating. Clean them between every route.

Find the nearest wizard and ask them to perform an undetectable extension charm on every school bus so that the inside is ten times as large as it looks from the outside. Oh, and learn the scourgify charm for the cleaning. Yes, it’s sarcasm, but GOT doesn’t know how else to respond to this impractical suggestion.

twelve: no sports and music outside

The headline is the summary. GOT is not looking forward to school boards telling parents their boys cannot play football this year. Likewise, when you try to take away music.

thirteen: decision table for when symptomatic persons may return to the school building

Check here and scroll to the bottom. This is what we’ve have been told for months.

analysis by got:

We need to thank the FCAAP for their thoughtful, concise, and thorough recommendations. Let us remember that their job is not to make decisions for schools, but to give medical advice for the safety of children’s health. It is likely they understand that their recommendations are not practical or cannot be implemented given the current state of school funding and resources.

It’s not their place to tell school boards to keep the buildings closed. Yet, reading over their advice, GOT has to wonder if this is their attempt to do just that.

Tsunami

Our tsunami warning system is faulty. Can these scientists fix it?
Are you really wanting to reopen school buildings, America?

When the water runs out to sea, it’s not time to explore the newly-exposed ocean bottom. When the seismic buoys register ocean floor tremors, it’s not time to remark upon the sunny weather and plan on a day at the beach. When the tsunami warnings are sounded, it’s time to head for high ground.

The water ran out to sea in late May/early June in Florida, especially in Jacksonville. The curve had flattened. The data showed that hospitalizations were down; few people had died. This was the moment that reopening the city seemed like a good choice. Dine out, go out to bars, attend to personal needs like hair styling and pedicures.

But the water running out had a different purpose.

By late June and moving into July, the numbers began jumping and resumed their exponential increase. The tsunami began pouring in. By late July, it was clear, despite protestations that the numbers had stabilized, that we had flatlined again, albeit at a higher level, and that we were peaking, that the continuing public health crisis would upend plans to reopen schools, not to mention bars (in Florida, they were ordered closed in late June. Then, the increase in cases shifted into a linear model. Anyone see a connection? Florida wants to reopen its bars.)

But what about the schools? Districts have been working on plans for two months. But what seemed reasonable in early June now seems outrageous in late July.

The big unknown is how contagious are children. No one knows. Politicians like to cite data about a low rate of infection and the very rare death for humans under 18. The truth is that we don’t know. We locked down schools for the last two to three months of the school year. After that, children have remained at home. Whether their parents have kept them isolated or allowed them to run loose over the summer, we have no data.

What little we do know comes from the summer programs and camps that tried to carry on with in-person operations. For too many, it hasn’t ended well. Schools that tried in-person summer school instruction have also had to close because the virus turned up and spread to the children and staff.

In pandemic times, normal procedures for scientific studies are compressed or suspended. We read about many experiences and it’s up to the reader to sort through the details to see if a study reports about a few people or is more extensive and worthy of attention.

We should always err on the side of caution. We are learning that SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19 for short) is more than a respiratory disease. Of major concern is the heart damage it causes–damage that will last for life. Also concerning is the lung scarring medical experts are discovering in children who did contract the virus.

We are learning that children over the age of 10, especially teenagers, can catch and spread the disease at almost the rate of adults, even if they do not experience a serious bout of illness themselves.

These are the seismic buoys warning of tremors in the ocean floor. Tremors that are sending waves upward through the water. There is a tsunami coming.

Others express it differently. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the noted American expert on infectious diseases, told teachers in an AFT virtual town hall last night that our schools will be an experiment in how the disease progresses through children, adolescents, and the teachers and staff who work in the schools.

It is time for bleating politicians to stop with the false reassurances. No one knows for sure. But when the water runs out to sea and the buoys report their readings, it is time to head for high ground.

Would you rather err on the side of keeping school buildings closed and later realize it wasn’t necessary? Or do you want to take the chance of not one super-spreader event, but 98,000 super-spreader events? (Number of estimated schools in the U.S.)

Tsunami.

Betrayal of Trust

Before Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) gets to the message, let’s first think about the expiring, federal $600 per week unemployment benefit. One political party is adamant that the benefit must expire; the reason given? Unemployed persons are receiving more from the benefit than they earned in their paycheck.

Skipping the moral judgment about people being lazy, an arguable proposition because most people prefer to work–Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings want to belong and have feelings of accomplishment–that $600 a week works out to $30,000 a year or $15 per hour for a standard work year.

You read that correctly. The expiring federal benefit simply extended help at the minimum wage target. Too much, according to one political party, the same one that fights to keep the minimum at a level about half that, a level that guarantees that people will live in poverty.

But hey, let’s blame public education for that. It’s their job to address the inequities of society. While persons like Betsy Devos condemn public schools for teaching like they have for the last 100 years, it is her side that promotes the American mythology of the last 100 years that all it takes is a good education and hard work and anyone can become a billionaire.

Generational wealth, inheritance, the advantage of connections–none of that matters. People of color can add their history of systemic barriers to this mythology of hard work.

It’s a betrayal of trust. We trusted in America, we trusted in the myth, but it’s not true. The politics in Washington, D.C. that is preventing our government from organizing and leading an effective response is a betrayal of our trust that they would serve us and help us.

That’s the long lead-in to the topic at hand.

Trust in the Classroom

Classroom teachers know the importance of trust. As each new school year begins, we face the children after they’ve entered the room and found a seat, maybe the one we chose for them, maybe the one we will let them choose for themselves. From that moment forward, we build the classroom environment. We build the community of learning that we want to foster throughout the year. We work to earn the trust of the students, who are coming from varied experiences and histories and diverse circumstances.

Until we gain that trust, learning will not start. This is the most crucial thing a teacher does to begin every school year.

It’s not different from any other enterprise. This is as true in a manufacturing plant, a corporate boardroom, a navy ship, or a farm. Nothing productive begins until trust is established.

It is also true of educational systems. If they are to be effective, they must gain the trust of the teachers and staff who work in them. That’s a natural thing to happen. Adults working in schools help to nurture the potential in children; there is always optimism and positivity of how the young sprouts will blossom into confident, young adults ready to move into the world. That optimism and positivity abounds in the job environment. Teachers, by their nature, trust their administrators and the district that manages them.

It takes a lot to break that trust, but it can happen. A pandemic, a failure to honor promises made, a casual disregard for the risk to health, life, and family members … that will break the trust.

Developing a plan for providing education without consulting or involving the teachers who will be the ones that make it happen (or not), that will break the trust.

Telling the public that the school system will provide protection, desk shields for example, and then limiting that to certain grade levels, an action that leaves the most vulnerable age at the greatest risk for spreading the disease, that will break the trust. When the spin and the reality differ, trust is broken.

It’s why teachers have held rallies. It’s why teachers and others have spoken at board meetings. The trust is broken. Has anyone realized it? Has anyone bothered to validate the very real feelings of those thrust into danger?

Emails to reassure teachers and staff will be ineffective. There is a deeper problem; the trust between school-based personnel and those who hold the reins of power is broken. Until that is re-established, words like ‘challenge accepted’ and ‘I’ll be in the schools, too’ will be ineffective.

The Nitty-Gritty (Part Four)

The Nitty-Gritty is a series of posts that think about how an actual classroom teacher is planning to deliver instruction for the new school year despite the uncertainty of the pandemic’s progress, upending orders from the Florida Department of Education that require school districts to revisit and revise their plans, and the resulting inability of those school districts to let the public and employees know how learning will proceed four weeks.

Part One discussed the organization of weekly curriculum units that would be adaptable to a variety of models from 5 day in-person to remote learning.

Part Two looked at the structure teenagers need to be successful, including the often-invisible structure inherent in the school day when they are in their buildings as well as the needs they reported on Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) May survey.

Part Three was the very thoughtful response to Part Two by a parent.

Part Four looks at the issue of attendance. (Now a moot issue. My school district, like others around the state, has decided that students who enroll in remote learning, which is different from transferring to a virtual school, will attend via Duval HomeRoom synchronously. That means students must sign onto the platform and spend the scheduled school hours with their teachers throughout a seven-hour school day. Breaks for lunch and class changes will occur as they follow their school’s time schedule from home.)

When GOT asked his students about registering attendance, their ideas were all over the map. Essentially, every teacher did something different in the spring as there was no time to agree to a uniform method everyone would use.

Parents also were confused by the attendance issue. The Part Three response mentioned the difficulty for parents to keep track of the various methods and be sure their child had complied with each teacher’s method. This was more of an issue for secondary students, who had multiple classes to report to, than elementary.

While this issue is moot for the fall, it is important to extrapolate the greater issue, which is the need for school systems to have uniform procedures in place in order to reduce the stress, the less-than-desirable outcomes, and the confusion we experienced in the spring.

As for attendance, that has been solved. Children must be online at the scheduled time.

But that raises another issue, which GOT will discuss in another post: how much screen time is optimal and how much is too much for children? Does synchronous learning at home violate what we know to be best practices?

The Perils of Pauline

The Perils of Pauline (1914) | GoldPoster
Tied to the railroad tracks.

While history remembers that neither the 1914 serial nor the 1947 movie featuring Pearl White in the starring role actually had a scene in which the heroine was tied to the railroad tracks, it is nevertheless true that popular culture has picked up on the trope and replicated it across many instances of comedy and song. For example, see here and here.

As the dog days of summer roll in, maybe we can forgive teachers and other staff for feeling like they have been tied down to the railroad tracks, like the trope of old, as school systems decide in what manner to resume instruction for the new school year.

Ah, yes, we are indeed talking about how to resume instruction, not whether to reopen schools. If you are a churchgoer, perhaps you remember a simple song about what the church truly is. If not, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) will give you the short version: the church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, … the church is its people.

Schools will reopen. Every single school system in America plans to open and begin a new year, either in August or September. While some systems, like those in Florida upended by a confusing order issued by the Commissioner of Education, in which he told everyone (with the concurrence of a governor now trying to avoid responsibility for it) that they must open schools for in-person training as if the pandemic had never happened, are scrambling to adjust their plans, others have published their arrangements.

School at its most deepest essence is the people. It is teachers and students, supported by staff and administrators, wandering down the challenging paths of illumination and discovery.

The people count. A school is its people.

Not the building. We don’t need to open buildings to provide instruction, keep children learning, and provide for the needs of all. (Yes, GOT is aware that remote learning is ill-suited for some children with special needs. However, if we got serious about how to overcome those hurdles, we will find this a solvable problem.)

It’s like universal health care. Many people say it can’t be done, but that’s not true. It isn’t that we can’t do it; we don’t want to do it because those of us who have the means don’t want to pay for those who don’t.

Stark, perhaps brutal, but true.

However, when the train is coming down the tracks, only raw honesty counts.

We don’t need a building to teach. And that is what we are arguing over–not about schools reopening, but whether we should open our school buildings for children to cluster in.

If we stop throwing sand in each other’s eyes so as to place a sucker punch in the gut, we can gather together and create solutions that will meet the needs of all children, even as we keep our buildings closed.

But the train is coming–hear its whistle! It’s time for school boards to stop dithering, including GOT’s board and its superintendent. At this point, a no-decision decision is a decision.

Make it a good one.

I Have No Memory of this Plan

Because it hasn’t been shared with any teacher, not yet. With Opening Day less than a month away, no teacher knows what will be in place, what their classes will look like, and how they will provide quality instruction under the circumstances they will face.

Parents, we know you would like your children to return to the school buildings, but if it boils down to teachers babysitting bored children while they figure things out on the fly, is that what you really want? It’s a recipe for disaster.

I have no memory of this place." - Imgur
The mines of Moria: which way? Teachers are mentally at this place, but not smoking. We know tobacco consumption causes cancer.

Teachers have more questions than Wikipedia can answer. And we warn students against using Wikipedia as a source when writing research papers.

Instruction takes careful planning. It’s not something teachers do when the first bell rings and the students arrive. No teacher waits for that moment and then opens the textbook for something to do for the day.

One great lesson from the grand distance-learning experiment of the spring is that in-person instruction differs greatly from on-line instruction. Zoom (or Microsoft Teams for my school district) is a different experience. What teachers do with 25 children sitting in a classroom is not the same as what we need to do with 25 children in a Zoom meeting.

The mediums are different and instruction must also be different to keep students engaged and learning.

It’s astounding that school administrations and district leaders don’t know this, but then again, they didn’t bother to survey teachers at the end of May to find out what was working, what wasn’t, and how to make distance-learning effective.

The best we can glean from the announcements is that, for secondary students, half will sit in the classroom and half will watch from home if they choose the hybrid option.

Have these people never heard of Zoom fatigue? Did they not pay attention when numerous parents described their children’s melt-downs when they were sat in front of their computers? Do they not pay attention to pediatricians’ warnings about the dangers of excessive screen time?

Apparently not. What we can glean from the hybrid plan for children to be in synchronous learning at home means that they will have to sit in front of the computer and watch their classmates being taught. Does that mean teachers have to stream their classes and allow the home-stuck children to butt in with questions and comments? How will that work off a laptop? Not every classroom has the big-screen TV to put the stream on.

Who really expects teenagers to stay online? Once the teacher marks them present, they are outtathere. One more lesson from the spring that the district is not asking teachers about.

The latest info is that teachers can apply to do the distance-learning. One week before they report to work, two weeks before school opens, they will be notified of their assignments.

Teachers have no memory of the plan for reopening.

That’s because the school district hasn’t shared it with them.

The Forgotten

Amazon.com: The Forgotten: Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Gary ...
GOT googled and this turned up.

With a presidential tweet masquerading as a mandate and a willing henchwoman at the U.S. Department of Education, aided by willing governors who spend their days currying favor with the White House, furious debate broke out this past week over the wisdom of reopening school buildings.

For clarity, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) must emphasize that no one is against reopening schools in some form: through virtual endeavors such as Florida Virtual School (public) or K12 (charter), through distance learning platforms that school districts utilized in the spring, hybrid models in which students would spend some days on their campuses and some days at home, or a full return to the campus.

Schools will reopen.

What we are arguing about is whether school buildings should open.

Teachers are at risk and most of the debate weighs the benefits and risks to children versus the risks to teachers, many of whom are older and have underlying health issues.

Then there are the forgotten. No one is talking about them.

A Google search for the typical movie or song that GOT likes to use with a post turned up a 2004 movie in which a grieving mother is told that her dead child never existed and that she’s delusional. Evidence is suppressed or denied.

At this point, something of what we’re being told about Covid-19. We’re delusional and there’s no evidence the pandemic has resumed its exponential spread and deadly consequences despite the daily data reports.

Then, GOT found this poem: The Forgotten Ones, by Corrina H.

I am the voice of those afraid to speak,
Those of us society calls weak,
Those you ridicule every day,
The ones who have nothing to say.
We have feelings too, okay?

I am the voice of those alone,
The ones abandoned and on their own,
The ones who hide their pain in their eyes,
Those you never saw cry,
Those of us you just pass by.

I am the voice of those you forget,
The ones society regrets.
Though you see us, you don’t care
Whether or not we are here,
And we, like shadows, slowly disappear…

Who are the forgotten ones? In all this debate, whose voice is not being heard?

Teachers resist going back to their buildings, but if they do, they demand the cleaning that classrooms will need daily, maybe hourly, to keep them sanitized.

The forgotten are those who do that work. Those whose very job requires them to be exposed to the virus, either from the sneeze and cough deposits on student desks, plexiglass barriers, door handles, light switches, and the like as they have to wipe them down or from the airborne particles that linger in the air for hours after people have left the room.

They, too, must take great risks with their health and lives to do their jobs. They don’t make much in wages; if anyone needs to keep working despite the risks, it is them. Custodians and cleaners come from the more vulnerable parts of our population. How is it we do not hear from them?

Perhaps they don’t make enough money to afford an internet connection and they don’t have the time. They’re too busy working.

That is no reason they should be forgotten. If we reopen schools, their needs must also be considered. What are we asking of them? Can we keep them safe? If not, if we cannot provide protection to the people who must clean and sanitize to keep us safe, should we be reopening buildings?

The Covid Charge of the Teacher Brigade

“Someone had blundered:
Theirs not to make reply
Theirs not to reason why
Theirs but to do and die.”
—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Three million! Three million
Teachers in play
As the virus works throughout
Our nation today.
Schools must reopen
The Donald has thundered
Ignoring the data, the scientists,
Because people must work.
But teachers and staff have not wondered (that)
Someone had blundered:
 
Fearmongerers all, or so
Secretary DeVos did mock
As she echoed in chief
The chief commander’s talk.
Forward, then, the teacher brigade!
Though the future you cannot scry
Safety your concern
But your mask a muzzle
Fearful are your children, but fie!
Theirs not to make reply
 
Onward and open!
Forward, Teacher Brigade!
Into a mess you had not made
Brush aside the excuses
‘Bout the rise in cases, and deaths,
And hospitalizations by
The Covid deniers.
People must work, the economy calls.
What of their children’s lives?
Theirs not to reason why
 
About a virus that invades
The body’s organs.
An asymptomatic child
Nevertheless could end
With life-long health problems.
But with the school year nigh …
What of our teachers?
They must go back
Their voices despised,
Theirs but to do and die.