Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Playing with Lives

The local news story of the day is undoubtedly the vote to return students to classrooms in the Howard County Schools. A few thoughts:

  • This decision was made by the Board of Education members who are meeting remotely due to the pandemic.
  • Scientists tell us that a newer and more contagious strain of COVID is moving into our area right now. 
  • The possibility of receiving the COVID vaccine is close enough for educators to taste but their desire to be fully protected before returning to the classroom won’t be honored.
  • The hybrid model under discussion will provide a far less effective learning experience for students, and creates more work and stress for already stressed and overworked teachers.

Why? None of this makes any sense. Teachers feel betrayed and demoralized. They, their families, and the students they teach will be put at risk. 

The Governor of the State of Maryland, aka “I have the vaccine and you don’t” Hogan, has put enormous political pressure on local jurisdictions to return to in-person learning. And we know that Hogan’s political base has gone all out in their efforts to force a return to face-to-face instruction.

So now we are all taking part in a whole lot of political theatre which is meant to make the Governor look good. And it’s all completely preventable. Imagine how much goodwill Hogan could have generated by publicly committing to getting teachers vaccinated before returning to classrooms and then actually following through. We are so close to a solution to this that would honor the people we claim are so essential to the well-being of our children.

Key point: Making a promise and then keeping it is the simple act that Larry Hogan is seemingly incapable of fulfilling. And because of that people will be put in positions where they will become sick, may die or suffer from long term health consequences. 

The fact that this is being pushed through in such a top-down manner without regard to the real human beings who will bear the greatest burden says a lot about how our state feels about teachers and education. We don’t treat them as highly trained and experienced professionals. We don’t work collaboratively with them as partners. We order, we decree, we pronounce, we demand.

What this means is that we are cannibalizing our own school system for the purpose of forcing a second-rate educational experience that some are convinced is “more normal.” We are going to push out all sorts of devoted and highly effective teachers in the process. The long term consequences of this on our entire school system will be devastating, not just in the numbers of teachers that we lose, but in the loss of trust from those teachers who stay but whose worth has been so egregiously devalued.

Insisting on short-term results when a long-term solution is so clearly within reach is just bad leadership. I guess we are going to see how that plays out in real time. 

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