This blog on Texas education contains posts on accountability, testing, K-12 education, postsecondary educational attainment, dropouts, bilingual education, immigration, school finance, environmental issues, Ethnic Studies at state and national levels. It also represents my digital footprint, of life and career, as a community-engaged scholar in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin.
During the colonial
period of the United States, it is sometimes reported that colonial leaders
provided blankets infected with small-pox to indigenous people. In the coming
weeks teachers will embark on an experience unprecedented in American education.
Texas teachers will enter school classrooms knowing we may become infected with
COVID19 and that we may not survive (my wife and I revised our last will and testament
yesterday afternoon). We also know that if we survive, we may suffer irreversible
organ damage. By not recognizing the destructive force of COVID19, over 150,000
Americans have died from COVID19 in the past five months (COVID19 numbers), our leaders urge our teachers to wrap our
students, ourselves, and our communities in the metaphorical small-pox blanket.
Texas teachers know many
of our students will have COVID19 and will be present in the classroom anyway,
parents often send sick children to school regardless of anyone’s well-being or
better judgement. Texas teachers know that students, especially young students,
will not practice social distancing or illness prevention. Kids get close to
each other. Children sneeze on each other. Children wipe their noses on their
sleeves and then touch common surfaces. School children are purveyors of
Every teacher knows, especially
every first-year teachers, that sickness awaits us. First-year teachers are
told up-front during the first year in the classroom, to expect to be sick more
often than well, “eventually, you will develop immunity.” Like the common cold,
immunity to COVID19 may not be possible.
Some school districts
are taking measures to reduce infection risks such as including frequent “deep”
cleanings (does anyone know what a deep cleaning is?” Supposedly hand sanitizer
will be provided, but masks will not be required in some districts. The reality
is no one should feel comfortable spending eight hours a day breathing the same
air in proximity to an infected person, mask or no mask, six feet or not.
Teachers are scared. Teachers
are scared to send their own children to school. Teachers are scared to be in
the classroom for fear of infection. Teachers are scared we or our children
will bring COVID19 home to grandparents or ourselves. I personally fear this
may be my last year teaching, not because of the incessant demands of STAAR,
teacher merit pay schemes, or school shootings, but because I may not survive infectious
school halls or my classroom. My students may not either.
Sadly, I continue to
read on social media opinions like, “the kids at Walmart are working,” as if Walmart
were a barometer of public health and safety. First, the folks at Walmart
probably are sick and probably are spreading the infection (among the reasons
our rate of infection in Travis, Dallas, Bexar, and Harris counties remains
stubbornly high). Second, despite people’s
demonization of Walmart and its customers, Walmart is large enough to allow for
a degree of social distancing. Classrooms filled with students for several hours
per day does not allow for social distancing, even with reduced class sizes, plastic
shields, and social distance. Like flying on an airplane, we breathe the same
air all day long, potentially infecting all.
school air, there is a notion circulating that children do not get sick from
COVID19 or it does not affect children seriously. While there is no consensus,
this notion is a distraction from the reality that, even if this were true, it would
not protect the children’s teachers, their parents, or grandparents to whom students
go home at night.
Yesterday a Cedar Park “official” made the
statement “Stop catering to the leeches ... Fire
them and rehire new teachers.” The Cedar Hill councilmen went on to say,
“America’s parents do not have to put up with being held hostage by union
leaders demanding unreasonable and imprudent continuations of ruinous lockdown
policies. Demand a return toward normalcy.” (Anger-challenged Cedar Park council person Tim Kelly).
Wow, these comments
are simply madness. As if there was a vast surplus of teachers waiting in the
wings to get into the classroom, we will be lucky for a substitute teacher to
be foolhardy enough to come to school. Sadly, these teacher hating sentiments emerge
from the anti-teacher, hate-filled rhetoric that only comes from conservative
media bullet points. Lord spare us this nonsense.
Social Distance Plastic in Thailand
As a teacher at a North
Texas high school. I can assure that there is nothing teachers want more than return
to the classroom. Online learning is no substitute. Student participation
online is lacking and the social interaction that students desperately need is
Rather than blaming teachers
for being cautious about student safety, point your attention to who is really
at fault here, our poor political leadership at the state and federal levels. Our
feeble response to the danger of COVID19 sent the message that COVID19 was not
something to worry about. As a result, the pandemic spiked in several states,
especially those states which rushed to reopen the economy after a brief
shutdown. The reopening came “at your own risk,” although the risk was not expressed
by leaders like Texas Governor Abbott or Florida Governor DeSantis.
The federal level
response to COVID19 was no better for families. Corporations may have received
a bailout to the tune of $2 trillion, with more dollars on the way, but the $1,200
check actual Americans received is a monthly grocery bill and a car payment.
One can only hope that Joe Biden, should he be elected will bring real
solutions to the pandemic, solutions that avoid the notion of a return to how we
did things before. Instead of looking at the past, we must devise trans-formative and sustainable change that benefits working Americans. If we are to endure
this pandemic, we must rebuild the working and middle-class who have been
fleeced market-driven economics. The days of the corporatist welfare state must
end. Americans need a new New Deal that works for people of all colors.
Finally, beyond our
poor political leadership at the state and federal levels, too many of our
community members seriously believe wearing a mask and social distancing infringes
upon their “freedoms.” TALK ABOUT ENTITLEMENT!! Individuals with this attitude more
than anyone else are to blame for spreading COVID19. These attitudes promote
infection. These attitudes have an immediate impact for our economy’s ability
to open, to thrive, and for our students and teachers to return to school
To pretend we are not
living through a global pandemic is to wrap oneself in a small-pox infected
blanket. To demand that teachers provide in-person instruction is to wrap students,
teachers, and communities in a small-pox infected blanket. For now, as much as
I dislike saying it and as much as I want to see my students and fellow teachers
working together in classrooms that do not look like infectious disease
clinics, we will be best protected from COVID19 by a continuation of online instruction.
Pray the virus dissipates soon…