When I was young, I was really eager to have school start in September. I wanted to see my classmates. I was bored with summer vacation. I looked forward to being in a class one year farther along.
Even though I'm far past my school days, I do have a granddaughter about to start eighth grade. Evelyn, like most students, had to do her learning online in the spring after the Covid crisis hit the United States.
That must have been difficult.
So even though I disagree with Trump on almost everything, his call for elementary and high schools to open physically strikes me as halfway reasonable -- which is much closer to reasonableness than I usually judge his pronouncements.
Here's an excerpt from a New York Times story, "Trump Leans on Schools to Reopen as Virus Continues Its Spread."
President Trump demanded on Tuesday that schools reopen physically in the fall, pressing his drive to get the country moving again even as the coronavirus pandemic surged through much of the United States and threatened to overwhelm some health care facilities.
In a daylong series of conference calls and public events at the White House, the president, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other senior officials opened a concerted campaign to lean on governors, mayors and others to resume classes in person months after more than 50 million children were abruptly ejected from school buildings in March.
Mr. Trump and his administration argued that the social, psychological and educational costs of keeping children at home any longer would be worse than the virus itself. But they offered no concrete proposals or new financial assistance to states and localities struggling to restructure academic settings, staffs and programs that were never intended to keep children six feet apart or cope with the requirements of combating a virus that has killed more than 130,000 Americans.
“We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open,” Mr. Trump said at a forum at the White House. “It’s very important. It’s very important for our country. It’s very important for the well-being of the student and the parents. So we’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on: Open your schools in the fall.”
Well, Trump also put pressure on "governors and everybody else" to open restaurants, bars, and other businesses, and we've seen how badly that played out. Record numbers of Covid cases nationally due to the rushed reopening, with deaths appearing to begin to rise also.
I heartily agree with this quote from the New York Times story.
Critics said Mr. Trump was the one playing politics, willing to gamble the health of students and teachers to salvage a flagging bid for a second term.
“The reality is no one should listen to Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos when it comes to what is best for students,” said Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union. She added: “Everything is about his re-election. Our No. 1 priority is that we keep our students safe.”
Another priority has to be keeping teachers and other school staff safe. Even if students are asymptomatic, they can easily pass the virus on to adults in the school. Also, to parents and grandparents.
I believe that the school my granddaughter goes to in southern California is going to use a mix of virtual and physical classes, several days of one and several days of the other each week. That makes sense, especially for older children. First graders need to be in a real classroom, I would think.
But what do I know about teaching? Not much, since I've never done it.
Hopefully the Trump administration will come up with guidance for schools that is based on solid research and expert professional advice. However, given Trump's dislike of facts and experts, I'm doubtful this will happen.
Since Trump has been big on letting states decide how quickly to reopen their economies (with decidedly mixed results), one would think that Trump would do the same with the reopening of schools. After all, elementary and high school education is largely a local affair, governed by school boards.
Seemingly the worst thing would be for Trump to demand that every school in the country reopen physically. This could make sense in areas where the Covid infection rate is low and getting lower, but not in other areas.
Of course, typically when I visualize the worst thing Trump could do, he ends up doing just that.
Which doesn't mean schools have to go along with whatever reopening scheme Trump ends up pushing for. There's got to be a wise balance between the needs of students, teachers, parents, and the community at large.