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“We’ll start on Day 1 by doing the right thing. We’ll let science guide our decisions,” harped Joe Biden during the presidential debate in October. Yet the CDC just published another report emphasizing that schools can reopen, even without teacher vaccinations, and the Biden Administration continues to ignore this suggestion. Shouldn’t they be “trusting the science?”
As we approach the 40th day of the Biden presidency, why are so many schools across the country still closed? Originally White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “our (Biden Administration) goal is to have 50% of schools open by April 30, 2021, at least once a week.”
Rory Cooper, a political strategist at Purple Strategies, tweeted about the contradictory nature of this statement. “This is so misleading and maddening,” he wrote. “2/3 of public schools ARE OPEN TODAY at least two days a week. We’ve already met the metrics they set for 3 months from today. Biden’s goal is for us to move backwards?”
Seventy-two hours later, realizing how ridiculous the initial goal was, Psaki quickly pivoted to proclaim that Biden was committed “to ensuring schools are open five days a week.” Really? The “plan” seemed to immediately change after the political backlash. The lack of consistency toward the plan Biden promised all throughout his campaign raises major red flags.
Do we have deniers of science on Pennsylvania Avenue, or is the Biden Administration so disorganized that it has to change its plan every other day? I thought liberals objectively governed based on scientific evidence… clearly not.
Let’s be frank, “trust the science” is nothing more than a phony political phrase used by the left to legitimize its policy decisions. America’s youth are being academically, socially and psychologically abused by the Biden Administration’s lack of interest in getting schools reopened immediately. Clearly the phrase “trust the science” only applies when liberals can use it help satisfy their political desires.
The consequences of the closures are already being felt. The priorities on the left remain with their darlings in the teachers’ unions, not on putting the interests of the next generation first.
Children make up 22% of our nation’s population. A state-level report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in February found that children (ages 0-19) only represent 13.0% of all COVID-19 cases. The same study concluded that between 0.1%-2.3% of all child COVID-19 cases result in hospitalization. Additionally, children represent 0.00%-0.25% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 10 states reported not a single child death from the virus.
During the 2018-19 flu season, the CDC reported approximately 480 flu deaths among children ages 0-17. Comparably, less than 200 American youth died from coronavirus complications between the beginning of the pandemic and the end of December 2020, according to the AAP.
The risk posed to children from the coronavirus is minimal, and our leaders should thus weigh that risk against the side effects of having schools closed.
What will be the long-term effects on children after spending a year in remote learning? Here are four predictions:
- Educational performance will be hindered, ultimately stunting the intellectual growth of the youth. The Brookings Institute released a report confirming that math achievements of students in 2020 were about 5 to 10 percentile points lower compared to same-grade students the prior year. The same study indicates that learning grew at a much slower pace in 2020 than 2019.
- Students’ social skills will be negatively affected. There is far more to youth education than learning math equations and reading The Boxcar Children. Kids need to be free to play and socialize with their classmates, and they must learn how to conduct themselves in a working environment. They need an opportunity to grow through human interaction.
- Certain demographics will be disproportionately disadvantaged. Students who are less fortunate may not have certain resources available to them to help their at-home education. Additionally, the most disadvantaged kids rely on schools for things other than just learning, such as babysitting and meals. Although all schools offer different opportunities, having them open provides more equal opportunity than keeping kids home in vastly different environments.
- There will be a terrible psychological toll experienced by students; this is one of the most dangerous consequences of school closures. A CDC report found that from March to September 2020, emergency department visits related to mental health increased 24% for children aged 5-11 and spiked 31% among adolescents aged 12-17, compared to the same period the previous year. Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, president and CEO of Family and Children’s Association, said it well: “All the things being done to protect our physical health is putting our kids’ mental health in significant jeopardy.”
The consequences of keeping schools closed far outweigh the benefits. The approach too many politicians have taken during this pandemic is one that lacks a cost-benefit analysis. They throw all their chips into a one-sided, cautious approach, which ultimately leads to more dire consequences. In the case of school closures, the current “solution” has become more detrimental than the problem itself.
Reopening schools aligns with science. Our medical and scientific communities have advised that it can be done in a safe and cost-effective way. However, this time the science doesn’t match the Biden Administration’s policies – lockdowns, fear-filled COVID-19 restrictions and satisfying teachers’ unions – and that is why so many schools are still closed. The phrase “trust the science” is nothing more than a meaningless talking point that has been sentenced to death by politicization.
Davis Soderberg is a Research Associate for the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research.
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Author: Davis Soderberg