The biggest storm front of the pandemic year – and let's face it, it's going to be a year – is now our schools.
Parents wonder, will students return to classes or not? Will they have to shoulder the sobering task of becoming parent and teacher, ensuing the homework is done and the lessons completed, every day, week, and month?
The growing urgency of this education question has taken many of us non-parents by surprise. When you're not a parent yourself you can have an idealized notion of what a parenting home life involves.
It has quite been a wake-up call for non-parents to see how many actual parents are literally dreading the prospect of keeping their kids at home from school and college throughout the winter (as it now looks increasingly likely that they will have to, especially here in the United States where the reach of the virus is now out of control and the fatalities are catastrophic).
How do you manage a home where both parents work remotely, with the students now doing likewise, and everyone under everyone else's feet seven days a week, with limited mobility, without cracking? Politicians are particularly sensitive to the growing dangers of this pressure cooker scenario, and conscious of the fact that they are likely to be blamed for it, with unwelcome results at the polls.
When you're trapped you start to look for people to blame, after all. You ask yourself how did all of this happen? Who is the cause of this miserable misfortune?
In this case, it is easy to assign the blame. The Trump administration just performed a six-month-long masterclass of epic incompetence, minimizing the danger and offering bizarre solutions like household detergents, whilst our doctors and nurses were left to plead online for garbage bags and garden gloves instead of medical protective wear, to the point where we started to look like we live in a failed state and an international laughing stock, a basket case led by a basket case.
By the way, if any of you are still holding onto the very thin straw that your kids will return to class in two weeks, I have to burst that well-intentioned bubble.
More than 97,000 children tested positive for coronavirus in the United States in the last two weeks of July, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association, meaning there was a 40% increase in child cases across the states and cities that were studied.
So even if some schools do unwisely reopen, it won't be for long. A new viral outbreak will arrive as night follows day and you'll regret that you sent them back in the first place.
Reflect on just how badly we are doing here. The U.S. topped five million reported coronavirus infections over the weekend and a staggering 162,938 people have now died – far more than in any other country in the world.
The rates of coronavirus infection and fatality have actually doubled here since June, and June was a disaster. It's not stopping in other words, it's only getting worse.
Competent leadership in nations like New Zealand have halted the transmission and spread of the virus, where no one has or will die from it. But contrast Jacinda Arland's efficiency with Donald Trump's bluster and you see just how much competent leadership matters. Arland attacked the virus, Trump attacks the press, and their different results couldn't be more glaring.
There have been over 46 million people unemployed in the US. That's three and a half times the number that were out of work during the Great Depression. They lost their jobs because of the pandemic and the pandemic got as bad as it is because of the completely incompetent response of the White House, which called the coronavirus a media hoax that would quickly disappear. Instead, it has been paying jobs, the economy, Main Street, and the American rental market that has vanished.
Meanwhile, Trump told the press last week in a weirdly incoherent speech that his opponent Joe Biden has “No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God, he’s against guns, he’s against energy, our kind of energy.”
How do you hurt God or the Bible, exactly? What kind of energy is Trump referring to? Racist energy? The type that protects confederate statues whilst leaving U.S. troops to be picked off one by one by bounty hunters? How credulous do you have to be to believe that Biden, a longtime practicing Irish Catholic, is anything other than a Christian?
If you are going to demonstrate your interest in education then standing before the cameras and comically mispronouncing Yosemite and Thailand is not how to do it. Lord of the Thighs, one newspaper called Trump. Golfing whilst America dies, wrote another.
“I love the poorly educated,” Trump famously remarked as a candidate in 2016. You can tell he means it too because thanks to his utter lack of leadership young people can no longer safely go to school or college anywhere in the country now.