Why Did They Kill the Schools?

Why did they bludgeon the schools to the point of being nonfunctional while robbing a whole generation of normal education? I cannot stop asking this question. It’s the ultimate example […]
Published on March 28, 2024

Why did they bludgeon the schools to the point of being nonfunctional while robbing a whole generation of normal education? I cannot stop asking this question. It’s the ultimate example of liberalism eating itself.

The pandemic response was morally egregious and wholly ineffective, but some of it makes sense from the point of view of the winners. Big business got bigger. Tech companies gained a captive audience. Congress passed out many trillions. The Fed fed the bond dealers. Pharma got to try out a new technology on the public. The censors had a field day.

It was all awful for the public but there were victors, for sure.

I’ve never been able to comprehend why the school closures lasted a year or two. From the point of view of the center-left, or really anyone, these made no sense.

I get that the teachers unions enjoyed the extended vacation but surely that wasn’t enough to drag them out as long as they lasted. Meanwhile, there has been a mass exodus of both students and teachers from public schools.

When American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten finally agreed that school could start again, it was only with extreme demands for social distancing, masking, and air filtration.

At that point, most teachers didn’t want to go back. Many parents with means had already settled into a homeschooling routine or enrolled in private school. So the closures went on and on, eventually robbing kids, especially the poorest among them, of two-plus years of education.

We’ll pay for this as a society for a generation or two or several more. Will literacy ever return even for the next generation? Maybe not. It’s a complete disaster. This was especially true in “blue” states with “liberal” governors. For some strange reason, the willingness to wreck the lives of kids became a marker of adherence to left-wing ideology.

The whole experience was bizarre beyond description. Incredibly you still have people defending it all.

The show called “The View” features various left-of-center women pundits discussing various issues. Dr. Phil showed up the other day and condemned the school closures for being so disruptive of kids’ educations, and also injurious in terms of child-abuse reporting, which dropped dramatically during that time.

One might suppose that the regular hosts of the show would reluctantly agree with his analysis. After all, who really defends these school closures anymore? Well, sure enough, the hosts did defend the closures. Whoopi Goldberg was outraged at his opinion. She said the whole purpose was to keep the kids safe. Immediately others agreed that the children were in grave danger, while Dr. Phil was saying awful things.

In other words, it is apparently still the “liberal” orthodoxy that closing schools is good public health practice! I almost cannot believe I’m typing those words four years after this calamity and all the data is already in.

The kids were never in danger. Even at the time, the stated reason was to protect teachers and staff, even though they were not in mortal danger either. We knew a month before the schools were closed that there was a one-thousand-fold difference in risk between young and old.

The problem from the point of view of some of the pandemic masters was not really about mortal danger. Some people like Deborah Birx believed in what was called “Zero Covid.” They were against all spread of the pathogen. They claimed to be suppressing not the danger but the spread itself. They came to believe that kids at school were vectors of disease. Therefore school had to be canceled.

Some of this bias was built into the Zero Covid models. The earliest computer models from as early as 2005 focused on kids. That’s because one of the earliest theorists of lockdowns was the middle-school daughter of a scientist at Sandia National Laboratory. Her name was Laura Glass and her father Robert. They were co-authors of the first paper to push lockdowns, which still appears on the website of the CDC.

“We assume that school closure at a minimum doubles household contacts,” they wrote. “Closing schools with 90 percent compliance the day after 10 symptomatic cases reduces the attack rate to 22 percent. However, if we assume that school closure doubles all link contact frequencies for children or teenagers within their nonschool groups, attack rates are increased by 18 percent.”

Get that? Catching a cold = attack rate!

The entire model is based not on any known reality but rather on the fantasy that we can live in a pathogen-free world of zero infections. For completely arbitrary reasons, they focused on schools because the kids sit close together, goof off in recess, and ride buses together. In other words, these are intellectuals thinking rationalistically through problems and modeling them with zero interest in the real-life effects of their decisions.

The daughter Laura has since refused every interview. After all, she was just a kid when she came up with the idea.

This idea of shutting schools carried over from 2006 all the way until 2020 when their chance finally came around to trying out their insane scheme. So in February 2020 when real-life data showed that kids were in no danger and not any more likely than anyone else to be a disease vector, it simply didn’t matter. The model had a bigger impact on the real world than the real world impacted the model.

At that point, the online learning industry got involved. Tomas Pueyo’s article called “The Hammer and the Dance” came out March 10, three days before the emergency declaration and around the same time as the Trump administration came around to an all-of-government response. Who was this author? He is head of an online learning platform, Course Hero. He undoubtedly got rich from the closures, as did most every other online learning platform. His company’s valuation tripled at least, to $3.1 billion today.

The models, the industrial interests, and the unions all help to account for the reasons for the closures. But there is still part of this that eludes full comprehension. There are two great slogans I’ve heard from the center-left my entire life: the kids must come first and the public schools are the greatest single achievement of progressive ideology in human history. Those were two central pillars of the civic religion.

Just nearly overnight, they were both thrown in the trash. Previously, homeschool had existed under something of a legal cloud. Suddenly out of nowhere, it became mandatory as millions of moms were forced to leave their paid work to stay home. Even after the schools reopened, child care is more scarce than it once was.

We are just starting to get a full sense of the cost. The latest studies show 50–84 percent of kids missed school. Many moms had their lives disrupted. Physical health went down for everyone. Learning losses are pervasive. Many kids missed doctors’ appointments. Child abuse went up. Mental health went down for everyone. Teachers are still missing school and student absenteeism is chronic.

Let’s face it, there is simply no metric that turned out better.

Meanwhile, the loss of trust in the system is widespread. Understandably so: the entire system is now in a state of collapse. Hardly anyone is willing to admit this but it is true.

One good effect: private, hybrid, and homeschool practices have dramatically increased. It is very likely that the lockdowns spelled the beginning of the end of public schooling for those who can afford other options. It was a great reset alright but not the one they were going for.

Thus did the weird new generation of progressive cheer as the crown jewel of progressivism past get torn down and destroyed. This was easily the strangest feature of the pandemic response and the ultimate proof that these people are so utterly ridiculous and reckless that they even unwittingly killed that which they loved the most.



Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and ten books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown.

Jeffrey A.Tucker’s interview with David Leis on Leaders on the Frontier can be seen here.

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