Letter to the editor: Kids need to return to school

To the editor:

The issue of returning kids to in-school learning is surrounded by very real risks. But to those schools that have still not opened I suggest that the risk of remaining closed is far greater than the risk presented by COVID. Honestly, it is time for our schools to open.

I could rely on the health experts and professional medical societies who have told us it is better for kids to be back in school, but unfortunately their opinions have been misconstrued, misinterpreted and politicized. Instead let’s rely on the common sense that we all see and know — the damage we are doing to our children is far worse than the actual disease. This damage takes the form of poor education, the lack of proper socialization, and the damage we are doing by living out the misguided notion that sometimes it is OK to succumb to fear.

Most parents who have witnessed remote learning know that it is not learning at all. There simply is no substitute for K-12 students for the structure, discipline and motivation that the school bell and inspired teacher deliver. Remote learning may work for a Ph.D candidate who is motivated to study material relevant to life and skills. It simply does not work for seventh graders presented with complex new math systems. Their motivation comes from external forces, not from within. Remote learning is bad education.

By not giving our kids exposure to socialization opportunities we are running a terrible experiment on them, the damage of which will unfold before us for decades to come. The K-12 years are formative in our social development, but remote learning socializes us to devices, not people. Think about your own school years — the loves and the loves lost, the successes and the failures, the friends and the adversaries, the joy and happiness, the sorrow and pain. All of it played a significant role in the persons we eventually became. That is our human experience, and we are robbing it from our youth. Depriving our kids of their humanity is a tragedy.

As problematic as all of this is it may pale in comparison to a far worse phenomenon. We are demonstrating to our kids that sometimes it is OK to give in to fear. We have changed the lemonade adage to “when life gives you lemons, run for your life and hide.” Generations before were taught to be brave, to face our fears and overcome them. By keeping our schools closed we are teaching our children to succumb to fear. How uninspiring and soul crushing! Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” If there is an inventor in today’s generation of kids we are teaching them all the wrong lessons. Instead let us demonstrate courage and leadership in the face of adversity so that our kids may one day model such virtues in their own lives.

Low quality education, lack of socialization, and uninspiring life lessons — these are just some of the risks of closing schools, but alone they amount to risks that are far greater risks to our youth than COVID. But there is something more that we should consider. What does it say about our priorities when being served a beer at a bar is a risk society is willing to take, but teaching our kids is not? When did bartenders become more essential than teachers? Let’s re-order our priorities by re-opening our schools.

Gavin Kaszynski

CFO, Associates in Family Medicine