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I found reading Monday’s (August 3) Wall Street Journal depressing. The parent companies of Lord & Taylor and of Men’s Wearhouse and Joseph A. Bank filing for bankruptcy, adding to the recent bankruptcies of J.C. Penney, Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, Neiman-Marcus, J. Crew, and probably others I’m forgetting. Oil companies as well, because of the sudden evaporation of demand for gasoline, aviation fuel, and diesel. Maybe some or all of these companies were destined for trouble because of changes to the underlying business activities, but absent the Wuhan virus that trouble would have been spread over years, allowing time to adjust, not all concentrated in a few weeks.
Then I turned to the article on how Detroit’s experience with in-person summer school might be a glimpse into other in-person schools in the fall (article might be behind the paywall). I was horrified by what I read. Although everybody was saying positive words, the actions being taken in the name of mitigating the risk posed by the Wuhan virus struck me as almost certain to instill in children an attitude of perpetual fear, a feeling that contact with other people is nothing but a risk-laden experience. The (non-verbal) messages being conveyed to students: “Stay away from everyone.” “Cover-up.” “Hide.” “Isolate yourself from everyone.”
How is that going to affect children, especially at the elementary school age? In how many children is a fear effect going to be permanently imprinted on their psyches? How does that psychological impact measure up against the risks of the virus itself? Is there a way to evaluate and discuss rationally the risks of the virus versus the consequences that the virus mitigation measures are imposing, not just on children, but on at least some of us adults?
In the school setting, available information seems to suggest that the risk of the virus to children and to most of the not-old school staff is minimal, yet the teachers’ unions insist that any teacher who walks into a school building will have to be carried out in a casket. But we probably have some reasonable studies from other circumstances about how keeping children distant from other children and adults, having children deal with adults and children only through barriers like masks, walls of Plexiglas, video links, and other separation techniques have on child development. There must also be earlier studies on the effects of instilling in children a broad fear of other people.
What are we doing to our children, and can we quantify it so we can evaluate and discuss rationally whether the risks from the virus really exceed the effects of what we are doing to children? All the focus seems to be on virus mitigation. Can we bring in consideration of the collateral effects without appearing to be indifferent to the potential effects of the virus?
I am concerned about the effects of virus-mitigation techniques on adults too. But given the current focus on schools, I’ll wait to bring up the effects on adults. And Mrs. Tabby has told me I shouldn’t even bother raising questions about whether at this stage of virus spread there is even any point to trying to control the spread of the virus. Everybody seems to insist on delaying “herd immunity” as long as possible.Published in