Tag: Reopening

Join Jim and Greg as they welcome steady progress in reopening schools, as nearly half of U.S. school districts are now open for in-person learning. While understanding the desire to exit Afghanistan, they’re wondering whether President Biden has learned anything from his botching of the U.S. departure from Iraq that helped trigger the rise of ISIS. And the short fuse of the Biden administration is on display again after left-leaning probability expert Nate Silver criticizes the decision to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Jack McCarthy, president and CEO of AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation and board chair of AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School. Jack shares what animated him to establish this highly innovative early childhood charter public school network that serves the most vulnerable children in Washington, D.C. He discusses AppleTree’s unique early childhood focus, the challenges of educating mostly disadvantaged students, and the innovative partnership they have developed with Nickelodeon to continue educating students during the COVID-19 crisis. Jack offers thoughts on the politics of school reform in Washington, D.C. and the surprising proliferation of school choice options there, as well as ongoing barriers to change that he has navigated to deliver excellent results for poor and minority students.

Stories of the Week: In 15 states around the country, including Massachusetts, districts were authorized to pilot voluntary, in-person schooling over the summer for small groups of students. But can they safely bring to scale the best practices they have learned about health and safety protocols, logistics, and transportation? With uncertainty around school reopening plans, “pods” and microschools are growing in popularity among families seeking other options – will these alternatives foster long-term entrepreneurial thinking in education, and what challenges and opportunities do they raise with regard to school funding?

Join host Joe Selvaggi and co-host Rebekah Paxton of Pioneer Institute as they talk with Harvard Medical School Professor Benjamin Sommers on the most current scientific observations regarding the health and safety of reopening schools. The episode looks at the risks to students, teachers, administrators, and the public at large from the novel coronavirus, and offers ideas for optimizing outcomes in the fall.

Dr. Benjamin Sommers is a practicing primary care internist, and he is also Professor of Medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. From 2011-2012, he served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and he served part-time in an advisory role from 2013-2015. His current research projects focus on barriers to health care access among low-income adults, insurance markets, and the health and economic effects of state Medicaid policies. He received a PhD in Health Policy from Harvard and an MD from Harvard Medical School.

Scott Atlas joined Ben Domenech to discuss the data surrounding schools reopening and the dangers of not following the science. Atlas is a fellow in scientific philosophy and public policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, a member of Hoover’s Working Group on Health Care Policy, and the former head of neuroradiology at Stanford Medical School.

Atlas laid out multiple points of scientific evidence indicating the necessity of reopening schools. This included the documented facts that children are young people are at low risk of developing COVID-19 themselves and they’re at low risk of spreading it to others. Furthermore, he said, school closures are extremely harmful to children’s health in different ways, especially in that distance learning has proven to be a failure.

Jeffrey Singer joined host Ben Domenech to discuss the ways in which to treat COVID-19 based on his own experience as a general surgeon and Senior Fellow at Cato Institute. Singer discusses how hospitals, schools, and American leaders are calculating risk in their response to the Wuhan virus.

Singer’s hospital has delayed all elective procedures due to COVID-19, which includes any surgery for which the patient can choose the date. Singer argued that the system of power, in which the governor can dictate when the economy can reopen, has created imbalanced incentives. The person in charge will always be more cautious than they need to be to avoid criticism later on, which Singer said can hurt people.

Magical Thinking (or, Nobody Knows Nothin’)


When I was a budding novelist, I quickly learned that the publishing world didn’t care about my aspirational goals. I had to conform to the publisher, not vice versa. As many positive thoughts as I lavished on my first novel, it never saw print because it wasn’t very good. Eventually I learned, over the 20-year process of writing three more unpublished novels, how to write fiction. It’s true that I probably wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t believed in raw talent worth developing. Positive thinking, while it bridged no gaps, at least provided a launching platform. But between the dream and the realization was a long (like, 20-year) stretch of hard work.

For some time now, I’ve had the feeling that our culture is marked, not by positive thinking, but by magical thinking. Psychologically, “magical thinking” is the belief that one’s personal thoughts, fears, and goals influence the outside world. Young children indulge in magical thinking all the time: a child who prays every night that his parents will stop fighting, for instance, could feel he’s to blame when Mom and Dad stop the fights by splitting up. This is normal for kids, but a grownup who indulges in such fantasies is called schizophrenic. Or a politician.

You remember when Barack Obama, after winning the Democrat presidential nomination, inspired his followers with rhetoric about the day the oceans stopped rising. Or Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention: “I alone can fix.” Trump at least had actually built things with steel and concrete, while Obama had built nothing but his own persona. But both were overpromising based on a magical (or at least inflated) view of themselves in the world.

Decentralize the COVID-19 Response


Two tectonic forces are wreaking havoc on the American economy. On one side of the ledger, retail sales in April plummeted by 16.4% and manufacturing by 13.7%. Simultaneously, unemployment claims rose by about 20 million and have swelled to 36.5 million people overall, a number still climbing. On the other side of the ledger, state governments are grasping for solutions, making erratic decisions about how to restart the economy while reducing the spread of COVID-19.

The difficulties faced by states are compounded by a deep public divide over whether the economy should be reopened now, given the risk of a spike in new cases. The early reopening in Georgia is instructive because individual businesses have generally taken care to make the transition in sensible steps.  The same seems to be true in Colorado. In Wisconsin, meanwhile, a Republican legislature backed by a conservative Supreme Court overturned a stay-at-home order imposed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

In the face of these disputes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi achieved a victory of sorts when the House adopted by a 208-199 vote, with some Democrats defecting, her $3 trillion spending package. The so-called HEROES Act, short for the mouthful “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act,” promises something for everyone for the duration of the crisis, including unemployment benefits, housing relief, hazard pay for frontline workers, direct payments to ordinary citizens, federal workers, and federal contracts, and modifications to Medicare and Medicaid. For Pelosi, the simple truth is that the basic needs of society cannot be put on “pause” because the economy is in a state of paralysis. But whether or not the Act passes, it will set a de facto agenda for November’s Presidential election, which could well turn into a referendum on the current COVID-19 response.