My son loves basketball. He is always talking about it, watching it, or playing it. Having been a Lakers fan for years, imagine my disappointment when my son announced that he was a Warriors fan. When I would wear my Kobe Bryant jersey, he would show off his Currys (shoes – Stephen Curry is is favorite player) he’d received from his grandparents. Both his mother and I came from soccer families, so imagine our surprise when he asked to join the city’s youth basketball league. He practiced diligently every day and became a pretty good player. I was proud of his commitment to his passion and his constant desire for improvement. It was because of that commitment and the commitment of his teammates that his team made the playoffs. My son was so excited to enjoy the results of his hard work and determination. That was the first week of March 2020.
It was then that our world fundamentally changed. The outbreak of COVID-19 closed everything. When this occurred, it allowed me to teach my son another valuable lesson: How to deal with disappointment. Not many people fault the extreme caution that was exercised during the first month or so. No one knew how bad it was going to get and the closures made sense. My son’s games would have been canceled, even if I had been in charge, knowing what I knew at the time.
Just a short time later, we began understanding how this virus behaved. We knew that the older population was about the only population at extreme risk and that children were rarely infected by it (and even more rarely died from it). Fears of mass outbreaks in schools were exaggerated and the narrative that the school shutdowns were for our children’s good, quickly unraveled. The (debatably) justified action taken by the government soon began to take its unjustified effect on our children.
During the entirety of the pandemic, there have only been 258 deaths of children from COVID-19 nationally. To put that into context, there are an estimated 74.1 million children in the United States, meaning that just 0.0003% of American children died. That doesn’t make it any less tragic for those parents who lost children, but as a comparison, during the 2018-2019 flu season, 477 children died of influenza. There are those among the fearmongers who will attribute this to the fact that schools have been closed. Except they haven’t. In 41 states in the US, no order to close schools ever occurred. Of the remaining 9, 4 have been ordered to reopen by state officials. The remaining 5 have all authorized some form of in-person classes.
However, simply reopening schools doesn’t fix this issue.
As my own kids have slowly phased back into school (at first two hours a day, four days a week; now four hours a day, five days a week), they have reported some of the ridiculous restrictions which they face. The first is in the near-militant enforcement of a mask mandate (which again, has proven statistically ineffective) anywhere on campus, even outside. They are prohibited from associating with any children that are not in their class at their breaks. They can’t even use the same ball another child used at recess. Heaven forbid if they have to take a drink of water; they have to leave the classroom to temporarily remove their mask. Their desks are more than 3 feet apart (3 feet apart is the current CDC guidance for schools) but at snack time, that distance is increased to six feet. The district’s mandates extended to parental behavior as well. If we had chosen to take a spring break trip as a family, we would have had to quarantine for 14 days when we returned home – even though we’re vaccinated.
When I was driving my daughter home on Tuesday she burst into tears because of the continued demands on them for compliance with ridiculous mandates. One of her best friends is in another class, and due to the restrictions, she can’t associate with her at recess. While the district and their teachers may tell them that it is for their protection, I flat-out refuse to perpetuate that lie, to condition my children to rely on the government for anything, especially as a substitute for their own critical thought. No explanation I could give – or would want to give – would justify the unscientific, unnecessary, and abusive action. If a parent were to enforce these same mandates before the pandemic, they would absolutely have been arrested for child abuse. Why should we tolerate this same behavior from the government?
“But Scott! What about teachers!?” They are largely protected from the virus too. By this point, any teacher who wants to receive the COVID-19 vaccine could have done so. Additionally, many teachers’ union demands related to the return to schools, are completely unrelated to COVID-19. The majority of them sound like a list of Marxist BS. That point aside, of the 545,751 deaths nationally (as of April 14th), 438,676 were over the age of 65 (thus placing the vast majority of teachers out of danger). That expands even further to 521,601 if you include anyone over 50. I have already thoroughly covered that we knew exactly who would be affected over a year ago, here and here.
What’s a parent to do at this point? Petition the government of course! Oh, wait…. even that doesn’t work. Parents in an Arizona school district attempted to show up at the scheduled school board meeting to voice their concerns with continued mask mandates in the classroom. What did district officials do in response? They canceled the meeting and called the police. What was the crime they were reporting? Parents that attended the meeting were **gasp and clutches pearls** maskless. (Arizona just recently lifted the mask order for schools.)
The government requires your children to be enrolled in some form of school but simultaneously demands that your children be subject to abuse at their hands. And that’s exactly what it is: Child Abuse. Part of childhood, of course, deals with learning to comply with restrictions and prohibitions, but those restrictions exclusively deal with guaranteed harm or lack of maturity and are usually instituted by their parents. While as adults we look back at childhood as a time of less responsibility and more playtime, that’s not all childhood is. Part of childhood is scraped knees and broken bones. Childhood is disappointments and letdowns. Childhood is stitches and knocked-out teeth and yes, even getting sick with some pretty nasty things. Yet, despite these issues, we have allowed our children to be children. Childhood is also high-fives and hugs. It is four square and basketball and tag. It is smiles and funny faces. Until now, the discussion has been about the damage that COVID-19 could have done in our schools. The evidence available now shows that worry was overblown. We need to start talking about the next crisis we will face: The mental health crisis from the abuse school officials continue to enforce on our kids.
Enough is enough.