by Irit Tratt
Last week, a friend phoned to tell me that her child would be unable to make a playdate with my 8-year-old scheduled for the following day. Her son had tested negative for COVID that evening, yet she planned to take him for another PCR test the next morning “out of an abundance of caution.” Days earlier, a neighborhood mom was so distraught that her daughter had shared the same bus with a classmate who was later discovered to have had COVID that she insisted on stocking up on at-home testing kits for use every day that week. Despite displaying no symptoms and being fully vaccinated, the child and her siblings were subjected to daily nasal swabs.
While television programs like HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm poke fun at liberals who stockpile COVID essentials, progressive professionals who retain the luxury and time to devote to their hypochondria are inevitably contributing to the nationwide shortfall of available tests while undermining the efforts of Americans whose testing needs revolve around a real exposure to the virus. Yet, as has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic, American children continue to pay the heftiest price for the Left’s misguided and irresponsible conduct.
Naturally, the renewed attention to testing is providing anxious blue-state suburbanites with an opportunity to delay a return to in-person learning following the winter break. According to Burbio, which aggregates data on schools, over 3,000 K-12 public schools have switched to some form of virtual instruction during the first week of January, with most closures concentrated in Democrat-run states. (READ MORE: Don’t Let Randi Weingarten Shut Schools Down Again)
In some cases, the pivot to Zoom “education” is due to insufficient staffing in a particular school. In other instances, academic institutions have shut down at the request of teachers unions, whose testing demands prioritize educators who sit at home collecting a salary rather than the students who are relegated to another week of virtual learning. Several New Jersey schools decided to go remote this week so that districts could administer tests to students and staff. California’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, is mandating weekly testing for all its students. At the same time, the Chicago Teachers Union has proposed halting in-person learning “until new safety measures are introduced, which include negative Covid tests for returning students.” Elite private schools like Spence also shut their doors this week to give kids a “free day” to get tested.
For their part, many school administrators rely on a medical committee to help guide any decisions regarding broad testing and remote learning. Yet, in liberal metropolises, these committees are often stacked with Fauci-admiring M.D.s who view an upswing in COVID numbers as an opening to flex their pedigreed muscle. Ignoring the data describing how even short-term closures lead to a learning loss in children, these appointed doctors are often tasked with sharing the unfortunate news of a return to remote instruction via a “virtual town hall event” with other parents.
Last year, towards the end of one such meeting, which I made the mistake of tuning into, a parent piped up and asked if his daughter would be penalized for staying in pajamas for the day while learning online. “Good grief,” I remember thinking. Has America tumbled this far down a rabbit hole of laziness that a parent doesn’t see the value in running a brush through a child’s hair or changing her clothes in the morning? Apparently, we have.
And the fixation on testing healthy children that is currently propagated by educators and indulged by liberal parents is leading to the widespread disruption of yet another academic year. This collective failure also sets the stage for raising a generation that is short on grit and lacking in hustle. According to a study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics, the pandemic has adolescents becoming more withdrawn into their devices. Today, children spend almost eight hours a day on screen time, an excessive habit associated with depression and mental health risks.
Cultural elites advocating for blanket testing of children would be wise to redirect their energies elsewhere. Showing gratitude to God for largely sparing kids from the harshest effects of the virus would be a good start. Be grateful for residing in a country where girls and boys learn freely and live safely, unlike other parts of the world. Another positive step would be to stop manufacturing a life that revolves entirely around trying not to get sick. Such conduct is depleting the emotional, social, and academic resolve of our children who all deserve, and require, a welcome return to school.
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Irit Tratt is a freelance writer who resides in New York. Her work has appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Algemeiner, Israel Hayom, and JNS.
Photo “Students Wearing Masks” by RODNAE Productions.