Steve Nelson: Damn the Torpedos!
Steve Nelson substacks at First Do No Harm. Here he describes the no-win situation facing teachers.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That fairly describes the plight of America’s teachers as the Omicron variant rips across the country.
I wrote last March about the teaching profession in crisis but that turned out to be like writing about the Titanic approaching an iceberg from afar. Now we’ve struck it head on and are taking on more water by the day.
America’s teachers, primarily in public schools, are caught in a political maelstrom not of their own making. It is no surprise that so many are prepared to jump ship. In my home state of Colorado, 2/3 of teachers are contemplating quitting. In Missouri it is 80%.
The pressure is on all sides. In Chicago, where the teachers union called a strike, parents are suing and Mayor Lori Lightfoot is pressing them to get back to work. The suit is backed by the Liberty Justice Center, a right wing organization that fights against unions and vaccine/mask mandates. They are unsurprising zealots for school choice, charters and vouchers, stances that fit neatly into the catastrophic narrative I describe in this post.
To sustain the seafaring metaphor, circumstances have created a perfect storm for the assault on America’s public schools and teachers. Pandemic fatigue is undeniable. Even my fingers are tired of writing about it. Persistent right wing lies have persuaded many to believe that Covid, particularly Omicron, is no more a threat than the common cold.
Conservative courts, especially the Supreme Court, seem inclined toward the paraphrase of New Hampshire’s rather prescient motto: Live Free AND Die. SCOTUS seems poised to rule against mandates of any kind as they sit in their mandatory masked and vaccinated privilege. Parents are understandably fed up with on-line school. The dependence of our economy on “school as childcare” is clearer than ever before.
And teachers are stuck in the middle, with no real allies.