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Optics Are More Important Than Reality

Many kids spend hours a day sitting in crowded auditoriums and gyms doing nothing.


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Harry Seitz

4 months ago | 3 min read
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Our leaders don’t know us or care about us

The biggest surprise about our reaction to COVID is that it isn’t really a surprise at all.

In a country where the Dow Jones Industrial Average means more than the hungry, homeless, and unemployed, the media cares more about click-through rates than the news, and millions of us are still in denial ourselves, what’s happening to us is sadly predictable.

Last week, over 8,000 schoolchildren in New York City tested positive for COVID according to the Department of Education.

Attendance has dropped to 69% because of sick kids and parents who no longer feel it’s safe for their children to go to school, the homeschooling system has already been dismantled, and there aren’t enough teachers or substitutes anyway.

Many kids spend hours a day sitting in crowded auditoriums and gyms doing nothing.

Kids in poor neighborhoods only go to school for four hours a day — one half in the morning, and the other half in the afternoon — and it’s been this way for decades.

There aren’t enough resources to provide a full day of schooling, and even before the pandemic, some children were eating lunch as early as 9:07 a.m. because there isn’t enough space to rotate kids through the cafeteria at reasonable hours. Social distancing measures have already exacerbated this.

But New York City Mayor Eric Adams says schools have to stay open to provide lunch and access to kids from the poorest neighborhoods, who he claims were hit the hardest by homeschooling.

There are families too poor to afford internet access in the city, but this problem primarily affects rural areas, and again, the homeschooling infrastructure is already gone, so even kids with reliable internet access have limited options.

Either stay home and stay safe, or go to school and inevitably test positive. Approximately 33% of New Yorkers are testing positive (not accounting for take-at-home tests), including over 38,000 teachers and students and counting.

So many teachers and students are absent, the ones who show up say it’s impossible to move forward with the curriculum.

“I want parents to understand the reality of life in schools. Today, when our staff was so low we didn’t have enough teachers to cover all the classes, district personnel were sent to our school. They do not have teaching licenses so they were unable to cover any classes. With so many students and teachers out sick, awaiting results, or quarantining, classes cannot move ahead with content. We need to maintain ventilated spaces, now more than ever, so we are teaching and learning in our coats. My [teacher] husband and I continue to report to work, hoping we can actually do the jobs we are supposed to do each day. But we are resigned to the fact that we will work until we, or our children, become COVID positive.” — Rachel Levinsky, teacher in Manhattan

The real reason schools are still open is because Mayor Adams said they would be open, and he cares more about appearing decisive and stalwart than he does about teachers and students.

Instead of acknowledging the situation is now untenable and pivoting, it looks better to confidently push forward, the consequences be damned.

Somehow, NY has been relatively responsible compared to other cities and states. At least our leaders admit COVID is real and have vaccination and mask mandates for entry into public areas, and sadly, this puts our idiot Governor and Mayor near the top of the class.

Governor Cathy Hochul is more concerned about semantics than spiking hospitalizations, because she wants to “be honest with New Yorkers,” just as Mayor Adams vows New York City won’t be controlled by this crisis.

I’d make the semantic argument that we already are being controlled by this crisis, and add that doctors, teachers, and other essential workers are already aware of what’s happening.

Anyone who has to go out to work or buy their own groceries can see the reality of what’s happening right in front of their faces.

How can someone living in the Governor’s Mansion be honest with us? Most of us are living lives so alien from hers she might as well be from the moon, and it’s easy to be a blustery Mayor when you’re not the one who actually has to go to school.

But pretending to be honest and assertive look better than admitting you’re scared shitless, or even worse — that you might have been wrong.

That’s just bad optics, and it’s never too early to start thinking about reelection.

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