An Imperfect Union

By Lloyd Graff

Are schools that much different than factories? 

At this moment in America, virtually every factory is open and many are producing full out. Production is rising nicely. Confidence levels are high. The parking lots are full. Some steel may be a short delay and truckers seem flummoxed, but on the whole, business is jumping and the stock market is bouncing up and down off record highs.

Yet in many places, kids are still on Zoom if they own computers, and teachers unions and administrators are growling at each other. Parents are reaching their boiling point as they see their kids’ mental health sink dangerously and their finances fall apart because they can’t work when their children are at home. The quality of Zoom teaching and children’s ability to absorb content fluctuates wildly.

It’s a blown year of school that’s still continuing for many. 

In Chicago, teachers are retiring with $100,000 per year pensions. Yet they have kept their students at home or on the streets because they claim their classrooms are unsafe for them to teach in if students are present. Meanwhile, many students are leaving public school enrollment for Catholic schools, which have been open most of the pandemic.

My five-year-old grandson has gone to private nursery school throughout the entire pandemic. They have had a few cases, but never enough to close more than a couple of days. This has enabled my son to do his job as a psychotherapist in a hospital, helping COVID-19 survivors with emotional problems.

Parents and kids protest closed schools

We know now that kids, especially younger ones, do very well managing the illness. Still, the teachers union in Chicago and in other big cities are using kids as hostages in the power struggle with government authorities they are looking to humiliate. In Chicago, it is a battle between Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a former teacher, and her arch foe, Toni Preckwinkle, head of the County, who was crushed by Lightfoot in the last mayoral election. Lightfoot wants kids to go to school. Preckwinkle wants the teachers union clout.

We are now seeing parents demonstrating against unions and the politicians who are in their pocket all over the country. Even my old high school, the prestigious University of Chicago Lab School, which now charges tuition of $37,000 a year for kids whose parents do not work for the U of C, is dealing with parents making a very big stink about the unionized teachers destroying the kids’ school year.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom, who has managed to mismanage everything from power outages to his unmasked birthday party at a ritzy San Francisco restaurant, will soon be facing a recall election mainly because he has kept the schools closed. COVID-19 has accelerated many aspects of American life: working from home, Amazon deliveries of your morning coffee, the demise of the local barber, and now, perhaps, the ability of entrenched unions to be seen as the champions of education. 

In Chicago, the head of the teachers union idolizes the regime of Castro’s Cuba and goes to Venezuela to refine his communist tropes. Windy City students sit out the year and teachers can’t seem to find a mask that fits. 

The union has lost the PR battle in Chicago. This may be one of the best things that the pandemic has accelerated.

Question: Should kids go back to the classroom while the pandemic continues?

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8 thoughts on “An Imperfect Union

  1. Allen

    Yes. Schools in our area have been in person since the start of the year. The biggest issue is that kids have been close contacts, in general, they haven’t been the carriers. The districts that closed for periods did because some staff contracted it away from the school and had to stay home.

  2. Andy B

    Yes. Schools in my area (northwest Illinois) have had a full year, at times a couple around the area closed a week for online learning but they were back after that.

    Your opening sentence is one that I have thought a lot about last year when it came time for kids to go back to school. I certainly understand the teachers position about being exposed to the virus, especially if health compromised. But here’s the thing- what about everyone else that worked through the whole event? The country would have fallen apart the rest of the way if people didn’t work to provide goods and services especially in the early panic buying days of the pandemic.

    No one wants to have a higher chance of dying on the job, ever. But I think back to the World War 2 days and the fact that if the women, and others that could not serve in combat, felt it was too dangerous to work in the factories to build planes, tanks, guns etc. where would we be today? Probably not in a good spot .

  3. Jim Hanna

    As with many things, “It depends.” I volunteer in our public school system. We had about a month of virtual classes early on, but once they got the schools appropriately rearranged to provide more distancing and shields in places for protection of people who had to work in close proximity we went back to full time in the classrooms. The biggest problem has been covering for school employees who got COViD or were exposed and had to be gone for a while. Finding substitutes has been difficult for several years, and since many of them are retired teachers who are of an age where the virus can be particularly dangerous, many have turned down subbing for now. The good news is that the kids have been very good about sensible precautions like masks, distancing, hand washing, not sharing food and drinks, and helping with sanitizing. I wish the adults in our area were as conscientious!

  4. Von

    Kids should be in school, get the teachers the vaccine and it will happen. Many teachers are of the age that they are more susceptible to the viirus, so ge them vaccinated so they can be safe when they go back to the classroom.

  5. John

    Yes, kids should be in school, especially elementary school kids. We started the year in school (Eastside of Cleveland) and then went remote right after Thanksgiving. My 4th grade son went from straight A’s the first quarter, while in school, to struggling to get C’s during the remote learning. My sixth grade daughter faired better, but she still prefers to be in school.

    Remote learning for Elementary School aged children is a Disaster! Not the teachers fault, we just do not have the infrastructure and programs to support it. Kids in private schools will make huge strides against their peers in public schools this year.

    Thank goodness our kids are back in school now and it looks like remote is gone for good!


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