During lockdowns, I opposed prolonged public school closures (and lost my job over it), it was not just children and their right to an education I was standing up for. It was women too. Women who disproportionately are primary caregivers for their children, even while they work full-time. And it was women who dropped out of the workforce in droves during covid, out of sheer necessity in order to educate their children when Zoom school proved useless.
Joy can be contagious. And those of us who have fought against what felt like the world in the past 3 years need some joy as we continue to advocate for not just our kids, but all of them. And for many moms across the country, covid was a line in the sand. They will not let it happen again. They will be vigilant in fighting for normalcy for their children that they never realized before had been at risk.
Is your kid a little weird? So what! Guess what, you’re probably weird too. We’re all a little weird. I definitely am. If your kid is quiet, has trouble making friends, hates sports, loves math, only eats 5 foods, is just a little different — no need to rush to diagnose, therapize and medicate. Are those things sometimes necessary? Sure. But the rush to label any minute difference or quirk, then medicate it into oblivion does not respect a child’s individuality.
In reality, Weingarten did everything in her power to keep schools shuttered; she just pretended that she wanted them open. She had a direct line to Rochelle Walensky, the Director of the CDC, and interjected impossible-to-meet guidelines about what was necessary to re-open schools “safely.” Emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act in May 2021 revealed that the AFT lobbied the CDC and suggested language for the agency’s federal reopening guidance.
People often ask me why I still care about school closures and other covid restrictions that harmed a generation of children. “Schools are open now,” they say. “It’s enough already.” No. It’s not. The impact to this generation of children continues. And so do many of the restrictions impacting young people.
If young people have little hope for the future, feel isolated, disconnected and as if their very existence doesn’t matter, what hope do we have for the future as a society? And when kids are deemed to be inessential, their schooling and activities at the bottom of the list of our societal priorities, how else are they going to feel but inessential?