Most of the prevailing narratives over the last year have been a whiplash of bipolarity. Masks are not necessary, but they’re essential. Lockdowns are imperative, but they’ve been a catastrophe. Social distancing is required, except when peacefully protesting or celebrating a presidential win of your preferred candidate. Riots are the “language of the unheard,” except when they happen at the Capitol, and then they’re insurrection. A vaccine rolled out under one president should not be trusted, but under another, they may allow us to celebrate the Fourth of July. The jab will help us achieve herd immunity, but there’s no evidence it stops transmission of the virus.
Teachers are heroes — except when they are villains.
In a moment without historical precedent, when educators across the world pivoted in real-time to try to provide remote learning to billions of students during the pandemic, the zeitgeist sentiment shifted almost imperceptibly. The oft-maligned teacher from the little red schoolhouse who doesn’t work all summer, gets weeks off at Christmas, and apparently clocks out by 3 p.m. was suddenly enjoying a renaissance of goodwill.
Parents everywhere seemed to appreciate the Herculean effort required to change an educational model — hundreds, if not thousands, of years old — to accommodate a grim new reality. Mothers and fathers got to see the sausage being made, the air-traffic-controller-like stresses of having to manage 20 to 32 students at once — via screen, no less — and it was eye-opening. Maybe this teaching thing wasn’t as easy as it looks after all. Maybe teachers deserved some credit in the end — perhaps even a little respect. For a hot minute, teachers were heroes.
But after a viral video of school board members disparaging parents besmirched their image, and a display of the unions’ intransigence about reopening schools, recent headlines are throwing teachers under the (school) bus yet again. Now it has been reported that COVID-19 relief payments in California are going toward teacher bonuses and that a teachers’ union member joked the funds should be used for Hawaiian vacations.
After the California teachers’ unions’ inconvenient reluctance to follow the “Joe Saves America” playbook and open back up again within spitting distance of the inauguration, this news served only to encourage a mad scramble for pitchforks and torches to brandish against teachers among America’s villagers. Those damn laggards, layabouts, and louses, driving around in their 2014 Honda Civics – how dare they!
The truth is far less gasp-inducing and requires no exclamation points to report. In most cases, the “bonuses” are funds being used to pay teachers to tutor outside of school hours students who have been most significantly impacted by remote learning over the last year. But as we now know, narratives are like fires hungry to be fed: They need the fuel of new scandal to stay incendiary.
Teachers were served the same lies as the rest of us. It’s now come to light that the six feet of social distancing professional dissembler Anthony Fauci and others have been insisting on since early in the pandemic — the one that drove international policy regarding school closures — was based on a century-old prescriptive to halt the spread of tuberculosis by a German doctor named Carl Flugge. That recommendation, as it turns out, is a little long in the tooth.
Back in June 2020, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, The Lancet, published a study demonstrating that three feet of distance provide the same amount of protection as six feet. You read that correctly. With the amount of space required between students literally halved — based on a peer-reviewed study in a major medical journal months before school started for 2020/2021 — children could’ve gone back to their traditional classrooms this year.
Ah — but there was still an election to win. And a normalized school routine for America’s most precious natural resource would have been an inconvenient feather in the cap of Bad Orange for the scorched- earth left. Perhaps that’s why we’re hearing about the three feet of social distancing study from The Lancet only now with a new president at the helm of the good ship America.
So are teachers the heroes or the villains of the pandemic — or just a convenient scapegoat?
Read more from author Pennel Bird.