The Back To School List That Wasn’t

Each year about this time, I hobble together a list of classic, reliable back to school clothes and accessories that can benefit the high school senior or college freshman.

This year, not so much.

Parents, teachers, students, and administrators find themselves at a crossroads right now. The pandemic presents plenty of problems and no clear answers when it comes to how and when students return to school. My close friends who are teachers in the US have shared their concerns. They worry for the mental and emotional health of their students as much as they fear for their physical health.

The impact on education is also very real. Engagement and participation in the classroom is an essential element to understanding a subject. The ability to learn from and share with fellow students is invaluable. This rarely happens online.

And as learning shifts to online platforms, other issues arise. Parents sending their children to college don’t want to pay full price for tuition while their sons and daughters sit at their kitchen table and log on to take classes. College administrators are reluctant to discount tuition simply because students are attending class remotely. The college diploma, they might argue, will still have the same value when the student receives it, online or on campus.

Debates continue on these issues, and others relating to education in the time of Covid-19. To me, only one thing is certain: it is reckless and wrong to send children and young people back into classrooms at this time. It is indefensible.

Why any public official or education professional would advocate for a massive, nationwide gathering of people into enclosed spaces, for extended periods of time, with a snowball’s chance in hell of social distancing is beyond me.  That’s not a desire to educate and ‘get back to normal’. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Some school districts in the US have already announced that their classes will resume exclusively online this fall. That is a sane approach. Those districts that bring students back, I suspect, will see results not unlike those at the University of Alabama, where classes resumed on campus, and one week later 500 cases of the virus were reported.

More than one teacher has told me that if schools open for in-person classes in September, those same schools will be closed by Thanksgiving due to spikes in infection rates. We’ll see if that plays out.

What we must certainly remember is that none of this is happening in a vacuum. Changes in the political landscape after the November elections and the discovery of virus treatments or vaccines at any point in time could alter the global landscape greatly, if not immediately. Classes, the homecoming game, and the prom might be back on the calendar.

Personally, I’d love that. Realistically, public servants won’t be sworn in until January. Clinical trials take time. And there’s still a virus out there.

So I’m find myself auditioning for the role of Captain Obvious when I say the following:

To think that teachers should risk their lives like the firefighters, paramedics, nurses, and doctors who are fighting this pandemic in hospitals around the country is unfair. They didn’t sign up for this and should not be expected to work in life-threatening conditions. And:

To think that this virus isn’t dangerous to young people–in the short term and the long term–is irrational, immature, foolish, and stupid.

It is, in short, all the things that education is supposed to eradicate.

The irony is palpable.

  • BGT

15 thoughts on “The Back To School List That Wasn’t

  1. My children are young, the oldest is supposed to begin Kindergarten this year and so we are learning her curriculum at home. I had not intended to teach her to read, but I have already taught her to dress herself, speak clearly, eat with silverware and a napkin in her lap. I can continue her education and then when it is safe for everyone, not simply convenient for me, she can attend school with her peers.

    – Kathleen

    1. Hi Kathleen.
      If you find that you need a reading curriculum, please check out Happy Cheetah Reading. I am using with my 2nd grader who did not learn to read at his private school. This program is so easy ( 10 minutes daily), and effective. If you do not need a reading curriculum then disregard. I am just so in love with this program, and it’s too good not to share.
      Best wishes!!

  2. INDEFENSIBLE INDEED; well said sir! I, for one, agree with everything you have so beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    The lack of national leadership in the United States continues to be immoral, immeasurable, irrational and inexcusable! May Heaven help us all in this perilous time – especially our children, youth and students of all ages and their extraordinary teachers!

  3. The mistake we made was in thinking that we had to choose between saving lives and keeping the economy running. That’s a false choice. The more people who get sick and die the worse it is for the economy. You help the economy, and society in general, by keeping as many people as possible healthy and alive.

    1. And it truly is that simple; isn’t it Amy!

      Your gracious comments and right-minded, warm and admirable convictions touch my heart. Thank you! Jan

  4. Honestly, we as a nation are in uncharted territory, and we still don’t know enough about what we’re dealing with to claim 100% certainty on anything.
    I do know that in other countries where the kids actually went back to school, there were no issues with the virus spreading – at least that’s the last I’d heard. If that has since changed, then I stand corrected. However, it’s going to be different here in the United States because we are a very mobile society, and because of that we’re going to have more cases. To that end, I wonder if doing half virtual and half in-person classes would be helpful or risky? Even with masks and distancing, there’s just no way to know for sure.

    No matter what, in my opinion, i think it’s inappropriate to place so much fault on our leadership, as they made decisions based on the information they were given by our medical “experts.” While people are entitled to their own opinions, I would challenge those who think they could do a better job under these unprecedented circumstances to knock themselves out.

    1. Heather, our president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was to allow each governor to decide for himself or herself how they wanted to handle the epidemic in their state. In other words, there was no federally coordinated national response. Instead, when armed protesters showed up to protest mask wearing because it was an infringement of their “liberty”, the president encouraged them to “liberate” their states. (I noticed those same protesters were nowhere to be found when the president sent armed federal troops into our cities against the wishes of the people and the local governments.)
      Do I think I could have done better? Yes, I do. Frankly, I think most people could have.

      1. Eloquently put Amy. Thank you and count me in!

        As I read through the blogs this morning, I kept hearing the following phrase repeating in my head – ‘There are none so blind as those who will not see’

        I’m sure you are familiar with the expression.

        And (p.s.) another one I try to keep in mind at all times is – SHUT UP JANET; DON’T ENGAGE!!!!


      2. Amy, we will have to agree to disagree. That’s the beauty of living in a free country. As Jan put it, I should’ve listened to that inner voice that said “shut up and don’t engage.” I should have. It’s amazing how disagreements on policy management have crept into every aspect of our lives.

        Anyway, best wishes, and take care!

  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts around education during this time. I personally chose to pull my boys out of the private school they had been attending and homeschool them myself. I have often thought what would Byron think of homeschooling? It has actually been a very fulfilling experience thus far. I feel at peace knowing we can go on despite what the schools must do any given week.
    Best Wishes!!

  6. Our school district just announced that all classes will be remote until November 4 th instead of having 2 half days. Either way, many parents had to make arrangements to send their younger children to private camps for part the week (now maybe the entire week). My daughter had to attend camp 3 days a week this summer. My husband and I can’t work from home. And it hasn’t been ideal for the families that have been working from home and trying to home school their children last spring. Sending kids to camp offers NO LESS RISK for the children and the college age camp counselors for contracting COVID. I believe we are transferring the burden from schools that received Federal Grants to deal with this situation to private schools and business.

  7. My son is at college. I feel the university is purposely under testing the amount of students they should be testing. Of course if you don’t test, then the reported infection rate isn’t very high and this makes the university sound less infectious. I understand that universities are big business and that college age students are at low risk even if infected. What a horrible predicament we are in. As a parent, I’m so depressed and scared.

  8. Just to clarify my previous personal admonishment – aka known as my ‘words to (try hard to) live by’ —

    I should add that the whole of the intention ‘ Shut Up Janet; Don’t Engage … is – Stop Talking and Instead – Be Quiet and Listen and Learn.

    I inadvertently left out the most important part!

    A good proofreader is (at least for me) hard to find!!!

    So sorry,


  9. Heather, thank you for your comment. We all want what’s best for our country. We can disagree about exactly what that is and still remain civil and respectful. I appreciate your comment.

    1. Amy – you are a wise, beautiful, gracious and classy lady! Well read and well-spoken too!

      I appreciate your words as well as Heather’s! You both make a valuable and important contribution!

      Thank you!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.