We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 339: What will school look like?

School

Here in the US we paused, it was only for a moment, it wasn’t long enough, and not everyone did it, but we paused. Then just as quickly as we tried to adapt to the changing times we went back to pretending everything was normal. Beaches opened, restaurants opened, bars opened, we saw celebrations and parties and we ignored a single digit daily death count, which turned into a double digit, then triple digit, now we’re hovering in at roughly 1000 deaths a day from the pandemic.

Maybe it’s because we’re scared. It’s not every day that the monster under the bed turns out to be real. Like any pandemic, it started slow, so people ignored it or tried to downplay it. Exponential growth is a bitch like that 1 becomes 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, suddenly it’s 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384, 32768, 65536, 131072, 262144, 524288. You probably get the idea, but not the affect. We’re not wired to understand exponential growth, so even when we see it in life or from an example we don’t fully grasp the significance.

It’s not your fault, we didn’t evolve to understand it. Having an innate understanding of exponential growth doesn’t help you survive so there was no evolutionary pressure to evolve the proper reverence we should be showing it. It’s why when people far smarter than you or I started warning people that this would be bad they didn’t listen. I mean let’s be real, there were other motivations such as money that helped drive the narrative that COVID-19 wouldn’t be that bad.

There’s also a rather large political component as well. The “liberal elite” are the ones going to school and getting degrees. The GOP shuns the well educated and questions even the most sound scientific facts. So we have a whole section of the population who are just uneducated and don’t understand why exponential growth should be feared. This is a systemic failure of the educational system here in the US. Mostly because being well educated is seen as something “liberal.”

Of course that’s a whole other topic for another post, but in a roundabout way we are getting to the bottom of why schools may be reopening in the fall. We as a species are dumb. It’s true, we’re the pretentious cousin of something that wasn’t quite man, but not quite a monkey. It’s tough to accept that for all the advancements we have made we’re still governed by our most basic instincts and they affect the choices we make, the fears we have, and what we do.

Schools are opening back up because people want to return to normal despite things not being normal. Normal is comfortable, it’s a known quantity and we don’t do well with fear. It’s part of the reason why the quote, “The only thing to fear, is fear itself” resonated with so many people. We are afraid all the time, but at least when we’re afraid of terrorists, or nuclear war, it’s things we can see or touch. Here we have a virus killing countless numbers of people and we can’t see it. We don’t know where it is or who as it. We can’t fall back on good ol’ fashioned values like racism to help coalesce as a country to do something about it.

So instead we feel safer ignoring the issue. If we just give it enough time, if we let the body count get big enough, it won’t matter anymore. 2 million dead? Well what’s a couple more at that point? The people in charge are telling us that we are so close to just accepting this as our normal, if we could just let it. There is a number of deaths that most people would be fine with. We live quite happily with the flu, yet it causes between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually according to the CDC (source). We are told we need to just be okay with this, because it’s easier than doing something about it.

I wish I could see the future, but I cannot. I can tell you opening schools from a scientific standpoint is such a horrible idea that it should be considered an act of biological terrorism all on its own. People WILL get sick, they WILL get others sick, and some of those people WILL die horribly painful and drawn out deaths. Do you really want to drowned on land? I mean we all die eventually, but that doesn’t sound like a fun way to go.

School is starting again soon. I hope enough people involved make sure that it doesn’t happen in person. Unfortunately, this could very well be our new normal. A few thousand deaths a day, well maybe we can learn to live with that for the sake of our comfort.

But enough about us, what about you?

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