We're a little crazy, about science!

Education in a pandemic

Well the term is officially underway and with it comes in person classes! Because if there’s one thing a life is worth, it’s money and there’s money to be made by forcing you into the classroom. Yes the world has changed and we adapted with it, somewhat, but even with hospitals on the verge of collapse (again) we’re given the unequivocal message, “We’re going back to normal!” from schools. There’s nothing normal about it, but the economy is built on the backs of the people, so I guess, in a way, we are returning to normal.

What’s the value of a human life? I often find myself wondering this. Since I’ve left the military, the government has treated me like a mistake. There is no honor in living because they do not get to control the message, people are messy. When the pandemic first hit, there was panic and for good reason. COVID-19 and its many variants are going to fundamentally change an entire generation of people and if we cannot get it under control, due to lack of effort or just plain human stupidity, it may alter several generations.

We’re entering a time where a whole generation of young and formerly healthy people could be living with lifelong disabilities. While we don’t know how long the damage from COVID, especially serious infections, lasts, we are getting a clearer understanding that this is a very serious virus. COVID has been shown to damage the lungs, brain, organs, etc. We don’t know if this is permanent, but the number of people living with “long COVID” is growing and as that number increases the number of people who need serious healthcare rises with it.

Which is amazing to me that on the verge of a nationwide hospital collapse, we’re seeing schools forcing (not asking, forcing) students back in the classroom. That push has seen a dramatic spike in the number of positive COVID cases because a number of states are also banning mask mandates in the classroom. Ironic considering the strict dress code standards children are forced to live with, but logic has nothing to do with it so it would be a shame to start applying it now.

The point being is when do we start to care again? How much is a person’s life really worth? Apparently not much and it’s incredibly frustrating to be a student right now and to have to deal with the stress of COVID on top of the stress of the schools not doing anything. My school for instance is not requiring masks. They are also forcing (again, forcing, not asking, not accommodating, forcing) students to attend classes in person all while claiming they care about our health. If that were the case, they would do something to help stop the spread of COVID, instead classrooms are back to normal capacity (see: overstuffed) and people aren’t required to wear a mask while inside that overstuffed and under ventilated classroom.

Ironically classrooms have a history of poor ventilation to begin with, numerous studies have shown inadequate ventilation (like this study from 2004). And upgrading the HVAC systems and improving the ventilation of classrooms costs money. You know what doesn’t cost money? Saying we care while forcing you back into the classroom. That’s the level of compassion being shown right now.

Now I agree people should be learning in person, blah, blah, blah. The school system here in the US is basically childcare for families where both parents are forced to work. So yes, it’s tough if not impossible to have distance learning because once again the economy was built on the backs of the workers and if they start to die off we have plenty to take their place. Can you tell I’m tired of this?

I want to go back to normal as much as the next person, I do. But I also value the lives of the people around me. I don’t want to see someone end up in the hospital, live with disabilities due to COVID that could be lifelong, or even die. I don’t want to be responsible for another person’s death, its as simple as that. And make no mistake if I get COVID because I’m being stupid and not masking, not social distancing, or in this case, forced back into the classroom and I spread it, I will be responsible.

The shift in the US of personal responsibility being simply about YOU as an individual and not your actions on a group of people as a whole has been decades in the making. In the US we cannot go a week without some school shooting or mass shooting and no one wants to take responsibility. Not the politicians, not the gun manufacturers, certainly not the gun lobbyists who push for relaxed laws. It’s always the individual and nothing else, but we all play a part in this cycle, nothing happens inside a vacuum.

The point I’m trying to make is that the people in power, the ones who can mandate mask wearing on campus, are washing their hands of any responsibility. Even if there are laws preventing it, a law that knowingly and demonstrably causes harm and death should be ignored. The people in charge should take a stand and have the courage and the moral fortitude to not allow this to happen. The numerous deaths that will undoubtedly come from this is a direct result of their inaction.

As the school year kicks off, I’m left to wonder about how much the life of a student is worth. The answer as seen by schools, not much, but as a student I have to disagree with that assessment.


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