On the Oncoming Educational-Health Crisis

by Alistair O’Gara

Many people have seen posts on social media stating that the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, claimed that “only 0.02% of children will die” when re-opening schools come fall. Of course, this particular statement has not been verified by anyone and has likely been an outright fabrication, though certainly it is in character for DeVos. Isn’t it?

We have to ask: what, then, has our esteemed and beloved Secretary of Education actually said? Well, as befitting her post she’s passed a lot of hot air down the media circuit, so I have gone ahead and picked a statement that I felt was a more charitable representation of DeVos’ ideas:

It’s clear our nation’s schools must fully reopen and fully operate this school year. Anything short of that robs students, not to mention taxpayers, of their futures – and their futures represent our nation’s future. So it’s not a question of if. It’s a question of how.

Strong words and claims. Not altogether untrue at first glance perhaps, failing to re-open in person means some children may have to go through the at-times grueling process of online education, after all. The infrastructure for such is somewhat difficult, especially on older teachers who have always had to stay on top of modernization of technology in schools. However, that hardly matters in the grand scheme. DeVos goes so far as to hang her claim on the very future of the “Nation” resting on this one year of potential online schooling (Dear lord no! not The Nation! anything but The Nation!). Clearly that means she sees much more at stake than inconvenience. Shall we speculate as to what this could be?

What is the future that DeVos, and by extension the whole of the Trump administration serving at the behest of the ruling class, advocates protecting? They advocate a situation of constant fear for everyone inside the public school system so that the political elite and corporate ruling class can profit. We shall get a downgrade on the number of teachers (already suffering a shortage) further culled by sickness and death. There will be an attack on the immune systems of countless families through children spreading the virus back home because of mandatory attendance. There is the potential for long-term lung damage in the children themselves. County and state workers and technicians are going to be run off of their jobs thanks to subsequent downsizing and, of course, sickness.

Through all of this, there is the scent of corporate greed. We are likely going to get a suspicious uptick in private schooling investment gained by people seeking alternatives to public school. In fact, they would be much like the investments Betsy DeVos herself holds in KinderCare and other for-profit educational and childcare ventures! Furthermore, Pearson and other educational giants will stay able to continue their scandalous extortion of education budgets with opened schools, thirsting for every last bit of blood money they can manage, as usual. Their control over standardized testing services, course development, and textbooks being a constant flow of revenue and source of influence.

And the cherry on top? A generation of children is going to be forced through unnecessary deaths and a fair deal hardship for at least a year, likely more if the crisis is extended by terrible policy. This battle, this massacre, will be perpetrated in the school system that is well-known to be a standardized hellscape bent towards creating good worker-bees. It’s the perfect atmosphere, better than usual, for breaking spirit. Spirit being something the youth have developed a reputation for having as of late which is unacceptable to anyone seeking to maintain social control. And these are just the likely consequences of an opening policy. There’s no telling the actual depth of the depravity behind the scene.

We do, though, have a pretty good idea about the depravity of our Secretary of Education, the moneyed-interest investor and anti-public school pundit. In just one year DeVos can clearly see the perfect way to publicly make a statement that we should all put our lives on the line to fit into the pre-planned agenda set out for us by the ruling class, be us children or workers who need to be kicked off of unemployment as Trump and state governors are so eager to do. In just one year, DeVos can see a way to increase the private sector grip on education, ruling young lives by corporate agendas. In just one year, DeVos can deal a hammer blow to the poor in education, ousting them via sickness of their families and teachers. In just one year we, the working class, will be given a disaster that we will have to pick up the pieces of for decades. It is likely hoped that we will be too busy being pulled in each direction to mount a combined defense against this attack on this far-reaching aspect of our lives. One almost has to pay respects to the efficiency of such clear villainy, it’s a true all-in-one blow to the underclass of our society.

And, before doubt is cast on the severity of the situation because children are less susceptible to the virus, there are a few words to say. We at Workers Power generally don’t enjoy having to rely on government agencies for our facts, but for the CDC during a pandemic we will make an exception. The CDC has said in a statement, and we have seen it repeated often in many forms by many people, “Social distancing and everyday preventative behaviors remain important for all age groups because patients with less serious illness and those without symptoms likely play an important role in disease transmission.” If the potential damage to a child’s lungs isn’t enough, the children still serve as a transmission point into almost every home in the US. And at the risk of this being too obvious, kids are not known for hygiene. Many schools require immunization before enrollment, and that is being thrown out the window. The lessons that the swine flu panic that hit us many years back are burned. Schools can rarely contain even lice outbreaks or colds, and now they are expected to contain the quickest-spreading and most unusual virus we’ve seen in a long time. Is the issue not clear?

But I, a person with aspirations to teach, have always disliked the policies of DeVos and corporate giants in education. What is new? What does my ranting and raving do us? Just as much as most of the teacher’s union in the face of this threat: nothing!

What is new and pressing is the thousands, millions, of lives put in danger by the policy of re-opening the schools (and workplaces, it should be said). What will do us some legitimate good, beyond cries of indignation, is organizing our teachers, and our too often neglected support staff, into unions capable of strikes to halt moves against our teachers and children. The sacrifice of children on the alter of the “Nation” and its future is unacceptable. It is the policy of the ruling class, detached from our suffering, towards re-opening that truly endangers the future.

Again: We Need an Organization

Teachers cannot fight alone. Many teachers are distraught and considering quitting their jobs because of the oncoming crisis in their field. They are the first defense and first victims of the virus colonies that are US public schools, and the ramifications are great if we do not stand with them now with solidarity and with action and they leave and get sick en masse.

We need a party of the working class because:

  • The law stands in the way when it comes to strikes by state employees. We need a party for the working class that is capable of organizing protests and defense of strikes against these unjust laws.
  • We need a party for the working class that can protect working class bodies so they can form a plan of action for re-openings. We should decide when we go back!
  • We need a party of the working class that can coordinate between teachers, their support staff, and even their student bodies with others all across the US to bolster the power of our demands. The demands to respect human life and not cause unnecessary death.
  • The Democrats have been and will be incapable of fighting for us to the fullest extent To this end, all organizations of labor, student movements, and left-wing political organizations like the DSA must move to the forefront to accomplish the goal of organizing together against the ruling-class onslaught in our schools. Should this not happen, should we all sit on our hands as time goes by and lose out on making valuable links and contacts that will be the root of a new party, talk of such will be yelling to the wind. And, most detrimentally, we will further suffer an unabated ruling class offensive through this crisis.