Let’s be clear: COVID-19 is the enemy, not teachers. And not each other.
Several years ago, I participated in a book giveaway in McDowell County, W.Va., one of the poorest counties in the U.S. I offered a book to a boy who immediately clutched it to his chest, grinned and said, “I’m going straight home to put this in my library.” I asked him what other books he had in his library. Bubbling with excitement, he said, “This is the first one!” That encounter has stayed with me, because it shows that reading is as much about our hearts as our minds. Reading is a foundational skill necessary for virtually everything we learn and do. Reading well is an essential pathway to opportunity.
That line, from the century-old labor union anthem “Solidarity Forever,” feels especially apt in this moment. Aren’t we all yearning to live in a “new world” without the anxiety, disruptions and sorrow caused by the COVID-19 pandemic? Isn’t it well past time to sweep discrimination and violence based on race, religion, gender and other factors into the “ashes of the old”? Can’t the United States — the richest country in the world, yet home to 37 million people living in poverty — “bring to birth” a world in which every person has a decent standard of living and opportunities to get ahead?
The high cost of college can prevent people from working in essential, but modest-paying, public service jobs.
Safety protocols are not barriers to in-person learning — they are the way back.
The tools to emerge from this crisis only work if we use them.
Educators are preparing to be back in school in-person full time because they know it’s what students need. But some families still have reservations.
We might have had our last free and fair election.
The United States will not be fully back until we are fully back in school.
Our country built a robust middle class before, and we can do so again.