Our main purpose these days is to survive. I’m not sure many of us fully appreciate that. Even as coronavirus infections reach new highs, we think we can devise plans and programs that allow us to do most of the things we did before the virus came along, like going out to eat, for instance, or, more importantly, like going to school.

Bob Jones column photo

Bob Jones

We’re upset that a good percentage of our high school students are getting failing grades. We’re finding that virtual teaching and learning isn’t terribly effective. Kids have different home settings, some more conducive to learning than others. Seems like we could have expected that.

So, we have proposal upon proposal about opening the schools for classroom education. But even with the modifications, school districts have proposed in order to mitigate the spread of the virus, almost everything about being in school goes beyond county health officers’ guidelines for safe gatherings.

But hey and hurrah, the kids are not getting infected and spreading infection to their families and many of the rest of us. At least not nearly as much as it would be if they were in school. So, let’s hear it for online learning no matter how it’s working out. To my mind, if a youngster doesn’t get sick with covid, doesn’t bring it home and pass it around, that’s an A+. Any other grades are not important at all.

My mother-in-law graduated from high school in 1918. A bright young woman, she was awarded a full scholarship to a fine university. The terrible pandemic wrongly called the Spanish Flu, which may have started in Kansas, was ravaging the country. Thousands were dying, especially younger people, many of whom had survived the Great War. Her physician father told her she should stay home for a year. He said she should ask the university to hold her scholarship until it was safe to attend classes. My mother-in-law did what her father said, survived the flu, then went to college and graduated with highest honors.

Why is that such a bad idea for us today? Why can’t kids be given a year away from required classes and the pressure to make grades? Sure, let’s provide online schooling but recognize it for what it is. It’s a stop-gap. But it’s also a chance to try new things. It’s an opportunity for kids and educators to explore what interests them. It should be evaluated along different lines than regular classes.

The school year is a third gone, and the virus is worse now than when schools were closed in March. How can it be a good idea to think about opening schools now? Why not face the situation and take up survival mode, our main purpose these days. Then, next fall, when it looks like we may have vaccines and the like, we get back to school in earnest. Sure, it makes for a hard year for everyone. But not as hard as having kids and teachers get sick and die, which has happened in places where schools are open.

Survive now in order to thrive later. My mother-in-law managed it all those years ago. Kids of all ages can do the same today.

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