Whose Problem Is It?

Temper Tantrum Trump Policy - The Ring of Fire Network

Hint: Not Parents’ and Not Teachers’

When my children were small, I sometimes went to workshops to gather parenting ideas.  One of the behavior specialists gave a tip for problem solving that stuck with me, not just for dealing with toddlers, but for problem solving with difficult adults. 

She advised us, “You need to be aware of whose problem it is.”  It is likely that if you are highly distressed, it’s because the problem has become your problem, not the other person’s. She explained, a highly effective tactic for children is to make what they want your problem, not theirs.  At the time, it was revelatory for dealing with the 100th time a child asked to do something that was not safe or appropriate.

The US education system and teachers just got handed a problem that is not theirs; Covid-19 has been converted to being the teachers’ problem- not by students, but by our national political leaders and the large companies who want something.

The problem of how to open the economy really belongs to the business/financial sector, and to the national/state policy makers. 

The business sector, that was already sitting on record profits, was just given trillions of dollars to enable them to continue to operate, but instead of using that money to develop safe worker and family care systems or short-term pay-outs for their employees to survive, they’ve rat holed the money in other investments and their own accounts. Now they want someone to create the programs they failed to create to sustain their businesses across the crisis—so they are looking to their local schools to bail them out.

The government, instead of designating money to individual workers to carry them through the crisis, allowed the business and financial sector to just take the several trillion, so that now about 1/3 of the public are missing a house payment and tens of millions are still out of work.

So, to offset the frantic desperation workers are appropriately directing at them, federal and some state officials are looking for someone else whose problem they can make it; and who better to blame and hand the problem to than the public schools.

There are a myriad of other ways both the government and the economic system have created their own problem they need to off-load: from having created digital education products that are strong on sales-pitch and weak on learning techniques; to starving school districts of funding that could maintain well ventilated and healthy buildings; not to even mention having refused to respond to the virus in a timely way.  These were groundwork already laid for disaster before Coronavirus ever became the crisis we know today, and these failures are helping create the double bind the whole society is feeling right now.

Schools cannot do effective digital programs, in part because our digital products were designed around assessment and data collection, not for exciting learning, and we cannot return students to buildings that were already unsanitary and had unsafe air handling. 

Now, like children at the check-out, both our national employers and our authorities are screaming and kicking, I want my candy; trying desperately to make this the schools’ problem. 

It will become the education systems’ problem only if they get rattled by the tantrum, and give in to governments’ and employers’ demands to, “Get back to those schools and take those children with you.”  Once teachers and school boards acquiesce and accept that it’s their problem, they also accept the guilt of what can only be a disastrous decision.

But, the real answer is- Opening the economy is not an educational problem.  Another semester of living with their families will not permanently scar students (unless they are highly destructive families), and there is no such thing as an expire date on learning.  Students will make up the school lessons they miss relatively quickly on returning to school. There is NO educational reason for rushing students and staffs into a highly dangerous health situation.

If teachers and school managers stay calm, and say, “No” to the check-out tantrum of leaders, the problem remains where it should be with politicos and the national business leaders. Then they have to come to grips that the problem of providing for workers was and is theirs to solve, and they must do it without killing or damaging the health of a generation of children, or destroying the entire public education system it took 150 years to build.

Sometimes, “No” is the right answer.

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