America is underwater from the Pandemic. More than 400,000 cases are reported daily on CNN and that is up 103% from last week. Schools are beginning to lose students and staff to the Virus-induced pandemic. Our country knows how to handle the Pandemic and how to educate our children, so what is the current education crisis? It looks like the crisis in education is that the rigor of science is subordinated to politics because of a lack of consensus on the mitigation strategies.
The crisis in education directly relates to the country’s response to the pandemic. A direct comparison between the US and Israel sheds some light on this medical crisis and its effect on schools. Currently, Israel offers a fourth vaccine dose to people age 60 and over due to a fifth wave of the virus(es). Our country, on the other hand, is stuck at two doses, waits to issue more restrictive guidelines, does not have enough COVID-19 tests, does not distribute those tests early enough to make a difference and is not fully vaccinated.
In a recent paper in the Israel Journal of Health Policy Research about Israel’s approach to the pandemic, several challenges are noted: “Among the challenges presented by the SARS-CoV2 pandemic are those related to balancing societal priorities with averting threats to population health”
“A general lesson learned is that academics, based on the rigor of their scientific work and their perceived objectivity, can and should be mobilized to pursue and promote policies based on shared societal values as well as empiric data, even when considerable uncertainty exists about the appropriate course of action. Mechanisms should be in place to open channels to multidisciplinary academic groups and bring their input to bear on decision-making”—ISRAEL JOURNAL OF HEALTH POLICY RESEARCH
Balancing Education Priorities with Health Priorities
Schools are beginning to cancel courses and classes, shutter schools, and close districts. Brookline Public Schools was beginning to cancel classes and then two days later wrote to say the whole district was closed today, Monday. Schools and districts all over the United States are now facing a rolling set of closures and January may be a lost month for education. However, multi-disciplinary discussions in the United States always pointed to testing as an interesting intersection of school and community and it might have been the practical way to balance the priorities of health and education. Better testing at the start of the Pandemic might have helped us reduce the spread of the virus, reduced the number of cases and reduced the number of deaths.
Better Testing, Better Policy
Testing early in the pandemic, walling off the virus because we actually might have known exactly who had it and where it was spreading, would have helped us. The rigor of science has been over-run by the politics of hate and that is a devastating loss of good information to a polarized society. Will this be our legacy, or can we marshal the rigor of science to defend our way of living and end this threat to our education system, and ultimately to the betterment of our society? Let’s build our ability to work together in multi-disciplinary teams and marshal the rigor of our knowledge and construct excellent public policy to defend our way of life.