Once upon a time — OK, in college — I was torn between philosophy and chemistry. They had a lot in common, principally that they were both systematic approaches to understanding how the world works.
Chemistry won for a minute because it was more practical and because modern philosophy had devolved - in my exalted 18-year-old opinion - into epistemology and deconstruction. But then the arts stepped in and here we are.
But what I did learn from my years at a lab bench was that understanding something often involves testing it to see how it reacts, whether it’s an unknown substance or an idea or a person.
We’re in a period of testing right now, every system we know being put under tremendous pressure.
Take sports. Professional franchises have accepted the fact that crowds have to be limited if not banned due to COVID. And there have been some creative solutions to fill in empty stadiums. Folks have paid to have photos of loved ones and pets blown up and seated in the boxes and it’s fun and a good way for the franchises — and associated charities — to raise some cash. So that’s a win.
And solo sports like tennis are doing fine. Tennis in particular was able to mount its whole season, with a few adjustments to venues and dates. Some of the players chose to stay in Europe or the States — but that just gave opportunities to previously unknown players. And given the use of cameras on outer courts, we got to meet a lot of them. Win!
But not all sports are thriving. Football? Why anyone thought that a sport that runs through a huddle could beat COVID is beyond me. It’s a contact sport, folks. That’s a no go.
And I know people love football – and in particular, high school football. And I really feel for high school athletes. It stinks, it really does. But the facts are the facts - contact sports communicate the virus. And no one can afford that right now.
But maybe it’s an opportunity to take some pressure off kids — the pressure to perform and to get the attention of college scouts and to “specialize” by the age of 12. These pressures pit parents — who’re paying for coaching and spending half their lives driving kids to practices and matches and meets — against kids who just want to play. And yes, it’s great to dream and have a goal but the truth is 99.9999 percent of kids won’t play professional ball or get scholarships. And when parents bank on that, we get fistfights on the sidelines and Tommy John surgeries in 15-year-old pitchers. It’s nuts. Boys in particular aren’t even fully grown until well past high school.
Why not learn from this unanticipated break and allow our kids to try lots of different kinds of sports. Just might be a win for everyone.
Especially kids, who are really getting the short end of the pandemic stick. They’re locked up at home with their parents, they can’t hang out with their friends and their schools are in an uproar with no one in a consistent situation.
And yes, most older students have enough “executive function” to take webinars and follow along in Zoom classes. And it certainly helps to be able to use Zoom for homework help and conferences. But as I’ve mentioned before, high school is when adolescents start separating from their families of origin. They need to practice choosing friends and forming bonds and putting their trust in other people while they still have one foot at home. And they can’t do that over Zoom.
And younger children need to learn how to cooperate with other students and play together and negotiate and take turns and share. They’re not yet able to verbalize all their needs or type up an email. They need a trained teacher to read their body language and behavior and you can’t do that over Zoom.
But if students are the losers here, I suspect that schools may end up in the win column. If COVID has shown us anything it’s that the disparities in school districts are glaring and the infrastructure in the school system is in desperate need of an upgrade. In short, the schools need help and the states can’t do it alone.
But here’s the good news. There’s not a parent out there who wouldn’t support whatever it takes to bring schools up to code and keep teachers and students safe. Take my kid — please! So now’s the time for parents to band together and support schools and teachers and for teachers’ unions to demand that the ventilation, tech and hygiene in schools be upgraded and that teachers receive the compensation we now all realize they deserve.
And the good news for schools doesn’t stop there because…
We have a winner! Joe Biden has been elected president and he’s a union guy. So the teachers and all the families that depend on them have a friend in the White House — in fact, two friends. Dr. Jill Biden has a PhD in Education and has dedicated her career to teaching. She’ll support teachers and upgraded school facilities and tech for our kids. #BuildBackOurSchools!
So it ain’t all bad. COVID has taught us a lot. We just have to lay low, be patient and survive the next few months until vaccines are available. We can do it. Just keep focusing on a brighter future.
Next week, Winners & Losers — Part 2.
(Thank you so much for all your emails. Reach me at WelcomeToThePandemic@gmail.com. And find me on Twitter at @epagenyc or on Facebook at ElizabethPage.)