“She told me they have support for people whose parents are poor, but not for those whose parents are assholes.” — Soul Man
The above quote is one of my personal favorites from the 1986 classic “Soul Man.” For those unfamiliar with the film, the lead character Mark Watson wants to go to Harvard Law. His parents are rich, but have refused to help him, so he goes through several desperate plots to pay for school. The final phase had him impersonate an African-American in order to get a scholarship.
In this iteration he was going to the bank to get a loan. The loan officer uttered the line you see above. For some reason it is the line that came to mind when considering the priority list for who should get the vaccine. My wife is something of a health expert. She has one of those doctorates that the Wall Street Journal seems to be so disdainful of. Her doctorate came in bioengineering.
I argued that teachers should be near the front of the line for the vaccine. Obviously, health care workers should be first and no one has said otherwise. However, I argued that teachers are amongst the next group that is clearly at risk. My campus has had eleven reported positives alone and no one really knows how many positives there have been that have gone unreported.
Why do I say this? Our district hasn’t mandated testing in really any instance. Every morning we have a pop up on our web browser that asks us a series of questions about how we are feeling. If we have a fever or if we have any of the other well-known symptoms we are asked to self-isolate at home. Students have the same expectations.
No one is taking temperatures. Employees and students on our campus can have a rapid test done, but we aren’t forced to and we certainly aren’t testing large groups. So, it almost would be impossible to believe that we have had only eleven positives.
At any rate, my wife pointed out an obvious point I hadn’t really considered. Teachers don’t have to be exposed. We are choosing to teach in person. We easily could conduct school remotely because we’ve already done it. Health care workers, police, fire fighters, and other necessary personnel HAVE to do their work in person and HAVE to work with exposed and positive people.
That’s where the connection with the quote above came in. The order of the vaccine has to be based on those that have to work with positive patients or at the most risk. It can’t be based on those in the governor’s mansion or with the TEA (or your state educational agency) being assholes. However, at least in Texas it appears we will be right in line with the elderly.
While that’s comforting on a certain level it is also decidedly uncomfortable. For one, we are still exposing students and while students have a higher survival rate, no one is quite sure of the longterm effects. Additionally, politics and policy involve priorities. If there are say a million teachers statewide then those million teachers are getting vaccinations then that is one million people that cannot get the vaccine.
Now, to be perfectly fair we should point out that Joe Biden has also expressed a desire to hold classes in person. In Texas, we are pushing for more kids to come back in person. As someone that supports at risk students I get it on a number of levels. Some students just can’t cut it virtually. They barely cut it when they are there in person.
For our particular campus it is particularly problematic. Students are studying to get certifications for their careers. They need hands on activities. You just can’t do that at home. I get it. On traditional campuses you are removing many of their extracurricular activities. Again, you can’t replace that.
At the same time, it doesn’t matter what hands on activities or extracurricular activities you have if they are dead. Even more challenging is the question of the needs to have a regular childhood being measured against not necessarily death but measured against long-term side effects. Is having the prom worth some kids possibly getting sick and having long-term lung, liver, or kidney damage?
So, again it’s about priorities and it’s about balancing those priorities. As much as I would love to get the vaccine I have to remember two things. First, it isn’t an instantaneous magic bullet against the virus. Secondly, if I’m getting it then someone else isn’t getting it. It doesn’t necessarily mean we can bring every kid back and shed the masks.