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Health Officials Said Protesting Was ‘More Important’ than COVID, But Didn’t Do that with Schools and Learning

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During an interview with author and former NPR Education Correspondent Anya Kamenetz aired on Monday’s broadcast of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” host Steve Inskeep stated that public health officials were willing to balance controlling the coronavirus pandemic with other priorities when it came to protests, but struggled to do the same when it came to educational loss from keeping schools closed.

Inskeep said, “You just said an important thing when you talked about balancing the needs of children with the need to control the pandemic. This is a complicated decision. You’re taking a risk one way or another. And if you’re a public health official, you may decide that the risk of educational loss is greater than the risk of COVID for kids, even if some kids may well get sick. In other contexts, public health experts were willing to make that judgment. They very famously, in 2020, said it was okay to protest racial injustice because the cause was more important than the risk of COVID. Why was it so hard for them to focus on schools the same way?”

Kamenetz answered, “I think it has a little bit to do with sort of the moral place of children in our society. There is such an instinct to protect children. And that’s very good, right? We don’t want to think about any harm coming to children. And dealing with an unknown risk really pushed us toward the precautionary principle. But where I think that went too far was in our lack of awareness of just how many functions schools were providing for the outrageously high number of children in this country who don’t get their basic needs met at home.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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