Thursday May 14, 2020
Reasoning Backwards with Dr. Christakis
This morning, the day after Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that reopening businesses and schools too quickly could lead to unnecessary suffering and death, with Pres. Trump responding that it wasn't “an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools,” NPR's “Morning Edition” ran a report about a pediatrician who is basically siding with Pres. Trump.
The pediatrician, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who directs the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital, is concerned with the mental health of kids in an age of Covid-19-enforced social distancing. He says: “The social-emotional needs of children to connect with other children in real time and space, whether it's for physical activity, unstructured play or structured play, this is immensely important for young children in particular.”
Of course. Makes sense. So what do we do? Christakis has written an editorial calling for “a panel made up of interdisciplinary experts to make school reopening a priority in the United States.” Then he says this:
“I think we should sort of reason backwards from the expectation that children do start school—that that's an imperative. And then how do we make that happen safely?”
Ah. So the thing that everyone in the world is trying to figure out—how to reopen safely—is the thing the panel needs to figure out. Got it. It's like someone saying: “We need to go to the moon. And all we need to do is ... figure out a way to get to the moon.” Which I guess is always the problem when you reason backwards.
Meanwhile, yesterday's top story on The Washington Post site was about how countries that have eased restrictions are imposing lockdowns again amid spikes in Covid cases. Meanwhile, children with Covid-related inflammatory problems are spiking here and in Europe.
We‘re not having the conversations we need to have.
ADDENDUM: A day later, another NPR report on same, this time by David Greene: “Researchers Examine Long-Term Effects Of Students Being Out Of School.” There’s a thing called “summer slide” that kids go through—they don't learn much during summer vacation and in the fall they‘re often behind where they were in the spring. So x 2 (at the least) for Covid. There’s also concerns about socio-economic disparities and language differences: ESL students who only speak their native tongue at home. It's not a bad report. Sadly, it's still framed against the Fauci/Trump difference about when to return kids to school. To me, it should be about how to make it work given our current situation, given the pandemic. Everything else is noise.