Initial stay-at-home orders and widespread closures were implemented in a state of panic and uncertainty as COVID-19 quickly swept through the world. Without data, these measures were initially popularly accepted. Two weeks to stop the spread of a novel disease struck most citizens as more than reasonable.
But, as the months have dragged on, the ongoing implementation of lockdowns as a long-term, blunt-force tool has been an utter failure. With more data and information coming to light, many policymakers have failed to reinvestigate and reform their precautionary measures, thus increasingly acting both in conflict with science and in violation of liberties.
This is especially true of school closures. As we accrued more and more studies and demographical data about how COVID-19 impacts children, the findings have largely been a blessing. The risk of COVID-19 to small children is astronomically low, and the risk of transmission between students and their teachers is hugely unlikely.
After months of our kids suffering ill-effects of lockdowns, this should have been a cause for celebration and impetus to cautiously but excitedly reopen our schools. And, yet, closures have continued to drag on in many areas of the country—much to the detriment of students and their families alike.
Lockdowns have robbed children of a formative year of life, imprisoning them in their homes despite their negligible health risk. Basic socialization, formative lessons, and developmental milestones have all been stolen from them.
Many working parents have been forced to double as teachers. Private schools remained open while public schools across the street were shuttered. Socioeconomic divides have been exacerbated. But, for all the logistical consequences our children have faced from lockdown policies, our more consequential failure of them may very well be an ideological one.
Our children look up to us—their parents, their teachers, their communities—to take the lead, to provide guidance, and in the process to instill the skill of rational decision-making. But, in the past year amid pandemic hysteria, the adults around them have set a terrible example.
Deference to authority has been the theme of the pandemic:
Don’t buy masks, they don’t work. Now they do work, and your life depends on them.
The lab leak is an alt-right conspiracy theory. Now it’s likely fact.
COVID transmits indoors. Let’s close the public parks.
Mom and pop shops better board up. But Walmart is open.
The list goes on and on...
Despite the contradictions, changing narrative, and blatant hypocrisy, many individuals have continued to toe the line. They dine for an hour at a dinner table in a crowded restaurant but put a mask on to walk out the door. They have chosen blind deference and performative virtue signaling over critical thinking and individual autonomy.
By following arbitrary rules and by failing to critically examine their own choices, adults have failed the children that look up to them when it mattered most. They have chosen a “because [insert authority figure here] said so” mindset over critical thinking. In the process, many parents missed a teaching opportunity.
As the science developed and risk ebbed and flowed, the pandemic presented a great learning opportunity for young people. Critical questions abound: What is my individual risk? What precautions work? How do I protect those around me? What risk am I willing to tolerate? How do I operate as a responsible citizen in a time of crisis?
Opportunities to scrutinize the science, to analyze data, to engage with cost-benefit analyses, and to make wise, informed decisions were abundant. It was a teaching opportunity that many missed, but the children of cognizant parents will reap the rewards.
We must admit when our initial policies have been wrong, and reform them in light of new evidence. We must reject sweeping, unscientific regulations and embrace personal responsibility. We must exercise reasonable caution while engaging in critical cost-benefit analysis.
If we continue to fail in this endeavor, we risk raising a generation that favors blind deference over critical thinking, and herd mentality over personal accountability.