Sunday, December 5, 2021

As COVID Decimates Education, We Are Losing Our Humanity

We need to turn the temperature down. We just do. The ugliness bubbling over is too much—not because it’s necessarily new but because cruelty and dehumanization are wrong and are wreaking havoc on people’s spirits and health. 

I offer two examples:

The first is a school librarian who took to Twitter to smear parents. The school opening/closing debate  fraught;  nerves are beyond frayed at this point. Public sentiment on education is already in free-fall land unhinged attacks on parents hardly help.

Imagine working in a school and deciding to put this message out into the world during a pandemic that is unequivocally burdening countless parents in unprecedented ways. Not only is this wildly unprofessional, it is indefensible and empirically absurd. He, a school librarian, thinks he spends more time with his students than their own parents—during a pandemic? And even if he does have a few specific children in mind, he has now publicly painted all of us parents with that same broad brush.

The person who wrote this tweet has since locked his account and I’ve deliberately left his name out of it because pile-ons are the quintessential example of people being awful to a stranger. I hate what he said but I also know nothing about his life or what he may be going through, just as he doesn’t know anything about the lives of the parents he has maligned.

The second example of inhumanity flips the script because the attacks are coming from parents, directed at a school board member in Utah. I don’t need to know any details to know that blaming a school board member for the pandemic and threatening harm to his family are a sign that we have lost our way. It seems that many of these comments appear on parent FB pages which, unfortunately, is all too common. Anyone can tell you that parent Facebook groups can be toxic — in the Utah case, they have driven a public servant with no history of mental illness into depression and suicidal thinking. 

Many of us are unhappy with comments and decisions made by local, state and national elected officials. That is nothing new. But the ugliness behind the keyboard can turn from comments about policy to the shaming of one’s character in an instant— as if adults have forgotten that there is  a fellow human being on the other side of that screen. And the same people funneling poison into other people’s feeds and inboxes are often quick to decry the same kind of behavior among children.

What do you think you’re modeling for children? 

The Golden Rule has always been a good guide and yet we have drifted so far. Some may want to blame the president and the media for the shift in tone but the bad habits and moral failings of high-profile people do not excuse craven and dehumanizing behavior in us. 

So many people are doing their very best during this incredibly difficult time—let’s not make their jobs and lives harder. We can ask hard questions and criticize decisions without losing our humanity.

This piece first ran here.

Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a former educator and elected school committee member. She is also a senior visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Her blog is Good School Hunting and her Substack is Sanzi Says. She occasionally writes for other outlets including Scary Mommy, The 74, and The Hill. She is the mother of three school aged sons and calls Rhode Island home.

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