Adults should stop pretending that the kids are alright

Posted 9/30/21

There was an episode of the original Star Trek called “Miri.” Miri was the name of an adolescent girl who became the de facto “mom” to a group of street children. See, in this episode, all of …

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Adults should stop pretending that the kids are alright

Posted

There was an episode of the original Star Trek called “Miri.” Miri was the name of an adolescent girl who became the de facto “mom” to a group of street children. See, in this episode, all of the adults had been wiped out by a disease (dare I say, “a virus”), and the children were left to fend for themselves as best they could, which, it turns out, was not very good. That is, until they each, individually, reached “adulthood,” at which point they became susceptible to the disease themselves.

This is all sort of starting to sound like another one of those times when “Star Trek” —science fiction — predicted the future — science fact.

Especially the dystopian future for our children.

Consider all of these items which have come across the transom in the past week:

KUSA 9News in Denver ran a story last week that the state of Colorado has run out of beds for juvenile inpatient psychiatric care. And, sure, some will point to the health care system and its weaknesses; me, I focus on the kids and fact that so many of them need that particular service.

Two new studies have come out in recent months highlighting the trend that juvenile diabetes has doubled during the pandemic. Which, I suppose, is not terribly surprising, since, for much of that time, kids were denied their activities and their recesses at school (if they were even at school ... Having been denied the activity of changing out of pajamas and leaving the home). Unfortunately, diabetes seems to be a strong comorbid complicator of…

A local (unnamed) high school felt compelled to send out a note two weeks ago saying, in effect, “we’ve been patient, we’ve tried to be nice, we’ve coached and corrected and counseled. But, frankly, enough is enough. You’re going to start seeing more significant consequences now.” In other words, “the kids are out of control.” This is, apparently, at least in part, in response to a brilliant new “Tik-Tok Challenge” going around in which children are encouraged vandalize their school bathrooms and upload video evidence. Extrapolating from one school’s experience, this particular internet craze may have cost Jeffco several hundred thousand dollars already this year.

I have heard from a number of sources from a number of settings this year that the group dynamics among students this year is … bad. Bullying, infighting, backstabbing, all at unusually high levels — dysfunctional levels. Levels that could easily reach the level of “toxic.” Not entirely unexpected this year, but, as they say in the newspaper business, watch this space.

Jeffco Schools sent a note home to parents alerting us to a large, widespread and unexplainable volume of calls to the district regarding “safety issues.” Now, these may be related to the bathroom thing; it’s surely at least a little related to the psychiatric thing; but, more likely, this is a piece of data that confirms the toxic thing and maybe points to a deeper cauldron than we’ve seen yet.

Then there are reports of schools asking teachers and other adults to start reporting on students who do not regularly wear their masks properly. What’s next? Jefferson County Health suing charter schools, churches and private schools for not enforcing masking?

Oh, yeah, and at some point, we’re going to remember that the purpose of a public school education is, y’know, education, and, as one school board member pointed out on Twitter last week, Jeffco actually saw declines in key measures the year “Before COVID.” And then throw into the recipe the study from Denmark that showed 100% learning loss during remote/shutdown schooling, and … Let’s just say, if I were betting on test scores, I’d take the under. Now, I’m not one of those who think test scores are everything; but I also don’t believe test scores are nothing. They indicate something. So, either we’re going to have to learn to accept diminishing outcomes, or we’re going to amp up the pressure on kids and teachers to make up the gap. Either way is bad.

The kids are NOT okay.

We have turned their worlds upside-down and inside-out over a disease that, for all intents and purposes, leaves them alone. And it’s not like they can look to the example of the adults in the world to learn how to handle this — we have not exactly covered ourselves in glory.

Throwing around the little trope that “kids are resilient” is garbage. It is, for me, a giant statement of moral and intellectual cowardice. Kids are not resilient. Kids contemplate suicide when they don’t get enough “likes” on their InstaFaceTwitChat post. And, again, I point to the Tik-Tok thing. We tell ourselves that kids are resilient as a way to justify to ourselves putting the heaviest burden of a societal crisis on their shoulders. You don’t think kids recognize that Dad went to the Bronco game with 76,000 unmasked people but they’re not allowed to walk the halls of school and see their friend’s faces? You don’t think they recognize the absurdity of celebrities all the way up to the President holding close-quarter conversations with their friends, unmasked, and then frantically pulling the mask on when the cameras arrive? You don’t think they recognize that the goalposts keep moving?

This isn’t how it’s all supposed to work. The message should never be “wear a mask, kids, or you’ll kill grandma;” the message should always be, “I will do whatever it takes, kids, to protect you.” Because that’s what adults are supposed to do. Not vice versa.

And you know what the adults (at least, most of them) should do first to help protect the kids? Get. The. Vaccine.

And then after that? Maybe — and I’m just gonna throw this out there — maybe it would help if adults could start working towards lowering the temperature around, well, everything. The kids should see what sanity looks like, so they can begin to emulate it.

I get it — we’re all tired of the pandemic. But, for all we say that, some are addicted to the anger and some are addicted to the fear. And that’s creating a bad environment for both policy and for children.

Let’s be better. Our kids need us.

Michael Alcorn is a former teacher and current writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at mjalcorn@comcast.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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