Matt Bai is an opinion writer for the Washington Post. He wrote recently that teachers should recognize that they are essential workers and get back into the classroom. He points out that remote learning is a disaster, that it is a horrible means of learning, and that students’ emotional health is damaged by not being in a physical classroom with a teacher. He blames “the teachers’ unions” for teachers’ obstinate refusal to return to full-time in-class instruction. That old familiar demon, “the teachers’ unions.”

He begins:

It won’t be easy for President Biden to get America’s teachers back into public schools. Teachers unions are a powerful force in Democratic politics, and they’re resisting calls to return to classrooms where about half the nation’s kids ought to be sitting.

When asked about the issue on Monday, Biden seemed to back up the unions, saying the onus was on districts and governments to make the classrooms safer.

Behind closed doors, however, Biden’s message to the teachers should be straightforward and emphatic: You are vital, irreplaceable public servants. And it’s time you started acting like it.

You don’t have to be a parent to understand the growing perils of what’s euphemistically known as “remote learning.” It is basically a hollow and socially isolating echo of real school that has dragged on for almost a year now in scores of large districts.

A friend sent me the article and asked me what I thought.

I responded:

I agree that remote learning is a disaster and has many very negative effects on students. 

Teachers feel, whether or not they are in a union, that it’s not safe to reopen schools because the government has done next to nothing to make schools safe. 

Teachers have died of COVID where schools stayed open. They are frightened. Other essential workers are not penned in a small, usually unventilated room for hours with the same people. The latest studies show that children are as likely to transit the virus as adults. 

Six months ago, the Times and other media wrote about European schools and how they stayed open despite the pandemic. With the latest resurgence, schools across Europe have now closed. 

The unions are the usual scapegoats. It’s teachers, not unions, that are afraid. 

We are at the height of the pandemic. It’s easy to say that others should take their chances. I’m sure Matt Bai is not taking any. 


Here are a few stories about teachers who died of COVID:

From Jonesboro, Arkansas.

From El Paso, Texas.

From Columbia, South Carolina; Potosi, Missouri; and Jackson County, Mississippi.

From Grand Prairie, Texas.

From Iowa.

From North Carolina.

From Wisconsin.

From Cobb County, Georgia.

From Alabama.