Columnists, Coronavirus, Education, Jon Caldara, Uncategorized

Caldara: Unmask our kids and let them learn again

It’s time to stop robbing my son of an education.

I’ve talked about my son, Chance, before. He is the frat brother I never had, a party on two feet, the reincarnation of John Belushi, the embodiment of the phrase, “and this is why we can’t have nice things.”

He is the most joyful and empathetic person I know. I’m honored to be his entourage.

Chance is seventeen years old and can’t read or write, but sometimes can count to ten. People can understand maybe half of what he says due to his speech issues, making everyday communication a real challenge.

My son has Down syndrome and if not for modern medicine, like open-heart surgery at one month, he wouldn’t be alive.

But, he also would have died if he didn’t get crucial education, like how to eat. Chance was hospitalized for failure-to-thrive at three because of his aversion to food. I had no idea that there were some 27 steps that he needed to conquer, in a particular order, to eat (see food, then smell food, then touch food, etc.).

Once taught properly by the right people, he saved his own life and now eats like a teenaged boy, and I’m going broke shoveling food into him.

Like all kids, my son can thrive given the right education stylized for him.

Chance learns though personal, physical interaction, particularly with other kids his age. He was robbed of a full year of education during the lockdown. “Online” classes were worse than no classes at all. It was cruel and discriminatory for kids like Chance. It was hateful.

I am taking legal action against the Boulder Valley School District to get back the year they stole from him. They are slow-walking the process. This from the same school district that proudly states, “unique learning needs will not be barriers to student success.”

Like all parents I’m thrilled that schools are open this year. But he’s still not fully back.

Chance, like many people with cognitive disabilities, learns by seeing people’s faces and their expressions. Because of his severe speech issues, for him to be understood people need to see his face and expressions. And with his hearing loss, muffled voices through face masks make his learning even more difficult.

So, of course our school district is requiring masks.

Just as there was no real cost/benefit analysis at the start of the command-and-control lockdown of the economy, there’s little talk of the long-term impacts on our kids still missing out on their educations now.

We are just now beginning to see the costs of the lockdown, all of them foreseeable: lingering unemployment, small business failures (according to the Colorado Restaurant Association 25% of restaurants will never re-open), soaring inflation.

So of course, the media isn’t talking about the long-term damage to kids by having their faces covered for a year and a half.

Other countries do take it on. In the UK, Dr. Susan Hopkins from Public Health England announced the scientific consensus was to unmask kids at school for two reasons. It’s hard for kids to wear and breathe, and “it’s really important that they can see facial expressions in order to develop their communication and language skills,” something all kids, including my son, desperately need.

Unmasked kids could kill grandma you say. But grandma is vaccinated now and likely wants her grand babies to get a real education.

Teachers could get COVID! But they are mandated to be vaccinated.

Kids could get COVID! But they’re the most likely to bounce back from it and the least likely to die from it. The CDC reports the infection-fatality ratio for kids 0-17 is 0.0012%. By contrast, during the swine flu over a decade ago, it was 0.0066%. That’s five times more deadly and it wasn’t scary enough to force kids into masks then. So why now?

Don’t get me wrong. Kids in school with masks is far better than unmasked but not in school. I recognize the progress.

But now with easy access to the vaccine, which is remarkably effective against the Delta variant, it’s time to put our kids first, and our irrational fears last.

Unmask my son. Unmask his peers. And let them learn again.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.

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