Where there is death, we grieve. Death comes in many forms. It manifests not merely as the cessation of biological life also as the irreversible termination of relationships and experiences. We grieve that which is meaningful that we can’t get back. The truth of this is borne out by considering the grief many experience during the aftermath of a romantic break up. A rarely acknowledged collateral damage of this pandemic “shut down” is that of 3.2 million high school seniors. They are indeed experiencing that grief – and – just like the economic fall out for “non-essential” workers and businesses – no one seems to care. Each passing day is a milestone that they should have experienced – Prom, honors night, senior night and apparently now graduation itself – but which has now been snatched away, never to return. You can delay a vacation, a wedding, a birthday party – you cannot delay that which cannot be rescheduled. And it is not merely events that some might dismiss as superficial trivialities. For student athletes counting on their athletic performance to qualify them for scholarships or team placement these set backs will have real world financial consequences. If you find these statements overly dramatic, then I can only conclude you are not currently the parent of a high school senior. If you believe your own deferring of your life events is a sacrifice then you are deluding yourself. A real sacrifice is giving up something one can NEVER get back. In this regard high school (and college) seniors qualify. Sitting on the couch watching Netflix does not. Some are being asked to sacrifice much more than others. I take that back, they are not being “asked”, they are being “told.” Sacrifice leaves a much more bitter taste in your mouth when forced upon you rather than voluntarily given.
For 18 years they have anticipated that which every generation before them has enjoyed. But instead they get Lucy snatching the football away at the last second. Specious platitudes about how “we are all thinking of you” ring hollow; stop thinking and start doing. The Governor and the school boards CAN do something. If they actually cared about our seniors’ interests they would be steadfastly crafting a concrete plan to restore as much of what has been lost of the senior year rather than hiding behind non-committal weasel words of “hoping” to try this or that. If anyone truly cared they could still squeeze several senior year milestones into a resurrected last two weeks of school. Not ideal, but better than nothing at all. And to all you parents trying to help, please stop. Well intentioned but poorly considered ideas of parents posting their own graduation photos online to honor their senior is pouring salt on an open wound. Honestly, this is like sending selfies from your ski trip to your buddy who broke his legs.
The constant false hope has been a destructive psychological rollercoaster. First it was just two weeks of closure, then two more, then finally, sorry, school year is over and oh by the way we’ve made this decision over 6 weeks in advance of the end of the school year. Why make decisions so far out? What purpose does it serve other than to virtue signal one’s adherence to the groupthink of the mob? If you can close schools on 3 days notice you can open them on 3 days notice. This is school, not the moon landing.
So what to do? At least in Georgia the outbreak and deaths have never gotten anywhere near what they claimed and we are clearly “over the hump” at this point (see here and here) . The Governor should permit the public school systems to resume normal operations if they so desire. Each school district can tailor their response to their own environment and to the desires of their parents and seniors. If schools are opened but some are still concerned for their health they are free to stay at home and continue as they have. But, we should not let the fears of some override the desires of everyone else. Hold high school sports, hold the Prom, hold Senior night – if people want to attend these events they can, but nobody is forcing anyone to attend them, it is quite easy to opt out: just don’t go.