Lessons from Covid-19
By: NBCSOS Member and New Bedford Educator, C.G.
Covid-19 makes abundantly clear the savage realities defining our age. Institutions of power are totally unprepared to care for the most vulnerable among us. Having seeped into so many facets of contemporary life, individualistic ideologies of neoliberal market-fundamentalism have already unraveled the social safety net for families and workers. Sleepwalking any further through misinformation will produce the consistent result of virtually every calamity that has unfolded over the past fifty years. Private-sector profiteers will step in to “resolve” the crisis, thereby deepening the harms they created in the first place.
This past week’s disconnect between rhetoric and reality has been especially stark. As residents of New Bedford, human beings learning and working in our public school buildings, it has been especially distressing to hear those in power, at the national and local levels, give lip service to the needs of communities at the margins in order to launder the same agendas affecting those communities’ continued marginalization.
From its inception, the New Bedford Coalition to Save Our Schools has been committed to resisting the privatization of public goods. We are educators, parents, students, and community activists. We are not alarmists. We believe that the purpose of education is to create and recreate caring schools comprising educators and learners with a strong ethic of care for all, working to promote the psychological and social development of students fully engaged toward transforming society in the direction of equity. We defend educators and learners against systematic attacks on the frontlines of democracy. Our goals are sutured to our conception of education’s fundamental purpose. The rapidly escalating crisis is symptomatic of the systemic problems that our Coalition formed around addressing.
While long-term incumbents on the New Bedford City Council quibbled over meeting procedure, while the Mayor, Governor, and President issued self-contradictory public statements effectively denying the ongoing risk of Covid-19’s community spread, they ensured that this spread would continue. Any further disorganized response puts all our lives at risk. State and local officials demand we set aside authentic learning to administer high-stakes standardized tests in the name of accountability. In this time of crisis, we demand that state and local officials recognize the real needs of the communities they represent and serve. It is time to put public health first and devise alternative, comprehensive plans for attending to young people’s complex needs.
It is not too late to atone for the mistakes of the past. If we learn anything from this current moment, let us learn to transform our relationship to public schools and in the process, our common good.
In order to keep learning alive long-term statewide, we all need to stay out of school buildings in the short-term. Hit pause for at least a month, even/especially if it means cancelling MCAS. Democratically elected governments must re-commit to identifying their priority, making people whole without forcing them to put themselves and their communities at risk in the midst of a global pandemic.
As we seek to mitigate its devastation, may this virus and its vast spread provide a powerful testimony, irrefutable demonstration of our essential interconnectedness with one another and the ecological systems we all inhabit. Just as xenophobia failed to forestall this very real public health crisis, so must public-minded organizing in a critical spirit of SOLIDARITY bring us out of it.