What has happened as our kids’ lost a year of learning?

Not opening the country fully to those who have been vaccinated is illogical, anti-science and a disincentive for people getting the vaccine.

Women wearing protective face masks pause to take in a view as they walk on the elevated High Line Park in Manhattan on the first day of the park's re-opening following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., July 16, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)
Women wearing protective face masks pause to take in a view as they walk on the elevated High Line Park in Manhattan on the first day of the park's re-opening following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., July 16, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)
The four greatest achievements of the Trump administration were: 
1) taking America out of the Iran nuclear deal,
2) moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem
3) firing missiles at Syria when Bashar Assad slaughtered Arab children, and
4) developing the coronavirus vaccines. 
Indeed, the last might well be remembered by history as former president Donald Trump’s greatest achievement.
And President Joe Biden has, in turn, done a remarkable job of distributing them. The vaccines are a miracle, and everyone should get them. But one of the things that might stop many people from getting vaccinated is not just the anti-scientific extremism of the anti-vaxxers, but how people are being told amid taking the vaccine, their lives won’t really change all that much.
Take President Biden’s otherwise impressive speech about the coronavirus delivered on March 11. The president said if we all take the vaccines and are careful about social distancing, we’ll be able to have small family gatherings for the Fourth of July.
What? No fireworks? No crowds at all? Even if people are vaccinated? Are small family gatherings the most we can look forward to? No baseball games or basketball games?
Israel is, of course, taking a different approach, preparing to open the country fully to the vaccinated. But here in America, if being vaccinated still means that your life is going to be severely restricted, then what’s the incentive for getting the vaccine, especially if you’re a young person who is not all that worried about the effects of contracting the virus?
Not opening the country fully to those who have been vaccinated is illogical, anti-science and a disincentive for people getting the vaccine.
And this is just part of an ongoing dismissal of science that’s being carried out all around us.
Our family’s two youngest children have been locked out of their schools for perhaps half the year. Officially, the schools are open. But every time one child in the class tests positive, they either shut down the grade or even the entire school. The net result is that our kids aren’t learning because Zoom learning is mostly non-learning. The kids hate it. The teachers hate it. It’s unnatural. You’re supposed to see your teachers – in the flesh – as the Prophet Isaiah says, “Your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.”
Which begs the question: Why aren’t they testing the kids in school rather than constantly shutting down schools and making a mockery of the pretense of being open? Isn’t that the whole idea of having tests? What’s more scientific: to shut down an entire grade of, say, 50 kids when one student tests positive, which is just guess work, or to actually tests the kids to see if they’ve contracted the virus?
Here is an example of the nonsensical and anti-scientific nature of the how the Jewish day schools are operating.
I served as scholar-in-residence for Passover in Puerto Rico this year, delivering many speeches and running minyanim (prayer quorums) that were, without exception, always outdoors at a program where many of the adults were vaccinated.
TO GET INTO Puerto Rico, you have to have a negative PCR test. But when you get back, your kids’ schools are closed, since they assume that most of the kids have traveled for Passover. So, two weeks of Passover, no school, and then two weeks after Passover, no school. When are the kids supposed to be learning?
And I have a simple question: Why aren’t they testing the kids? What in heaven’s name happened to science? If we’re lucky enough to have the tests, why aren’t we using them? Why is Puerto Rico smart enough to rely on tests, as does Hawaii and other islands, while the Jewish schools continue to insist on lockdowns rather than testing?
Yes, the virus might be incubating and a test won’t catch it. So test them two days apart, and if they test negative, let them go to school.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson just announced that the UK will be offering twice weekly tests to every resident of Britain in order to grant everyone “virus status” identity papers, or something along those lines. It’s not yet completely clear. Many people are opposing the idea, and it does sound a little draconian. Israel is, of course, already granting people vaccine passports. But even if these ideas aren’t perfect, give these other countries credit for at least trying to get their countries out of the pandemic.
The shutdown of our kids’ schools and of our lives in general is just no longer tenable. And now that we have the miracle of the vaccines, why should it be?
Parents know that their kids aren’t learning much. Zoom school is becoming a joke. Kids are waking up five minutes before class and going to school in their pajamas. Doing school from your bedroom is utterly dispiriting. So school kids today have the double whammy of learning next to nothing and not having friends.
The solution is to offer the vaccine to kids as soon as it is deemed to be safe and the first trials, just recently conducted, seem to indicate that the vaccine is as safe for kids as it is for adults. And why wouldn’t it be? Kids safely take all kinds of vaccines already. And the only ones opposed to it are those who reject sound science.
And yet, those who ostensibly embrace science are those who are shutting down schools based on non-science. None of it seems to make sense.
If you walk down the streets of Manhattan, you will see nearly everyone wearing masks, as they should. Those who don’t wear masks are often hissed at by passersby. People get very upset, that is, unless they’re carrying a cup of coffee with them. And then suddenly no one expects them to wear a mask because they’re drinking a beverage. One can only assume that the coffee renders some magical immunity to the coronavirus.
Not that this actually bothers me. But it’s just my way of saying, “Come on guys, what’s scientific here and what’s not?”
Yes, the coronavirus is very unpredictable and there is so much we still don’t know. But we do know this.
Masks protect people. Use them.
The vaccines are a miracle. Use them.
Those who are vaccinated (or who have had the virus and have antibodies) have something like 95% protection. Let them get back to normal life.
And we’re blessed to have tests. Rather than destroy our children’s education, use them.
Rabbi Boteach is on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.