Astroturfing education

Look at these poseurs.

The one person who looks to be of an age to be a student doesn’t look very happy to be out there. Those are terrible signs, too, wordy and hard to read and attempting to make scattershot points. “Teachers teach me best”, “e-learning is not for me”, “My kids need…in person learning 5 days a week”, yeah, the agenda is clear: get these damn kids out of my house every weekday. The real giveaway is that every sign insists on “masks optional” — why? It’s such a peculiar conservative shibboleth.

But here’s the deal. I agree with a lot of what they want. I’m not a fan of wearing a mask all day, and you probably aren’t, either. I think in-person teaching is best. Some students will thrive with remote teaching, the majority will have a less enlightening experience. I’m at a residential college, and I agree that immersion in the academic experience is valuable. I must also confess that remote teaching, even while I think it is less effective, requires twice as much work out of me. I’ve got 30 years worth of stuff all prepared and ready to go in a classroom and lab, and you’re telling me I have to start over from scratch? Yikes. I was miserable last spring, I expect to suffer some more this fall (but with a little more time to prepare and cushion the blow, I hope).

So here I am, already agreeing with the sentiments on their little, hard-to-read signs, and they’re not at all persuasive. They seem to have forgotten the whole reason we’re doing all this: it’s because we don’t want their kids to die or suffer life-long consequences of infection — the won’t be playing football with scarred lungs! — and we’re trying to find compromises to allow ongoing progress in their education while not increasing their risks of disease. The signs don’t mention any of that. They seem to be thinking that all of these changes in the schools are just to discomfit their conservative values, rather than protecting the kids.

What I also don’t understand is that, if my situation were different and I was the parent of school-aged kids again, I would be welcoming efforts to keep them out of the plague-pit. Just as every winter I’d make sure they had a warm coat and a scarf when they went out, I’d be nagging them to wear a mask. Just this week my wife and I made a trip to St Cloud to deliver a high-quality mask to our oldest boy. He’s a grown-ass man in his 30s, and we worry! On the flip side, my grown-ass daughter stitched up a mask and sent it to me last month. This bizarrely cavalier attitude about masks tells me one thing: they don’t believe in science and medicine. They probably believe in the two sticks lashed together behind them, and the American flag on their hat, but neither of those things will help them if their daughter gets COVID-19, or if she comes home from their “mask-optional” public school or church incubator and pass it on to them.

My sign would be a little pithier. “MY KIDS NEED TO BE HEALTHY.” I’d sacrifice everything to have that be true.


  1. rpjohnston says

    You don’t agree with anything they want, you agree with what they CLAIM to want

    Big difference, pissants like them recognize what society’s most basic values are and the folly of going against them, but don’t actually give a flaming fuck about them persay; so they dress up their dipshittery in something clos-eish to those values and expect that liberals’ flaming desire to argue themselves into being the smartest person in the room will fill in the rest

    When society deteriorates further and they no longer have any threat constraining them they’ll dispense with the pretense and go straight on to “hahah go die”

  2. consciousness razor says

    They may be in the minority, even among self-identified Republicans, according to this recent Axios-Ipsos poll.

    The big picture: Week 16 of our national poll finds that only one in three Americans trust the federal government to look out for their family’s interests — a new low — with people’s confidence also sliding (but still higher) in their state and local governments and the Federal Reserve.
    · 62% of Americans — a record high — now say they’re wearing a face mask whenever they leave the house. That’s up nine percentage points from late June, with the biggest driver being the rising share of Republicans now wearing masks at all times.
    By the numbers: Seven in 10 American parents overall see it as risky for schools to reopen in the fall, including majorities across partisan lines. But as with so many aspects of the pandemic, there are significant differences in how risky Democrats and Republicans see it. Just as striking are the differences between whites and people of color.
    · 82% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans say returning to school would be very or moderately risky. Among these, Democrats were more likely to see it as a large risk.
    · 89% of Black parents saw returning to school as a large or moderate risk, compared with 80% of Hispanic parents and 64% of white parents.
    · Gender wasn’t a big driver of differences — about seven in 10 men and women saw it as risky, though women were slightly more likely to assess the risk as large.

    Unfortunately, it’s not obvious whether anyone in particular means that it’s too risky to justify doing it, even if they say it’s “very risky” or whatever. I mean, at the moment, I’m interested in knowing about how many people oppose it, not how many may think of themselves as risk-takers.

  3. rpjohnston says

    @2 “The federal government” to Republicans means “the deep state”; of course they don’t trust it to look out for their family’s interests
    To Democrats, it means “the Trump administration”; of course they don’t trust it to look out for their family’s interests

    Be wary of interpreting polls’ meaningfulness along shared lines, because they don’t exist; vast swathes of people saying the same thing can MEAN radically different things

  4. Matt G says

    And to what extent are people taking pandemic projections into account? As bad as things are now, they will only get worse in the remaining 6 weeks of summer.

  5. consciousness razor says

    “The federal government” to Republicans means “the deep state”; of course they don’t trust it to look out for their family’s interests

    Well, Trump’s approval numbers have been deteriorating. And there’s some indication that even states like Texas will be close in the election. The fact is, there are plenty of conservatives who have no particular allegiance to Trump, and some honestly dislike him. Many think he’s done an extremely bad job with the pandemic, because in fact he has. I bet a lot would have no fucking clue what you mean by “the deep state,” because they’re just old, rich, white folks, often in rural areas, who almost always vote Republican and have no need for that conspiracy theory shit when they make their voting decisions.

    If they say the federal government has been handling the pandemic poorly, that they don’t trust their advice and are wearing masks, that they may not even be voting for Trump in the coming election, and so forth, then you probably should not reinterpret all that as having some silly thing to do with the deep state.

  6. rpjohnston says

    @5 If the election is freeish and fairish, Texas MIGHT be in play because large numbers of liberals are motivated to turn out, and to some extent, RWNJ’s might be intimidated to stay in. I’m very skeptical of polls in general, both because of 2016, and because the social pressure that people feel when responding to a person asking – even a stranger over the phone – doesn’t translate into their behavior when they have to choose what bubble to fill. Also, poll artifacts that are verifiable (such as landlines and mail) skew old and white; I think by law cellphones cannot be used? While that may skew against me, it more generally contributes to my distrust of polls

    Side details aside, my larger point stands: Don’t expect Republicans to have a come-to-jesus moment. Those who can’t stand him such as Biden, Amash, and Scarborough, left long ago (but don’t forget their contributions to getting us here in the first place). Polls continue to erroneously conflate Americans with Confederates in their amalgamated analysis (which would be like a 1940 poll finding that 30% of British people support the Bombing of London but half the respondents were Germans) and, insignificant fringes aside, the thread of RW thought is Deep State vs Trump – so a typical self-identified Republican will respond to “the federal government” as “the deep state”

    Btw, “deep state” isn’t a conspiracy theory. It’s just what we call “the continuing 240 year old government of the United States”. Trumpism is a usurpist movement; The Deep State is the government they want to abolish and replace with Trump-owned apparatuses

  7. drew says

    Conservative K-12 is day care with a healthy dose of learning to sit quietly and follow orders. Remote education doesn’t really do that so well until we have devices attached to the kids to verify compliance. There is simply too much possibility for free thought. And evidence shows us that even the grindiest most badge-filled garbage video games can’t stifle creativity as much as classroom time, so what good are those computers to right wing programmers of young humans?

  8. rpjohnston says

    One more thing: It’s true that they don’t believe in Trump PER SAY; they believe in childishly getting their own way and not being accountable to any sort of societal rules, and Trump, well, embodies that better than pretty much anyone else can. If he were to suddenly start being responsible and play by the rules, they’d disown him in a heartbeat and find a new idol. So again: Don’t interpret any polls that indicate Trump on the downswing among Republicans as being in our favor: it’s either a misinterpretation of terms, or, at best, a loss of confidence that Trump can carry out the agenda of burning the social fabric; either way, they aren’t seeing the error of their ways and humbling themselves

  9. raven says

    Cidrap July 16, 2020
    “Today I (Kansas Governor Laura Kelly) announced that I will issue an executive order to delay opening schools until after the Labor Day holiday,” Kelly wrote on Twitter.
    “The additional three weeks will provide schools time to get masks, thermometers, hand sanitizer and other necessary COVID-19 mitigation supplies.”
    According to the Wall Street Journal, Florida, Nevada, Georgia, and Texas all have reported a lag time in awaiting test results, sometimes for as long as 2 weeks.

    To safely reopen the schools is going to require a lot of money, PZ posted an estimate yesterday of $1.8 million per school district.
    We all know almost all school districts in the USA are chronically underfunded and basically broke.

    So these right wingnuts are OK with higher taxes to pay for safe schools, right?
    Of course not, they are all raging hypocrites.
    Chances are good that she homeschools or sends her kids to some minimal education church school.

    Covid-19 testing is still not fixed, 6 months into the pandemic.
    The states with high cases per day are showing lags of up to 2 weeks, which makes the tests all but useless.
    This is also happening in places on the west coast, even places without sky high infection rates.
    They keep running out of the reagents needed to actually run the tests.

    Even the CDC, which has been missing in action for this pandemic, is starting to warn about the fall.
    The Covid-19 pandemic will probably overlap with the cold and flu season and that won’t be good.

  10. larrylyons says

    Looking at the background, you see the real reason why these people are protesting – the Christianist cross. This has nothing to do with health or education, it is all about religious control.

  11. jenorafeuer says

    twitch It’s not ‘per say’, it’s ‘per se’. It’s Latin, meaning ‘by itself’.

  12. says

    To safely reopen schools you need to get Covid under control outside of schools. Then you can think about how to reopen schools. To what extent? How many hours? What rules?
    The thing is: with US schools closed for another 6 weeks, you’d have more than enough time to do so, but your politicians won’t.
    And I say that as a teacher who is still bitter about how school closing and reopening happened here, because it seemed to be always according to some political game and never a coordinated action and I think we’re still wasting time by pretending that we’ll just be back in the classroom in 4 weeks.
    I also say that as the parent of a kid who can absolutely NOT work at home without an external structure and one who is changing schools so she doesn’t even know her future students yet.

  13. rpjohnston says

    @11 Indeed, having taken Latin in HS – even getting magna cum laude on the national latin exam – I should be well past these typos, but alas, I persist in stupid mistakes. I just had to delete and rewrite a tweet to a Rep where I wrote “secrete policies” instead of “secret police”

  14. says

    rpjophnson: The polls in 2016 were correct. Clinton beat Trump by 3 million votes. Then we all got fucked by the electoral college.

  15. unclefrogy says

    you know the expression on the face of that girl in the picture reminded me that people are not asking the kids much about what they think about all of this. They are not living in a vacuum someplace else, they are right here in the middle and hear the arguments and hear the news and they see that what they are going to be told to do, they are just a foot ball a means to some end and their welfare is not the priority here, it is the economy that really is the reason for the push to reopen everything soon. I wonder what the results of this will be long term if things go poorly.
    uncle frogy

  16. johnk83776 says

    Does that boy really look old enough to remember the theme song from “Green Acres.”

  17. Numenaster says

    As unclefrogy says, “people are not asking the kids much about what they think about all of this”

    Indeed, the identical handwriting on all 3 signs strongly implies that Mom wrote them all and just rounded up the kids to hold them for the picture.

  18. blf says

    secrete policies

    If a politician did that, it would be evidence they are a slimy toady.

  19. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current live States pandemic & politics blog:

    California’s plan to reopen schools, new today, includes requirements for personal protective equipment, physical distancing, distance learning and guidance for what should happen if students get sick.

    Schools would not be able to reopen for in-person instruction until the counties they’re located in have been off a statewide monitoring list for 14 days, based on stable case rates.

    Masks will be required for students in third grade and older; for students in second grade and younger, masks or face shields (which can be less intimidating to youngsters) will be strongly recommended.

    Staff must maintain six feet of distance between each other and students, and each day would begin with checks for symptoms. If 5% of students at a school are sick, it would force a school closure.

    Distance learning, which saw a disastrous rollout this spring, will also have new requirements: connectivity and devices for all kids, a requirement of daily live interaction with teachers and others students, assignments that are comparable to in-person classwork and lessons adapted for English learners and special education students.

    As the Grauniad noted previously:

    Schools in counties that are on the state’s monitoring lists, as determined by case rates and community spread, will not be allowed to reopen for in-person classes this fall.

    With 31 of California’s 58 counties now on the watch list, including the state’s most populous areas, that would mean most of the state’s 10,000 schools would start the school year without in person instruction.

    No word in these short blog entries about funding, help for the teachers, and so on.

  20. nomdeplume says

    But hang on, these people standing in front of the cross are the same kind of people who demand the right to home school in order to have their children raised as unthinking christians (sorry, tautology there) and kept away from the socialists and evolutionists and (cough) black people in the public school system. Are they not?

  21. says


    I have no great love of xtian homeschoolers, but public schools can have their own problems with racism. I was sent to a private high school because of that.

  22. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    Can’t even prevent lice outbreaks at schools, never mind a pandemic.

  23. publicola says

    @21: Mostly true. Of course, that is their right. But most people like this are small-minded and selfish, and beyond reasoning with or even shaming. Sadly, we still have to deal with them and overcome their poison.