Thursday, January 28, 2021

Should We Deprioritize Teacher Vaccinations?

US pandemic policy, thanks in part to the power of the teachers' unions, has been to shut down schools and move to online schooling. Pretty much everyone does worse in online schooling. Privileged rich kids with educated parents have done less badly than others, especially when the family can afford to have one parent (usually a mom) monitor and supplement class work. Kids are falling behind in general, and the gap between privileged and unprivileged has widened. 

Still, teachers had a serious argument: Why should we risk life and limb for a paycheck? This is just a job, after all

Sure, some people (such as grocery store workers) risk getting COVID-19 for a paycheck. But teachers could respond, yes, but we can deliver at least a rough substitute of our work virtually. They cannot

Whether such arguments are compelling depends in part on how likely it was that teachers would catch COVID-19 if schools followed realistic protocols. This is hotly debated.  It also depends on dangerous COVID-19 is to teachers. A healthy 25-year-old is at far lower risk than the average 65-year-old. For the sake of argument, let's presume that these and other factors made a reasonable case for school closing, despite the negative effects on children. As Ayn Rand would say, we can't demand a bunch of people sacrifice themselves or take on personal risk to help the less privileged. 

This is one of the prime reasons why, supposedly, teachers were placed near the front of the government's lines for receiving vaccines. Fine, you shouldn't go back until it's safe, so we'll make sure that it's safe by giving you all a vaccine. Now your chances of catching or spreading COVID-19 will be near zero, and even if you catch it, it will be very mild and not a threat. Problem solved.

But, no, now many teachers unions announce that even if all teachers and other school staff are vaccinated, they don't want to go back.

For realsies. They not only have such shameful thoughts, but allowed their flapping faces to express them to others. 

So, here's an easy bit of bioethics policy for you. If teachers are not planning or are unwilling to go back full time teachers and staff are vaccinated, then they need to be placed much lower on the list. They should get the vaccine with the general population. The entire argument for prioritizing them was based on the need to get kids back in school. If the kids aren't going back, the teachers don't get priority. Period. Easy peasy. 

I recommend you stop reading here, because this next paragraph comes from my evil twin brother Jasper. Once again, my mom insists I let him blog.

Jasper: "As we all know, the primary goal of teachers' unions is to ensure that poor kids, especially poor minority kids, receive a very low quality education. (It's easiest to make sense of their actual behavior, which always causes this result, if we assume they want it.) Joining a teachers' union is roughly on par with joining the KKK, except that the KKK has been very ineffective at hurting poor minority kids over the past 40 years, while the teachers' unions excel at it. If you're a KKK member, I recommend you donate to the local teachers' union today. They are doing everything you wish you could do, and doing all while receive cheers and applause from the people who claim to oppose racism." 

Come on, Jasper! Such hyperbolic strawmanning is unbecoming on this blog. Leave that kind of thing to Matt Yglesias or Jacobin magazine.