This column was going to come down pretty hard on the high school kids whose mid-pandemic partying forced several suburban school districts to delay the start of in-person classes last week.
After police broke up a house party in Sherborn, where up to 150 kids gathered — minus masks but very much plus alcohol — the clearly infuriated Dover-Sherborn Superintendent Andrew Keough sent a letter to families announcing the delayed opening. He did not mince words.
“I am incredibly disappointed that we as a community cannot control ourselves or our kids enough to keep our communities safe,” he wrote. “I refuse to accept the argument that ‘no one knew.’”
I was going to write that I also refuse to accept this argument. That the kids, and the parents who enabled them, acted recklessly and selfishly, that they and the parents who knew what they were doing seem like pinheads, that they could, if they were starved for social contact, have gathered safely, given the fact that their bucolic part of the world provides ample opportunities for outdoor events. I was also going to say that sacrificing for the common good appears to be an increasingly alien concept these days, even though that would have made me sound hopelessly ancient.
And I was going to lament the fact that this short-sightedness isn’t exclusive to Dover-Sherborn. In Dedham, where coronavirus infections have been on an alarming upswing, the start of in-person school has been delayed indefinitely because of multiple parties attended by young people. Blockhead students flouting public health guidelines to gather forced a private school in Reading to go all-remote to start the school year. And in Sudbury, in-person learning was delayed by the Board of Health after 50 or 60 Lincoln-Sudbury High students attended a large party.
There, Superintendent Bella Wong, who appears to be some kind of saint, appealed for kindness toward those whose lousy judgment ruined the start of school for everybody, and asked that public shaming on social media cease.
“Many of you are understandably very angry,” Wong wrote. “However, try to be empathetic to the impact of the postings and understand what it might be doing to your peers.”
And yet ... public shaming seems to be the only thing we have left at this point, given that nothing else seems to have dissuaded kids from making decisions that put their communities at greater risk. Shame away, I was going to say.
But being realistic, what’s the use going full get-off-my-lawn on these kids when the real problem here is so much bigger than them? Why, seven months after the full threat of the coronavirus became clear, are we still in a place where the lousy judgment of humans whose brains aren’t yet fully formed endangers entire communities?
We’re here because, after a giant chunk of the country made sacrifices to buy time so that we could get this pandemic under control, the federal government utterly failed to use its massive powers to do so.
We’re here because the president and his lackeys, who knew how serious this virus was way back in February, downplayed its dangers, endangering American lives in the hopes of improving Donald Trump’s chances of reelection.
With the fervor of cultists, millions in this country believe whatever Trump says. Perhaps some of them are among the parents of the suburban kids who upended the school calendar here. Imagine how differently this would have gone if, instead of downplaying the pandemic, Trump had stood up and said, “Friends, believe me, this is really bad, and if you don’t take precautions a lot of people are going to die, and maybe I’ll lose reelection.”
That would have spared lives. Having the whole country on the same page would also have saved us the trouble of trying to beg some teens and their parents to consider the implications of their decisions.
But none of that happened, so here we are, our schools’ fortunes hanging on whether or not 15-year-olds finally see the light.
Heaven help us.