Editorial

Good news, bad news, who knows?

By LAURIE STUART
Posted 12/14/21

The situation at the Delaware Valley School District in Pike County, PA is one that showcases why we really do need to consider the concept of common good.

Here’s the background: Sixteen bus …

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Editorial

Good news, bad news, who knows?

Posted

The situation at the Delaware Valley School District in Pike County, PA is one that showcases why we really do need to consider the concept of common good.

Here’s the background: Sixteen bus drivers were quarantined beginning December 7 due to a COVID-19 exposure. This caused a shortage of bus drivers and the administration called an emergency school day. By December 8, a plan was put in place that brought the elementary school children into the classroom—by changing up bus routes etc. Middle and high schoolers had remote learning on December 9 and 10. And beginning on December 13, those students who have transportation can come to school and those without will participate via Zoom.

Wow!

How would you feel as an 11-year-old not being able to go to school because your parent has a job that makes it impossible to drop you off and pick you up?

How is this possibly fair or equitable to this child? To this family?

There is a wisdom story called “Good News, Bad News.” It tells the tale of a farmer whose horse escapes from the pasture. The neighbors come and commiserate, “Bad news,” they say.

“Good news, bad news, who knows?” the farmer answers.

And so it goes. The horse comes back with a whole herd of wild horses. The neighbors come again. “Good news,” they say. The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who knows?”

The son breaks his leg while training one of those wild horses, bad news; the army comes to conscript all able-bodied young men. Son has a broken leg, and can’t go. Good news.

I am reminded of this story as I think through the timeline surrounding these students who lack means to get to school, learning at home by themselves.

It was good news for those who find the mask mandates onerous when the DVSD’s Board of Education voted to ignore the PA acting secretary of health’s in-school mask-wearing protocols. (It was bad news for those who believe that masks help keep the community as a whole safe.)

It was bad news for those who were enjoying the freedom of excusing their children from wearing masks when five anonymous parents sued the school. It was good news to a different set of parents when a federal judge imposed an injunction that students could only be excused from mask-wearing for medical reasons.

And it was bad news or good news, depending on your perspective, when that same judge failed to extend the injunction, again allowing safety protocols to be loosened.

Undoubtedly it seemed like good news that employees could congregate and share the hugely missed opportunity to just hang out with colleagues and friends. It was bad news that a COVID-19 exposure caused 16 of those employees—bus drivers—to be at home for the next two weeks.

Isolated, alone. Not unlike those middle and high schoolers whose family situations do not allow for the flexibility of driving their child or children back and forth to school. Transportation is one of those foundations that is offered to every student, unless within a certain distance from the school.

The point here is two-fold.

1) In this example of mask-wearing, whether some development was “good news” or “bad news” depended on your perspective. What was good for one was bad for the other.

2) It is the children, all of them, and more so for those children without means to get to school this week and next (who knows?), who bear the consequence of this developing scenario.

And in this we can agree: Consequences of decisions made disrupted what everyone agrees is optimum: keeping children in school in the most normal way possible in the midst of a pandemic.

What political scientists say about this time in history is that it’s questionable whether our democracy will survive as we have no means, at the moment, to actually talk to each other when we differ.

Good news, bad news, who knows?

It all depends on how we respond in our now-experienced awareness that our ideologies and our inability to consider the common good beyond our own perceptions and analysis has disrupted what each of us wants for our children.

We can all take heed in this modern-day wisdom story and take steps toward considering the common good and attempting to talk to each other.

We can become more fully aware that there are real consequences to our actions and think deeply and expansively about our decisions. They affect the least among us. In this example, it was those we are charged to protect, nurture and educate.

We must expand our thinking, muster some patience and understand that this good news for me, bad news for you—or visa versa—way of thinking is inadequate to solve the challenges that our communities face. We have to attempt to listen to one another and find some sort of civility and agency to participate in a responsible and thought-filled manner in the public sphere, whatever our ideology.

If we don’t, we’ll simply repeat the above scenario, in as many renditions as the abundance in our community. We can do better. Our democracy and the lives of our children depend on it.

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