Covid Misreporting and Back to School Decisions

Reporting by health officials and the mass media of coronavirus deaths continues to be very misleading. This is outrageous because the strategies moving forward to fight the pandemic will be impacted to a great extent by how public opinion effects our leaders. If the facts are incomplete, withheld or spun improperly, our leaders may be influenced to act inappropriately. The back to school issue, for instance, can be greatly distorted depending upon how one considers and evaluates deaths from the virus.

The natural inclination is to be conservative when it comes to our children. When in doubt, do the safest thing. But if an assessment of back to school includes concern about potential deaths, which it should, our leaders should be leaning towards the back to school alternative. This is because very few deaths of young people are attributable to the coronavirus.

The American Council on Science and Health provides statistics about Covid deaths in the US by age.

Public health officials and the media have been warning us that coronavirus kills not just old or immunocompromised people, but young people too. While this is true, it remains relatively uncommon. The CDC provided accumulated mortality data about COVID-19 from February 1st through June 17th. It follows below.

 

AGE GROUPS

Deaths       % Covid Deaths

 

Under 1 year          8             0.008

1-4 years             5             0.00 5

5-14 years            13           0.013

15-24 years           125          0.121

25-34 years           699          0.676

35-44 years           1,780        1.722

45-54 years           4,976        4.815

55-64 years           12,307       11,909

65-74 years           21,462       20.769

75-84 years           27,259       26.640

85 years and older    34,435       33,322

All                   103,339      100.00

 

As shown, deaths of young people, from babies to college students, are almost nonexistent. The first age group to provide a substantial contribution to the death total is 45 – 55 years. This group contributes nearly 5% of all coronavirus deaths. More than 80% of deaths occur in people aged 65 and over.

Of course, there are other considerations. For instance, children could be infected and possibly bring the virus home to parents and, worse, grandparents. This essay is not politicking for one decision over another. Rather, it is merely pointing out that if leaders are shying away from opening schools because of the mortality alone, the decision is not sound.

 

 

Back To Basics: Education And Jobs (A Strawman Proposal)

Throughout history, Blacks have been short-changed in America. Beginning in 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and Confederate slaves were given their freedom, Blacks have been promised unconditional citizenship, equal rights and a share of the American dream.

It is patently obvious that promises and assurances over the years have not resulted in real equality for people of color. This state of affairs has inspired massive protests across the nation in recent months, and has highlighted many areas where Blacks experience bigotry and discrimination.

It is time for real action and less discourse. As our leaders consider how to deal with inequality, they should keep in mind that changes, which affect Blacks, are not things that white politicians, white sociologists and white philanthropists can effectively execute in a vacuum. They must work together with Black leaders in the public and private sectors, successful Black business people, Black entrepreneurs, enlightened Black visionaries and the Black community at large.

An ultimate arrangement must include promises that will be kept by both sides and tangible objectives for both Blacks and whites that result in systemic change. Idle chatter and grandiose speeches about good intentions are not enough. A Black moment has arrived. There has never been a time like the present for Blacks to make true advances.

There are a plethora of issues that must be addressed before equality can become reality for Blacks. Each one must be considered individually no matter how painful they are to discuss. The realities of the Black experience have impeded Black prosperity and must be analyzed and discussed without prejudice or vitriol.

In this essay, a proposal will be presented that should be considered by our leaders, Congress, large corporations and the Black community. It involves several of the important areas that need to be addressed before Black prosperity becomes commonplace. They include education, jobs, work ethic and values.

Really big money is available from corporations in today’s environment. Corporate America has the resources and inclination to accomplish many things for the Black community. But everything begins with education. Throwing money at problems without proper consideration will not solve problems. Black children must be engaged, want to learn, become prosperous and be a catalyst to long-term change for themselves, their families and their communities. Americans of all colors must do everything possible to encourage this to happen.

The key to this strawman proposal for inner city children is to combine high school education with job training and work for pay that effectively assimilates young Blacks into the mainstream workforce. In presenting a proposal, I’ve assumed that a single large corporation, Corp. ABC establishes Academy ABC for rising high school students (9th grade). The number of students will ramp up by 100 each year, so that the Academy will have 400 students after four years.

A typical school day follows. Students are transported by vans and buses provided by Corp. ABC. The children arrive at the Corp. ABC facilities before 7:30 a.m. They are fed breakfast and report to their work areas by 8 a.m. The students earn a salary that exceeds the going minimum wage for their work. The workday ends at 1 p.m., after 45 minutes to eat lunch, which is also provided by Corp. ABC.

The students are then transported to Academy ABC located offsite. There, they attend school and learn the basics that all children should be taught in high school, along with special training. The latter could be trade instruction (such as carpentry, plumbing, firefighting, emergency medicine and even police training) that they agree to study at the beginning of the school year at a work fair.

During their four years, the opportunities will be great. For the most successful students, college would be the next step. Corp. ABC would likely provide scholarships, if necessary. Other students who do not want to attend college may seek permanent employment at Corp. ABC. And others may pursue careers in trades that were offered during their tenure.

Of great importance is for the students to understand that education is a critical element to finding employment that will enable them to support themselves and their families. Also, what will come is awareness that having a paid position necessitates reporting for work every day.

In summary, Corp. ABC and Academy ABC will provide the following to the students:

  • A first class education that is at least as competitive with the best charter schools in the country.
  • Breakfast and lunch every workday.
  • An entry salary.
  • Transportation from home to Corp. ABC and Academy ABC (and back home).
  • Training for jobs after high school.
  • Scholarships for college.
  • Possibly full time jobs at Corp. ABC.

 

Many corporations would hopefully adopt this prototype. If 50 of the largest companies in the country established similar programs, 20,000 students would be hired and 5,000 per year would be available to be hired at the companies that recruited them, a diverse pool of man and woman-power.

In-kind donations could be solicited to help defray some costs for corporations, including technology, supplies and teachers (Teach for America).

Trustees would be recruited from the Black community. They would work with Corp. ABC and Academy ABC to incorporate important social values and character lessons into the program.

Great teachers will make the program a success. Given the financial support of Corp. ABC, the Academy should be able to pay top of the market compensation for not only teachers, but all of the staff. The Academy will be encouraged to recruit non-professional staff from the neighborhood in which the Academy resides.

In conclusion, Black children need incentives to breakaway from the shackles of poverty. Getting educated and finding a job are the necessary first steps in this process. The aforementioned program is a grass roots effort to give young Black children the training and work ethic that will lead to higher paying jobs and job satisfaction. The program outlined herein is a tangible way to foster change in places where education does not play an important role in the lives of young Black Americans.

 

Education After The Pandemic

One of the many troubling issues impacted by the pandemic is the future of higher education. Virtually every college has either shut down or provided instruction online during the last few months of the school year. Will colleges provide a different kind of educational experience moving forward? Seems to me the answer is a resounding probably.

The state of college education was not perfect before the virus ruined our lives. Millions of past and current students incurred extraordinarily large student loans. Many politicians are proposing that this debt be forgiven or restructured, yet another prospective entitlement that the US government may not be able to afford.

The classes some students take have not been helpful in finding rewarding employment after graduation. Arts and letters courses do not provide the academic knowledge most corporations are looking for in new recruits. The result has been over-qualified graduates in low paying jobs.

So, let’s agree that the educational system was ripe for change. School administrators were considering a plethora of significant modifications even before the virus reared its ugly head.

When you think about the settings of most large campuses, you probably have a vision of an idyllic place of learning with scores of students mingling, studying and smiling.

Could there be a better place for a contagious disease to spread than colleges? Dorm rooms are mostly unkempt, multiple people reside in one suite, classrooms are crowded, the library is jammed each evening and the athletic facilities are places where viruses and bacteria can easily multiply. What about the social scene, where everyone is crowed into bars and party spaces?

The question is can students affectively learn remotely? This is a subject that has not been fully examined until now. Many elementary schools, high schools and colleges have taken to teaching via the Internet recently. It seems to work fine, especially for children that don’t need extra supervision. The young ones, maybe not so good.

Of course, the pandemic’s schooling system has a gigantic void- socialization. Being with others makes children more in tune with society where interfacing with others is so important, at least up to now. Is giving up the social part of education worth it if hundreds, thousands or millions of people can avoid getting sick and possibly die?

The older students are protesting the loss of social interaction in this new reality. In college and grad schools, in particular, students are crying out that their education is being diminished because they aren’t able to have face to face conversations with others, to build long-term relationships.

How will schools react? Will they decrease tuition? Room and board expenses would decrease if students studied from home. So, the total cost of attending college could go down materially, a good thing (for students, not for schools). Will foreign students continue to study in the US? This is important to colleges for several reasons. One is that these students pay full tuition and generally are not subsidized, so their tuition payments are important to schools. Secondly, not having international contribution on campus would be unfortunate for diversity reasons.

And now, it’s time for my observations and opinions. Notwithstanding the student debt problem, and students taking irrelevant classes that don’t help them at work, I think our educational system is excellent. There are problems affiliated with admission policies, income inequality and diversity. But, if you want your children to be educated to do something wonderful for their families and themselves, the US educational system is the best place in the world to learn. I would be happy if schools went back to the original structure after the pandemic is defeated.

On the other side, student debt has become a multi-trillion-dollar albatross for many young people and their parents. There are many things we can learn from the pandemic educational experience that could allay this growing problem. For those that don’t need a social experience, an online education should be far less expensive and be offered by the most prestigious schools.

Colleges should include a social experience, but the main objective is to be educated. I hope we make available some of the new techniques that have been developed to fight against the virus. And perhaps some children can do the requisite work in less time (three years instead of four) if they give up some of the un-productive social activities.

College Admissions And Bribery

Federal prosecutors charged 50 people on Tuesday in schemes to bribe their children into elite colleges. These indictments are probably only the tip of the iceberg of illicit efforts by parents to unfairly assist their children. Based on the sizes of bribes most of the offenders are wealthy individuals.

It should be noted that not all the children were aware of the illegal behavior of their parents, and none of them were charged with crimes.

It’s understandable that caring parents want to do whatever they can to help their kids gain admission into the best colleges. They know a diploma from a top-notch institution is often a requirement to obtain the most prestigious and lucrative jobs after graduation in most fields of endeavor. But the assistance of parents should not offset the academic and athletic shortcomings of their children. In America the expectation is that the most qualified students, not the wealthiest, will gain admission to the best colleges.

The people who were caught up in a complex web of bribery included school administrators, athletic directors and a number of employees of the test taking organizations. The operation involved millions of dollars. And, many laws have been broken. It will be interesting to see whether offending parents will do real jail time in for their efforts to help their children.

One of the most offensive aspects of the sordid affair is that deserving students are denied admission when undeserving students take spots illegally. Throwing gasoline on the fire is that illegal bribes, money laundering and improper used of tax exempt organizations occurred. In fact some of the bribes were made through not-for-profits so the parents could deduct them for tax purposes.

Elite colleges raise enormous amounts of money each year, much of which is provided by alumni and added to significant endowments. This is a tradition that has gone on for years. In most cases there is no quid pro quo for the donations. Sometimes big donors get ego appointments to boards of trustees and prime seats to football and basketball games.

The real problems surround the money paid before a new student gains, or does not gain admission. Every year large grants are promised based upon admission. These arrangements are totally legal but considered the darker side of college development activities. In essence some students gain admission over other more qualified students because their parents can afford to make a large contribution to the school.

It would be more appropriate, fairer, less conspiratorial and more palpable to admission equality for colleges to not accept promises of money before a student applies. But many colleges need the flow of donations each year to offset increasing costs (except those institutions with large endowments), so it’s unlikely that colleges will change their current fund raising tactics.

Seems to me that the baked in advantages of the well-to-do over other students (white vs. color, private school vs. public school, tutors vs. no tutors, single parent families vs. two parent families, etc.) should not be expanded because parents of a student applying are prepared to make a 5, 6 or 7 figure donations contingent upon acceptance. Perhaps the current scandal will move Congress to address this growing problem and inequality.

The Real Cost of a College Education

Nobody is quite sure what the real increase in college tuition has been over the past two decades, but it has now been revealed that the increase is far lower than what the federal government has been telling us.

 

According to an article appearing in the New York Times titled “How Government Exaggerates College Cost,” the government says that “college tuition and fees have risen an astounding 107 percent since 1992, even after adjusting for economy-wide inflation . . .” No other household expense has increased at this rate.

 

Progressives and Millennials have been screaming and berating colleges for being insensitive to the needs of students and about skyrocketing student debt. Unfortunately, these groups have been using the wrong numbers to make their cases. The result is that many “experts” have discouraged students from applying to college. The rationale is that the debt incurred for college tuition is far greater than the benefits a student will receive in the workplace with a college degree. In other words, the return on the money spent for college is not great enough to offset the investment that must be made.

 

The rate of increase, until just a few years ago, was based upon the “list prices” published by colleges in their information brochures. Astonishingly, government grants were not taken into consideration. The result is that affluent families not eligible for aid did incur the increases calculated by the government, but middle and lower class families who did receive aid experienced far lower increases.

 

The Times article indicates that the Bureau of Labor Statistics began to change its methodology in 2003 to reflect the effect of financial aid. However, the general public has not known about this situation, and the numbers prior to 2003 were not recalculated.

 

The actual impact is best exhibited by considering the cost of attending a private college without aid- something that only wealthy families do. It is about $60,000 per year. Taking into account financial aid from federal and state sources, the cost is $12,460 for private colleges last year and $3,120 for in-state public four-year colleges.

 

I hope those deferring or eschewing college because of the expected returns recalculate the numbers. They are now staggeringly in favor going to school.

 

Other non-government sources that calculated the increase in college tuition including the impact of financial aid have said the increase has been 22 percent for private four-year colleges since 1992. The increase was 60 percent for public four-year colleges.

 

For your information, other prices have risen since 1992 as follows: gasoline, 83 percent; child care, 44 percent; and supermarket food, 3 percent. New vehicles have fallen 34 percent and furniture is down 39 percent.

 

Given the heated debate about college attendance, it is pathetic and hurtful that our government has misrepresented such an important statistic. Could this have been politically motivated?