By Michael P. Riccards
As this winter of discontent approaches, the pandemic is worse than ever in large part because we are too stubborn to take even the most simple methods of prevention.
The Midwest and Farwest are aflame as tracers find more evidence that large gatherings in those states have fueled a second wave that is now increasingly a problem in the rest of the nation. We can chart this to a worldwide phenomena, but it is obvious that we have brought the level of infection on ourselves.
Even with an ignorant president, we should have enough attention span to recognize that masks and basic hygiene are important to curtailing this pandemic. And the Supreme Court and the Hassidic rabbis and the misguided bishops of the Catholic Church can say what they want, but my civil liberties to worship should be subject to restrictions under these conditions. The pews will stay empty despite the stupidities of our leaders in the ecclesiastical realms.
But one casualty that seems to have left us dry is the lack of impact of the equity movement.
We have to abandon the silly idea of the progressives that we should disband the police forces of the cities. If anything, we need more cops, and cops on the beat not just in cruisers. We just need better trained police. Too many of the new recruits are military veterans who are still waging war in the Middle East and now patrolling the combustible areas of the urban areas of our nation. Since we give them military arms, they assume that they should use them to fight the American “insurgents.”
Increasingly, residents of high crime areas are demanding more cops, not fewer, and while protesters go back to their suburbs, the residents must live with the cycles of drugs, gangs and violence. They need a nation’s commitment to them, and the right to life is the most essential. We have not though dealt with the legitimate grievances of a free people. We are forgetting them once again. Biden will appoint another commission to deal with the issues, like the other commissions we have had. We need to deal with the root problems and empower the police to be our agents and that of the community: To protect and to serve.
We must deal with educational reform.
With the pandemic and virtual learning, the children are left behind, especially the slower learners. The school year needs to be lengthened to make up for a year of distance neglect. Unless you are studying the Civil War and watching Ken Burns, it is obvious that one cannot teach STEM subjects by TV.
And in New York City after nine months of fiddling, thousands of kids don’t have computers, and many more don’t live in environments where they have access. There is no digital divide; there is a chasm.
We cannot let this year go by with the hesitations and mumblings of local superintendents and inexperienced mayors. We need to set up satellite sites for learning in churches, municipal buildings and other structures that allow us to de-concentrate students and teach them again what we all know and are not admitting –that this year’s instruction is a hoax. And yes, we must expect that teachers over 12 months will get more money — a salary that is above nine months. Education is absolutely essential to equity.
We need to resurrect secondary structures like old Boys Clubs, Girls Clubs, settlement houses, CYOs, and YMCAs as places for kids to go rather than be lonely latch key kids watching television. Those institutions were set up to deal with 19th century immigrants, and their strategy makes sense now as it did then. We must create new peer groups to replace the toxic old ones. The BLM movement must move to a higher level that is not worn out by marches and protests. It must institutionalize justice.
Michael P. Riccards, a former college president. is the author of 30 books, including a two-volume history of the presidency, The Ferocious Engine of Democracy, and the recently published Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief.