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Some truth in advertising

August 2020

Everyone likes truth in advertising, from the kid who mails away for those X-ray glasses advertised in the back of his comic book, to adults buying cars that their manufacturer promises are safe and won’t explode in a rear-end collision.

With the upcoming school year rapidly approaching, I’m having to deal with my daughter’s anxiety at the thought of going back to her school in an era of a devastating pandemic. While I’m able to filter through some of the misinformation and political agendas a little better (I’ve always tried to impress upon her the “Knowledge is Power”), it certainly doesn’t help her to have the teachers unions engaging in their usual politically-motivated rhetoric.

We are hearing ad nauseam from the teachers’ unions about how teachers are in danger for the Communist Chinese Part (CCP) virus, and how the government isn’t listening to the science, especially the recommendations of the Sick Kids report, and to the concerns of the teachers. Doctor David Williams, the provincial chief medical officer, has endorsed the government’s plan, as have other medical experts and public health agencies, so why isn’t it good enough for the unions? Are we supposed to trust the science and medical experts, or not? Sure, some medical experts don’t agree, but the vast majority do agree.

A huge issue for the unions in regards to a safe return to school is class sizes, and the possibility of having to hire more teachers to carry this out. Some are saying we should delay the start of the school year until at least October.

The unions are attacking the government for not limiting class sizes at 15 students, so that they can be properly socially distanced, and for not insisting children from kindergarten to Grade 3 should be required to wear masks.

Firstly, haven’t we been told that when you are unable to socially-distance, that wearing a mask is the next best thing? Secondly, while it may be prudent to include Grade 3 and below in the mask requirement, if you insist on following the science and the Sick Kids report, the recommendations of the Sick Kids report advise the younger children won’t benefit from masks.

Will the unions accept these smaller classes and the hiring of additional teachers as a temporary measure, or will making them permanent become he next issue to hold parents hostage with during the next round of contract talks? I can already hear the shrill attack ads now: “Doug Ford wants to fire thousands of teachers and cram students into over-stuffed classrooms of 20 students, killing their chances of becoming a doctor or a lawyer. And Mike Harris hates puppies!”

Call me cynical (frankly, I am), but the debate about class sizes and the hiring of more teachers, while perhaps necessary in light of the pandemic, seems to be a debate that will never end.

How much will delaying the school year actually help? Besides the fact that time is not necessarily the real problem, would the unions and the teachers be so averse to returning to class this September 8 if they weren’t already receiving their regular paycheques, and have been since the beginning of this pandemic?

Can the unions just accept the fact that no solution is 100% perfect, and that we will always be battling things that can make us sick, like the annual cold and flu season that most of us seem to survive each year with little detriment to our overall lives? The number of students in a classroom is simply a part of the solution, not THE solution? With a virus such as the CCP virus, the ratio of teachers and students could be 10:1, or even the very impractical 1:1, and the possibility of infection is still present.

The goal of all our safety measures, from self-isolating, to sanitizing everything in sight, to wearing facemasks and social-distancing, has always been to reduce the number of infections and to help prevent overwhelming hospitals, which we have done quite successfully. It has NEVER been about completely eliminating the virus. The only way to ensure nobody ever gets infected is for all of us to live in hermetically-sealed rooms and never leave them for any reason, until the CCP virus is completely eliminated.

Can the unions accept that the risk to children, and even teenagers, is low enough that we may be doing more damage to their psychological well-being and scholastic careers by keeping students out of the classroom, than by allowing students to resume their studies, with appropriate health and safety measures implemented? It certainly will be harder to get the younger ones to follow “the rules,” like mask wearing even if it was recommended, but as long as teachers take what precautions they can, the risk will be reduced for the teachers.

Let’s remember that it’s supposed to be all about the kids, but the teachers’ unions have made it all about themselves, and frankly people are getting tired of it. The teacher unions have burned a lot of good will the past 30 years, battling every government, even the one that gave them everything they asked for and more.

I’ve been telling my daughter since the beginning of this whole pandemic, long before we know as much as we now know, that the way to deal with this new coronavirus sounds a lot like how we deal with other coronaviruses, like the common cold or the flu: wash your hands, use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash your hands, regularly clean common surfaces during the infection period (computer keyboards, door handles), cough or sneeze into a Kleenex or your arm, NOT in the faces of other people (which would also mean keep some distance from others when you sneeze, if you can), and stay home if you are sick. Other than wearing a mask, not much else has changed. Not too bad for a guy who doesn’t have a PhD or a medical degree; just common sense and having lived for a while. Now don’t forget to wash your hands again.

Look, the world is a pretty filthy place when you really think about it, which is one reason I’m glad that I’m not a microbiologist. There are so many things that we come in to contact with every day that are actually really, really filthy, when you examine them. How many people have touched, coughed or sneezed on things like a door handle, the railing on the stairs, a bank machine, the elevator buttons, the Interac machine at the cash register or that your server hands you at your table, before it’s properly cleaned?

Yet, the human race manages to survive through a combination of infection control, medical intervention, science, innovation to create healthier ways to live our lives, and of course, building up the natural immunity our bodies all possess. Isn’t it a little sad that it took a world-wide pandemic to remind us that we need to wash our hands regularly throughout the day?

On another point, some school boards are having an issue that the government will allow them, perhaps expect, to use their reserve funds to help pay for health and safety measures. Some school boards are complaining that they shouldn’t have to use these reserve funds, but isn’t that what reserve funds are for; to be used in an emergency?


About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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