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Some Questions for 2021

January 6, 2021 am31 1:09 am

If you are reading this, you might know me. And if you know me, you know I can ask questions that are not really questions. That’s not these.

Real questions for the New Year (in the order in which I expect us to learn the answers)

November – January: How will the national elections turn out?

  • January 5 – what happens in the Georgia Senate runoffs? 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats, or split?

If the Democrats win both, I do not expect that Schumer plans to win any votes 51 – 50. They will more likely try to return to business as usual, and forge some agreements not to go full-on obstructionist in the future. If the Republicans win either one, they very well might defeat stuff 51-49 or 52-48… but I think they also may want to move away from full-on obstructionism. Certainly their distancing themselves from Trump make that seem possible. Anyhow, I started writing on Sunday, and I’m wrapping this up Tuesday evening. There’s definitely a slight edge for the democrats, but it is way too early to tell. Plus, in this instant, the actual lead is split.

(finally posting, almost three hours later, and the lead is still split, but it looks like both Democrats will win.)

  • Will the threatened Electoral College Certification Disruption Amount to Anything? January 6
  • Will there be disruption at the inauguration? I’m asking about scary violence, not peaceful pickets. January 20

When will New York City Schools close?

It’s a weird question, because all of our schools are open. Buildings are closed. And all of our high school buildings and middle school buildings are already closed. And many elementary school buildings are (temporarily) closed.

But yesterday Cuomo announced, for all practical purposes, that he would never shut our schools. And while Mulgrew challenged him (finally!), the line he drew in the sand was pretty distant.

Nonetheless, there is a new variant of the virus. It is in New York State. New York’s numbers continue to rise. The post-Thanksgiving surge never stopped (only state in the country where it never stopped), and now Christmas and New Years are starting to factor in.

I think it is 50/50 that the rest of NYC’s school buildings will be shut later this month.

By the way, safety is a real issue. But there is another, perhaps more compelling. Opening the buildings sucks up a large amount of our resources, of teachers days, of administrative time, of planning time – but only about 10% of teaching and learning are happening there – the vast majority is happening on line. Many schools chose to teach 100% remotely – and more would have, if the chancellor hadn’t prevented them.

The open buildings are a public relations ploy. It disrupts teaching, and endangers children and adults. We need to make sure that kids have devices – better than what was distributed in the spring. We need to guarantee them internet access, wifi. We need the DoE to find best practices that are occurring on line, to shar them, to promote them. 90% of our reality is remote. And we need real support in the remote world, as do our students. Instead the DoE wastes precious resources for what is essentially political propaganda.

What will happen with the vaccines?

  • How long will it take to get distribution going?
  • What kind of snafus will occur? (We are already seeing some of that in NYC).

When will most people be vaccinated? What about those who don’t want it? (forget the nutso anti-vaxxers – think about people who have a political agenda). And what about people like me, who think it is a good thing, but do not want to be at the head of the line?

  • And, right, do we think the vaccines will work? (Probably)
  • When will we know? (good question – in a month or two?)

When will progressives realize that Biden is absolutely not progressive?

Some of them already know. There will be frustration with health care, with spending, almost from the get go. But it may take the first foreign policy crisis for it to hit home. With Biden we have a return to an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy. No credit for Trump here. He was aggressive, and dangerous. But when it comes to sending in troops, he was no Bush, or Obama (or what Clinton would have been). With some luck it will take a year before we notice – but who knows if we will have any luck.

There is a another subgroup of progressives who will realize earlier – progressive educators. All of us are glad to be rid of DeVos and her privatization schemes. She was awful, although not particularly effective. And Biden did not go with a Democrat for Education Reform, and that is good. We did not want a return to Arne Duncan. But we get a Secretary and an administration that are not going to bring us away from standardized testing, that are not going to move away from test-score linked teacher evaluations. They will not promote charter schools the way the past three administrations did, but nor will they undo the damage already done. Our union’s leadership will be fine with Biden/Cardona, but they are wrong on testing, on evaluation, and on charters. We will find this frustrating. When will we know? If Biden/Cardona reject waivers from testing mandates this spring, there will be a bunch of quickly-disillusioned progressive teachers.

When will people realize that Biden is pretty liberal for a centrist?

The rabid right and Trump’s loyalest followers think he’s a socialist. Not true. But the New York Times and the Centrist Democrats think they got themselves one of theirs. They did, but not 100%. He’s pretty liberal for a centrist. He’s to the left of the last three Democratic nominees. He’s going to push the envelope on what they think is acceptable on spending, on infrastructure, on health care, maybe even on police reform and criminal justice reform.

With all the focus on COVID for now, it might take the Times a while to realize, but before the year is done, they will. With some luck, they’ll be forced to figure it out in the first 100 days. But given the year we just had, I’m not counting on having any good luck.

Will I retire?

That’s a June decision. I don’t want to. But this has been an exhausting year. Leaning? No. But if a buyout came, and the money was substantial, that might make up my mind for me.

Does COVID go out with a bang, with a whimper, or does it make a tactical retreat?

The number of COVID cases in the US is at its peak, and about to go up more. People are indoors, congregating for the holidays, and tired of isolation. But as poor as the prognosis looks for the next few weeks, there is progress. Treatment is far better than last spring, and the mortality rate is far lower. Vaccines have been approved, and are starting to be distributed. It is possible we go from 60 to 0 virtually overnight (not next week, but perhaps late in the Spring?). Biden could declare July 4 a national day of Thanksgiving…

  • Does the weather warm, the vaccines get distributed, and one day, even in March, April or May, all of a sudden, it’s like there are almost no more cases?
  • Or do the numbers go down, and go down, and but does COVID hang around, still a threat, albeit smaller, and then, gradually, over the summer, it gets really low, and it’s still infecting people in September, but there’s no new spike, or surge…
  • Or do the numbers go down quickly, and do we think we have won, only to face a new variant or strain in October?

I think we will keep reevaluating the situation, but we should have a first idea by April, and then real confirmation (or bad news) in the fall.

How will climate change manifest itself in 2021?

I wonder if it will be another crazy hurricane season. 2020 broke records. But who knows? We will see. I’m pretty sure we will see something.

Movie Theaters, Broadway Shows, Sporting Events?

  • When will they return? I’m guessing late spring, or summer.
  • How will they return? Limited capacity? plexiglass between seats?
  • Will I return?

Man, I miss the movies. And Yankees games. And hockey (after another spin around the sun). I miss my students’ PSAL events. And I would go to those – at least the outdoor ones. But the others? I really do miss the movies, but I don’t know.

Are masks and not shaking hands permanent changes?

I have no idea when we will know. I don’t hate the masks – outdoors, in winter, when they actually provide a bit of warmth. And our air is bad. Maybe getting one with a good filter…

But no, no idea. And no idea when we will know.

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