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Closures are hell — bring back in-person teaching

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Closures are hell — bring back in-person teaching

It was March 13, 2020, and I woke up to catch the 6:32 bus. I threw on my uniform and rushed out the door on that rainy Friday, thinking to myself, “I hope I still have practice! And tomorrow is the weekend!”

It was a normal enough day, though unsettling rumors about looming closures percolated at my Catholic high school. Yet I never imagined when I walked out of my school’s blue canopy door that that Friday would be my last day of teenage normalcy — perhaps ever.

The school closures due to COVID-19 were heartbreaking for most. They struck me personally. There would be days where I would just cry, sometimes for no reason. Could it have been the lack of social interaction, the challenges of remote online learning or the realization that life as we knew it was forever changed? Probably a combination of all three.

It was a deep teenage funk. My own school, which is run by the Sisters of Mercy, eventually reopened for in-person learning. But many of my peers are still stuck in that depressive state. If all schools were to return in-person, we could revive the way life once was for American youth. I think we must. 

The closures, though aimed at keeping students and our teachers safe, have many grave consequences for kids going through an already-difficult stage of life. For one thing, remote learning means the level of distractions has gone through the roof. Engagement with schoolwork plummeted.

It’s difficult to follow along with the lesson. Students need a physical and emotional connection with their trusted teacher. The struggle to learn online has also led to massive grade inflation: Teachers, perhaps recognizing the difficulties of remote learning, cut us a break. But what will our generation do when we enter the real world and realize that we can’t just Google the answer?

Then there are athletics and after-school activities, which many high schoolers look forward to throughout the day. When students are fully online, there are few to no “end-of-day-incentives,” just monotonous screen time.

Before all this, some 8 million students participated on high-school athletic teams, according to the NCAA, which means that now there are at least 8 million kids without an outlet for their athletic energies. They’re deprived of exercise and the joy of team camaraderie. Sports are about so much more than throwing a ball on a patch of grass: You build bonds with strangers who become like family.

Lockdowns shattered those bonds.

Stripping us of social interaction, the lockdowns have taken a huge emotional toll on students. Even before the closures, the number of suicides was on the rise. Add the prolonged quarantining of young people — who are at minuscule risk of contracting or transmitting the disease — and it’s no wonder that 1 in 4 young adults reports having suicidal thoughts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teens need support, they need trusted people to reach out to, but expressing deep emotional concerns through e-mails just doesn’t cut it. 

Put yourself in our shoes. It’s March 13, 2020, and schools across the country are closing down. You may have been happy for a brief break, but did you ever imagine being robbed of a year of your youth, if not more?

True, it was necessary to close schools and put a pause on life until we got a handle on the virus. Ten months later, however, new safety protocols, treatments and several highly effective vaccines are here; the virus has an overwhelmingly high survival rate. And yet still 1.5 million students in New York are stuck at home. In Massachusetts, 45 percent of the 40 largest school districts keep their students in little boxes on a computer screen.

We will never achieve total safety; all sorts of threats menaced life before the pandemic, and they will continue to do so. We don’t know how much longer this virus will linger. But we can’t keep pushing off life out of fear.

The bottom line is this: Remote learning creates robots, while in-person learning creates intelligent individuals and citizens. We need to stop making excuses and get our students back inside school.

Mollie Murray is a sophomore at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset, Long Island.

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Opinion

the good, the bad & the ugly

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the good, the bad & the ugly

After the brazen daylight gunplay in Times Square last weekend, several random subway slashings and the televised debate Thursday night, voters are focused on what the Democratic mayoral candidates are saying about crime and escalating gun violence.

At the debate, Eric Adams reaffirmed why he is The Post’s choice for mayor. Adams has the most experience and offers the clearest plan for bringing the city back from the brink. We separate the rest of the mayoral pack based on the good, the bad and the ugly of their anti-crime proposals and debate performances.

The Good

These mayoral wannabes are anti-defund the NYPD; would restore the anti-crime unit; and are dubious of closing Rikers and spending billions on new jails-in-every-borough. But none is as remotely forthright as Adams in noting that the city’s minority communities overwhelmingly want more policing, not less, and in facing down the “defund” idiocy.

Kathryn Garcia

The 14-year veteran of city government, former Sanitation commissioner and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s go-to problem-solver has a gun violence response plan that increases the buyback rebate from $200 to $2,000 and wants to increase the size of the NYPD’s Gun Suppression Division. She’s not calling for a rollback of the state’s permissive no-bail law, but Garcia supports giving judges more discretion. She rejects “Defund the police” noise and supports restoring community policing as part of officers’ daily routine.

Ray McGuire

The former head of Citibank also rejects defunding the NYPD but would appoint a deputy mayor for public safety and vows to overrule his police commissioner if he disagrees with disciplinary decisions in cases of serious misconduct. He also wants to make the NYPD turn over body-camera video within 48 hours of a request from the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Andrew Yang

“Nothing works in our city without public safety,” Yang said after the Times Square shooting. “And for public safety, we need the police.” As mayor, he says he’d increase NYPD presence in communities and around subway stops whenever an area sees increases in serious crimes. He’d appoint a “civilian” or “outsider” as police commissioner and give the CCRB final say in making police-discipline decisions. He also vows to re-examine de Blasio’s four-borough jail project.

The Bad

These candidates fall short on crime-fighting strategies and fail on no-bail reforms.

Shaun Donovan

The self-important former federal housing secretary is clueless about crimefighting. He’d shift some NYPD responsibilities, like school safety, to social workers and wants specialized squads, like the NYPD’s vice unit, disbanded. He’d also limit police use of surveillance tech.

Scott Stringer

He wants to disband the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group’s Disorder Control Unit, which responded to last summer’s violent protests. And he’s looking to ax the department’s vice squad (which focuses on prostitution and human trafficking) and take cops off traffic-enforcement duties. He also aims to reduce the NYPD budget gradually over the next four years. He’s on record opposing de Blasio’s jails plan but hasn’t said how he’d make up for the lost jail beds when Rikers closes.

The Ugly

Unserious candidates who refuse to talk about the plight of crime victims, instead sputtering about how poverty is the root cause of crime. They offer utopian schemes of replacing cops with violence-interrupters and about closing Rikers without replacement jails.

Dianne Morales

The lefty former executive director of a Bronx nonprofit pledges to “defund the NYPD” — cutting its budget by more than half — and to remove school safety agents from dangerous city schools. She’d “solve” the problems of communities hardest hit by crime and violence by . . . declaring them “gun-free” zones. The self-avowed “prison abolitionist” promises to close Rikers and not to build new jails.

Morales would eliminate bail and pre-trial detention, and there’s no felony or criminal misdemeanor that she wouldn’t seek to decriminalize, from illegal drug sales to prostitution.

Maya Wiley

De Blasio’s former counsel pledges fewer cops and more social workers. Her support of civil rights does not extend to the rights of crime victims. She vows to aggressively slash the NYPD’s budget because “trauma” from dealing with cops is a bigger problem than crime. She’d offer $18 million to communities with high rates of gun violence for social programs to stop shootings and would close the Rikers Island jails without building any replacements.

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Opinion

Grandstanding Cuomo should follow science and end NY’s mask mandate

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Grandstanding Cuomo should follow science and end NY's mask mandate

Ridiculous: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID grandstanding in insisting he needs to do his own review before he can follow Biden administration guidance saying the fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks indoors or out.

And he has the nerve to put the review in the hands of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, who with Cuomo gave New York the deadly mandate forcing nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance is unmistakable: “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities — large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” CDC chief Rochelle Walensky declared Thursday. She said the agency would soon revisit its recommendations for schools and other settings.

President Joe Biden called it “a great day for America”: “If you’ve been vaccinated, you don’t have to wear your mask and you can shake hands. . . . You can even give each other a hug.”

It’s a great reason for the vax-hesitant to finally get jabbed — except that the delay by Cuomo (and some other Democratic leaders) feeds doubt even if he eventually gets on board.

In fact, the CDC guidance merely acknowledges well-established science — which Cuomo has throughout the pandemic loudly insisted he’s following. To claim he and Zucker need to review it before he acts is just another example of the gov’s arrogance.

It’s a repeat of last year, when Cuomo made a grand show of commissioning a panel to review the vaccines after they’d gained federal approval. “The way the federal government has handled the vaccine, there are now serious questions about whether or not the vaccine has become politicized,” Cuomo pontificated, utterly without evidence. (Notably, Dr. Anthony Fauci reproached the gov for needlessly undermining confidence in the jabs.)

In fact, Cuomo’s panel gave its OK just hours after the feds did. Did the members actually do anything? Team Cuomo has stonewalled a Freedom of Information inquiry into its activities.

There’s no need for Cuomo and Zucker to reinvent the wheel. More than half of adult New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, with nearly two-thirds having received at least one dose. COVID cases and hospitalizations have plummeted, along with the transmission rate. The vaxxed should be able to go without masks in almost every setting. It would encourage those who haven’t gotten the shot, too.

But Andrew Cuomo just can’t stop putting his ego ahead of the interests of New York’s citizens.

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Opinion

Political winds — like those in Britain — mean trouble for US Democrats

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Political winds — like those in Britain — mean trouble for US Democrats

Five years ago next month, British voters, in the largest turnout ever, voted to leave the European Union by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. It was an unexpected result, and a harbinger of Donald Trump’s even more unexpected election as president five months later.

In both countries, key votes were cast by white non-college graduates. In the US, blue-collar Democrats in Pennsylvania and the Midwest switched to Trump. In the UK, working-class voters long loyal to Labour joined leading Conservatives in supporting Brexit.

Supposedly ascendant coalitions of metropolitan professionals and racial and ethnic minorities were, to their self-righteous rage, defeated. Metro London, with 20 percent of the nation’s votes, voted 60 percent to 40 percent to remain in the European Union. But the rest of England, 70 percent of the UK, voted 57 percent to 43 percent for Brexit.

Five years on, the realignments that produced 2016’s surprise have continued, with seemingly different results in the two countries. Here, Democrats regained the White House in 2020 and won majorities in both houses of Congress.

In Britain, the Labour Party, split between metropolitan leaders and working-class Brexit voters, suffered its worst defeat in decades in 2019 and did even worse in local elections last week. It looks to be in danger of joining the old socialist parties of France and Germany as extinct major parties.

But the differences can be overstated. Joe Biden’s Democrats have only tenuous majorities and face increasing tensions between woke leadership and historic constituencies on important issues such as crime and immigration.

In Britain, such tension has resulted in Labour losing dozens of House of Commons seats in its “Red Wall” — the traditional textile, steel and coal-mining communities in the Midlands and north of England. Conservatives won more than 40 Red Wall seats as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won 365 seats to Labour’s 202 in December 2019.

After that, Labour ditched its London-based leftist party leader Jeremy Corbyn for London-based barrister Keir Starmer. Like long-serving (1997-2007) Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, Starmer is moderate on economics, but he joined Blair in trying to overturn the Brexit referendum and proudly took a knee in support of Black Lives Matter.

Starmer’s stances won him record support, 65 percent and 70 percent, respectively, in his home constituency of Holborn and St. Pancras. But he foolishly chose an anti-Brexit candidate in last week’s special election for the Red Wall seat of Hartlepool, a 70 percent pro-Brexit port on the North Sea.

Hartlepool was a Labour seat since its creation. Last week, Hartlepool voted for Conservative over Labour by 52 percent to 29 percent.

“Labour,” writes Telegraph columnist Janet Daley, “has not just, as everybody keeps saying, ‘lost touch’ with its traditional supporters: it now holds them in open and quite febrile contempt.” And she adds some historical perspective: “What is the point of a political party that began as the voice of the industrial proletariat when there is no more industrial proletariat?”

The Labour Party was founded in 1900 as the political arm of labor unions at a time when the working class was the majority of the electorate. Continental parties with similar heritages are in even more trouble. France’s Socialist Party, which won the presidency in 2012, got 6 percent of the vote in 2017. Germany’s Social Democratic Party, founded in 1863, has now fallen to a distant third place in polling for next September’s election, with the Green Party emerging as the chief competitor of the governing CDU/CSU.

It may be natural that, as the working class grows smaller and high-education cultural leftists more numerous, an environmental and anti-nationalist left will replace socialists as major parties in parliamentary systems or as dominant forces in the left party in two-party systems like ours.

One lingering problem: Working-class-dominated parties have concrete goals relevant to large constituencies. But high-education and class-dominated parties tend to fixate on the abstract aimed at increasingly microscopic groups (transgender rights) or virtue-signaling their own superiority over the benighted masses (“systemic racism”).

Neither is a winning tactic in a Britain, which “has fundamentally shifted” and “become a more open society,” as its multiracial Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities recently concluded, or in an America, which elected a black congressman from a white-majority district in 1972 and a black president in 2008 and 2012.

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