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In the School Reopening Debate, Teachers Get an Unexpected Champion: Dave Grohl

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | July 22, 2020 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | July 22, 2020 |


I have gone to a lot of film festivals over the years, and at these film festivals, we invariably see a lot of celebrities, either on stage for Q&As, in the audience to watch their own or someone else’s movie, or even out and about in the streets of Austin or Park City or Boston. It is NBD, and in this context, it’s treated mostly casually, “Oh look! It’s Richard Linklater eating a wrap with Ethan Hawke,” or, “Oh wow! Joseph Gordon-Levitt is tall! Who knew?! or “How does Jonah Hill exude asshole energy even from a bathroom urinal?”

Three times in all my years at festivals have I actually seen audiences lose their shit over the presence of celebrities: Last year at The Long Shot premiere, and not because of Seth Rogen or Charlize Theron, but because of Boys II Men; when Conan came out to introduce his documentary, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, and the time that the Foo Fighters appeared to promote their rockumentary, Foo Fighters: Back and Forth. When they walked in, the place erupted. It was insane. I wanted to rip off my shirt and throw it at them (except that I’d have to then watch the movie without a shirt or respectfully ask Dave Grohl for my shirt back, and both options would have been awkward).

This has nothing to do with anything, except that Dave Grohl is a very cool, very charismatic person who exudes the sort of energy that makes you want to remove pieces of clothing, and today, he is standing up for school teachers in The Atlantic. As all of you know, there is a huge debate going on about how or if students return to school in the fall, with Trump and his administration trying to force schools to reopen (with the (empty) threat of having federal funds withdrawn), while most sane school districts in are reluctant to do so. It feels like we don’t really know enough yet to make the best decision, and we may not know until some schools start to reopen.

I think, however, that it is safe to say that if there is a high infection rate and a lot of virus in your community, don’t open. Kids missing school is traumatic and upsetting, but I keep thinking about how horrifyingly traumatic losing a teacher or a classmate might be. Can you imagine? I bet everyone here remembers every student or teacher who might have died while you were in school (Mr. Wells, fourth grade science teacher; Ari Ballard, 10th grade). Imagine that happening regularly? That’s not something that can be ignored.

Anyway, Dave Grohl speaks to this very issue in The Atlantic, and he speaks with the authority of someone who is the son of a retired public school teacher, who strongly believes that — as difficult as it is — remote learning is still the best solution in most parts of the country.

Every school’s working faculty is a considerable percentage of its population, and should be safeguarded appropriately. I can only imagine if my mother were now forced to return to a stuffy, windowless classroom. What would we learn from that lesson? When I ask what she would do, my mother replies, “Remote learning for the time being.”

Remote learning is an inconvenient and hopefully temporary solution. But as much as Donald Trump’s conductor-less orchestra would love to see the country prematurely open schools in the name of rosy optics (ask a science teacher what they think about White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s comment that “science should not stand in the way”), it would be foolish to do so at the expense of our children, teachers, and schools.

I wouldn’t trust the U.S. secretary of percussion to tell me how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” if they had never sat behind a drum set, so why should any teacher trust Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to tell them how to teach, without her ever having sat at the head of a class?

Teachers want to teach, not die, and we should support and protect them like the national treasures that they are. For without them, where would we be?

It’s such a relief when your rock god heroes turn out to be decent people, isn’t it? Thank you, Mrs. Grohl. (Holy shit, how could would it have been to have had Mrs. Grohl as your AP English teacher?)

Header Image Source: Getty Images