A “Face the Nation” focus group was fired up about how school closures and mask mandates have affected their kids in recent months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a segment called, “Listening to America,” CBS host Margaret Brennan asked a group of parents to get candid on the damage the unpredictable nature of schooling these past two years have done both to their kids’ educational development and mental health.
Kam, a Texas Republican, said his 13-year-old son is still trying to play “catch up” on his studies amid all the back and forth of in-person and virtual learning.
“We have a generation of youth that are missing opportunities and experiences that they’re never going to be able to have again,” he added in later comments.
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Indiana Republican Allison, a pediatrician, shared her daughter’s emotional reaction to finding out she’d again have to start wearing her mask to school in light of the omicron variant.
“In kindergarten she was wearing a mask all year, and it wasn’t an issue,” Allison said. “And at the beginning of this year they didn’t have them wearing masks, and she was thrilled, of course. And then with the upsurge and the new variant they had to return to masks. And she just cried. She was devastated. So it really brought it… more into perspective to me that this is hard for them. It affects them so much more than we realize sometimes.”
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It was bipartisan criticism as Alejandro, a New York Democrat, blasted the masking and other COVID related restrictions in schools as having caused a mental health crisis.
“My middle child is going to college and they, at colleges, they really have a nasty mental health crisis – it’s not made up,” he said. “And the COVID restrictions have a lot to do with that. It’s masking. The social distancing. The asking for, having to get tested twice a week… It’s really been taxing, and it’s really affecting their social lives. It’s driving some of them pretty crazy, I guess.”
Kylie, a Virginia Democrat, said too much focus is being placed on the amount of “grit” kids have, in which some have suggested schoolchildren can easily power through the classroom inconveniences that come with the pandemic.
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Another concerned mother, Sydney, shared how her two children, aged 12 and 14, either “closed” themselves off or had uncharacteristic “meltdowns” due to the “stop and start” learning.
None of the parents raised their hands when Brennan asked if they can still “make up for lost time.”
A few Republican governors have begun to take steps to ban mask mandates in schools. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order allowing parents to choose whether their child wears a mask in school or not in his very first week in office, although a judge recently halted the measure. Youngkin’s victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe was fueled in part by parents fed up with coronavirus mandates and lockdowns, as well as the influence of controversial curricula like critical race theory in classrooms.
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Some liberal media pundits have begun to share their own concerns about how COVID has affected classroom learning. New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, for instance, recently penned an op-ed in which she said her child now found school “joyless” thanks to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I hate the fact that my kids still have to wear masks outdoors at recess and that my daughter eats lunch on the cafeteria floor for reasons of social distancing,” she wrote.