Coronavirus Education Opinion

Coronavirus exposes America’s fake equal education doctrine

When schools in Japan closed due to the coronavirus, I joked that students in America finally have a chance to catch up. Now that schools in America are closed, we’re seeing how much further behind students from poor school districts are becoming compared to students from rich school districts.
I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, but until we combine school districts to allow all students an equal opportunity to learn, situations like this will make it worse for the children on the low rung of the educational ladder.
My sister lives exactly 6.6 miles from me and you’d think she was on another planet when it comes to the education her children receive versus children in Chester. Someone from her school district knocked on her door last week to deliver 2-laptops and 1-iPad for my nieces and nephew to conduct their online learning while sequestered at home. Here in Chester, school is out, that’s it, period!
Two things I know for certain: 1) You can’t turn a brick and mortar school into a cyber school overnight; and 2) You can’t turn a parent that doesn’t check homework into a parent that conducts homeschooling.
Folks are mad at the Philadelphia school district for telling schools to just stop trying to make these kids study while out of school. Their logic is, if every student doesn’t have the resources to learn from home, than nobody will be required to learn from home.
This doesn’t mean students shouldn’t be learning from home if they have the resources like a parent to facilitate learning; some learning materials like books, paper, and #2 pencils; internet access and learning devices that connect to the internet, etc. Philly said teachers are no longer responsible for tracking, grading, or making sure students have any curriculum to follow while out of school..
I’m not mad at the Philadelphia school district or Chester-Upland. These school districts are so far behind in offering any type of learning outside the classroom that it makes no sense to try to patch something together now. They have a hard enough time getting any learning done on a normal day in the classroom.
To keep all students on an imaginary even keel, you’d think the U.S. Department of Education would use the same logic as Philadelphia based on how not all students across the country have equal access to learning resources at home. So, let’s everyone stop trying to learn until we get back to school.
Why should rich school district kids get an advantage over poor districts just because they can keep learning? Aren’t we leaving the least of our students behind even further? Is that the plan? I’m sure there’s no plan, but it sure exacerbates the existence of have-and-have-nots when it comes to education in America.
Even if we took baby steps, what harm would occur if the school district my nieces and nephew attends allowed just 3 students from Chester in each grade from 1st to 12th? Just like Chester-Upland pays for students to attend failing charter schools in Chester, they will pay for students to attend the good school district 6.6 miles away?
I know that’s too logical. Our country, county, and cities would rather entire school districts stop teaching all together while their ‘other’ students continue learning every day.
Sometimes I just hate how badly we behave in this society. Race and class discrimination hurts us all, and when it comes to education, why would a society not want all their citizens as educated as possible?
I know I can’t be the only one who agrees.

Community News Coronavirus

Where is COVID-19 in Delaware County?

The collaboration allowing Delaware County to connect with the Chester County health department is already showing results.
Now, we can see a map of positive COVID-19 cases in our county.
Chester appears to spared thus far, but is it because the virus hasn’t reached us, or the tests haven’t reached us?
Keep an eye on this map daily to see what’s going on in your area.
COVID-19 in Delaware County map

Coronavirus Opinion

Please don’t let a dog die of coronavirus in America

I knew my buddy was lying when he told me a dog died of coronavirus. I haven’t been locked into the TV these past couple days and if they did announce a dog dying, I probably did miss it.
I looked it up on the undefeated internet, and low and behold, a dog did die in Hong Kong from what is believed to be caused by the coronavirus.
Apparently, the dog got sick, the owner – who did have Covid-19 – took the dog to the vet where he was tested and found to have Covid-19, too. They put the dog in quarantine for a few days and after two positive tests 24-hours apart, they felt the dog was safe to go home where he died a couple days later. The owner refused to allow the dog to be autopsied, but it’s believed to be the first case of a human-to-animal transfer of coronavirus.
Lawd have mercy if a dog dies in America from coronavirus. The country will go bonkers. People, especially white people, love their dogs. To think that a dog could get the coronavirus and actually get tested blows my mind but I could see it happening in America. And then to administer two more tests before sending the dog home is outrageous but probably perfectly alright for dog lovers.
It’s not that I don’t like dogs. I love seeing people enjoy their dogs. I just don’t want one. Dog’s know I don’t have a clue what to do when they’re around. I don’t know if I should pet them or hide from them. I’d never be mean to a dog but I ain’t trying to be their friend either.
Here comes the racial part for those of you who’d prefer to stop reading now.
If they are giving coronavirus tests to a dog, that probably means one less poor black person will have a test available to them with the scarcity of test kits in America. Maybe Hong Kong has enough test kits left over that they can afford to use a few on the infected canine population. We obviously haven’t gotten to that point here in America.
Don’t let me hear a dog got a coronavirus test in the USA. Who knows, they’ll probably try to blame Michael Vick for that, too.

Coronavirus Humor

Coronavirus has killed birds flying through Chester

Mother nature is amazing. It’s as if birds have a calendar in their nests to know to start chirping in the morning on the first day of Spring.
I woke up the last couple mornings to the welcoming melodies of whatever the birds are trying to communicate with their pleasing cacophony of sounds.
They haven’t mentioned this on the news, but there is one bird that normally flies through Chester every 30-seconds, every day of the year, who has been killed by the coronavirus. A few of the birds have survived and come through the city occasionally, but it’s eerie not having the normal flock coming through.
As cruel as it might sound, I’m really glad they’re gone. I know it’s only temporary, but I welcome their absence right about now.
Unlike these sweet sounding birds of spring hanging out on telephone wires and porch railings, the coronavirus victims have a loud and disturbingly obnoxious sound. If you’re not familiar with which bird I’m talking about, let me explain it with a bad joke…

Why do Blacks and Puerto Ricans talk so loud?

Because they all live near airports.

With the airline industry virtually shut down to commercial traffic, cities like Chester that are near a major airport and directly in the flight path of planes taking off and landing, we are getting a welcome reprieve from the noise.
For most of us, we probably don’t notice the difference because we’re so used to the brief interruptions throughout our day. For guys like me who wake up early, I can almost tell you the exact time of day without looking at a clock as the first early morning flight approaches Philadelphia International Airport and flies over Chester at about 5:15 am every morning. Every 30-seconds after that until about 11:00 pm, those birds just keep on coming.
The coronavirus doesn’t bring a lot of benefits, but for the moment, I’m enjoying the silence.

Coronavirus Faith Opinion

How social distancing and church attendance butt heads during the coronavirus

I spoke to a man today who is a Baptist deacon and loves church. You can count on him being there every Sunday and at least one other time during the week.
His church had service last Sunday and he didn’t go. His wife, who always joins him in church, choose to go because she was scheduled to usher. Needless to say, they had a tense moment with each other as she went alone and he heeded the call to social distance himself from the congregation.
I’m sure many others are struggling with their religious rituals in light of the coronavirus. As Christians are prone to say, ‘What would Jesus do?’
I’ve stumbled on a couple sermons this week where preachers are reassuring their congregations through the gospel. On the one hand, I get it. Folks need to build up their faith and control their worry. On the other hand, there’s a real pandemic floating in the air and if you really asked What Would Jesus Do, you’re left to wonder if he’d lunge headfirst into harm’s way.
I’ve been receiving a ton a emails from folks who never emailed me before. It’s likely due to my abundance of coronavirus blog posts when I consider their content.
Today, I received an email that I consider a sermon and it is good. The sender is a complete stranger and offered no explanation why they sent it to me or what they wanted me to do with it, but it is so good, I’m sharing it here.
Hopefully, it will help Christians sort out their rituals during this pandemic scare.

A Christian Moral and Theological Case for Social Distancing

By Reverend Rob Schenck
When several public figures in my evangelical community defied government and private sector calls to avoid group gatherings, I was offended and broken-hearted. Caring people should be willing to endure disappointment and inconveniences to protect others from suffering and death when a highly contagious disease threatens the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society. I dare say, in the days of Covid-19, we must not only be willing, but we must be obedient to the central commands of our Christian faith—one of which is to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we don’t want to get Covid-19, we shouldn’t do anything that increases someone else’s potential for getting it.
To my brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow ministers, the widely made recommendation for social distancing and cancellation of group activities—and in some instances, official orders to do so—are not principally about you but about others. Maybe you don’t believe you’ll get sick, or, that if you do, it’ll be nothing worse than the flu, but those presuppositions are all about you and how you perceive or experience this contagion. Maybe you think the alarm raised over the novel coronavirus is overblown or politically ginned up—but those conclusions are, again, all about you. The concern for social distancing is about much more than you—it’s about others who are vulnerable to devastating illness and even death.
The well-being of others is not a game of math. Every single human life is precious, every person is of equal worth with another, and all avoidable suffering and death is a tragedy—whether it involves one or one million. At the core of the gospel is this question asked by Jesus, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:12,14) How dare we not be concerned with a few when God is supremely concerned with just one?
St. Paul admonished the Philippian believers to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself.” (Philippians 2:3) This public health emergency is a time for all of us to ask very deep and prayerful questions about our true motives. As much as anyone else, I hate the closure of churches, the cancellation of prayer meetings, the postponement of fellowship gatherings. For over 40 years, these have been the spiritual and social mainstays of my life. I enjoy church and everything that goes on around it immensely—but again, this is not about me. Churches are very touchy-feely places where people not only shake lots of hands, but we hug, kiss, and form hand-in-hand circles! And if you’re from Pentecostal roots, as I am, just take a look at the saliva spray on the pulpit after one of we vociferous preachers is done preaching! When a killer contagion is aloft, we’re downright dangerous! There are times when Jesus’ second great commandment, love of neighbor, requires we lay down our own preferences, pleasures and even needs for the sake of others. After all, Jesus defined the demonstration of true filial love as much more than enduring inconvenience and loneliness, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
Finally, there are those among our evangelical family who believe this whole national drama surrounding Covid-19 is cooked up by liberal politicians and media for their electoral advantage. (Of course, that doesn’t explain why other countries are afflicted in far worse ways than we are, but that’s a different discussion.) While I’m not convinced of this claim, for the sake of argument, I’ll allow for it. Let’s just say all the clamor has been cooked up—but how does that change any of our moral and spiritual obligations to the other person? The fact is people are getting sick—very sick—and some are dying. No matter what the true origin or scale of this threat, it is inflicting pain, suffering, and loss of life. We must be willing to do all we can to spare just one, two, or a few of such agony.  This is not a time to make self-centered claims of our First Amendment rights, but to engage in acts of self-denial so that others can be safe, the sick can recover, and lives can be preserved.
Jesus, the “author and finisher of our faith,” illustrated for us what we’re to do in days like these. Though He was entitled to every good thing in the universe, nonetheless, of His own will, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant . . .” (Philippians 2:7) Servants do what they are asked to do. All of us have been asked to put aside our normal routines, our preferred social habits, and even our forms of corporate worship to spare others the fear and anguish that comes with Covid-19. Complying with that ask—by our family members, friends, neighbors, fellow citizens, and the whole of humanity—seems a small thing to do in light of the threat of Covid-19. I believe social distancing—or as one church leader has more accurately put it, “physical distancing”–is a moral and theological imperative for all religious believers, but especially for followers of Christ, who, He said, “ . . . must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
In this strange and dangerous time, let’s follow the example of our Lord by denying ourselves for the sake of others.
Rev. Rob Schenck is an evangelical minister, president of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute in Washington, DC , and a national advocate for sensible gun regulation. His work in featured in Abigail Disney’s Emmy Award winning documentary, The Armor of Light, an examination of the embrace of popular gun culture by American evangelicals. Rev. Schenck is also the author of a memoir, Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope and Love (HarperCollins, 2018).

Coronavirus The Arts

The soundtrack of ‘Covid-19 Black’

Most don’t know I have been doing a music podcast called ‘Beautiful Black Music’ for a few years. I don’t promote it but somehow more than a few folks in the podcast space have discovered it and download every episode.
I give every episode some goofy title; usually some term describing my mood when I’m collecting the tunes. This time, Covid-19 was on my mind so I put together a collection of R&B and gospel songs that provide hope or just remind me of the times we’re in. I thank Rodney Bradley for a few suggestions.
They say ‘dance like no ones watching.’ Listen to this podcast where I sing along like no one is listening.
Listen and Chill. Hope you enjoy!
CLICK TO LISTEN ===> Episode 51. Beautiful Black Music. Covid-19

Coronavirus Opinion

The Coronavirus Law of Relativity

I was good at physics but could never understand Einstein’s Law of Relativity. Einstein’s theory of relativity states that time and space are not as constant as everyday life would suggest. Oh, how that applies today.
If you listen carefully to the experts talk about the spread of the coronavirus, some have said things like, what you see today is a result of two weeks ago. It’s sort of hard to comprehend just like Einstein’s theories.
Those physics problems had my head spinning trying to figure out what time period I’m in if I travelled far away in space at such a large rate of speed. Listen, I have a hard enough time on New Years Eve understanding how I’m watching the ball drop in Australia when it’s still daylight outside where I am.
Coronavirus has its own relativity. Actions not taken two weeks ago leaves you in the situation you’re in today, and actions not taken today results in worse outcomes two weeks down the line.
What confuses many of us is seeing how things are being shut down around us and nobody looks sick. That’s the same way I felt in school when, in my mind, the time in space should be the identical time I see on my watch. Why does science say that’s not so?
If it helps anyone, treat coronavirus relativity like a weather map. We’ve all seen how the weather systems move from one part of the county to the other, and with pretty good accuracy, the weather lady can tell you exactly when it’s going to rain in your city and how many inches we’re going to get.
Right now, take a look at Italy and Iran. See what’s going on with coronavirus over there. Their government treated the virus just like we’re treating it around here.
In school, I asked the professor to help me understand relativity but it didn’t do any good. In America, the professor is sitting right over there in China and South Korea, but we would rather not ask them for help despite the evidence on how well their response to coronavirus has been.
So, we’ll just sit and wait for the storm to blow through from Italy and Iran and see how much rain we get. No matter what, a lot of us gonna get wet.

Community News Coronavirus Opinion Politics

Chester City steps up website with a coronavirus link

With God as my witness, I was on the phone last night with a guy venting about the City of Chester’s website. For the life of me, I can’t understand why parking meter rates is still on the home page and there’s nothing on the city’s coronavirus guidance and leadership for this community. I even heard they’re still issuing parking tickets. I hope that’s not true.
Before I was going to finally write a blog post about their horrible website, they have added a banner on the top the page ‘Click Here for all coronavirus updates.’
I clicked, and there’s not much there coming directly from city officials, but they wisely are tapping into Delaware County content which is great and should be shared. Also, there is an extensive list of resources from the Center for Disease Control and the PA Health Department.
As I vented last night on the phone, we came up with what we’d expect to see on the City of Chester website home page that is specific to Chester residents:

  • Where to find food
  • Where to get tested if you’re sick
  • Simple explanation of the city’s State of Emergency
  • School district updates
  • Police policy during the crisis period
  • Shut-off policies from utilities
  • A link to Chester Matters Blog who is dedicating all coverage to ‘Covid-19 While Black’
  • A direct message from the mayor letting us know he’s still in town and cares about us since we haven’t heard a thing from him up to this point.

If you’ve never connected to the City of Chester website, this is the time to do so. If you don’t have internet access or a smart phone, I don’t know what their alternative methods to communicate coronavirus updates to you.
How Chester manages the coronavirus will be so different and so much more difficult than other communities around here. We have a large portion of our population under the poverty line. We have a large number of senior citizens living on top of each other in 7-senior living facilities. We have a larger than average population of people existing with chronic illnesses, many of them respiratory in nature. And we’re mostly Black which usually means we’re not going to be on the top of the list of help and resources when the Hunger Games get real.
We need to be over-communicated to at this point. We’re going to get hit hard. I need to see a lot more out of city government.

The squeaky wheel get’s the test kits.

Is Livia Smith, Director of Chester’s Health Services, banging on the doors of Delaware County council begging them to make sure they include Chester in coronavirus testing? Radnor is testing people in the street with coronavirus test kits and Chester hasn’t taken a single temperature.
City government, this is your time to shine. The ball is in your court. Show us what you got. As you all are so prone to say, ‘We can do better.’ The time for talk is over. Do better now. This is a life or death situation for many of us around here.
Step up NOW!

Community News Coronavirus Opinion Politics

Delaware County Council is putting in that work on coronavirus

The Delaware County Council people are kicking ass on this coronavirus issue. Not a day goes by where they haven’t made a significant contribution to addressing this pandemic head on. They’ve been issuing warnings, produce daily updates, populated extensive virus related content on their website, and made themselves available to the press.

As if all that isn’t enough, their biggest and most impressive success is getting the governor to approve a cooperative agreement that allows our neighbors over in Chester County to provide COVID-19 health services to us Delaware County residents.

As the Beatles were fond of saying…

You can feel his disease.
Come together, right now
Over me

Under the agreement, Chester County will provide us such services as

  • COVID-19 expanded testing,
  • COVID-19 case investigation and surveillance,
  • COVID-19 quarantine designations,
  • COVID-19 public health communication,
  • Daily monitoring of emergency room volume and hospitals in Delaware County
  • A public call center.

This is government at its best. You just don’t come up with these type of solutions in a vacuum. There is no policy manual or playbook to call on that gets you these type of results in this short amount of time. This partnership purely demonstrates what dedicated, concerned, smart, committed public servants do when the right team is in place.
Someone brought to my attention yesterday how they understood the need for our county to have its own health department but was tiring of hearing and reading what appears to be ‘politicking’ over the issue from our county council people in particular. Sure, the former administration avoided creating a county health department, but I don’t this these current council people are harping on that issue as much as the press is reporting about it, editorializing about it, and printing guest views about it. Hopefully we will read less about it because it’s definitely not important anymore now that our county council people delivered on a health department for Delaware County, albeit a temporary one that we’ll rent to get us through this crisis.

“Once we are through this, I will encourage all the residents of Delaware County to give a hug, a high five or a fist bump to the residents of Chester County,” Zidek said, in addition to thanking the county employees in Media.

Yo, Brian. Before we head down Rt. 1 to hug on Chester County folks, I encourage all the residents of Delaware County to at least send you guys a note of thanks, add y’all to our Christmas Cards lists, or spot you a brew down at Larimer Brewery before a Philadelphia Union soccer game.
Great Work!

At another juncture, expect to hear me rail on how these same type of agreements need to be made between failing school districts and good school districts within the county – but that’s not for another day.

Coronavirus Politics Submission

Pennsylvania has to think about raising taxes on the wealthy who are not being hurt by coronavirus

HARRISBURG, Pa. — An independent policy research project has released a brief outlining steps to guard against the burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic falling disproportionately on the poor.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center says the Keystone State should embrace the moral equivalent of wartime equality in its response to the pandemic.
State spending on public health is at the top of the list.
According to Marc Stier, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, at about $13 per person, Pennsylvania ranks 45th in the nation in spending on public health.
“State spending on public health has remained unchanged since 2008,” he points out. “I want to make sure the state has enough money to do the testing and the reporting that we need.”
The brief also calls for safeguarding against economic impacts by strengthening the state’s unemployment system and securing access to public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Stier points out that helping low-income people secure and retain cash benefits during the pandemic not only helps those who have the least, it also helps sustain the state’s economy.
“The economy is declining in the state as everywhere else in the country and the world, and we need people to have money to keep buying things as they can to keep the economy going,” he states.
Stier adds that an economic recession will increase the demand for state spending such as unemployment insurance and Medicaid while simultaneously reducing revenues.
But Stier cautions against balancing the state budget by repeating the massive cuts to education, Medicaid and other programs that were cut 10 years ago.
“The state has to think about raising taxes on the wealthiest Pennsylvanians who are not being hurt by this crisis in the same way that everyone else is, and who pay far less than middle class people and working people now in taxes to the state as a share of their income,” Stier states.
He says a rapid federal response to the economic impact of the pandemic will be critical to ensuring that the burden is shared equally.
Andrea Sears