Michiana Chronicles: This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco

May 7, 2020

Sid Shroyer donning his mask in the studio.
Credit Sid Shroyer

I miss my retired teacher friends. We meet once a month for breakfast to tell war stories, solve the problems of the world, and revel in our good fortune at having gotten out alive. We met last on March 6, right before the pandemic began to hit home.

Two months later, someone who looks like my wife, but with longer hair, flips channels between The Price is Right and the governor of New York. Andrew Cuomo seems like maybe he’d be a good teacher. Drew Carey, not so much.

I try to stay calm.

Maybe that’s a mistake.        

I wish a teacher were in charge of setting and implementing strategies for defeating the coronavirus. I’d like to see somebody in charge with some common sense about how to create a successful environment for achievement.

Make a teacher coronavirus czar and let him or her run things. Not somebody’s son-in-law or a next-in-line-trying-to-please-the-boss kind of guy, not a politician who is always thinking about the next election. Make the czar a teacher, somebody 15 years in, who’s secure enough to know that sort of getting it figured out is as close as he or she is ever going to get, somebody who knows that what happened last year or yesterday or last hour, or their personal philosophy or narrative or ideology or what they read or who they vote for runs a distant second to figuring out how to solve the problem at hand.

Our problem is that people are dying. Maybe that’s old news to you by now, or past the point of comprehension, but it’s still happening and no matter the shape of the curve, every new illness and every new death makes it worse than the minute before.

We’re in the “foxhole”, “the “no atheists in a foxhole,” foxhole, where I’d like to add no fundamentalists and no ideologues to the problem solving group.

In my coronavirus crisis foxhole, give me a teacher. I want the person who has students in public school classes, somebody who teaches every kid in the room, not just the three or four in front who pay attention, in classes that go by the names like “regular” or “standard” that we aren’t supposed to use anymore, classes with the defiant kids who don’t want to learn because, they’ll tell you, they “don’t have to.”

Those guys at the state capitol in Lansing, with guns and confederate flags, I bet they all had a teacher they listened to in high school. If they wanted to graduate. Send Mr. Spier over there. Or Matthews.

Be honest. Look ‘em in the eye, but don’t let ‘em get away with crazy stuff (I really mean "shit," but I can't say that on the radio). And, you most certainly don’t want to encourage that sort of behavior. Don’t tell them they are wonderful people making a good point. They are bullies. Make ‘em run laps, or stay after school. Call their parents.

“Yeah, Mr. Jones. This is Mr. Smith. Tommy and some of his friends got dressed up in army surplus gear and took high powered semi-automatic weapons to the capitol today. Yeah, I think he’s just looking for some attention.”

I wish a teacher were in charge of setting and implementing strategies for defeating the coronavirus.

Teachers are practiced at the art of getting people who don’t want to do something to do something. Right now, we’ve got whole lot of Americans who fell asleep in government class thinking freedom equals do whatever you feel like doing because you feel like doing it, who don’t want to do something as easy as wearing a mask and can’t stand not being able go to the same mall they hate in December because of the second, or is it the fourth, amendment  and we’ve got a bunch of finger in the wind politicians, who also love the Constitution when it’s convenient, modeling the same behavior who’ve decided that the best way to deal with that sort of thing is to turn the class over to the people who are disrupting the class.  “No travel restrictions here, kids. I’m your friend.”

“Oh, and I’ve told the authorities to leave you alone. Now run along and follow those CDC guidelines.”

Teachers who give high school students an assignment and tell them it won’t be graded aren’t surprised when high school students don’t do it.

I wish a teacher were in charge of setting and implementing strategies for defeating the coronavirus. On every level.

I’ll bet there are at least three teachers at every high school in America who would refuse to accept that thousands more deaths are the cost of doing business. Maybe four. 

How about we get a teacher who is married to a covid unit nurse to lead the coronavirus task force?

That’d be good.

Music: "Life During Wartime" by David Byrne