Dave Grohl gives searing takedown of Trump administration’s stance on reopening schools: ‘Teachers want to teach, not die’

‘I wouldn’t trust the US secretary of percussion to tell me how to play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ if they had never sat behind a drum set’

Clémence Michallon
New York City
Wednesday 22 July 2020 22:41
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Dave Grohl speaks out on schools reopenings after coronavirus lockdown

Dave Grohl has released a searing audio note criticising the Trump administration’s stance on schools reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Foo Fighters founder shared the message, titled “In Defence of Our Teachers”, on Wednesday as part of his storytelling project Dave’s True Stories, which he started in March.

Grohl, whose mother used to work as a teacher, highlighted the need to protect teachers and students’ safety through adequate protocols, raising the alarm about “Donald Trump’s conductor-less orchestra”.

“When it comes to the daunting and ever-more politicised question of reopening schools in the coronavirus pandemic, the worry for our children’s well-being is paramount, yet teachers are also confronted with a whole new set of dilemmas that most people would not consider,” he said.

Citing his mother, who is “now 82 and retired”, he listed the following concerns: “Masks and distancing, temperature checks, crowded bussing, crowded hallways, sports, air-conditioning systems, lunchrooms, public restrooms, janitorial staff.

“Most schools already struggle from a lack of resources,” he added. “How could they possibly afford the mountain of safety measures that will need to be in place?”

Calling remote learning “an inconvenient and hopefully temporary solution”, Grohl goes on: “As much as Donald Trump’s conductor-less orchestra would love to see the country reopen 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 students, teachers and school.”

Ms McEnany made the remarks last week during a press conference, during which she stressed that Mr Trump is “very keen” to see schools reopen and added: “The science should not stand in the way of this.”

Grohl described teachers as being currently “caught in a trap, set by indecisive and conflicting sectors of failed leadership that have never been in their position and can’t possibly relate to the unique challenges they face”.

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“I wouldn’t trust the US 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?” Grohl, Nirvana’s longest-lasting drummer, continued.

“...Until you’ve spent countless days in a classroom devoting your time and energy to becoming that lifelong mentor to generations of otherwise disengaged students, you must listen to those who have.

“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?”

Some teachers' unions have been pushing back against what they see as unnecessarily aggressive timetables for reopening.

The largest unions say the timing should be guided by whether districts have the ability — and funding — to implement protocols and precautions to protect students and teachers, even if that means balking at calls from the president to resume in-person instruction.

On Monday, a teachers' union filed a lawsuit to block the reopening of schools in Florida, where state officials have ordered school districts to reopen campuses as an option unless local health officials deem that to be unsafe.

Educators in several cities have called for the school year to start with remote instruction. Some have joined demonstrations in Arizona, where three teachers sharing a classroom during summer school tested positive for the virus and one died.

Health experts assembled by the Rockefeller Foundation said last week that the US should scale up to testing 30 million Americans per week by the fall, when school reopenings and flu season are expected to further exacerbate the virus' spread. The group acknowledged that their figure will not be possible with the current laboratory-based testing system.

Additional reporting by agencies

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