We have heard lots of news about a party in Marblehead attended by 20 to 30 young people. Apparently, no masks worn were worn. It seems there was no social distancing. There was, it appears, sharing of drinking cups. Now, this party occurred in a private home. The result of the party has been that the superintendent closed down the high schools until Nov. 6. All athletic events have been suspended, too. Another high school in the area is closing as well. Students attending the party need to be tested and quarantined, as do any adults in contact with them.
As a former college president, I get that students want to party and congregate. I appreciate that the superintendent gets this reality too. I get how difficult social distancing is. I get that students of a certain age underestimate risk to themselves and others. And we know that our brains do not develop quality capacity to make good judgments until we are well into our 20s.
Let’s start with these questions: Were there no students in the crowd of 20 to 30 who had parents or grandparents who might become ill? Where were the parents living in the home where the party was held? Did the parents of the 20 to 30 students attending this party know where their children were that evening?
I appreciate that we have COVID-19 fatigue. We have been wearing masks and social distancing (or not) for months. An end is not in sight. To stop the spread of the pandemic, we need large-scale public cooperation. Our collective desire for compliance is waning and not just among young people.
But surely, we can do better, as the Marblehead superintendent observed.
Consider three of the many reasons as to why we cannot and are not doing better as COVID-19 threats persist:
We don’t have enough quality “public” or “political” or parental role models;
We haven’t talked enough to our children and each other about how all the restrictions are making us feel, think and behave;
We have not taken to the airways enough with PSAs to change societal behavior;
We haven’t given students enough voice in finding solutions to improving compliance with mask wearing and social distancing.
The Marblehead incidents are frightening and maddening. They are also sad and potentially disaster-making and that’s no exaggeration. But, I have hope.
Karen Gross is an educator and a resident of Gloucester.