Lately, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about all of the different groups of people affected directly by COVID-19. It is a comprehensive list. Quite naturally, much of my attention focuses on those in the medical field, but essential workers in many industries are making sacrifices.
Essential workers by industry, 2019
|Total||Percent of industry|
|All essential workers||55,217,845||100%|
|Food and agriculture||11,398,233||20.6%|
|Transportation, warehouse, and delivery||3,972,089||7.2%|
|Industrial, commercial, residential facilities, and services||6,806,407||12.3%|
|Government and community-based services||4,590,070||8.3%|
|Communications and IT||3,189,140||5.8%|
|Water and wastewater management||107,846||0.2%|
Note: Code for the definition of essential services used here is available upon request.
Source: Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata, EPI Current Population Survey Extracts, Version 1.0.2 (2020), https://microdata.epi.org
The virus has touched so many others beyond essential workers. Perhaps because I’m a sappy old teacher, I can’t help but think about the many students who have had to adjust.
Three months ago, I got out my old school yearbook because I wondered which group of former students was having their senior year disrupted. This photo of my third-grade class is from nine years ago. (I’m in the bottom right panel.) I would never label any of my students or classes as “my best,” but this group contained so many promising learners. As an educator, you learn early that these unique and special classes only happen a few times in a career.
One of the things that bother me the most about my generation is those who often put young people down. I call it “old man syndrome,” although it is not something that only strikes males. If you aren’t afflicted with this condition, I’m betting you know someone who is. The most common symptoms of this malady are the tendency to belittle young people and continually remind everyone how much better things were in “our day.” A typical complaint from one of these nostalgic blowhards throws young people under the bus with negative references to “kids these days.”
The implication is that somehow young people today do not match up to those from previous generations. I think this logic is misguided and inaccurate. When I was a student, there were plenty of kids who were kind, thoughtful, educated, and destined to do great things, but others who were arrogant, rude, lazy, and likely didn’t do much with their lives. I would argue that all of this is still true today.
Children haven’t changed; society has changed. When I was a child, there were very few homes in which both parents worked. Divorce rates are now at an all-time high. Kids today have an array of negative influences that I never experienced in my naïve childhood.
The notion that most kids today are uneducated or don’t give a damn about the world is entirely uninformed and inaccurate. I’m speaking as someone who taught elementary school kids for thirty-one years.
I’m sorry that the graduating class of 2020 has had their senior year disrupted. Many didn’t get to experience the opportunities and experiences that help bring closure to high school and this phase of their lives. It’s unfortunate not only for them but for their family and friends who have missed out on celebrating these triumphs with them.
I have complete faith in the current generation of young people. I taught many of these kids, and I know they are smart, compassionate, creative, and responsible. Before we start tooting our horns and reminiscing about how great things were in our era, perhaps we’d better take a cold hard look at the world and realize that we’ve made our share of mistakes. As someone who retired four years ago, I would say that our future is in good hands.