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‘Are we raising snowflakes?’

Jason Heale
by Jason Heale, communications officer for Maxim Institute

You’ve likely heard of the term “snowflake”. I’m not referring to the small crystals of frozen water that fall from the sky in winter, I’m talking about those who were told they were special, unique and destined for great things — no matter what. In the process, however, they often become less resilient, melting when faced with the often-harsh realities of life.

In all of the debate around whether to delay sending our kids to school, we have to ask the question: are we in danger of robbing our kids of their futures? Are we raising snowflakes? In light of our Covid responses, I would contend the answer is “yes”.

Parents are painfully aware of the fact, while also being mindful that there is little they can do to mitigate it.

One parent in Auckland said it had been an “absolute juggle” working from home while also trying to help their kids manage their online learning. Succeeding at filling these roles is basically mission impossible.

The students themselves know it. So do the teachers. In a recent Education Review Office (ERO) report, students preferred learning at school, rather than at home. Yet they felt less safe at school because of Covid. After the lockdowns, teachers and principals also noted heightened anxiety around health and safety.

The ERO report noted a bigger-than-expected drop in attendance after reopening, and then a second wave of lower attendance a few weeks later. The truth is that we still don’t know the extent of the impact on student learning.

However, with findings like increased anxiety levels amongst school children, and teachers needing to make up for lost learning time — especially in areas like writing — we have reason to be concerned.

The science shows that children are the least vulnerable to a Covid infection. Their Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) is 0.0023 percent up to the age of 10 years.

As one paediatrician put it recently: “They’re potentially more harmed by missing out on school and having school closures than they would be by direct infection or outbreaks.”

Another said: “Even having a single dose will offer our children pretty good protection.”

It’s a case of the cure likely being worse than the disease.

The cure for the cure? Let schools open on time. As Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault said, closures were “the last thing we should do. We need to get the kids back to school and . . . into the school community”.

Government support needs to equip our schools with the resources required to open safely.

To get learning back on track, the Ministry of Education needs to be proactive in engaging with schools, allowing them to take the lead on what’s best for their students while offering guidance.

Take courage and be honest with kids. Help them to understand their own risks. Understand that public health isn’t only about Covid.

That’s how we can give our kids not only resilience, but their lives and futures back, too.

Maxim Institute is an Auckland-based, independent research and public policy think tank, working to promote the dignity of every person in New Zealand.

  1. Peter Jones says:

    The science shows that children are the least vulnerable to a Covid infection. Their Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) is 0.0023 percent up to the age of 10 years.

  2. Bob Hughes says:

    Hi Jason,
    Sorry No the science does not say children are the least vulnerable to a Covid infection.

    Science Daily November 1. 2021,

    Children, adults are equally vulnerable to coronavirus infection, but children less likely to become sick, However when one household member is infected, there is a 52% chance they will transmit it to at least one other person with whom they live.
    These fact alone put doubt into your support for closures being “the last thing we should do. We need to get the kids back to school and . . . into the school community”.

    1. Peter Jones says:

      Are you saying we all have a 0.0023% fatality rate Bob?
      Sounds about right to me.

  3. Maree Conaglen says:

    Let’s look at the big picture here instead of putting the blame on children by calling them “snowflakes”. According to some sources, the root cause of this global pandemic is the destruction of natural habitats and the increasing proximity of humans and animals.
    This is all part and parcel of the increasing anxiety children face in regards to the destruction of the planet and the increasing temperatures that are causing the environment to become more and more unsuitable for humans and other plant and animal species to inhabit.
    There is very real likelihood that pandemics like to one we are currently facing could become more prevalent along with extreme weather events like flooding, droughts, heat waves and food shortages. This is something that previous generations did not have to even think about, as it is only in the last few years that knowledge of these issues has entered mainstream thinking.
    Children have a lot to deal with in these times and victim blaming is not the answer.
    We need to look at ways we can strengthen our communities to be more resiliant to the impact of climate change.
    If we look back the solutions have already been practised in this land before the notion of a “circular economy”.
    How would that look in todays world in this community. It might mean looking at alternatives to traditional type education and schooling. Some parents are already opting for “unschooling” where children receive their education by being in nature. There is much knowledge and skills to learn by becoming eco literate such as learning to be self sufficient. That’s something we all could benefit from in these times of rising food prices and limited supplies on the supermarket shelves.
    This is only one example, and I’m sure if we put our heads together as a community, we could come up with many other solutions to nurture and support the next generation.

    1. Bob Hughes says:

      Well put Maree. This is not a single issue to be dealt with. Everyone needs to see the big picture.