Choices, Choices, Choices


Olivia Peixoto’s latest article where she reported on Mr. Boerner’s presentation of last night certainly opened my eyes to the complexities that the school’s Leadership Team has had to take on in response to COVID-19. While busy worrying about my ManageBac for CAS, potential SAT prep, and staying on top of homework, I must admit that I have overlooked the school’s impressive handling of the chaos. Graded’s flexibility to adapt and monitor the situation is outstanding and yet another example of just how lucky we are to attend such a wonderful school that most Brazilian children do not have the opportunity to. Despite the Zoom mishaps– that, to be honest, are often the reason for my comedic entertainment within the endless hours of staring at a screen– the fact that we even get to continue our studies is astonishing. Having said that, the focus now turns to us. The success of Graded’s effort to pull off the impossible– that is, returning to campus during a global pandemic and amidst all the uncertainties of what it will be like considering it has never been done before– rests on our shoulders. Amongst all the things that are not, this is within our control; and as we prepare, or perhaps hopefully anticipate, a return to in-person learning, doing so safely requires that we be honest about our social practices and hence try to minimize the risk of contagion by limiting gatherings. 


While a return to campus may bring to mind the idea of throwing out the window all the precautions we have been so thoroughly following, we cannot have it both ways. It’s normal to eagerly expect things to go back to the way they were, but the risks call upon us to make sacrifices. There’s no denying the mental health toll that comes with being away from friends for so long. But there’s a right way and there’s a wrong way to socialize in these difficult times. I’ll confess that I have seen a small group of friends and followed as many CDC recommendations as possible, though we surely could have been more responsible. But as we slacken restrictions in some areas, we should be increasing them in others. Far too many see the situation as a black or white in which we either lock ourselves up entirely or completely let loose and not even bother wearing a mask. The middle ground of shared precaution is thus left dangerously forgotten. The resistance against further damage will be possible only through the collective efforts of most people; enough people. 


Going back to our classrooms means that we will have to prioritize the risk that comes from our presence in school over that of the one in gatherings.  For all the econ students, you might recognize this as the opportunity cost. The opportunity cost –also known as the second-best option you give up in order to obtain the first option– for in-person learning is that we cannot gather largely during these times for the sake of health and safety– communal health and safety. When enough people are taking the necessary steps to fight the pandemic, then a greater force will keep the situation under control. Now, I am aware of what skeptics will think; when looking at the large-scale of things, our actions are insignificant. What’s the point of wearing a mask when no one else will? Some may say that if what one does makes no difference, one may have no moral reason not to do it. At this point, I would want to know what they consider a moral reason to be, but regardless, this argument is not applicable in this case because the actions of one person will make a difference. Each decision we make to reduce risk helps. The middle ground of trading gatherings for school is a build-up of individual actions. When we all collectively follow health and safety guidelines, we are acting for a force greater than ourselves. 


The pressure of successfully returning to the Graded Greens is for our benefit, but its failure is not at our cost. I’ll remind us that Graded is trying to pull off something completely never done before, and we should do everything in our power to take advantage of opportunities to make the best out of the situation. Yet even if we fail and are forced to return to our Zoom calls, the stakes aren’t awfully high for us. We will go back to our online schedule and successfully Zoom each other whilst still learning prestigious International Baccalaureate knowledge from incredible, dedicated teachers. Of course, we will miss learning all of the content that we should, and we will miss the interactions with our friends and teachers, but the fact that we even get to continue our education both online and offline is an exclusive chance that most children do not have. To put things into a more global perspective, according to the United Nation’s most recent policy brief the pandemic has affected nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Some 23.8 million children and youth (from pre-primary to tertiary) may drop out or not have access to school next year due to the pandemic’s economic impact alone. Learning losses also threaten to extend beyond this generation and erase decades of progress, not least in support of girls and young women’s educational access and retention. These are just a few facts, but they come together to paint a picture of the educational scene outside of Graded. Our opportunity to study at Graded, both online and in-person, is a privilege, and to consciously choose not to sacrifice hanging out with friends for the sake of a safe return to school is a true waste of our parents’ hard work to pay Graded tuition and our school’s careful efforts to make the impossible possible; not to mention the complete disregard of our educational privilege in a global context.