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The kids are not all right

孩子们并非安然无恙

When easing lockdowns, governments should open schools first

政府放松“封城”应该先开放学校

The costs of keeping them closed are too high

把儿童关在家里的代价太大



Covid-19 has shut the world’s schools. Three in four children live in countries where all classrooms are closed. The disruption is unprecedented. Unless it ends soon, its effect on young minds could be devastating.

新冠肺炎迫使全世界的学校停课,每四个儿童中就有三个儿童的国家关闭了所有的教室。这种状况前所未有,除非很快结束,否则可能对幼小的心灵造成毁灭性影响。

During some epidemics keeping children at home is wise; they are efficient spreaders of diseases such as seasonal flu. However, they appear to be less prone to catching and passing on covid-19. Closing schools may bring some benefit in slowing the spread of the disease, but less than other measures. Against this are stacked the heavy costs to children’s development, to their parents and to the economy.

在某些流行病的蔓延过程中,让儿童呆在家里是明智的,他们是季节性流感等疾病的高效传染源。然而,儿童似乎不那么容易感染和传染新冠肺炎,停课也许有利于遏制疾病的传播,但不如其他措施有效,反而会使儿童的成长发育、他们的父母、经济付出沉重代价。



Poorer children suffer most. Zoom lessons are little use if your home lacks good Wi-Fi, or if you have to fight with three siblings over a single phone. And whereas richer families often include well-educated parents who prod their offspring to do their homework and help when they get stuck, poorer families may not.

家境贫困的儿童最吃亏。如果家里缺少信号良好的“Wi-Fi”,或者你迫不得已与三名兄弟姐妹争夺仅有的一部电话,那么视频会议平台Zoom提供的网络课程没什么用。富裕家庭的父母往往接受过良好教育,能够敦促子女做家庭作业,遇到难题时提供帮助,而贫困家庭可就未必了。

In normal times school helps level the playing field. Without it, the achievement gap between affluent and working-class children will grow. By one estimate, American eight-year-olds whose learning stopped altogether with the lockdown could lose nearly a year’s maths by autumn, as they fail to learn new material and forget much of what they already knew.

学校在平时有利于儿童公平竞争,没有了学校,富裕家庭和工薪阶层的子女的成绩差距会拉大。据估计,如果美国8岁儿童在“封城”期间完全停止学习,到了秋天可能荒废近一年的数学知识,因为他们学不到新的内容,以前学过的许多知识也忘掉了。

School matters for parents, too, especially those with young children. Those who work at home are less productive if distracted by loud wails and the eerie silence that portends jam being spread on the sofa. Those who work outside the home cannot do so unless someone minds their offspring. And since most child care is carried out by mothers, they will lose ground in the workplace while schools remain shut.

学校对父母来说也很重要,尤其是幼儿的父母。在家工作的人,如果被喧闹的哭声和诡异的寂静分散了注意力,预示着果酱可能被撒在沙发上,他们的工作效率就会下降。工作在外的人就不能这样做,除非有人照料他们的子女。由于子女多由母亲照料,如果学校停课,她们可能在工作中失利。

In poor countries the costs are even greater. Schools there often provide free lunches, staving off malnutrition, and serve as hubs for vaccinating children against other diseases. Pupils who stay at home now may never return. If the lockdown pushes their families into penury, they may have to go out to work. Better to re-open schools, so that parents can earn and children can study.

贫穷的国家为此付出的代价更大。学校通常提供免费午餐,避免营养不良,充当预防其他疾病的儿童接种中心。呆在家里的小学生可能无法返校了,如果“封城”导致家庭陷入贫困,他们可能被迫辍学。最好的办法是重新开放学校,这样父母可以赚钱,子女可以上学。

The obvious rejoinder is that shutting schools brings benefits. Covid-19 can be deadly. Parents do not want their children to catch it or to give it to grandma.

显而易见的反驳是停课有它的好处。新冠肺炎可能是致命的,父母不希望子女感染或把疾病传染给祖母。

In fact, though children are highly susceptible to flu, covid-19 is different. Two studies from China that trace the contacts of infected people find that children are at worst no more likely to catch the disease than adults—and possibly less so. If they do get it, they are 2,000 times less likely than someone over 60 to die.

事实上,尽管儿童是流感的易感群体,但新冠肺炎有所不同。中国开展的两项研究追踪了与感染者接触过的人发现,在最坏的情况下,儿童感染新冠肺炎的几率不比成年人高,甚至可能更低。如果儿童感染了新冠肺炎,死亡率比60岁以上的患者低2000倍。

Nor is there evidence that children who do end up catching the disease are silent spreaders who pass it on to their families. Researchers in Iceland and the Netherlands have not found a single case in which a child brought the virus into their family. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the European unx’s public-health agency, said last week that child-to-adult transmission “appears to be uncommon”.

即使儿童真的感染了新冠肺炎,也没有证据表明他们会悄然地把病传染给家人。冰岛和荷兰的研究人员尚未发现一例儿童把病传染给家人的病例。上周,欧盟的公共卫生机构“欧洲疾病预防与控制中心”表示,儿童传染给成年人的病例“似乎很少见”。

Some of these conclusions are based on small samples. Perhaps children have not been seen to transmit the disease because schools were shut early rather than because they pose no special threat. Perhaps they will start to spread it in the playground.

有些结论是基于少量的样本,之所以没发现儿童传染新冠肺炎,可能是因为学校停课较早,而不是因为儿童构不成重大威胁,他们在操场上时可能会传染疾病。



Governments are understandably wary of being called bossy: no politician wants to give orders that may be widely disobeyed. France is considering reopening schools but making attendance voluntary. The trouble with this approach is that it may entrench educational inequality. A recent poll there suggests that 48% of well-off families would send their children back; only 17% of poor ones would. Under Britain’s lockdown, more than 500,000 vulnerable children have been allowed to go to school, including those with special needs; just 5% have turned up.

各国政府警惕专断的名声是可以理解的:任何政客都不愿意下达可能被广泛违抗的政令。法国正在考虑重新开放学校,但学生出勤是自愿的。这种做法的问题是可能使教育不平等现象加剧。最近一项民意测验显示,48%的富裕家庭会让孩子返校;只有17%的贫困家庭会这样做。在英国的“封城”状态下,50多万名弱势儿童已被允许返校,包括有特殊需要的儿童,但到课率只有5%。

The best approach would be to apply attendance rules sensitively. Insist that education is compulsory, but don’t fine frightened parents willy-nilly—especially if they have extra reasons to fear infection. As classes return, parents will see that it is safe, and come round to the idea of sending their own children. Governments should help children make up for lost lessons with free summer schools, shorter holidays and longer school days.

最好的做法是以体谅的方式实施出勤规定。义务教育要坚定不移,但不要随意对担惊受怕的父母处以罚款,特别是如果他们有特殊的理由担心孩子被感染。随着学校重新开课,父母将认识到这是安全的,接受让孩子返校的想法。政府应通过免费的暑假班、缩短假期、延长学期来帮助孩子补课。

Reopening schools may feel like a rash experiment with young lives. In fact it is an exercise in risk-balancing. Schools are the most powerful engines of social mobility in any society. Let the children in, and let them learn.

重新开放学校可能让人觉得在拿幼小的生命做鲁莽的试验。这其实是一种风险权衡活动,学校是一个社会中最强大的社会流动性引擎。允许孩子返校,让他们得以学习。