Jim Broadway

Jim Broadway's

Illinois School News Service

Honest coverage of Illinois education policy since 1995

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Copyright Temporarily Suspended

Volume 26, Number 21, April 14, 2020

Coronavirus is an ACE (not a good thing) for kids

By Jim Broadway, Publisher, Illinois School News Service

[Note: The Washington Post, easily among the top five newspapers in America with respect to professionalism and public interest, has suspended its copyright - is allowing free access to news, analysis and commentary on the coronavirus crisis. You are also free to share with others all ISNS issues of similar content. - Jim]

During the last decade of the 20th Century, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with the health insurer Kaiser Permanente, conducted research that made the acronym ACE mean something sinister, but important as an event from which youths should be sheltered - an Adverse Childhood Experience.

How adverse is an ACE? Real adverse. Leaves a scar, physically or psychologically - or both. Abuse or neglect. An ACE is an experience of violence or of witnessing violence. It's a family member sent to prison. Or a parent addicted. Or mentally ill. Or the family homeless or broken by divorce. Or by death of a parent.

As the CDC reports, ACEs are common. "About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs." But they are usually associated with poverty, with insecurity, deprivation and other stressers.

An ACE damages for a lifetime - or even longer. "Children growing up with toxic stress may have difficulty forming healthy and stable relationships," the CDC reported. "They may also have unstable work histories as adults and struggle with finances, jobs, and depression throughout life."

But it doesn't stop even there. ACEs' effects - which can "be passed on to [victims'] own children" - also can include a "range of chronic diseases and leading causes of death such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and suicide." The study thus documents the severity of ACEs, and victims often experience more than one.

What does coronavirus have to do with ACEs? One of the most frequently used words in reports about the ACE study is the word "stress." It is a health-degenerating concept. Many studies, for example, have attributed teens' cognitive dysfunction (such as short term memory failure) to the simple stress of urban poverty.

ProPublica Illinois recently reported that calls about child abuse fell "nearly in half" during the spread of the coronavirus. Sounds good, but it mainly means those most likely to abuse children (family members) are also stressed and can take it out on kids without being reported, for example, by "teachers, social workers and counselors most likely to spot signs of abuse and who are required by state law to report those allegations...."

Just the general uncertainties associated with the pandemic, the fear and disappointment, can stress a child. Educators will have to be alert for the effects of ACEs in the future, not just when school reopens in the fall (if it does), but far into the future of every child for the duration of her PK-12 school experience.

What is there to do while "sheltering in place"? As I've written before, I'm now on the email distribution lists of many providers of "educational" products - most of them, I suspect, marketed to home-schoolers. I don't often share their web page URLs with you, as a general thing. I can't judge their value.

But there are some experiences I've participated in that occur to me now as potentially beneficial to any learner who can read. Usually, I get referred to them by educators - as was the case with duolingo.com, where I brushed up on the Korean language the Air Force sent me to Yale to learn after basic training in 1961.

I'm also a big fan of khanacademy.org, which has grown amazingly in the 15 years since it was established, grown in its helpful staffing and wide range of course offerings - all still free on the belief that education is a human right. Sal Khan's site has helped me with basic math (see below) and technology, mainly.

As you've noticed recently, the resource that most excites me now is curiousitystream.com, a subscription service (only $20/year) with thousands of videos of rare informational and graphic quality. The "Digits" episodes will tell a high school student more than she wants to learn about her technological future.

You say you want to go to Kansas? First of all, why in the world would you want to do that? Well, if you persist, know that Kansas is the only state whose welcome to travelers from Illinois comes with a mandate that you quarantine upon arrival. They also discriminate against travelers from seven other states.

The only other state with an anti-Illinois traveler policy is Texas, but they're just anti-Chicago. So Texans apparently agree with a lot of folks in some rural Illinois counties. Perhaps they should "build the wall" all the way around that state.

Many states are regulating incoming travelers, as Findlaw.com reported. This site (for folks who seek legal representation) often shares information that would be of interest to ISNS readers.

Currently, Illinois has not imposed any travel restrictions. The Midwest generally is wide open. You can take the entire Triple-I Corridor (Iowa-Illinois-Indiana) and no one will take your temperature or ask you if you've recently been to China. (But Indiana? Well, if you must travel, it's better than Kansas.)

Actually, states whose travelers are most restricted rank high on the Johns Hopkins Dashboard's list of places with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus infection. Click "US" in the left column and choose the "Admin1" link, lower left, to review the list. (The information is from yesterday, so it is quite old. It is difficult to keep up, with U.S. confirmed COVID-19 cases rising at about 30,000 per day.)

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, Louisiana and Texas (they have a lot of nerve) are the top ten states. Next come Georgia, Connecticut, Washington, Maryland, Indiana, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee - and states with fewer than 5,000 confirmed cases.

At this writing (Monday), worldwide COVID-19 deaths - as a percent of total confirmed cases - stood at 6%; of U.S. cases, the death figure is 3.9% of confirmed cases; of Illinois cases, deaths stood at 3.4% of total confirmed. (In both Illinois and the United States, the virus has infected about 1.6-per 1,000 citizens.)

Fluctuations are expected, of course, but Illinois' relatively lower deaths-per-1,000 cases will be seen as testimony to the leadership of Gov. JB Pritzker, who was one of the first governors to take decisive actions such as closing all schools and venues of large gatherings - and acquiring resources to stem the pandemic.

By the way, this is what it looks like when a nation's leaders dismiss warnings from their scientists, their healthcare providers and their intelligence community professionals. The data in the table below simply lists the ten most populous nations, their COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 deaths, as of Easter Monday:


2020 Population*

Confirmed COVID19 cases

Confirmed cases per 100,000*

Confirmed deaths

Deaths per 100,000*

China 1,439,323,776 83,213 5.78 3,345 0.232
India 1,380,004,385 9,240 0.67 331 0.024
United States 331,002,651 557,590 168.45 22,109 6.679
Indonesia 273,523,615 4,557 1.66 399 0.146
Pakistan 220,892,340 5,374 2.43 93 0.042
Brazil 212,559,417 22,318 10.50 1,230 0.579
Nigeria 206,139,589 323 0.15 10 0.005
Bangladesh 164,689,383 803 0.48 39 0.024
Russia 145,934,462 18,328 12.55 148 0.101
Mexico 128,932,753 4,661 3.61 296


[*Note, calculations are complete to the second decimal point. Sources: https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats8.htm and https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html (data current as of 4/13/2020)]

Yes, these statistics are stunning. In every respect, the magnitude of the crisis is greater in the United States than in the other nine top-ten population countries - combined. The Johns Hopkins dashboard information is beyond dispute. And the calculations were simple, easy to accomplish in an Excel file.

Why use populations as the base? Total numbers of people simply defines the total numbers of infections possible within a country. It's true that demographics also count; the high density of senior citizens in Italy, for example, means that more deaths will happen there than would otherwise be expacted.

It is also true that countries on the African continent seem to have been spared the brunt of the pandemic - so far. How is Russia's relatively modest rates of infection and death explained? Since WWII, no country has invested more resources in intelligence - or listened more closely to its intelligence professionals.

The president's reelection campaign theme seens ti be this: "It could have been worse." The data raises a question: How? It's a shame the candidate to be nominated by Democrats will not inspire voters' confidence by his cognition or his grip on the truth - but he's clearly a safer choice than the unbalanced liar now in office.

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