Dear Editor

I’ve finally been able to figure out why our nation’s schools are better off without teachers who have chosen not to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. I now understand why it is detrimental for our students to come into contact with unvaccinated teachers.

My “eureka” moment came on reading an open letter from a mother to all the teachers who chose to remain in the classroom. It was published on the NZ Herald website Wednesday. The Herald gave this letter prominence and I can only assume that the owners and editors of said newspaper were as comforted as the writer of this opinion piece after the departure of so many healthy, experienced teachers from our schools. She writes:

“This is a message to the teachers who got the vaccine, from the mother of a child who can’t yet get it.

Much has been said about the teachers who chose not to get vaccinated – despite millions of us all over the world having taken the vaccine, and showing overwhelming proof of its safety and high-level efficacy.

To you – the much larger percentage who chose to take it – thank you.

You will get to continue to teach our children maths, English, PE and whatnot, but you’ve already taught them the most important lesson of all, before even stepping foot in the classroom.

You’ve taught them what it’s like to be compassionate, to think of others instead of just ourselves. You’ve taught everyone what it is like to act with compassion and empathy, to be part of a community – truly part of a community – to care for those who can’t yet protect themselves.

So thank you for staying.”

So that’s it! This is not about keeping our children safe from Covid. Truth be told, they are going to get it sooner or later, as are the staff. It’s only a matter of time. But, not to worry. If the stats show anything at all, the students are likely to get through it just fine.

No, this is not about health at all; it is about character. Those teachers who opted not to receive the vaccine may be outstanding educators and eminently qualified to teach such relatively unimportant subjects as maths, English “and whatnot”, but they score a big Fail in the area of moral character. They lack “compassion and empathy” and they don’t understand what it is “to be a part of a community – truly part of a community”.

But wait, there is more:

“Thank you for teaching our children to trust science.
Thank you for showing our children what it’s like to fulfil your civic duties and your moral duties to fellow humans. Thank you for doing everything in your power to protect them.

The silver lining of this whole thing – if there is any – is that we get to know something fundamental about those who are teaching our children: we get to know that these people, when faced with a choice, chose to protect them…

I’ve heard a lot of comments in the past few days about how much attention has been given to the very minute minority of teachers who chose to quit instead of having the vaccine. While I understand the comments, I also now take comfort in knowing that the reason they’re the ones making the headlines is precisely because they’re the odd ones out. They’re the man biting the dog. They’re news and you’re not. So thank you for staying.

As I prepare to send my daughter into the primary school system, after a few wonderful years of ECE, I am almost pleased I had the chance to see such overwhelming evidence that Aotearoa’s teachers are guided by science and that our kids are in good hands.
The future looks much brighter with people like you guiding it.”

Did you catch that? It is not only the moral character of the teachers that is of paramount concern to this mum. It is their academic credibility. We need to have teachers who are “guided by science”. We certainly do not want to expose our children to teachers who are not “guided by science”. That would be detrimental to their education. We need teachers who will lead and educate our children with a safe pair of hands. Lunatic fringe teachers? Anti-vaxxers? Conspiracy theory nutcases? Flat earthers? Tinfoil hat wearing crazies? Well, no. That’s not the kind of teachers that we want leading and guiding our impressionable children. This mother can rest easy at night knowing that our schools are in “good hands” and that the future looks “much brighter” now that the nutters are gone.

So there you have it. It is not about the health of our children at all. It is about the moral character and educational credentials of those who will guide our nation’s impressionable young people. Those who did not take the vaccine should not have become teachers in the first place. How did the system ever let them in? Even the most robust testing and training procedures are not foolproof. Sometimes dangerous and undesirable people can hide unexposed for years on end in the classroom and do immeasurable harm to vulnerable children.

I’m so thankful that Covid-19 has come along and I’m especially thankful for the government’s “no jab, no job” policy in the realm of education. It’s finally weeded out the undesirables in the classroom and now, at least in the realm of NZ education, we can all look forward to a much brighter future. What a relief to have that sorted out.

Michael Flinn


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