We must throw off the shackles of fear for the sake of our children
While the Department for Education plays musical chairs, the authors of The Children's Inquiry argue we have to put children first.
By Liz Cole and Molly Kingsley, authors of new book 'The Children's Inquiry'
Fear has defined the last two years.
Humans are hardwired to fear infectious diseases, but the government turbo-charged fear to ensure compliance with restrictions and silence opponents so effectively, that the nation turned in on itself and, worse, on its children.
Fuelled by that fear, we locked our young in their rooms for days on end, padlocked their playgrounds and stopped them from seeing their grandparents and friends. We tossed their education to one side. A woman in Texas locked her own child in the boot of her car to escape his infection; a university in Manchester barricaded its students into their halls of residence; and a mayor in New York gagged the city’s toddlers with face coverings for months.
We breached our species’ most basic social contract: to protect our young. Sometimes we pushed children’s into harm’s way - mentally and physically - to save ourselves.
We taught children they were “vectors”, “silent spreaders”, “reservoirs of infection”, posing a danger to the adults around them. “You people are just vectors of disease to me, and I don’t want to be anywhere near you, so keep your **** distance,” yelled one university professor in Michigan in January 2022.
By weaponing fear it appears the government managed to terrify itself. Fear fuelled a chain reaction of bad decision after bad decision- school closures, masking of children, pushing a medical intervention they did not need, stigmatisation and suspending vital safeguarding protections. Perhaps society was not as cohesive and child-friendly as some previously imagined.
These decisions leave a debilitating legacy.
Taught that they were responsible for endangering the lives of their elders, many youngsters now have serious mental health problems: post pandemic waiting lists in the UK for children with eating disorders have more than doubled and there are an astonishing one million children waiting for mental health support. Globally, lockdown was associated with an explosion of children acquiring tics and nervous disorders, especially girls. More than half of young people say they’ve lost confidence in themselves. One in four eleven year olds are now obese. Waiting lists for children’s paediatric and intervention services are spinning out of control and this week’s SATS results are yet more evidence, as if any were needed, that we’ve robbed children of the fulfilment of attainment.
Indeed, it’s now painfully apparent that the Government’s pandemic policies have also degraded education itself - some 1.7 million children are now regularly absent from school, equating to one in four compared to one in nine pre-pandemic. Society will live with the consequences of these two desperate years for decades, perhaps longer.
It is vital to acknowledge that fear is an inhibitor of bold, creative thinking and decisions made from a place of fear are smaller and defensive. This shows in education more than any other field, where we lack any sort of long term vision.
We are naive if we think our own fear doesn’t permeate down to our children. Compounding the psychological impacts of teaching kids that they are ‘granny killers’, we have taught them to be scared of life, denying them the chance to make the most of life’s opportunities when actually it was our responsibility to propel them to strike forward.
Had we been guided by courage, not fear, key pandemic decisions would have been transformationally different. We wouldn’t have closed schools, suspended the safeguarding regime for our most vulnerable children, or worn masks around young children (and arguably not at all), and we would not have mandated they masked themselves to protect us.
Many of the scarring harms of the last two years would have been avoided. Children wouldn’t have missed months of learning. We wouldn’t now be lamenting OFSTED reports about children’s delayed physical, social and emotional development. “Children turning 2 years old will have been surrounded by adults wearing masks for their whole lives and have therefore been unable to see lip movements or mouth shapes as regularly,” reads one, before noting that “babies have struggled to respond to basic facial expressions”.
There might even be children who would still be alive today. Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson are two tragically known names, but in fact over two hundred children died behind closed doors during the lockdown period.
As well as the travesty of young lives lost, each of these outcomes has a ripple effect that is felt far beyond the individual - we will be living with the mistakes of our fear-fuelled decisions for the rest of our adult lives, as will our children and, quite possibly, their children. Some additional 700,000 people are thought to have been tipped below the poverty line in the UK as a result of pandemic policies, a figure which includes 120,000 children. It takes five generations in the UK to climb from the bottom rung of the income distribution ladder to merely the average. Uneducated children are more likely to grow to be poorer and unhealthier adults.
As well as what we wouldn’t have done, it’s about what we might have done instead. Imagine if a portion of the (approximately) £350bn frittered on the Covid response was spent building schools, family houses, or new public play spaces, instead of on unusable PPE and vanity hospitals that lay unused? Imagine what the loss of education and confidence starts to look like at a national, let alone global level? Each “lost Einstein”, as Baroness Shafik of the LSE puts it, means Big Ideas that never happened, investments that were never made and economies that didn’t grow. Consider India, where the World Bank warned that by October 2020 school closures had not only cost the Indian economy an estimated £6.5 billion, but that the loss of earnings and skills development is set to devastate economic growth in the long term.
As we write this, the government is in disarray, the education department is playing musical chairs, and an email pops into the UsForThem inbox. It is from a parent, telling us about a school reintroducing restrictions. They will have masks, bubbles, and maybe even remote learning. Our hearts groan. After two years we have shattered any myth that children are resilient, that they can take whatever trampling adults see fit to dole out in the name of fear, and we have shattered the myth that our society can take it.
For the sake of our children, and their children, adults must now reject the shackles of fear.
Molly Kingsley and Liz Cole are co-founders of UsForThem. Their book, The Children’s Inquiry, is for sale through Amazon and and independent book stores.
The fear is still real amongst quite a few people. Unless MSM, politicians and health authorities give information that tallies with real life and proper science, this nonsense will continue for much longer than necessary.
They have created the fear, they should uncreate the fear….good luck🙃
Society has been failing the young for decades, long before Covid blew in. Younger generations cannot differentiate between fact and fantasy, and this has been going on a good long while. How else to explain the dystopic movies featuring 'superheroes' whose moods are dark and depressed, how else to explain Yale students angrily yelling and confronting their professors over which Halloween costumes are deemed culturally correct? Isn't the recent 'alternative sexuality' revolution little more than a primal scream for attention? More tragically, it's hard not to see that 'a plea for attention' plays a role in the recent epidemic of mass shootings.
I do not mean to imply that any of this was done purposefully. I do not mean to imply that at all. What I do mean to assert is that the societal and technological changes over the past few decades have affected all of us, it's a much more complex world we live in - but unknowingly and unintentionally much the brunt of this is being borne by the young.
For far too long, the attitude has been "the kids are all right," that somehow they'll persevere. Covid has amped up the volume to terrifying new levels, as Ms. Dodsworth's clarion call reminds us. Early on, while images of coffins in the streets were still crossing the airwaves, it was already known that the average age of covid death in Italy was over eighty, and not by an insignificant margin. Why on earth were school age children ever dragged into this at all?