A letterbox with the inscription Letter to the editor

I was born in 1939, and I began kindergarten in South Bend, Indiana, in September 1944. My neighborhood school was six blocks from my home. My mother arranged for me to walk to school with three older neighbor children. World War II was raging; we had blackouts and rationing. My father, a physician, was serving far away in the U.S. Army. 

We children went to school. Five days a week. There were no vaccines for influenza and a variety of childhood diseases: measles, chicken pox, mumps and whooping cough. During my grade-school years, I had all of them. And I recovered. 

Polio was every mother’s nightmare. There was no vaccine, and the disease was crippling and life-threatening. 

Sadly, some children who contracted these diseases died. Vital statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control in 1948, when the U.S. population was 146.6 million, reflect the following deaths nationally: scarlet fever, 68; whooping cough, 1,146; measles, 888, poliomyelitis and polio encephalitis, 1,895. (Table 6- Deaths from selected causes (exclusive of stillbirths or deaths among armed forces). Nevertheless, children went to school. 

If our parents were afraid for us, or for themselves, they never said so. Despite the disruptions and fears caused by the world war, families on the home front carried on, quietly and with patience. And after watching their elders, so did children. 

Today, as school boards cower and citizens fret, wear their masks, and anxiously endure or avoid social contact, I wonder what has happened to my country. 

For many reasons, children need to be in school. We are learning that children have a very low infection rate and do not appear to be transmitters of Covid-19. The odds are with them. The virus, we are told, attacks old people like me. 
More important than our own anxieties are our obligations to the children -- who are watching us and looking to their elders for reassurance. 

We know that many children who don’t go to school and learn in a classroom will suffer intellectual, physical and emotional hardship. Online learning doesn’t work with young children. They need in-person interaction with their teachers and their classmates. If this doesn’t occur, they will be denied an opportunity to grow and fulfill their God-given potential. 

I am grateful for the devotion and care provided to all of us in this time by our health professionals, first responders and law enforcement officers. I am also so very grateful to the many brave essential workers who are transporting food and other necessaries and stocking and staffing our grocery stores and pharmacies. Teachers should also be considered essential workers. I hope they will find a way to continue our children’s education, full time and in person. 

Joan Caton Anthony 


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(8) comments


Wow, guess you walked two miles in the snow, uphill both ways, without shoes, getting to and from school.

I am old, not as old as you. My father too, was an MD, as was his father.

Big difference is that we do now have many effective vaccines for fatal diseases like Polio which killed not “some” but MANY people.

Another difference is this is not the 1940’s, we know a h*ll of a lot more about infectious diseases than we did then.

Wearing a mask is not cowering; it is using the education you want children to acquire so we do not all die due to a pandemic. It is clinically documented to drastically reduce the transmission of the disease.

While children may have a lower death rate from Covid-19, they ARE very effective spreaders of the virus…


How do you feel about the teachers, bus drivers, custodians, administrators, food service personnel? They don’t matter, do they? Kids can teach and drive themselves, right.

As a retired adjunct professor (taught many courses in Developmental Psychology) I am totally in favor of and aware of the need to send our kids back to school, but only when it is SAFE for all!

If your mango messiah had taken this virus seriously from the start, perhaps this could be happening now.


This is exactly the reminder and call to action we need.


This is exactly the sort of thinking that is allowing the virus to gain more & more of a foothold. Please do some intelligent research before making statements that are definitively false. Children can & DO transmit the virus. That's a fact, regardless of how many do not wish to believe it. And while it's true that "most" children tend not to get the virus as seriously as adults, the fact that they can carry it, bring it home, & transmit to the parents &/or other more susceptible relations is a serious consideration to ponder before sending all the little darlings back into packed classrooms.

We can't even get supposed "adults" who are supposed to know better to comply with social distancing & mask-wearing, but we're going to expect children to?

And just because you merrily managed to escape permanent damage & death from contracting all of those delightful childhood diseases doesn't automatically mean such risks are okay for others.


Roughly 6% of all cases are people under the age of 18. Few than that are children under 10. Deaths of children are less than 1%. And there are only a handful of cases worldwide in which a child transmitted the disease to an adult. All of this data is far better than the scenarios people faced decades ago described by the author of this letter -- back when people had a backbone and didn't live in fear.



"What do you have to lose"?



Then keep your kids at home. Nobody is going to force you to put them on the bus. I want my kids back in school.


Pearls before swine...


Thank you for your reminder of the challenges facing us in the past. We can get through this, and the kids need to go back to school.

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