Dave Grohl — Foo Fighters founder, legendary Nirvana drummer and high school dropout — might not seem like someone who’d care about the national debate about reopening schools for in-person instruction amid the coronavirus outbreak.
But he does. And he has a good reason: His mother was a teacher in public schools for 35 years.
In a powerful essay published Tuesday in The Atlantic — with an audio version posted on the Foo Fighters’ Soundcloud (below) — Grohl spoke out in support of remote learning that will protect teachers and school employees who may be susceptible to COVID-19.
Grohl also took a swipe at President Donald Trump, who threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that remain closed. This is despite the surge in new coronavirus cases across the nation and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say children meeting in groups puts everyone at risk.
“As much as Donald Trump’s conductor-less orchestra would love to see the country prematurely open schools in the name of rosy optics (ask a science teacher what they think about White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s comment that ‘science should not stand in the way’), it would be foolish to do so at the expense of our children, teachers, and schools,” Grohl wrote.
Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also do not have any kind of plan in place as to how schools could reopen safely. DeVos has gone so far as passing the buck to school officials, telling CNN earlier this month that educators “can figure out what is going to be right for their specific situation.”
Grohl pointed out the absurdity of this request.
“Every teacher has a ‘plan.’ Don’t they deserve one, too?” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee wrote.
“My mother had to come up with three separate lesson plans every single day (public speaking, AP English, and English 10), because that’s what teachers do: They provide you with the necessary tools to survive. Who is providing them with a set of their own? America’s teachers are caught in a trap, set by indecisive and conflicting sectors of failed leadership that have never been in their position and can’t possibly relate to the unique challenges they face.”
Grohl also had some fun with DeVos’ extreme lack of qualifications for her position: DeVos never attended, taught or worked in a public school.
“I wouldn’t trust the U.S. secretary of percussion to tell me how to play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ if they had never sat behind a drum set, so why should any teacher trust Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to tell them how to teach, without her ever having sat at the head of a class? (Maybe she should switch to the drums.)”
“Until you have spent countless days in a classroom devoting your time and energy to becoming that lifelong mentor to generations of otherwise disengaged students, you must listen to those who have.”
Grohl also dedicated a large portion of his essay to his now-retired 82-year-old mother, whom he described as someone who “tirelessly devoted her life to the service of others, both at home and at work.”
“From rising before dawn to ensure that my sister and I were bathed, dressed, and fed in time to catch the bus to grading papers well into the night, long after her dinner had gone cold, she rarely had a moment to herself,” Grohl wrote. “All this while working multiple jobs to supplement her meager $35,000 annual salary.”
Despite this grueling lifestyle, Grohl’s mom was “invested in the well-being of each and every student who sat in her class,” he wrote.
He recalled moments from his life when his mother’s former students would bump “into her at the grocery store” and erupt “into a full recitation of Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ like a flash mob in the produce aisle.”
“It takes a certain kind of person to devote their life to this difficult and often-thankless job,” Grohl wrote of his mom, who “will forever be my favorite teacher.”
But he also explained why he thinks teachers do what they do.
“Teachers want to teach, not die, and we should support and protect them like the national treasures that they are. For without them, where would we be?”
Read the entire essay at The Atlantic.