In-person schooling champion says COVID-era remote learning ‘destroyed the idea of a meritocracy’ in America

Parents on COVID school closures: ‘Keep our kids out of it’

Chicago parents Jackie Spinner and Alberto Molina express concerns over the omicron variant causing public school closures

In-person learning advocate Bethany Mandel feels journalists need to hold the Chicago Teachers Union accountable for contributing to the “destruction of meritocracy” in the United States. 

“They need to actually go to Chicago, get on an airplane, go into neighborhoods in Chicago, and do this thing called journalism,” Mandel told Fox News Digital. 

“Talk to families,” she added before firing off a series of questions she would love to see asked by reporters. “What is this doing to your family, not having your kids in school? How have your kids been for the last two years? What do you think your kids’ lives would have been like if this had not happened? And what has this done to your kids’ future prospects and their potential?” 

Bethany Mandel feels liberal journalists need to "actually go to Chicago" and speak with people directly impacted by remote learning. 

Mandel, a contributing writer to Deseret News and editor of the book publisher “Heroes of Liberty,” feels the COVID pandemic and school closures that coincide with it have “completely destroyed the idea of a meritocracy in America” because children aren’t all receiving the same opportunities. 

“It used to be that you lift yourself up by your bootstraps. If you just studied hard enough and went to school, you could be more than your parents,” Mandel said. 

On Jan. 4, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to switch to remote learning because of increasing coronavirus cases in the area, stating that the union would go back to in-person learning when either coronavirus cases “substantially subside” or the city signs an agreement on “conditions of return.” In response, Chicago Public Schools has canceled classes as city officials and representatives from the Chicago Teachers Union have failed to come to an agreement on coronavirus safety measures. The decision came after two years of various school closings throughout the nation, sparking outrage and especially harming students from low-income families without the technology needed to adapt. 

“I just spoke to a woman in Las Vegas, she pulled her kids out of the Las Vegas schools and put them in private, so they could be in person. They’re going to be OK. That’s because their mom has an extra $40,000 to send them to private school,” she said. “It’s evil, and I don’t use that word lightly. It is unconscionable that they are dooming these kids to a life of God only knows what.”

Mandel homeschools her five children, who don’t have to rely on Zoom and online learning, but she wants her own kids to grow up in a normal society and thinks decisions like the ones made by the Chicago Teachers Union are hurting students across the nation. 

In-person learning advocate Bethany Mandel feels the COVID pandemic and school closures that coincide with it have "completely destroyed the idea of a meritocracy in America" because children aren’t all receiving the same opportunities. 

“This is their generation, and they’re going to have to date people that weren’t allowed out from their house for two years in their formative developmental years,” she said. “My general concern over my children’s wellness is directly impacted by the health and development of everything of their generation.”

Mandel has repeatedly attracted liberal ire for questioning mainstream orthodoxies on coronavirus and schools as early as the first months of the pandemic. Critics frequently dismiss Mandel as incapable of chiming in on the polarizing topic because her own kids are homeschooled. But Mandel, who isn’t the type to back down and regularly confronts her detractors on social media, isn’t concerned and plans to continue to advocate for in-person learning.

“I think it’s sociopathy, honestly, that I am incapable of empathy for children other than my own. That’s crazy,” she said. “I don’t understand how it’s a knock on me because it’s like, ‘How dare you be concerned with children that are not biologically yours?’ Yes, I am concerned with other children and it kind of reflects more on you that you find that so shocking.”

A "closed" sign in front of a public elementary school in Grand Rapids, Michigan in March 2020. 
(iStock)

Last week, Mandel penned a Desert News column, “In the age of omicron, it’s time to change how we talk about COVID-19 testing,” which explained that an obsession with testing is overloading hospitals and creating fear across the country. She understood the country needed testing to prevent the spread of COVID at the beginning of the pandemic, but questioned the goal of keeping it up with vaccines readily available and a variant that appears milder than earlier strands. 

She called to change the conversation around testing, but that’s hardly the only COVID-related topic she has strong opinions on. An avid tweeter, Mandel recently responded to past footage of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky declaring that vaccines no longer prevent transmission of COVID by writing, “Vaccine passports should end today.” 

“The argument for vaccine passports is twofold. One of them is, it coerces people to get vaccinated, which is absolutely true. Is that ethical or even constitutional? I personally don’t think so. I think that people have had ample opportunity to avail themselves of a lifesaving vaccine and if they choose not to, then that’s their choice,” she said. 

“But you know, a lot of the arguments for the vaccine passport is people need to be able to safely go to a restaurant without the person next to them having COVID. Well, the person next to them can now have COVID, and the CDC director acknowledges that fact,” Mandel continued. “So what exactly are we preventing by having a vaccine passport?”

Mandel noted “the conversation has never been about the cost,” but someone pays for vaccine passports, along with non-stop testing, even if the currency isn’t actual cash. 

“We’ve never, in the whole span of COVID, had a cost-benefit analysis of any of these measures … With the testing conversation, the cost is the stress on the health care system. It’s stress on individual families. There’s so much cost involved with these testing regiments, and it’s the same with the vaccine passport,” she said. “It makes it a lot more difficult for small businesses, they have to hire someone to check, and they have the increased risk of violence.” 

Bartenders, restaurant staffers and business owners across the nation have found themselves in scuffles – and sometimes worse – after asking customers to provide proof of vaccination. Mandel feels the extra burden on law enforcement will eventually have major consequences. 

“As police are becoming fewer in number, and we’re having more violent crime, now we’re telling them that they have to direct their police resources towards vaccine enforcement. Does that seem like a really good use of our police resources? I think no,” she said. “That’s not something that liberals are talking about, the fact that we should not be involving police into more nonviolent parts of our daily lives … It’s going to go badly and there will be a George Floyd of vaccine passports. It’s just an eventuality.” 

COVID vaccine mandates have polarized the nation.(Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In recent weeks as the omicron variant surged, more and more liberal reporters and pundits have finally taken notice of the mental toll mandates, restrictions and lockdowns have caused on Americans. Mandel said the shift in coverage has a simple explanation – high-profile liberals began to test positive for the virus, and it stopped being a sign of moral failing in the eyes of the elite.

“They all finally got it … They got it at Christmas parties, and they were like, ‘Oh, that wasn’t such a huge deal, was it? Maybe this isn’t justified anymore,’” Mandel said. “It was one thing when Florida Republicans were getting it, and they were irresponsible or whatever. But now [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] is getting it in Florida, and she’s going to be fine. She’s young, she’s healthy, and she’s vaccinated. That’s what matters.” 

Mandel feels that liberal news outlets such as CNN simply can’t continue to push the narrative that getting COVID is some sort of moral failing when their friends and ideological allies, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have tested positive in recent days. Other high-profile journalists and hosts from liberal outlets such as CNN’s Pamela Brown and Ana Navarro, NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb and “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg have gotten COVID in recent days, too. But despite the virus reaching the liberal elite, Mandel doesn’t expect news organizations to completely ditch the fearmongering anytime soon. 

“They’re afraid to, sort of, contradict themselves and I think that’s been a major problem throughout this pandemic with public trust in any number of people, the media, medical establishment, CDC and FDA,” she said. “No one is ever willing to indicate that they were wrong, so there has been a lot of gaslighting.”

Fox News’ Adam Sabes contributed to this report. 

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