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Brownstone Institute

Listen to the Kids


17 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute


People often ask me why I still care about school closures and other covid restrictions that harmed a generation of children. “Schools are open now,” they say. “It’s enough already.”

No. It’s not. The impact to this generation of children continues. And so do many of the restrictions impacting young people.

It was just this week that New York City public schools lifted the ban on unvaccinated parents entering public school buildings.

This meant a parent who was unvaccinated could not attend a parent-teacher conference in person. Or watch their child play basketball. They could, however, attend a Knicks’ game at Madison Square Garden with 20,000 other basketball fans. This rule seemed designed specifically to punish children.

Colleges are some of the last places requiring vaccination — even boosters, in some instances, like at Fordham University. These young adults are least at risk from covid, most at risk from vaccine-induced myocarditis and are some of the last Americans required to be boosted. It makes no sense.

Rather than do my own rant about why I still care about the lasting harm done to children, I’d like to let the kids and parents speak for themselves.

The teens and parents cited below are all featured in a documentary film I’m making. I want their stories told. This all needs to be documented because the narrative is already shifting:

Yeah schools shouldn’t have been closed so long but how could we have known! It’s over now. Time to move on.”

Let’s declare an amnesty. We need to forgive the hard calls people needed to make without enough information. Good people did the best they could!

The open-schoolers may have been right but for the wrong reasons so they’re still terrible people. And besides it’s not a competition! No gloating! Let’s focus on the future!

But it’s not over. The kids are not alright. And there is insufficient focus on how to reintegrate them and help them recover. This article, from the New York Times on January 27, lays bare the harms done, the possible lifetime effects, and the lack of attention and care being paid to helping kids recover:

I will continue to advocate for them, to tell their stories, to try to get them the help they still need and deserve. And to ensure this never happens again.

It’s time we listened to the children and parents impacted.

Garrett “Bam” Morgan, Jr., high school student. Astoria Queens, NY:

“I was so upset. Why is it that someone who pays for school and has more money to throw around . . .why do they get to play football? And I don’t. What is the difference? Because we’re playing the same sport. It’s not like they’re playing something totally drastically different. It’s the same sport. We’re doing the same things, and they get to practice, they get to play. And I don’t, and for me it was just like, why? Why me? Why my teammates? Why is it that we don’t get to have fun? Why is it that we don’t get to play the sport that we love too? How am I going to get into a college if I don’t have a junior year of football?

“I was gaining weight. And I was getting in a place where I had to start thinking of alternatives to football, thinking of life without football. Then I would try and go out and play with my friends, towards 2021 when it started to become, okay, you can somewhat go out, just stay socially distanced. But by that time, the damage was done, right?”

Scarlett Nolan, high school student. Oakland, CA:

“I didn’t make any new friends. No one did. I mean, how could you, you’re just talking to literal black boxes on a computer.”

“I don’t wanna blame it all on school closures, but it’s been a really, really big thing for me. That’s changed my life so much. That’s not how it’s supposed to go in school. You’re supposed to have school. It’s supposed to be your life. School is supposed to be your life from kindergarten to senior year. And then you go to college if you want, but that’s supposed to be your life. That’s your education. You have your friends there, you find yourself there. You find how you wanna be when you grow up there. And without that, I lost who I was completely. Everything who I was. I wasn’t that person that worked to get straight A’s anymore. I didn’t care. I was just sad.”

Ellie O’Malley, Scarlett’s mom. Oakland, CA:

“She had finished her eighth grade. She had missed everything. She’d missed her graduation. She’d missed this trip to Washington. And then she started her new school [high school] on-line. [She was] very disengaged, never saw people’s faces, no one had the camera on. I mean it was school in like the thinnest most loose [sense] of the word. For the most part it was pretty dire and terrible. By January 2021, she really just no longer had the motivation to do it. She wasn’t getting out of bed. She was really depressed at that point.”

“A lot of it was just mental health, suicidal tendencies, self-harm. The first time Scarlett went to hospital, she kind of had a bit of a nervous breakdown. I’d never experienced that. She was screaming and clawing at herself. And we were like, what do we do? What do we do?”

Miki Sedivy, a mom who lost her teenaged daughter Hannah to an accidental drug overdose in 2021. Lakewood, CO:

“You’re taking children out of their natural environment of playing with each other, interacting socially and learning coping skills by interacting with other children. And when you take all of that away and all of a sudden these kids are in isolation, they mentally don’t know how to handle it. We can go [through] short times of isolation, but we’re talking a year and a half. [That’s] of a lot of isolation.”

Jennifer Dale. Her 11-year-old daughter has Down syndrome. Lake Oswego, OR. 

“The school closures were devastating for her. I don’t think I realized it at first. At first I thought it was safer. Lizzie, a child with Down syndrome, was probably more susceptible to a respiratory virus. She’s had more respiratory issues than her siblings. So at first I thought it was the right thing to do As time went on, I don’t think people realized how isolated she was. She doesn’t have a means of reaching out and saying Hey, how you doingI miss you. I wanna see you.

“What Lizzie really needs is to look at her peers and how are they zipping up their jacket, or how are they coming in in the morning and making a food selection for lunch. That peer interaction and that peer role modeling is some of the best learning that my daughter can experience. But that role modeling is gone. When you’re online she doesn’t get to see what the other kids are doing. She wasn’t out seeing people. Nobody knew that she was struggling. It was all in our house. It was impossible for a young person with cognitive delays to understand why, why was the world suddenly closed? Why suddenly could I not see my friends? Why am I only seeing them on a screen and how do I interact?”

Am’Brianna Daniels, high school student. San Francisco, CA. 

“As time moved on, like later in the year, I started to realize I really wanted to be back in school. I was 24/7 [on Zoom] and I think that’s what took a toll on me. . . I actually stayed doing Zoom in my living room that way I wasn’t tempted to fall asleep or anything. This did not help. I still did fall asleep sometimes.”

“I had like very little motivation to actually get up, get on Zoom and attend class. And then I think coming up on the year anniversary of the initial lockdown and then the lack of social interaction is kind of what took a toll on my mental health since I am such a social person. And so it really got to a point where I was just not going to class.”

“And it got really bad to the point where I was either over-eating or just not eating very much, and I was kind of dehydrated during my depressive moods. And eventually I did get in contact with the therapist. It helped a little bit, but not to the extent that I would have hoped.

Nelson Ropati, high school student. San Francisco, CA. 

“I just didn’t like staring at a screen for an hour for class. I just couldn’t do it. I would fall asleep or just lose focus easily.”

“It wasn’t really mandatory to go to class. So I ain’t gonna lie. I didn’t really go to class the rest of my junior year when covid hit and they kind of just passed everyone.”

Lorna Ropati, Nelson’s mom. San Francisco, CA. 

“I felt bad for him because then that’s when he started doing nothing else, but just like eating. I said you’re not hungry. It’s just a habit. Don’t go to the fridge. He just mainly stayed home and did whatever he could through his on-line courses and just stayed home. I think he didn’t go out of the house at one point for six months. He didn’t go nowhere. He never even stepped out of the house. So that was not good. I said, you need to get out, you need to stop being in this little shell and bubble that you’re in. It’s okay. You can go out.”

Jim Kuczo, lost his son Kevin to suicide in 2021. Fairfield, CT. 

“Well we were very concerned because of the grades — that was the tip off. But again, it was hard because you can’t go out with your friends. We were concerned. We asked the guidance counselor and the therapist, is he suicidal? They said no.”

“You cannot treat kids like prisoners and expect them to be okay. I think that we, our leaders, put most of the burden on children.”

“I went through lots of guilt — what did I do to cause my son to kill himself.”

Kristen Kuczo, Kevin’s mom. Fairfield, CT. 

“He [Kevin] wound up not playing football and then we kind of just started noticing he just was doing less and less. His grades were starting to drop. Really the biggest red flag for me was the grades dropping.”

“The day after he took his life, I was supposed to be having a meeting with the guidance counselors and we were looking into getting him a 504, which would allow him extra time to do things and possibly on exams. We were pursuing that as a possibility to try to help support him in the school setting. Because he had spoken to us about having trouble focusing and feeling like he just couldn’t do it.”

“All these doctors, they weren’t taking anybody. They weren’t taking patients because they were full. They didn’t have any space to take on new clients. It was shocking. So I didn’t have an appointment with a psychiatrist until about a week and a half after Kevin passed.”

I’ll leave you with a few words from Garrett Morgan, Jr. He’s struggling to get his life back on track. To get his grades back up. To lose the 80 pounds he gained. To get back in shape. To play football again. To get that college scholarship.

He’s a fighter. And I have confidence he’ll succeed. But he won’t forget what he and his peers lost, what was taken from them, and how much tougher his road ahead is because of it.

“This is something that my generation will not forget. This is also something that my generation will not forgive. The memories that we have lost, the experiences that we have lost, the skills that we have lost because of covid. And now we have to regain that and go out into the world. It is going to be something that will define us.”

Reposted from the author’s Substack


Jennifer Sey is filmmaker, former corporate executive, and author of Levi’s Unbuttoned.

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Brownstone Institute

Sorry, This Is Not Going Away

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute


The kids are two years behind in education. Inflation still rages. White-collar jobs are disappearing thanks to the reversal of Fed policy. Household finances are a wreck. The medical industry is in upheaval. Trust in government has never been lower.

Major media too is discredited. Young people are dying at levels never seen. Populations are still on the move from lockdown states to where it is less likely. Surveillance is everywhere, and so is political persecution. Public health is in a disastrous state, with substance abuse and obesity all at new records.

Each one of these, and many more besides, are continued fallout from the pandemic response that began in March 2020. And yet here we are 38 months later and we still don’t have honesty or truth about the experience. Officials have resigned, politicians have tumbled out of office, and lifetime civil servants have departed their posts, but they don’t cite the great disaster as the excuse. There is always some other reason.

This is the period of the great silence. We’ve all noticed it. The stories in the press recounting all the above are conventionally scrupulous about naming the pandemic response much less naming the individuals responsible. Maybe there is a Freudian explanation: things so obviously terrible and in such recent memory are too painful to mentally process, so we just pretend it didn’t happen. Plenty in power like this solution.

Everyone in a position of influence knows the rules. Don’t talk about the lockdowns. Don’t talk about the mask mandates. Don’t talk about the vaccine mandates that proved useless and damaging and led to millions of professional upheavals. Don’t talk about the economics of it. Don’t talk about collateral damage. When the topic comes up, just say “We did the best we could with the knowledge we had,” even if that is an obvious lie. Above all, don’t seek justice.

There is this document intended to be the “Warren Commission” of Covid slapped together by the old gangsters who advocated for lockdowns. It is called Lessons from the Covid War: An Assessment. The authors are people like Michael Callahan (Massachusetts General Hospital), Gary Edson (former Deputy National Security Advisor), Richard Hatchett, (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), Marc Lipsitch (Harvard University), Carter Mecher (Veterans Affairs), and Rajeev Venkayya (former Gates Foundation and now Aerium Therapeutics).

If you have been following this disaster, you know at least some of the names. Years before 2020, they were pushing lockdowns as the solution for infectious disease. Some claim credit for having invented pandemic planning. The years 2020-2022 was their experiment. As it was ongoing, they became media stars, pushing compliance, condemning as disinformation and misinformation anyone who disagreed with them. They were at the heart of the coup d’etat, as engineers or champions of it, that replaced representative democracy quasi-martial law run by the administrative state.

The first sentence of the report is a complaint:

 “We were supposed to lay the groundwork for a National Covid Commission. The Covid Crisis Group formed at the beginning of 2021, one year into the pandemic. We thought the U.S. government would soon create or facilitate a commission to study the biggest global crisis so far in the twenty-first century. It has not.”

That is true. There is no National Covid Commission. You know why? Because they could never get away with it, not with legions of experts and passionate citizens who wouldn’t tolerate a coverup.

The public anger is too intense. Lawmakers would be flooded with emails, phone calls, and daily expressions of disgust. It would be a disaster. An honest commission would demand answers that the ruling class is not prepared to give. An “official commission” perpetuating a bunch of baloney would be dead on arrival.

This by itself is a huge victory and a tribute to indefatigable critics.

Instead, the “Covid Crisis Group” met with funding from the Rockefeller and Charles Koch Foundation and slapped together this report. Despite being celebrated as definitive by the New York Times and Washington Post, it has mostly had no impact at all. It is far from obtaining the status of being some kind of canonical assessment. It reads like they were on deadline, fed up, typed lots of words, and called it a day.

Of course it is whitewash.

It begins with a bang to denounce the US policy response: “Our institutions did not meet the moment. They did not have adequate practical strategies or capabilities to prevent, to warn, to defend their communities, or fight back in a coordinated way, in the United States and globally.”

Mistakes were made, as they say.

Of course the upshot of this kvetching is not to criticize what Justice Neil Gorsuch calls “the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country.” They hardly mention those at all.

Instead they conclude that the US should have surveilled more, locked down sooner (“We believe that on January 28 the U.S. government should have started mobilizing for a possible Covid war”), directed more funds to this agency rather than that, and centralized the response so that rogue states like South Dakota and Florida could not evade centralized authoritarian diktats next time.

The authors propose a series of lessons that are anodyne, bloodless, and carefully crafted to be more-or-less true but ultimately structured to minimize the sheer radicalism and destructiveness of what they favored and did. The lessons are cliches such as we need “not just goals but roadmaps,” and next time we need more “situation awareness.”

There is no new information in the book that I could find, unless something is hidden herein that escaped my notice. It’s more interesting for what it does not say. Some words that never appear in the text: Sweden, Ivermectin, Ventilators, Remdesivir, and Myocarditis.

Perhaps this gives you a sense of the book and its mission. And on matters of the lockdowns, readers are forced to endure claims such as “all of New England — Massachusetts, the city of Boston, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine — seem to us to have done relatively well, including their ad hoc crisis management setups.”

Oh really! Boston destroyed thousands of small businesses and imposed vaccine passports, closed churches, persecuted people for holding house parties, and imposed travel restrictions. There is a reason why the authors don’t elaborate on such preposterous claims. They are simply unsustainable.

One amusing feature seems to me to be a foreshadowing of what is coming. They throw Anthony Fauci under the bus with sniffy dismissals: “Fauci was vulnerable to some attacks because he tried to cover the waterfront in briefing the press and public, stretching beyond his core expertise—and sometimes it showed.”

Oooo, burn!

This is very likely the future. At some point, Fauci will be scapegoated for the whole disaster. He will be assigned to take the fall for what is really the failure of the national security arm of the administrative bureaucracy, which in fact took charge of all rule-making from March 13, 2020, onward, along with their intellectual cheerleaders. The public health people were just there to provide cover.

Curious about the political bias of the book? It is summed up in this passing statement: “Trump was a comorbidity.”

Oh how highbrow! How clever!

Maybe this book by the Covid Crisis Group hopes to be the last word. This will never happen. We are only at the beginning of this. As the economic, social, cultural, and political problems mount, it will become impossible to ignore the incredibly obvious. The masters of lockdowns are influential and well-connected but not even they can invent their own reality.


  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

The Best Life Lesson for a Teen Is a Job

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute


During the Covid debacle, kids were locked out of school or otherwise condemned to an inferior Zoom education for up to two years. What were the alternatives? Unfortunately, since the New Deal, the federal government has severely restricted teenagers’ opportunities for gainful employment. But new evidence proves that keeping kids out of work doesn’t keep them out of mental health trouble.

Yet suggesting that kids take a job has become controversial in recent years. It is easy to find expert lists on the dangers of teenage employment. Evolve Treatment Center, a California therapy chain for teenagers, recently listed the possible “cons” of work:

  • Jobs can add stress to a child’s life.
  • Jobs can expose kids to people and situations they might not be ready for.
  • A teen working a job might feel like childhood is ending too soon.

But stress is a natural part of life. Dealing with strange characters or ornery bosses can speedily teach kids far more than they learn from a droning public school teacher. And the sooner childhood ends, the sooner young adults can experience independence – one of the great propellants of personal growth.

When I came of age in the 1970s, nothing was more natural than seeking to earn a few bucks after school or during the summer. I was terminally bored in high school and jobs provided one of the few legal stimulants I found in those years.

Thanks to federal labor law, I was effectively banned from non-agricultural work before I turned 16. For two summers, I worked at a peach orchard five days a week, almost ten hours a day, pocketing $1.40 an hour and all the peach fuzz I took home on my neck and arms. Plus, there was no entertainment surcharge for the snakes I encountered in trees while a heavy metal bucket of peaches swung from my neck.

Actually, that gig was good preparation for my journalism career since I was always being cussed by the foreman. He was a retired 20-year Army drill sergeant who was always snarling, always smoking, and always coughing. The foreman never explained how to do a task since he preferred vehemently cussing you afterwards for doing it wrong. “What-da-hell’s-wrong-with-you-Red?” quickly became his standard refrain.

No one who worked in that orchard was ever voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” But one co-worker provided me with a lifetime of philosophical inspiration, more or less. Albert, a lean 35-year-old who always greased his black hair straight back, had survived plenty of whiskey-induced crashes on life’s roller coaster.

Back in those days, young folks were browbeaten to think positively about institutions that domineered their lives (such as military conscription). Albert was a novelty in my experience: a good-natured person who perpetually scoffed.  Albert’s reaction to almost everything in life consisted of two phrases: “That really burns my ass!” or “No Shit!”

After I turned 16, I worked one summer with the Virginia Highway Department. As a flag man, I held up traffic while highway employees idled away the hours. On hot days in the back part of the county, drivers sometimes tossed me a cold beer as they passed by. Nowadays, such acts of mercy might spark an indictment. The best part of the job was wielding a chainsaw—another experience that came in handy for my future career.

I did “roadkill ride-alongs” with Bud, an amiable, jelly-bellied truck driver who was always chewing the cheapest, nastiest ceegar ever made—Swisher Sweets. The cigars I smoked cost a nickel more than Bud’s, but I tried not to put on airs around him.

We were supposed to dig a hole to bury any dead animal along the road. This could take half an hour or longer. Bud’s approach was more efficient. We would get our shovels firmly under the animal—wait until no cars were passing by—and then heave the carcass into the bushes. It was important not to let the job crowd the time available for smoking.

I was assigned to a crew that might have been the biggest slackers south of the Potomac and east of the Alleghenies. Working slowly to slipshod standards was their code of honor. Anyone who worked harder was viewed as a nuisance, if not a menace.

The most important thing I learned from that crew was how not to shovel. Any Yuk-a-Puk can grunt and heave material from Spot A to Spot B. It takes practice and savvy to turn a mule-like activity into an art.

To not shovel right, the shovel handle should rest above the belt buckle while one leans slightly forward. It’s important not to have both hands in your pockets while leaning, since that could prevent onlookers from recognizing “Work-in-Progress.” The key is to appear to be studiously calculating where your next burst of effort will provide maximum returns for the task.

One of this crew’s tasks that summer was to build a new road. The assistant crew foreman was indignant: “Why does the state government have us do this? Private businesses could build the road much more efficiently, and cheaper, too.” I was puzzled by his comment, but by the end of the summer I heartily agreed. The Highway Department could not competently organize anything more complex than painting stripes in the middle of a road. Even the placement of highway direction signs was routinely botched.

While I easily acclimated to government work lethargy, I was pure hustle on Friday nights unloading trucks full of boxes of old books at a local bindery. That gig paid a flat rate, in cash, that usually worked out to double or triple the Highway Department wage.

The goal with the Highway Department was to conserve energy, while the goal at the book bindery was to conserve time—to finish as quickly as possible and move on to weekend mischief. With government work, time routinely acquired a negative value—something to be killed.

The key thing kids must learn from their first jobs is to produce enough value that someone will voluntarily pay them a wage. I worked plenty of jobs in my teen years – baling hay, cutting lawns, and hustling on construction sites. I knew I’d need to pay my own way in life and those jobs got me in the habit of saving early and often.

But according to today’s conventional wisdom, teenagers should not be put at risk in any situation where they might harm themselves. The enemies of teenage employment rarely admit how the government’s “fixes” routinely do more harm than good. My experience with the highway department helped me quickly recognize the perils of government employment and training programs.

Those programs have been spectacularly failing for more than half a century. In 1969, the General Accounting Office (GAO) condemned federal summer jobs programs because youth “regressed in their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for wages paid.”

In 1979, GAO reported that the vast majority of urban teens in the program “were exposed to a worksite where good work habits were not learned or reinforced, or realistic ideas on expectations in the real world of work were not fostered.” In 1980, Vice President Mondale’s Task Force on Youth Unemployment reported, “Private employment experience is deemed far more attractive to prospective employers than public work” because of the bad habits and attitudes spurred by government programs.

“Make work” and “fake work” are a grave disservice to young people. But the same problems permeated programs in the Obama era. In Boston, federally-subsidized summer job workers donned puppets to greet visitors to an aquarium. In Laurel, Maryland, “Mayor’s Summer Jobs” participants put in time serving as a “building escort.” In Washington, D.C., kids were paid to diddle with “schoolyard butterfly habitats” and littered the streets with leaflets about the Green Summer Job Corps. In Florida, subsidized summer job participants “practiced firm handshakes to ensure that employers quickly understand their serious intent to work,” the Orlando Sentinel reported. And folks wonder why so many young people cannot comprehend the meaning of “work.”

Cosseting kids has been a jobs program for social workers but a disaster for the supposed beneficiaries. Teen labor force participation (for ages 16 to 19) declined from 58 percent in 1979 to 42 percent in 2004 and roughly 35 percent in 2018. It’s not like, instead of finding a job, kids stay home and read Shakespeare, master Algebra, or learn to code.

As teens became less engaged in society via work, mental health problems became far more prevalent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in “the 10 years leading up to the pandemic, feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness—as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors—increased by about 40 percent among young people.”

The troubled teen years are producing dark harvests on campus.  Between 2008 and 2019, the number of undergraduate students diagnosed with anxiety increased by 134 percent, 106 percent for depression, 57 percent for bipolar disorder, 72 percent for ADHD, 67 percent for schizophrenia, and 100 percent for anorexia, according to the National College Health Assessment.

Those rates are much worse post-pandemic. As psychiatrist Thomas Szasz observed, “The greatest analgesic, soporific, stimulant, tranquilizer, narcotic, and to some extent even antibiotic – in short, the closest thing to a genuine panacea – known to medical science is work.”

Those who fret about the dangers that teens face on the job need to recognize the “opportunity cost” of young adults perpetuating their childhood and their dependence. Sure, there are perils in the workplace. But as Thoreau wisely observed, “A man sits as many risks as he runs.”


  • James Bovard

    James Bovard, 2023 Brownstone Fellow, is author and lecturer whose commentary targets examples of waste, failures, corruption, cronyism and abuses of power in government. He is a USA Today columnist and is a frequent contributor to The Hill. He is the author of ten books.

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