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Nate Silver prompts outrage by likening school closures to the Iraq War

Nate Silver prompts outrage by likening school closures to the Iraq War
‘Imagine how little value you have to place on the lives of Iraqi people to compare American kids having to learn on zoom to Iraqi kids literally dying,’ one journalist wrote in response

Nate Silver has come under fire for comparing the decision to close schools because of the spread of Covid-19 with the decision to go to war in Iraq.

The FiveThirtyEight statistician was commenting on the decision made by some schools to have students once again be taught remotely because of the rising caseloads prompted by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan said it was “insane” for Mr Silver to juxtapose “school closures to protect kids and teachers from a deadly virus, to a war of choice that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Ladies and gents, we may have the worst take of 2022 already”.

Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery tweeted that there was a lot of “liberal pundit handwringing to the effect of ‘we can close schools now that we know of the great harms to kid’s mental health’”.

“Is anyone pushing closures that aren’t solely prompted by staff shortages due to their own infections?” she asked.

Ms Jeffrey added that “pundits seem to be fighting the last war. Excepting [the San Francisco Unified School District]”. Officials there want schools to remain open. “Even SFUSD isn’t headed toward indefinite closures,” she said.

“Suppose you think that school closures were a disastrous, invasion-of-Iraq magnitude (or perhaps greater) policy decision. Shouldn’t that merit some further reflection?” Mr Silver responded.

“You think this was a policy decision… equivalent to the deaths of 460,000 people and the destabilizing of an entire region and…do you think parents and educators have not been reflecting?” Ms Jeffrey replied.

“Yeah, I think depriving tens of millions of school children of an in-person education for a year or longer is absolutely [of] that magnitude. No question,” Mr Silver tweeted.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Silver for comment.

Journalist James Fallows wrote that “school closures were a mistake” but added it was decided in “conditions of genuine fluid uncertainty. Nothing about Iraq decision is comparable”.

“Sometimes, large mistakes are made under conditions of uncertainty, even by good, well-meaning people,” Mr Silver responded.

“The evidence points toward this being a really bad decision. And it’s a high-stakes, tantamount-to-going-to-war decision,” he added.

“I finally saw the Nate Silver tweet, which is so grotesque that it’s time for bed,” TV critic Roxana Hadadi wrote.

“There’s no comparison between the immediate consequences of school closures, serious though they’ve been, and the immediate consequences of the Iraq War,” author James Surowiecki added.

“One involves depriving children of school. The other involves a barbarous invasion that killed children, starved children, irradiated children, maimed children, what a stupid f**king take,” Journalist Edward Ongweso Jr tweeted.

“Imagine how little value you have to place on the lives of Iraqi people to compare American kids having to learn on zoom to Iraqi kids literally dying. Nate Silver should never ever be taken seriously again. That tweet is sociopathic,” journalist Imani Gandy wrote.

Chicago Public Schools recently cancelled the return to the classroom after the teacher’s union voted to go back to remote teaching. Atlanta Public Schools have decided to stay remote for the first week in January.

“We have no reason to think at this point that omicron is worse for children than previous variants. We know that our kids can be safe when in school by the way. That’s why I believe schools should remain open. They have what they need,” President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.