Analysis

LISTEN — Class Disrupted S3 E9: Education Policy Expert John Bailey on What Ted Lasso Can Teach Us About Omicron and Schools

By Michael B. Horn and Diane Tavenner | January 11, 2022

(Michael Marais/Unsplash)

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Class Disrupted is a bi-weekly education podcast featuring author Michael Horn and Summit Public Schools’ Diane Tavenner in conversation with educators, school leaders, students and other members of school communities as they investigate the challenges facing the education system amid this pandemic — and where we should go from here. Find every episode by bookmarking our Class Disrupted page or subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher (new episodes every other Tuesday).

John Bailey, education policy expert and writer of the nightly COVID-19 Policy Update on Substack, joins Diane and Michael to talk about the current state of COVID and schools, Omicron, vaccinations, testing, and more.

Diane Tavenner: Hey, Michael.

Michael Horn: Hey, Diane. Happy new year. Coming off our episode focusing on three wishes for the new year, I am eager to see how many will get realized. But I also hope you had a chance to recharge over the break and not think so much about those wishes.

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Tavenner: Michael, I did have a chance to recharge. As I’ve shared, my son who’s studying abroad this year was home for two short weeks. And because he really wants to be able to head to Germany for his second semester, we made the decision as a family to isolate ourselves, to ensure he would be COVID-free. Given the rapid spread of Omicron, it seemed like the only safe path for us to meet this goal. And as we’ve discussed before, and we’ll do again today, decisions around COVID are so nuanced and personal. But all of that to say, we did get some good down time.

Horn: Well, I’m glad you got the down time. And speaking of that and recharging, as folks who listen know, we never thought we’d be in season three of this podcast, let alone in the third year of schooling impacted by the pandemic. But here we are, and we feel that despite all the challenges, there may be some incredible opportunities to transform schooling more widely.

Tavenner: And on that very note, we’re taking our season three frame of curiosity, trying to answer the big questions of who, what, where, when, why and how of schooling into this new year. And today we wanted to dig into a whole slew of questions that we have, Michael, by inviting John Bailey back on the podcast. For those who haven’t listened to all of our episodes, John is an expert on education policy. He advises a lot of foundations on their philanthropic work in education. He’s a resident fellow at [the American Enterprise Institute], and he writes an incredibly helpful nightly resource and round-up on all things COVID. It’s my daily reading, John. It’s the only thing I read every single day. You can subscribe to it on Substack if you haven’t already. John joined us in season two because he’s probably the best person we certainly know of in the country, on what’s going on at the national level, and inside each of the states and across the country with regards to COVID and schools.

Horn: That’s right, Diane. And with the Omicron variant of COVID sweeping through the country, and schools, once again, they’re in upheaval with questions about testing and all the rest running rampant, we thought it would be helpful to bring John back to kick off the new year, and help establish a set of baseline facts around what we do and don’t know at this stage, to ground all of us, frankly. And so John, welcome back. Thanks for doing this with us.

John Bailey: Oh my gosh, thanks for having me back. I’m sorry I’m back. I can’t wait for the time when we can not talk about COVID, and talk about blended learning or something more optimistic, so thank you.

Tavenner: Well, we are with you on that one and we’re hanging in for that day. But for now, let’s start off with doing a bit of level-setting. Coming off of the winter break, I think most schools are probably scheduled to come off the break today or tomorrow, or in the next few days. What are we seeing across the country, John? What are the broad trend lines in terms of schools, and dealing with this new wave?

Bailey: Yeah, that’s a great question. We’re just beginning to see the first wave of schools closing, closing for different reasons than I think they were closing last year. There was a lot of union pressure last year to close schools, hopefully in some sort of preventative way, to help slow the spread or to help protect teachers. This year, what seems to be happening is that Omicron is spreading so fast, people are testing positive, and often it’s creating a shortage. A shortage of bus drivers, a shortage of custodians, a shortage of school staff and teachers. And so, some of the staff shortages are leading schools to close. But there are still a couple holdouts, Chicago Public Schools, the unions there want greater protections and some other sort of protocols put in place before they bring their teachers back. I think those will be in the minority, but we’re seeing, that’s like the first wave.

But we’re also seeing a lot of confusion. There’s a lot of confusion about what schools should be doing now. Should they be bringing kids back? Should they be testing or not testing? Should they be setting up test-to-stay programs? And honestly, the [Centers for Disease Control] over the holiday break has not been terribly helpful. They’ve given some guidance on quarantines. I think all of us were waiting, because this has been the most disruptive thing for kids, and for families in the fall, was not schools closing, but one case triggering a whole class having to quarantine for up to 14 days.

And so, I think a lot of us were optimistic. Right before the holiday, the CDC lowered the isolation threshold and the quarantine threshold for healthcare workers to seven days, and all of a sudden they came out and lowered it for five days for individuals. And we all thought, hey, that’s going to carry forward to students and to teachers. But for some bizarre reason, the CDC is still saying that in a school setting, kids should quarantine for 10 to 14 days. And that, I think, is just creating a lot of confusion amongst districts, and frankly going to lead to a lot of disrupted learning for a lot of kids this year.

Tavenner: John, everything you’re saying resonates with someone who’s operating a school system right now across a couple of states. We’re committed to being open, we are working hard to being open, and there is a reality over the next month or so, that we’re probably not going to be able to have some of our schools open on certain days, because we literally won’t have enough people to operate them. But that’s really the thing that would stop us from being physically in the building, which feels very, very different than the past.

And then, my team has just been in meetings all morning, as people are really trying to sort through this guidance, and figure out what it actually means. And the timing is certainly not great for schools and school systems, especially when you’ve got people who are totally exhausted already, and needed just a little bit of a break and didn’t get it because they were trying to figure this stuff out. What about shortage of testing materials? Are you hearing that?

Bailey: Yeah. This is — it’s another example where we were all hoping for the best, but not planning for the worst. And there are a lot of schools that had testing kits available to them through the fall, but just didn’t take advantage of them. And then all of a sudden you saw this rush to get testing put in place, and we have a shortage. And that is part because of lack of planning, not just on schools, but on the federal government. The FDA has been incredibly slow at approving a lot of home tests that could be a huge help here right now. In a way that, we’re just seeing kids in the [United Kingdom] get tests that they can take home. And a couple states are doing that, but it’s not a universal sort of experience for everyone.

And so, the shortages are also creating huge problems. Here in [Washington, D.C.], there were just long lines of people waiting to get a [polymerase chain reaction] test. And again, until we can solve some of the testing problems, it’s going to make a reopening, not just for schools, but for a lot of other parts of society, really bumpy and really clumsy.

Horn: Hearing you say that, John, brings up a whole assortment of questions around why we can’t get the agencies to move forward, and some of the supply chain issues and so forth around this. But I want to step back and just do some more grounding and context around the Omicron wave itself, and how this wave is different perhaps from the one dominated by Delta, and the others before that, and what that actually means for the decisions that schools and families are making in real time, as they’re considering what they’re reading or hearing about Omicron specifically.

Bailey: Yeah, it’s a good question. And it’s interesting because I think if we had done this podcast a month ago, the thing that was keeping me up at night wasn’t Omicron, but frankly the Delta wave that had been really shutting down most of Europe. Once again, we in the United States need to be using Europe as the early warning indicator. And we were just seeing huge Delta cases that were closing schools and closing businesses, and with greater restrictions in some places that had not done that during previous waves. And so, the fact that that was the experience over there suggested to me that we were going to have a very rocky winter.

Then Omicron emerged, and I think the concern was that Omicron was going to be more transmissible. The question was whether or not it was going to be more severe, as severe or less severe. And there, we’re now, over the holiday we’ve had six different studies. They’re limited studies, but we’ve had limited studies as well as some data coming out of the U.K. and different parts of Europe, that it does look like Omicron, while it’s more infectious and transmits easier, is more mild. It’s more mild in symptoms. And so that’s promising news, but it’s also a little bit worrisome too, because it means it could still really overwhelm some of our stressed healthcare systems. That again, if you have something that’s double the number of infections, but is still less severe, just by the math, you’re still sending a lot of people into the hospital. And so, I think that’s going to be one of our big concerns.

The other good news is that it does look like the vaccines with a booster give enormous amounts of protection. And it’s a little bit because of the T-cells, the T-cells are like your backup on the immunity side. And so, while it can evade the first level of defense, the T-cells kick in and fight it back, and that seems to be very positive as well. Hopefully we’ll start getting some data here in the United States relatively shortly, but Michael, this goes back to your point. We just have a regulatory body that’s very slow on reporting this data. It’s sad that we have to rely on so many of these studies coming out of the U.K., and Israel and Africa, but we’ll make do with what we can.

Tavenner: Yeah, thank goodness for partners, huh? So John, I’m listening to you and I’m wishing that we could just sort of wipe everyone’s memory. Like, wipe everyone’s memory up until now of anything that they knew or learned about COVID, and then just implant a new set of information of what we know today. Because I feel like so much of the stress, and the frustration, and the grinding and worry, is because people have this whole set of sort of fractured information that’s been accumulating for two years, and they can’t keep it organized.

Which is totally understandable, because literally you have written, I think it’s 404 daily updates. And I’ve read them all, keeping them all straight and saying, “OK, what is true today about COVID?” is incredibly difficult. But you’re probably the best person to be able to do that, so if you put yourself in my seat today as a school leader, what decisions would you make right now, based on what we know today? Not with all that historical stuff, but if we could just start fresh, where would you be focused as a school system, as a school leader, and why?

Bailey: Well first of all, we have abundant studies, research, and then just also experience now, both in Europe as well as the United States, that it is possible to safely reopen schools. That’s no longer a question. We did not see a surge in cases when schools reopened, and we also didn’t see cases slowing down when schools stayed closed. And so, I think that was part of the initial pandemic playbook. When I was working on pandemic policy back in 2006, that was standard. And it’s because you assume that kids are more infectious, and also they’re more at risk. And here it’s been the exact opposite. It’s older individuals that are more at risk, and kids are least at risk.

And it is still unclear whether or not kids transmit the virus at the same rate as adults. In fact, some of the CDC studies were showing that kids are getting infected, but they’re getting infected at home, not at school. And so, I think that that flips the question from should we open schools, to how do we open schools? And there, I don’t think the playbook has changed all that much. It’s still — ventilation is super important, and the fact that schools have 123 billion, more than 123 billion by the way, and still don’t have some of their ventilation issues addressed, is not a lack of resources, it’s a lack of planning. And so, that is hugely important.

Masks, I think, do offer a layer of protection. And this has become quite controversial in areas. Now, more recently, there’s been some good research coming out that shows the higher quality of the masks, you may be able to help step back from universal masking. Meaning that if some kids want to do masks, as long as they’re high-quality, it gives them protection, and that also protects their families, the immunocompromised family members back at home. And so, that’s good.

I think test-to-stay makes a lot of sense. It’s just another way to help minimize the quarantines. And again, that’s a tool that a lot of states and some districts were using last year. And again, the CDC was a little slow in embracing it, and it took them until December to embrace it, but now they’re embracing it. So, that’s an important one.

And then lastly, the vaccines. We just got new data and it shows that they’re immensely safe for teens. I think our biggest issue there isn’t safety, it’s answering parent questions. And unfortunately we just have not seen any sort of campaign led by philanthropy, or the federal government, to just honestly engage parents in a dialogue about what their concerns are, what their questions are, and get those answered.

I think some of the best strategies I’ve seen are school systems not trying to answer it themselves, because parents are going to be like, “You’re a principal. What do you know about epidemiology?” But it’s the simplest thing, it’s talk to your doctor. Because pediatricians across age, across ethnic background, across ideological spectrum, they command trust, they hold the trust of parents, and it de-politicizes it. And I think that the sooner we have those conversations between parents and the pediatricians, we’ll get a whole other level and layer of protection through the vaccines as well. But we have to recognize that there’s a lot of questions, and a lot of nervousness amongst parents, that weren’t there for themselves as adults in terms of considering the vaccine.

Horn: So John, I have a derivative question off that, which is… 

Bailey: That’s like a math question.

Horn: Playing forward, yeah, right. Exactly, I’m going to give you math from Diane’s school. (Joking.) But the question is, as we continue to consume information, because the state of knowledge is going to continue to evolve. The CDC guidance will continue to evolve, perhaps a couple months after maybe it should each time, but it will at some point. So what should we be skeptical of, or wary of as we’re reading all this coverage coming out? I guess the question really gets down to something that Diane’s schools do teach, which is how can we all be better consumers of the information as it’s emerging, to hold it with the right level of faith in it, but also the ability to update it as we learn more?

Bailey: Yeah, that’s a great… You know, it’s funny, I was reflecting on this during the holiday break, it’s strange. The COVID policy update that I do every night, almost every issue there’s at least one other study that comes out, that contributes to our understanding of the severity of the virus, or different types of treatments or what it means for schools. And it just struck me that we don’t have a great system of getting those individual studies synthesized, and into the hands of parents, but also school leaders. You don’t see them ever summarized at the U.S. Department of [Education], rarely at the [National Institutes of Health], and almost hardly ever at the CDC. What you see is the CDC sort of picking the studies that they’re using to base their decisions on.

And so, I think we do have this information void. We have to have a better way of saying, “Here’s a whole series of studies.” Because what’s happening right now is people are going out with a lot of confirmation bias. They’re skeptical of masks, they’ll find five studies that say masks aren’t effective. And if they think masks are the most protective thing, they’ll find five studies that say it. And the thing is, you have to look at the body of evidence and approach it with skepticism, in a sense that it questions and interrogates the data, but not cynically, and not in a way that just sort of tries to confirm our priors already. So, there’s that.

The second thing I would love to see our federal government start doing, is assigning a level of confidence they have to certain findings. The U.K. does this, by the way. They’ll say, I’m making this up a little bit, but for illustration purposes, that the Omicron variant is more mild, and they’ll assign it a medium level of confidence. And I think there’s something about assigning something high, medium, and low confidence, that helps people sort of digest but also weigh the information. Here we’ve turned, quote, the science, into this sort of all… With such an air of certainty, that inevitably chips away at the credibility when the science changes. Because that’s what science does, science is a process. And as other studies come out, as our understanding comes out, or as another variant comes out that acts very differently, our understanding changes. And so, I think we need a little bit more humility in how we talk about this, and I think I would love to start seeing that high, medium, and low confidence, based on the body of research, not just one or two studies.

Tavenner: I love that for so many reasons. One being that, wow, what an opportunity to teach real world science, and to really have people understand that science, like you said, is a process. And the whole point of it is that we’re constantly learning more, and updating our knowledge, and getting better, and using it in different ways along the way. So, I hope people are listening and taking your advice. As we sort of move to wrap up here, John, I’m wondering if this is another wave, Omicron, I want to ask you two questions: one, what do you expect to see in education over the next eight-ish weeks or so, I guess, and what do you hope to see? And are those two things different?

Bailey: Oh gosh, they’re always very different. I hope we see more schools open, and more kids in school. I hope for that. What I’m worried about, and what I think we’re going to see over the span of the next six weeks, is a lot of positive cases that trigger a period of isolation and quarantine, and that disrupt school operations. Because we were having, in some parts of the country, not all parts, but in some parts of the country there were acute staffing shortages. There just weren’t substitute teachers, there weren’t backup teachers. And if you lose a handful of your teachers, it’s very difficult to have kids come in. And so, I’m very worried about that.

And then I’m very worried about the downstream effects of that on families, who were just waking up, and given less than 12 hours notice that, “Hey, your kids have to stay at home for…” And I think there’s such jadedness right now of, it’s all sort of packages like, it’ll only take two weeks. But again, it’s managing expectations. At the end of that two weeks, if we’re still in the surge, they’re going to just extend it again. I think it’s going to really upset, continue to upset a lot of parents there. So, that’s what I’m worried about.

I also, if there’s one other hope, I hope we treat Omicron for what it’s become, which is a stress test. After the financial crisis, we put banks through a stress test, to make sure they have capital and liquidity there should there ever be another crisis, that they don’t need government interventions. And I think what we just have been through is a huge stress test, that if you had a virus that is infectious, do schools have contingency plans for remote learning? Do they have contingency plans for testing? Do they have contingency plans for what happens as school bus drivers test positive? And thankfully, Omicron has not presented itself as a massively more dangerous type of variant. But there is always, as long as there are pools of unvaccinated people in the world, there is always potential that a more dangerous variant could emerge. And so, I hope we’re using this experience to just begin putting in place contingency plans. Hopefully we’ll never have to use them again, but if we do, at least parents and teachers and kids know that there’s some contingencies there for their education, should they need it.

Tavenner: Yeah. Again, what you’re saying resonates. And I think what you’re worried about is going to come true, certainly what I’m seeing and feeling. And building on what you’re saying, you won’t be surprised by this. I know it’s what you get too. The biggest question I keep getting from people is, “When does the pandemic end?” What’s your answer to that question?

Bailey: Oh my gosh, yeah. I wish I knew. Why has it not ended already? Well, it’s interesting. I think there’s three answers to this. The one is really, we’re never going to get to COVID zero. So, the question has always been, when do we transition from this pandemic state of emergency into an endemic? An endemic being where it’s present, it’s an annoyance, but it’s disruptions and risks that you learn to live with, and you navigate through, and it’s very rarely putting you at risk of death.

And there were some people that believed we reached that point, actually with the first Delta wave back in July, where you started seeing a gradual decoupling of hospitalizations and deaths from cases. Cases were going up, but there wasn’t as strong of a correlation between deaths and hospitalizations. With Omicron, that decoupling has even been more extreme, where the cases are exponentially larger, but hospitalization rates and deaths have remarkably stayed relatively consistent. In some cases over in the U.K., they’ve even decreased, and so that’s hopeful. So, maybe Omicron helps usher in to the endemic phase, where this is something we live with every year.

But the other two scenarios, is one where I was just describing, that something else pops up. Maybe in March, maybe in June, maybe next December, that’s a more dangerous variant. And then that does evade the vaccine, and gets around those T-cells that we’ve had. I think that’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible, and so that’s another scenario we have to play for. And then there’s the third one, which I think a lot of us have just gone through, which if you watch on Twitter, it’s just the lived experience of so many people, Omicron was surging, and people just went on with their lives. They’re just done with it. And a lot of behaviors that they were shaming red states for six months ago, all of a sudden they were partaking, in terms of traveling, and visiting with friends and families and celebrations.

It wasn’t everyone, but it’s becoming a growing number of people who are just saying, “Yeah, I’m willing to take the risk.” And I worry a little bit because so many people now know someone who’s been infected because of Omicron, and they’ve all been mild cases. It gives it a little bit of a false sense of confidence, that gosh, it’s not going to be that bad if I get it. And it likely won’t be, but there’s no certainty of that. And you still have a lot of unvaccinated people who are being hospitalized. And for them, this still very much is a pandemic, it’s not endemic for them.

Horn: So John, part of that answer, it seems to me, of moving from pandemic to endemic and decoupling hospitalization rates and so forth from cases, is obviously treatment of COVID, and part of it seems is vaccines, of course, as you’ve said. And on that latter topic, there’s been a lot of questions about vaccine mandates. We’ve seen it about the workforce, we’ve seen it about teachers, staff, and for children it’s coming as well, as a major question.

And as background, an influential functional medicine expert, Chris Kresser, over the break came out with a scathing note about why mandates are not just a bad idea, but immoral, he said, in children ages five through 11. And it was interesting given how pro-vaccine he’s generally been. One piece of his eight part argument rested on one study from early in the pandemic, that children aren’t super contagious to adults. Which means that protecting at risk adults through blanket mandates of children, might not add up. And there’s been a lot of conversation around this, as you alluded to, on Twitter with people in favor of cancellations saying in fact the opposite, that children do spread to vulnerable adults. So I’m just curious your take on both the broad question around vaccine mandates, and what you expect to happen, but also around this question of spread from kids to adults. What are the various shreds of evidence that we’re piecing together on these questions?

Bailey: Yeah, that’s a great question. I personally fall into the camp of it’s too premature to be mandating vaccines for either age group, frankly. In part, because we just haven’t tried to reach parents and answer questions. Again, it’s shocking to me how little outreach there has been. And so, to just jump suddenly to mandating it, frankly I think galvanizes a lot of opposition. And also it’s not really clear the benefits, to your point, I think it’s still an open question about how much kids transmit COVID. And there you also have to put sort of a question mark, because it’s not just COVID, but it’s Alpha, Delta and Omicron. Do kids spread Omicron slightly faster than Delta?

And it doesn’t look like that’s the case, but again, vaccinating kids to protect adults. You have to have really overwhelming, unimpeachable sort of evidence that that’s the case, to justify the mandate, from moral grounds and medical ethics grounds, and just public health grounds. And I don’t think we’re there yet, and I still think if we created more space for parents and for doctors to have a conversation, we’d be getting a lot further along in some of these vaccine and booster conversations than what we have.

I also would love to see, it would just be wonderful, part of the reason we can’t answer some of these questions is because the federal government and many state governments, don’t collect this data. It’s crazy to me that we’re three years into this, and we can’t say on any given day, how many schools are closed, how many kids are impacted, what types of kids are impacted, how many kids are in quarantine, out of the kids that were in the schools that closed, how many wore masks, what was their vaccination rate? This is all pretty basic level data, that again, for 123 billion, most schools should be able to report this up on their website, and public health officials can collect it and do good things with it. And including assessing some of these risks and answering some of these questions. But we’ve been flying blind, and we’ve hurt ourselves. We can’t answer some of these questions, because we just haven’t collected the data and the information to do the really rigorous analysis that you need, to have that sort of firm conclusion.

Tavenner: Oh my gosh, so many good takeaways from this conversation. So many, truly. But so let’s just, as we wrap up, if you had one bottom line conclusion, John, and I feel like you’ve said it but I want to give you one more chance to say it again. Especially in the context of at the top, you said, “I wish we were talking about blended learning or something else.” We’ve been talking completely about COVID, which is what schooling feels like to me. But the reality is, there’s a whole other piece of learning, and children growing and developing, and all of that. And I know you know all of the really tough stats on that. What’s the bigger threat at this point, and where should we be putting our energy? What is your parting thought on how we should be thinking and acting as leaders of school systems?

Bailey: Well, actually I think it goes back to the theme that you picked up for this year, which is curiosity. That anyone I’ve seen that is too self assured, that they understand 100 percent of what works and what doesn’t work, or what this Omicron is doing or not, you just have to question that. This virus has had the ability of creating some deep sense of humility amongst some of the best and brightest minds around the world. And so, that means we all need to take a posture of curiosity, and we need to see what the broad range of data and research is saying. We need to question it with a skeptical mind, a skeptical mind that is open to changing based on what it learns from that questioning.

But without curiosity, I feel like we’ll just fall into confirmation bias, and this will become, it already is this, but this will become even more polarized of an issue in our already polarized society. And we’re going to be radicalized on Twitter and social media, with all the people, all the tribes that agree with the same things that we do, and share the one or two limited studies, but we never had the chance to fully interrogate the full body of research. And so, I would say that in the Ted Lasso spirit, “Be curious, not judgmental.” That’s the Ted Lasso quote, I love that one.

Tavenner: Well, and where this takes me, John, is why Michael and I do this podcast, quite frankly. From the very beginning, our hope has been, if nothing else, will this create the curiosity and the space for us to look at everything we’re doing in education? And really with that learning, and humility, and continuous improvement, and innovation and all of those pieces, to work our way into a system that is more reflective of what our society needs and what our kids need. And so, I feel like that’s the reason we do this podcast, Michael, and the hope that we still have.

Horn: Yeah, no, I think that’s right. And so, as we conclude that part, John, you may recall Diane and I like to end the segment with brief reflection on things we’ve been watching or reading, or things like that. And so I’ll ask Diane first, and then John, if you want to come right afterwards, I’m hoping that you were able to, John, not completely think about your break from the updates, and then your last minute emergency updates that Diane and I clearly both read. But Diane, coming out of break any good reading, or watching, or reflections that you’d want to share?

Tavenner: I did read The Overstory by Richard Powers, which is a novel. I’m a couple years late, it’s a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. And talk about a whole other big challenge that this book tackles, which is certainly climate change through the lens of trees and forests. And so, it’s going to be really hard for me to buy anything for a while, because I’m going to feel really guilty. But really a great story, powerful read.

Horn: John, anything over break that gave you an escape?

Bailey: Escape, you mean besides the U.K. research studies, you’re saying that’s not an escape, Michael?

Horn: You know, it’s up to you. To each person his own…

Bailey: Yeah. So, there’s two books I was reading. First of all, I was late to this because he had come out with a book in the fall, but Scott Gottlieb’s Uncontrolled Spread, which is just a great sort of timeline of the pandemic, but also very thoughtful in interrogating why some of our regulatory agencies are slow moving, in terms of responding with the speed and with the certainty, and the guidance that we need to just function. And so, I found that to be very clarifying.

The other one, which was a book recommended by Emily Oster, was Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted, about a woman who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, and just what that experience was like going through treatment. And all the tensions that put on her family, and her boyfriend, and how she’s living life post that. And so, I found that to just be a beautifully written, it’s heartbreaking, but it’s also just beautifully written. It was another way of helping me to anchor back into an experience.

Horn: That’s terrific. I’ll just say that my few weeks were lots of TV, laughter and skiing. But two books that I finished. One was Adam Grant’s Think Again, and frankly super relevant for today’s conversation, and the importance of thinking like a scientist. And John, even you were talking about the level of confidence labeling on a finding that the UK does, he talks in the book about creating room for doubt, and being honest about complexity or conflicting info. And it actually makes people more credible, not less. Which is so the opposite of what our politics over the last couple decades has been, where we’ve almost thrived off of showing certainty, and not admitting fault, and things of that nature. So, deep reflections on that.

And then the second one was, I finished the first of, I guess, a trilogy that’ll be coming out about the Revolutionary War. Rick Atkins’s The British Are Coming. And that of also has a connection because of smallpox, and a bunch of people not getting vaccinations in the army, plays a role in that as well. So, this topic continues to stay with us, it will continue to stay with us. But John, Diane and I are deeply grateful that you made the time to join us, and help level set us as we kick off into 2022. And for all you listening, thanks again for joining us on Class Disrupted.

Michael Horn is the author of numerous books on the future of learning including Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. He works with a portfolio of organizations to help transform education so that all individuals can build their passions and fulfill their potential.

Diane Tavenner is CEO of Summit Public Schools and co-founder of the Summit Learning Program. She is a life-long educator, innovator, and the author of Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life. 

Disclosure: John Bailey is an adviser to the Walton Family Foundation, which provides financial support to The 74.

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