Zoe Williams Dehumanises Schoolchildren, Excuses Mask Mandates

We’re publishing an original essay today by long-standing Daily Sceptic contributor Dr. Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University. It’s a response to a Guardian column by Zoe Williams on January 3rd in which she lauded teenagers for their stoical refusal to “bellyache” and “moan” about mask requirements, which Williams regards as no big deal. Dr. Murphy begs to differ. Here is an extract:

Williams opens her article on the subject of bouncing. She recalls her first trip as a professional journalist to interview a talented young skateboarder who was preparing to enter a competition. As she watched his practice session, during which he “smashed” to the ground many times, Williams reports that his mother observed, “He’s 14. They bounce at that age.”

And so Williams establishes her basic position – that young people bounce back, that young people are “resilient”. It is not an original position: in April 2021, when schools reopened for the second time, the headmaster of my boys’ school decorated his written address to parents with bouncing bunnies and excitedly informed us about the “bounce-back curriculum”.

Like so much of Covid messaging – like the line-drawing signs at the doorways of shops and the simple slogans on government podiums – it is all very cute.

But the cuteness belies a blatant disregard for people aged 11 and over whom Williams and her like so casually lump together as ‘teenagers’, to be chuckled at and then dismissed.

Despite opening her article by recalling the first mission of her professional life, Williams admits that she does not recall its subject – not his name, at any rate, nor even whether he won the competition that he was preparing for and that she was reporting on.

There is nothing much in that, perhaps, except that it anticipates what emerges in her article as Williams’s willful blindness to the fact that those between the ages of 11 and 19 are actual individual people, with names…. and faces… and thoughts and feelings and achievements… of their own.

Williams does not regard young people in this way. To her, young people are “teenagers” carelessly massed and explicitly denigrated. Her house, she writes, is “lousy with teenagers”, revealing her opinion that young people are a kind of parasite whose basic needs the rest of us, including their mothers, must resist.

Williams may end her article by lauding the “maturity” of young people but no closing flourish can undo the lack of care evident in her article.

The fact is, Williams experiences young people as barely individuated instances of a general type. What does it matter what their names are? What does it matter what their faces look like? They are little more to her than an abstract concept.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Vaccine Uptake Has “Stalled” at 55% In 16-18 Year-Olds

Figures suggest that older teenagers might not be as keen about getting vaccinated against Covid as the Government had hoped, with the percentage of 16-18 year-olds who have been ‘jabbed’ remaining fairly flat in recent weeks. MailOnline has the story.

Only around 55% of 16 and 17 year-olds in England had their first dose by September 26th, latest data shows, a number which had barely risen in the previous three weeks.

Meanwhile, fewer than 10% of 12 to 15 year-olds have come forward for their vaccine. But it only includes one week of data from the point when the majority of teens were eligible.

The analysis was revealed in a weekly report by the new U.K. Health Security Agency, which took over axed Public Health England’s pandemic duties today.

It showed that uptake in the age group was sitting at about 20% at the start of August. This shot up to 50% in the three weeks after the roll-out was expanded to all older teenagers on August 19th. But the progress appears to have stalled in recent weeks, rising just five or so per cent in September.

All age groups have seen a natural stagnation in uptake, with the threshold being much higher in older age groups who are most susceptible to getting severe Covid. For example, the ceiling was about 90% in the over-70s and 80% in people over the age of 50.

Experts said they were not necessarily surprised by the plateau. Cambridge University Epidemiologist Dr. Raghib Ali told MailOnline the enthusiasm for jabs in older teenagers was lower because so many have already had Covid “so don’t feel they need to get vaccinated”.

Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, revealed earlier this month that about half of children had caught the virus at some point already and therefore developed some immunity. Official figures today also suggested one in 20 children were carrying the virus on any given day last week.

“There is no doubt that all vaccines in current use are very good at protecting a vaccinated person from getting infected and getting severe disease but a prior infection does that just as well,” according to Professor Paul Hunter, a medical expert at the University of East Anglia.

He told MailOnline: “So ultimately I am not particularly concerned about the current low uptake of the vaccine in this age group.”

Worth reading in full.

Students Need Help Addressing “Socialisation Issues” Following More Than a Year of Lockdowns, Says University Official

Having been cooped up in their bedrooms for much of the past 18 months, teenagers who are about to begin university need help addressing “socialisation issues”, according to an English university official. Universities will also have to give catch-up sessions to help make up for the amount of learning lost during school closures. The i has the story.

Last month, the London School of Economics and the University of Exeter estimated that pupils lost nearly a third of their learning time between March 2020 and April 2021 because of school closures and coronavirus disruption.  

With many schools unable to complete the full A-level curriculum, students were only assessed this summer on the topics they had covered. 

To make sure students will be able to complete their undergraduate courses, universities are therefore having to step in to bridge the learning gaps. 

The elite Russell Group of universities has teamed up with the Open University to launch ‘Jumpstart University’ – a free resource designed to help students settle into university. 

The platform – which is open to students in all universities – has subject-specific courses, and modules on study skills, student life, wellbeing and mental health. …

An official working for a university in the South of England told i that they were expecting to deliver “remedial work with a lot of students”.

“They cannot help but have had some of their intellectual and other development hindered by being at home for two years at such a critical part of their education. 

“We certainly noticed at the start of last year, some students had problems typical entrants didn’t have.” 

With the 2021 cohort experiencing disruption over two school years, catch-up would have to be provided “across the whole year” to make up for the amount of learning lost, they said. 

The source said universities would have to address “socialisation issues” as well as academic study. “If you’re locked away from age 16 to 18… if we’re back to normal by October, you’ve gone from a period of being locked down for almost two years, to something like as much freedom as you’re ever likely to get.” …

With student unions planning traditional freshers’ week activities for the first time since 2019, there are also concerns some students may over-indulge after two school years in which socialising was strictly limited.

Worth reading in full.

Around One in Seven Older British Teenagers Hesitant Over Getting Covid Vaccine, According to New Research

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Covid vaccine hesitancy shows that the hesitancy rate in adults has dropped from nine per cent in February to just four per cent in June. Around one in seven older teenagers, whose views on the vaccine have been studied by the ONS for the first time, have also been found to be sceptical of Covid vaccination.

The Evening Standard has more.

Some 14% of 16-17 year-olds reported vaccine hesitancy when surveyed by the ONS between May and June.

The U.K.’s vaccination programme is currently only open to adults aged 18 and over, and some children in exceptional circumstances, with experts divided on whether children should be jabbed.

The ONS also found that nine per cent of 18-21 year-olds and 10% of 22-25 year-olds reported hesitancy.

Vaccine hesitancy is defined as people who have refused a vaccine, say they would be unlikely to get a vaccine when offered, and those who responded “neither likely nor unlikely”, “don’t know” or “prefer not to say” when asked.

The survey was carried out between May 26th and June 20th and covered 16,180 participants aged 16 and over.

Across all people surveyed, the ONS found the vast majority (96%) reported positive sentiment towards a Covid vaccine, while four per cent reported vaccine hesitancy.

There continue to be sharp differences in rates of hesitancy among different ethnic and religious groups, however.

Some 18% of black or black British adults reported vaccine hesitancy, compared with 11% for adults of mixed background, four per cent for white adults and three per cent for Asian or Asian British adults.

Around one in seven adults (15%) identifying as Muslim showed hesitancy, compared with nine per cent of people identifying as Hindu and three per cent of the Christian group.

Adults in the most deprived parts of England were more likely to report hesitancy than those living in the least deprived areas (eight per cent and three per cent respectively).

If it was just down to parents, most children would “definitely” or “probably” be vaccinated against Covid when offered, according to other research by the ONS.

Worth reading in full.

Young People Told to “Grab a Jab” Without Needing to Make an Appointment This Weekend

The drive to get all British adults vaccinated against Covid is being boosted this weekend with young people being told to “grab a jab” at one of the hundreds of walk-in vaccination clinics across the country without having to make appointments. Some sites, such as football stadiums, are even offering free tours to those who get vaccinated in an effort to increase turnout. BBC News has the story.

Sites will be publicised locally so people can choose the location best for them, or they can type in their postcode to the NHS website to find their nearest site.

Sporting grounds involved in the vaccination drive include the Newcastle Eagles basketball arena, Watford’s Vicarage Road, Birmingham’s Edgbaston cricket ground and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

People who get a vaccine at the Emirates Stadium between now and Monday are being offered a free tour of the stadium as part of their visit.

In addition to mass vaccination centres, there will be buses offering jabs in Dudley, Colchester, Ipswich and several other towns.

Latest Government figures show 43.87 million – 83.3% of the adult population – have received a first dose of a coronavirus jab and 32 million – 60.9% – have had two doses.

The Prime Minister says he hopes two-thirds of the adult population will be fully vaccinated against Covid by July 19th, creating a “wall of immunity” against the virus. If this target is not met, it is possible that the easing of restrictions could be delayed again, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned:

Unless sufficient numbers of Londoners have the jab it makes it more likely that we won’t be able to fully reopen on July 19th. 

I’m determined to have not only as many Londoners [as possible] fully protected but for us to reopen on July 19th. 

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.