I Used to Like Dr. Oz, But Now He's Coming for the Children

Apr 17, 2020 12:00:00 AM


Dr. Mehmet Oz says we need our mojo back! This week he appeared on “The Sean Hannity Show” to pontificate a possible plan for the re-opening of America after COVID-19 closed schools and businesses, sent the economy into a tailspin and kept most people safely sheltered inside their homes for the past month. 

First, Dr. Oz said the quiet part out loud—he recognized that our schools are critical to the nation. We’ve got a lot of work to do in our public schools. That said, [pullquote position="right"]schools and teachers do much more than educate.[/pullquote] They connect students and families with resources in the community, they help keep kids healthy, they provide child care for working parents, they provide a safe place for kids growing up in hostile environments, and, for kids living on the margins, schools are a consistent and reliable place to access a few healthy meals each day. And these are just a few of the functions of school in our society. So, damn right, Dr. Oz! Schools are critical to the health of this nation. 

But then Dr. Oz went straight off the rails! 


As citizens everywhere run low on resources, high on anxiety and grow tired of the uncertainty of a “semi-quarantined life,” some are pushing hard to get back to normal—in spite of warnings from health and safety experts. Citizens stormed Michigan’s capitol this week in protest of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions. A similar protest is in the works in Pennsylvania, where the General Assembly recently passed Senate Bill 613 to expand essential businesses and allow them to reopen—a bill Governor Tom Wolf plans to veto. Why? Because it’s not safe to get back to business as usual just yet.


And even as many states move to extend coronavirus school closures through the end of the year for the health and safety of students, teachers and staff, and colleges begin to make decisions about whether or not they will open campuses in the fall, Dr. Oz seems to think “schools are a very appetizing opportunity” to start re-opening America. After all, “the opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3%, in terms of total mortality. And, you know, any life is a life lost, but...that might be a tradeoff some folks would consider."

Who, Dr. Oz? [pullquote]Who thinks putting our kids at risk is a good tradeoff for firing up the economy?[/pullquote]

Taken on its face, this comment suggests that a loss of 2-3% of American students—roughly 1,120,000 to 1,680,000 kids—is an acceptable loss. If we’re generous in our interpretation, that number might prove lower when we consider these acceptable deaths might also include teachers, administrators, councilors, school staff, bus drivers and more. A little more generous—perhaps Dr. Oz meant an increase of 2-3% in mortality overall, which is closer to the argument in the British medical journal, The Lancet, he cited during his chat with Sean Hannity. So ... it’s not all kids. 


Sorry, Oz. That doesn’t make it better. 

Later, he dialed it back a bit after his comments provoked some backlash.


Dr. Oz didn’t mean to upset anyone. He “misspoke.” Who knew people would get so bent out of shape about that kind of thing.

Actually, you didn’t misspeak. You said what you said. And no, Dr. Oz—we’re not willing to trade the health and safety of our children for a political agenda. No unnecessary death is acceptable. Don’t get it twisted. 

Lisa Hollenbach

Lisa Hollenbach is Senior Digital Manager for Education Post. Prior to joining Education Post, Lisa developed digital and content strategy for Teaching Channel. She served on the Bill and Melinda Gates Teacher Advisory Council from 2014-2017 and was active in the planning and execution of several Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) convenings at both the regional and national level. Lisa attended both private and public schools in Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and holds a bachelor’s in secondary education social studies, a bachelor’s in public policy, a minor in women's studies and a master’s in community psychology and social change. A former educator, Lisa taught for more than 15 years in both traditional public school and public charter school settings. She also served as a leader of her local and regional teachers association from 2001-2016. Lisa has worked with several universities throughout her career and is currently an adjunct professor at the Pennsylvania State University, teaching courses in sociology, psychology, education and their intersections. She is passionate about helping education advocates share their stories and creating an equitable education system that serves all students.

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