The Atlantic Daily: When Will Kids Return to the Classroom?

One state might have a way to keep schools open.

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If President Joe Biden has his way, back-to-school season will arrive by May. The administration is pushing to get kids to their desks sooner rather than later as part of his 100-day plan. But most regions reportedly still haven’t passed the CDC’s threshold for safe, full-time in-person learning.

Today, one of the most fraught reopening debates of this pandemic drags on, nearly a year after some schools first closed their doors. Kids and parents await answers, and relief.

Doctor holding vaccine doses
(APU GOMES / AFP / GETTY)

One question, answered: How should you talk to someone who is refusing to get vaccinated?

Our staff writer Derek Thompson reported on one approach:

“As a clinician, I find it’s a mistake to simply tell people what to think,” [Aaron] Richterman, the Pennsylvania infectious-disease specialist, told me. “Screaming ‘Just take this!’ isn’t effective, because this isn’t about getting others to see my goals. It’s about helping them identify their own goals and how, maybe, getting a vaccine might help achieve them.”

This approach is often called “motivational interviewing.” It works like this: Instead of telling people why you think they should change, you ask them open-ended questions to help them discover their own reasons. If their motivation (e.g., “I want to be healthy”) matches your goal (e.g., “I want you to take this vaccine”), you can guide them toward a plan.

“Sometimes I flip the question and ask, ‘What would make you want to get the vaccine? What would convince you to get it?’ That way you urge them to identify the positive things,” Richterman said. “Maybe they’ll say, ‘I want to help my friend who isn’t well,’ or, ‘I want to protect my family.’ And then I latch on to that and try to build on that.”

Read his full piece exploring the reasons people are vaccine hesitant.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved isolation activity:

The historian Ty Seidule grew up idolizing the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. He doesn’t anymore. On this week’s episode of The Experiment, our podcast with WNYC, Seidule confronts Lee’s legacy, and discusses what it’ll take to undo enduring “lost cause” mythology. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Today’s break from the news:

Countries have been building stations in Antarctica, only to abandon them, leaving “ghost” structures among the penguins.