Snowflakes, Meet COVID-19


by James A. Bacon

Nearly three in four Virginia college students are combating anxiety, worry or other mental health challenges, according to a survey of more than 1,000 college students by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

It’s hard to know what to make of this funding. Cynics might respond, “What else do you expect? We’ve raised a generation of snowflakes. College students been taught to be emotionally fragile. This is their first exposure to the brutal reality that life is hard.”

Others might validate the students’ anxieties and point to the survey as evidence of the downside of the college shutdowns, with their attendant issues of completing courses online, managing technology issues, maintaining employment, finding employment, and the like. I have argued on this blog that the Virginia Department of Health, Governor Ralph Northam and the media are fixated on COVID-19 statistics while downplaying the negative health effects of the shutdown that are difficult to measure — such as mental health. First comes stress, then anxiety, then depression, then substance abuse, then declining physical health and, sometimes, suicide.

SCHEV conducted the survey between April 20 and May 4 to see how students were faring after Virginia’s public colleges and universities closed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

The survey documents that the first steps in that downward spiral, stress and anxiety, are in fact occurring in the college-age population, which, ironically, has the least to fear from the disease itself. It is fair to say that college kids are collateral damage in the fight against COVID-19.

Perhaps we should tell young people, “Suck it up, you babies. You’ve got the most comprehensive safety net in the history of this country. Previous generations survived much worse hardships, and so will you. In fact, a little hardship might toughen you up and do you some good.”

But that would be harsh.

The fact is, college-age kids are at relatively low risk of contracting the virus, very low risk of being hospitalized from it, and at virtually no risk whatsoever of dying from it. In the charts below, taken from Virginia Department of Health data, I have highlighted the two age cohorts — 10-19 and 20-29 — which account for the overwhelming majority of college students.

Given these numbers, the question does arise: Why are we shutting down colleges and universities when students are at such low risk? To protect faculty members and administrators from catching the virus? Perhaps that’s a legitimate reason. Or perhaps Virginia’s higher-ed institutions are engaging in massive overkill.

Personally, I think a lot of students are snowflakes. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have legitimate reasons to be anxious.

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9 responses to “Snowflakes, Meet COVID-19

  1. Because college students sneeze and cough around Granny?

    To me, a snowflake is delicate and white, but mostly white. You qualify.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    The so called snowflakes are at the top of the long hill on the old Rebel Yell coaster at Kings Dominion. They too are just along for the ride. Many are going to surprise us with their resilience and ingenuity. Many are not going to like this ride one bit. Modern society in lockdown has locked down the social/community institutions that have helped our youth weather the storms of yesteryear. I don’t blame the so called snowflakes for their weaknesses. We the adults made this world for them.

  3. heckfire – this is the opportunity of a lifetime to kill off a bunch of liberal professors, no?

    I’m betting that given the circumstances, more than a few professors might decide this is the right time to leave campus!

    I’m curious – given the different approaches in the different states, is there any state that will allow all the Higher Ed will open up in full – dorms, libraries, dining, sports, etc?

    Who is going first? And talking about snowflakes.. all those higher ed that are timidly holding back… snowflakes?

    Remember all that hurrah a couple of years back with MOOG and Dragas? what happened?

  4. “Perhaps we should tell young people, “Suck it up, you babies. You’ve got the most comprehensive safety net in the history of this country. Previous generations survived much worse hardships, and so will you. In fact, a little hardship might toughen you up and do you some good.”

    But that would be harsh.”

    That is total bull-roar, Jim. Kids are anxious and frightened because their elders will not read them the riot act, tell them the truth, and directly challenge them with it, kicking them in the ass. Kids are crying out for this.

    Our gross failures as their snowflake parents and now snowflake grandparents will soon turn into our children’s utter contempt for us, as well it should, we are leaving them a collapsing world and trying madly to disarm them at the very same time. Look at higher education. Look at secondary education. We demand nothing from most kids, save helplessness, vegetation, and grievance.

  5. “The survey documents that the first steps in that downward spiral, stress and anxiety, are in fact occurring in the college-age population, which, ironically, has the least to fear from the disease itself. It is fair to say that college kids are collateral damage in the fight against COVID-19.”

    This is complete nonsense. College for sudents, getting in, staying in, getting little education, while being stripped of their culture and confidence, has over the last decade exploded the physical and mental ill health of students in higher education that is creating a generation of neurotic children, who never grow up, only learn bad habits. College health costs have been going through the roof, a new profit center for higher education apparently.

    There is no dispute about this. The evidence, including its exploding cost and growing plague on campuses over the past decade is overwhelming. Meanwhile, Virginia’s higher education establishment gins up faux plagues such as this one. Why is it as reliable as UVA’s newest modeling claims turning Va. Governor into a Covid-19 plague fighting General George Patton?

    • Please remember that the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) falsified achievement tests of Virginia high school students by upward of 40% so as to falsely claim these kids qualified for a college education when SCHEV knew for sure that these students did not qualify.

      But the lie perpetuated by SCHEV to promote the business interests of those who control it, got those unqualified students, their parents, and taxpayers on the hook for massive student loans and fees, which far too often wasted on four to seven years of kids lives on a false education where the kids learned next to nothing, and wasted those four to seven years of the prime time of their lives, only to be set up to fail, believing they had an education when plainly they did not. The resultant harm has been enormous. It has created entire lost generations, that surround us now.

      Now, today, what our government and educational establishment is doing is creating false studies that are used for the purposes of getting ever more federal and state grants to solve faux problems while at the same time enriching the education establishment, those who run it, and their crony allies, who have failed Virginia’s students for decades.

      Today’s educational establishment is little more than a con game, and Ponzi scheme.

      • Now cities are burning across the nation. You can be sure that many of the instigators and leaders of these riots today went to college, often graduated from college, and indeed teach at those colleges and universities. This follows example set by the events that occurred in the spring and summer of 2017 in Charlottesville Virginia.

        These events, in part, follow the legacy planned and established by the University of Virginia, administration, faculty and students, and those in its state government who took political advantage of those events at the time, many of whom are still in positions of great power.

      • CORRECTION – The below statement on my part was made in error and I apologize for it (and for all erroneous conclusions that followed from it), namely:

        “Please remember that the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) falsified achievement tests of Virginia high school students by upward of 40% so as to falsely claim these kids qualified for a college education when SCHEV knew for sure that these students did not qualify.

        But the lie perpetuated by SCHEV to promote the business interests of those who control it. …”

        In making this error, my memory failed me. I was confusing SCHEV with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). This conclusion was based on a related series of earlier articles on Bacon’s Rebellion, including for example, these comments of mine, under post titled :
        Virginia Reading Test Scores Plunge, dated Oct. 30, 2019, namely:

        “Reed Fawell 3rd | October 31, 2019 at 11:06 am | Reply

        Here is an important question on this NAEP reading Proficiency Chart that shows that ONLY 33% OF VIRGINIA’S EIGHT GRADERS ARE ABLE TO READ AT OR ABOVE THE NATIONAL 8TH GRADE LEVEL.

        If that is true then why should we believe that its true that 12th grade kids in Virginia pass Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) at far more than double the NAEP rate (at 8th grade), namely:

        “Reading: 78% pass rate, down 2 percentage points from the previous year.
        Writing: 76% pass rate, down 2 percentage points.”

        See: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/latest-sols-more-declines-in-reading-writing/

        In fact, what normally happens after the 8th grade is that disadvantaged kids and other poor learners (whether advantaged or not), fall even further behind their grade level achievement after the 8th grade. This happens for well known reasons. Thus the majority of American kids are no where even close to “college ready” after they “graduate” from 12th grade, assuming they did not drop out altogether from schooling before then.

        In short, what do 12th grade NAEP proficiency charts tell us about Virginia students who graduate? And how do those figures compare to Virginia’s own SOL charts, and what do the latter have to do with telling us about College readiness? Can we believe them? If so, why?

        Reed Fawell 3rd | October 31, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Reply

        “2015 12th graders reading at 12th grade level nationally per NEAP tests – In 2015, thirty-seven percent of twelfth-grade students performed at or above the Proficient achievement level in reading, according to NEAP test results.

        These test results include following percentage breakdowns for students whose parents had variant educational levels:

        18% pass rate for students whose parents did not finish high school.

        24% pass rate for students whose parents did finish high school.

        36% pass rate for those whose parents had some education after high school.

        And AMAZINGLY ONLY 49% PASS RATE for AMERICAN STUDENTS WHOSE PARENTS HAD GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE COULD READ AT 12th GRADE LEVEL.

        What a remarkable record of gross failure. No wonder most kids learn nothing in college. Now, if we compare Virginia students proficiency rates in 12th grade to their grade level, we will see how honest or dishonest Virginia’s SOL testing is. Good luck finding it.

        Now too, we know why 12th grade NEAP testing results are so hard to find, and often are not published at all, including since 2015.

        See https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_g12_2015/#reading

        Reed Fawell 3rd | November 1, 2019 at 8:32 am | Reply

        Given these NAEP test results, the key question is can Virginians trust the reported results of the Virginia Department of Education’s SOL tests? The answer is a resounding NO. This tests cannot be trusted. Why? Because they are grossly inflated.

        For example, compare the following SOL results with NAEP results reported in Jim Bacon’s August 13, 2019 post entitled “Latest SOLS: More Declines in Reading, Writing”:

        “Here are the top-line results for the state:

        Reading: 78% pass rate, down 2 percentage points from the previous year.
        Writing: 76% pass rate, down 2 percentage points.
        Math: 82% pass rate, up 5 percentage points.
        Science: 81% pass rate, unchanged
        History/social science: 80% pass, down 4 percentage points

        Asians, as usual, out-performed all other racial/ethnic groups, followed by whites, Hispanics, and blacks. Despite a heavy emphasis by the Northam administration to address racial inequities in schools, the black-white achievement gap grew wider last year in reading and writing, while remaining the same for science.

        VDOE instituted two main changes to its testing. First, it reduced the number of tests high school students must pass to graduate. Under the revised regulations, explains the VDOE press release, “students who meet the testing requirement in a content area do not have to take another test in the subject unless additional testing is required for the school to comply with federal testing requirements. Previously, high school students continued to take end-of-course tests even if they had already earned the credits in the content area necessary to graduate.”

        “The reduction in high school testing is most apparent in history where there is not a federal requirement that students take at least one test in the subject in high school,” VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle told Bacon’s Rebellion. The Every Student Succeeds Act “requires that students take at least one test in reading, math and science during high school.”

        Second, VDOE introduced new tests and standards for math. Some educators have expressed concern that the math standards were watered down. (See “Did the State Reduce the Rigor of Math SOLs?”)

        School Superintendent James Lane said VDOE staff will collaborate with school divisions to address the achievement gaps in reading, especially in the elementary grades. VDOE will work with schools and divisions that did not see declines in reading performance in order to identify best practices and successful strategies for improving reading skills. The effort will include a review of the effectiveness of interventions to assist young readers not reading at grade level.

        “School divisions must ensure that all children receive research-based reading instruction — beginning in kindergarten — that addresses their specific needs, and that students are reading at grade level by the end of the third grade,” Lane said. “This includes making sure that students read a variety of challenging content, including non-fiction and literature that expands vistas and vocabularies. We must meet students where they are, but we must also move them to where they need to be: reading at grade level or above and ready for success in the 21st century.”

        Obviously, VA’s SOL numbers are bogus. They inflate real test results by a factor of two. Surely this is an effort to buttress repeated claims within VA’s educational cartel that some 70% of Virginia’s high school graduates are “college ready” when only some 37% could possible meet that test even under NAEP’s watered down definition of “college ready.”

        Simply put the Virginia Department of Educations SOL test results grossly mislead parents, students, and the public paying the bills that support a failing system.” End Quote

  6. I doubt anything in that list of student concerns varies significantly from the general population….I saw that when SCHEV sent it out and laughed.

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