This is what is wrong with our society today (among many other things). I received a letter from my kid's school (the Brevard County school district here in Central Florida) informing me that my kids can be taken out of school this coming Monday if I as a parent am concerned about my child's safety. Yes, the Brevard County schools are concerned that if kids are allowed outside during any portion of the partial solar eclipse on Monday they could potentially look at the sun too long and damage their eyes. So they are doing two things to protect our children.
- They are cancelling all regular outdoor activities. Kids will not be allowed outside for any reason during the hours the eclipse will be taking place.
- They are allowing excused absences for parents who wish to keep their kids home from school to avoid eye damage that may occur when their kids try and view the eclipse.
Look, I'm all for keeping kids safe. But the first step in keeping people safe when it comes to a wide-spread astronomical event like this is education. Last time I checked isn't that what schools are all about? If you explain what to expect with an eclipse like the Aug 21, 2017 event and how to safely view the event then you can prevent accidental eye damage. I understand that with younger kids this can be challenging, but in my case my kids are in junior high and high school. Schools (especially with older kids) should be taking advantage of this rare celestial event and using it to teach kids about astronomy and the local movements of our own planet, Moon and Sun. Talk to the kids about why its dangerous to look at the Sun even when a good portion of the light from the Sun is being blocked by the Moon during a partial eclipse. Then show the kids how to safely view and enjoy the eclipse.
No, instead of using the event as an education opportunity the school district is taking preventive measures to protect themselves from over-protective parents and any legal battles that would ensue from any kind of eye damage. Has there been a documented case of a child at school during a school run eclipse viewing event being injured? I tried to find one and I couldn't. This is not a dangerous event. It is people's ignorance that is dangerous and unless fixed it will continue to be a problem. The only way to fix ignorance is through education and if our local schools aren't going to do it then I will. So I will be taking my kids out of of school to "protect" them from being locked in the school during Monday's amazing celestial display. I'm taking my kids out of school to "protect" them from the helicopter parenting that seems to be out of control and is now dictating school policy. Most importantly I am protecting my kids from ignorance, because if they were to go to school on Monday and locked in the school during the eclipse they would be robbed of an incredible education opportunity.
The Brevard County schools missed an opportunity here with the eclipse, not only from an educational standpoint but also from a media relations standpoint. They could have written the letter in a way that gave parents the option to keep their kids home so they could share with their kids this amazing experience (even if the real reason was to protect themselves from litigation). If the school district really wanted to protect kids they would be educating them about the eclipse. Because guess what, in 7 years the U.S. will be experiencing another solar eclipse and because our schools didn't educate our kids when they had the chance to, these kids could be damaging their eyes 7 years from now as ignorant adults. No, this change in policy wasn't about protecting kids it was about protecting the school district from litigation.
I plan to publish an article this weekend about the various online viewing events and scientific experiments that will be taking place on Monday and I will also be tweeting all day from home during the eclipse, so follow me on Twitter. If you are local here in Central Florida and want to stop by and see the eclipse through my telescope, get a hold of me via my contact page and join us in our little impromptu solar eclipse viewing party...you just might learn something.