Polar Vortex

I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but in the United States, hell has frozen over. The polar vortex has arrived! It’s cold as shit basically everywhere except Florida and people are flipping out. Parents are flipping out because their children have cabin fever and schools have been closed since Christmas. And other people are flipping out because America has turned into a nation of weaklings who can’t handle the cold.

My Facebook feed has been full of people grumbling and complaining about the many school closures and delays due to extremely cold temperatures. You know, things along the lines of “The roads are fine! Schools have heat! Let ‘em learn!” At first, I was all like, “Yeah! Make those kids go to school! We never had school cancelled for cold weather!”

I grew up in Baltimore, which generally has at least one heavy snow per year. We, of course, absolutely lived for snow days, and lazy days spent sledding, watching movies and drinking hot chocolate are some of the best memories of my childhood. As I got older, it seemed like the school system would cancel or delay school much more easily, even just for predicted snow or freezing rain. So when I saw so many people commenting on the new development of canceling school for cold, I thought back to my childhood smugly, remembering all the days I walked to school freezing my ass off when there was absolutely no snow on the ground.

But then I read this article, which makes a powerful case for why school was cancelled for cold temperatures in the DC area. Fairfax County, located in Virginia just outside DC, has about 47,000 students who qualify for free or reduced fee school meals, which the government uses as a measure of poverty. Fairfax County School Board member Ryan McElveen (At Large) said:

“When you have a large high-poverty community, you need to be thinking about those students and if they own coats.”

Well, shit. Privileged, lives-in-a-bubble, had-a-brand-new-winter-coat-every-year-as-a-child me actually never even thought about children who might not own coats. Or children who must walk a longer way than a few blocks to school. Or children whose parents might not own cars to drive them on especially cold mornings. In Prince William County, also in VA, Phil Kavits, a school spokesman, said:

“The combination of a forecast of record-breaking cold and unprecedented wind chills led to the possibility of danger, especially for the more than 20,000 walkers we have. Really, the conditions made for a fairly easy call, because we don’t want to expose students to these kinds of dangers associated with this kind of cold.”

The seriously cold temperatures around the nation may be normal for some regions, like upper New England and the Midwest, but that’s not the case for others, like in DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, even some parts of the South and West. People are dying out there, for chrissake! Individual districts (with specific types of student populations and student needs) have the right to make the call about what’s best for their students, despite what might have happened in the past or which assholes think America is now a nation of lily-livered assholes who don’t know how to bundle up, grit their teeth and soldier on like a goddamn Puritan.

I mean, really. Here’s an article from The Atlantic saying we’re all pussies because Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s school was never cancelled for a blizzard or for cold. Generally, I am very sympathetic to any argument involving Laura Ingalls Wilder as a talking point, but not this one. Things are not the same as in the 1880s. The mid-Atlantic is not North Dakota. We are not farming people who know how to break paths through snow drifts (At least, most of us aren’t. Those of you who are? Thank you for growing my food.) Maybe that makes us weak, silly, and wimpy, but at least it means we’re compassionate.

Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images