The news from Miami is that a Christian Private school has put in place a policy that mandates that any student that has been vaccinated must quarantine and stay at home for 30 days.
The belief behind this stance is the claim that the vaccinated will shed and release something that will impact the health of the unvaccinated. I don’t need to tell you this, but their stance on this deserves a Hugo award as the best bit of fantasy/science fiction of the year. It is a claim that has been robustly debunked by the CDC.
The CDC debunking of COVID myths is here.
It will of course be no surprise to discover that this is not a first for this private school, the Miami based Centner Academy. Back last April they mandated that any teachers who got the vaccine would be barred from interacting with students.
An immediate rebuttal quip by those that actually believe this might be, “Ah yes, but my good friend has …” … No seriously, just stop. Your “friend” might indeed sincerely believe this, have a story that appears to confirm it, and also perhaps has a friend and a friend of a friend who has “evidence” of feeling unwell after interacting with somebody who was vaccinated. That however is not what is going on.
So what is really going on here?
Let’s briefly chat about correlations.
Tomatoes are deadly to humans, I have solid irrefutable proof. Every single human who ate a tomato between the years 1794 and 1837 is now dead – case closed.
You are with me on this … right?
Well yes, that’s obviously daft, but this is essentially what is going on here.
Sitting between your ears is a pattern seeking engine. Humans have been naturally selected to be like this. Our ancestors, the ones that survived, thrived because they could spot patterns that gave them a very distinct survival advantage. In the dry season all the animals head for water sources. Simply following them took our ancestral hunter-gatherers to both water and a good supply of game to hunt.
Being capable of identifying patterns of cause and effect has opened up a vast trove of tools for our species. The bark on this tree takes away pain, but don’t eat this brightly coloured berry because it causes demons inside, and those that do go to the afterlife. This other plant gives me visions, I can see the gods when I smoke it, etc…
This very powerful survival attribute will also inevitably lead to false positives (When I walked on that path I have a lucky day). As long as those false positives do no harm and don’t impact survival, then we continue to be naturally selected for our pattern seeking abilities because they do give us a distinct survival advantage.
Now park this thought for a moment, we will come back to it.
We tell each other stories
I have a friend, a co-worker, who has a friend whose wife experienced something truly scary.
The wife of my friend’s friend returned to her car after shopping. I can name the car park, it was near where I live. Upon reaching her car she was astonished to find an elderly lady sitting inside. It was late and dark, this was scary because she was sure that she had locked her car. Knocking on the window, she barked out, “Who are you?”. In a feeble voice the old lady explained that she had felt faint and finding the car unlocked she got in to sit and get out of the cold. She did not feel well, could she please be taken home, it is not too far away.
Something did not feel right.
She said, “OK”, but explained it was a very tight parking space, could she step out and help to direct the car out of the space. The old lady agreed, then shaking, pulled herself out and holding herself up stood ready to give directions. Grasping the opportunity, the wife of my friend’s friend rapidly jumped in her car, locked all the doors, and drove off leaving a very distraught elderly lady behind. After a few minutes she began to feel very guilty, so pulled out her phone and called the cops.
When she arrive home they called her back. A unit had been dispatched to the car park. The officers had carefully searched but did not find any elderly lady. Checking to see if she had fallen, the discovered a discarded bag that contained a grey wig, a rope, and a long nasty looking knife.
As I stood listening to this story I lapped it up and accepted it at face value. It was a shocking, impactful, and obviously “true” so I in turn passed it on to others. I trusted my friend, I knew him and “knew” that what he was telling me was something that had indeed really happened.
You can probably see where this is going.
Several months later I was attending a conference in some far off city. As one does, you hang around the coffee table between breaks to gripe about the stale muffins and exchange general chit-chat. One guy was telling a truly fascinating and scary story about something that had happened to a friend of a friend. It was exactly the same story. Different car park, different time, different city, slight variations in details, but more or less exactly the same.
What the heck was going on here?
This was when the penny dropped. We tell each other stories, tales that are supposedly true and supposedly happened to a friend of a friend, are sincerely believed to be true, but most probably never actually happened. Such whispers tend to be shock stories and so the variations with the biggest emotional punch will survive, thrive, and circulate. Think of these as viruses of the mind that we unintentionally contaminate each other with. They are warnings that modify our social behaviour and influence us.
The term used for these is “Urban Legends“. This is basically modern folklore that we relay and sincerely believe to be true.
This is not just about social media, such yarns have been in circulation for a countless number of generations. I suspect that we, as a species, have always been sharing stuff like this.
Putting the pieces of the puzzle together
The folks at Centner Academy have, as many have, embraced anti-vax urban legends as “truth”. Tales that are whispered on social media regarding people being impacted after contact with the vaccinated.
Dig, and you discover correlations are in play. Somebody came in contact with another person who was vaccinated and later felt unwell. They concluded that the interaction was the cause. They tell their friends, and those people in turn tell this tale as “fact”. It panders to an existing social narrative and goes viral within specific echo chambers.
“Look at all this evidence”, they might cry, and add “the media is suppressing the truth”, except that is not what is really going on at all.
When you put yourself in the position of rejecting evidence-based guidance then what have you got left?
All you then have to fall back upon is to crowdsource these whispers from those you trust. If this is a source that is awash with misinformation, unverifiable urban legends that are promoted as “truth”, then there are indeed consequences.
Centner Academy – A modern morality saga
The folks running Centner Academy are highly intelligent professional educators who have gone completely off the rails and disconnected from reality.
When they generated a media shit storm last April by mandating that any teachers who who got the vaccine would be barred from interacting with students, and also advised students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds, the result was rather predictable. Some sensible parents rapidly pulled their kids out, but other anti-vaccine parents rapidly rushed in to replace them. Net effect, lunacy becomes lunacy on steroids. Both staff and also parents who embrace and whisper anti-vaccine stories as truth, will inevitably end up living in a bubble of misinformation.
Roll on to now, and once again another media shit storm for more or less the same lunacy.
For completeness, I should also perhaps point out that this school has a reality disconnect history. This anti-vaccine craziness is just the latest manifestation of this. The schools founder, Leila Centner, has previously promoted the idea that children should be kept away from windows for fear of radiation from 5G cell towers. She embraced that idea to such a degree that she had “shielding blockers,” installed to supposedly insulate them from 5G. She also has a long anti-vaccine history that pre-dates covid. The school’s website still has a section promoting the false “vaccines cause autism” claim. (See here for a full debunking of that daft nonsense)
There is no ducking the observation that we have a school here that is run by idiots, and also caters to the idiot demographic.
Well yes, after explaining everything, how could I possibly resist a bit of venting. They have worked really hard to establish this public facing reputation, so who am I to deny them the appropriate recognition that they really do deserve.