Recently my neighbor Barry asked me how I was doing. Sighing, I responded, “I think I have Covid Fatigue. The months and months of confinement, uncertainty, bad news, and fear have worn me down, and I don’t have much energy or enthusiasm,” I told him. 

“It might not be Covid,” Barry said.  “Maybe you’re like me and have Outrage Fatigue.”  Because so many bad things are happening every day, he said, he and his wife were shutting out the news as much as they could, to keep from shutting down completely.

Barry is not a doctor, but I think he diagnosed my problem perfectly: I have both Covid Fatigue AND Outrage Fatigue.  And perhaps some of you suffer from this dual affliction as well.

Covid Fatigue is easy to define and understand, because we have been locked down for nearly 20 months.  Ennui is the most common sign.

As for Outrage Fatigue, I suspect that it is confined to active Democrats, Independents, and old style (I.E., Pre-Trump) Republicans.  To figure out if you are suffering from it, just ask yourself how you respond to any of these news stories:

The rising death toll among the vaccinated; 

Covid’s disparate impact on the poor and minorities; 

Republican-led efforts to restrict the votes of people of color;


The media’s distorted coverage of anti-vaxxers;

Governor Ron DeSantis’ insistence on keeping Florida ‘open;’ 

The Texas abortion law; 

South Dakota Governor Kristi Hoem’s sending her state’s National Guard to monitor the Texas/Mexico border; 

Florida Senator Mario Rubio’s daily Biblical platitudes; 

Maine Senator Susan Collins’ regular expressions of ‘concern;’ 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to negotiate with Democrats on anything; 

The GOP’s refusal to condemn the January 6th insurrection; 

Or anything coming from Trump or his sons.  

If your internal temperature rises and your dander is up and you have to force yourself to calm down, you already have Outrage Fatigue, or soon will.

The outrageous ones have a distinct advantage, because they are focused on making us angry and impotent. They know how to push our buttons. They have been doing it long enough to put us on the sidelines. Because these are largely single-issue folks, they don’t get tired. They wake up every day pumped to defend the January 6th insurrectionists, or to protest mask mandates, or to work to suppress Democratic votes, or whatever their cause happens to be.

Unfortunately, most of us care about ALL of these issues.  And because most of us have a limited capacity for outrage, that’s putting our country at risk, as I see it. We care, and right now it hurts to care–but if we shut down and let the outrage triumph, we stand to lose our country to these quasi- or neo- or actual fascists.

Turning off the news may work for my neighbor, but if we all were to adopt that strategy, the bad guys would win.  I think we have to pick our issues, focus on two or three, and trust that others on our side will take care of the rest.

I hope some of you will decide to focus on what’s happening in public education, because public schools are in the eye of this hurricane we are experiencing and their survival is threatened.  Radical conservatives have always hated the notion of public education, and COVID-19 has offered them numerous opportunities to undercut the enterprise.

For example, Republican legislators in most states have introduced some form of voucher/tax credit, ostensibly to give public dollars to parents to spend on education as they see fit.  Of course, the amount isn’t enough to cover private school tuition, so the benefit would go to families whose children are already in private school and to families who can almost afford it already. Left behind would be the poor and those with disabling conditions, IE, the children who are most expensive to educate.  Many scholars and observers have raised concerns over the equity impacts of pandemic-era private schooling trends, with the situation in San Francisco providing a stark example: A year after schools first closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the one-third of students in the city enrolled in private school—disproportionately high-income or white, or both—by and large have the option to attend school in-person full-time. Meanwhile, public school students—disproportionately low-income or students of color, or both—remain in full-time online instruction.”

Organized rabble-rousers are focusing on School Boards that are considering mask mandates, often attending and disrupting meetings and threatening violence. Here’s one example from California.   US school board meetings have become battlegrounds for culture wars this year as schools debated how to resume in-person classes amid the pandemic. Parents have disrupted meetings, refused to wear masks and threatened school board members. A school board in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that was considering a temporary mask mandate cancelled its meeting last week after a crowd of 200 protesters surrounded the building, banged on doors and shouted at police.” 

Here’s another example from North Carolina.  Here’s another, from Florida.  

This situation has gotten so bad that the National School Boards Association has asked President Biden to intervene“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” reads the letter signed by NSBA President Viola M. Garcia and NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven. “The National School Boards Association respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”

Teachers are horribly stressed, as are parents.  Kids need to be with each other–that’s a critical part of growing up–but they need to feel and be safe.

So, if you want to control your own Outrage Fatigue and at the same time be a force for good, please support your local public school system.  A national organization that is trying to coordinate supporters is the Network for Public Education, a non-profit entity. 

Thanks, and stay safe…but also stay active!


  1. If you are looking for hope, there is a tad bit of hope from the words of the New Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona. “If we think we are going back to how business is done, before the pandemic, then we are missing an opportunity”. He also said we must “address inequities that existed long before COVID – 19.” Add to that these words from Albert Einstein, “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.”

    Now we put hope into Replacing the Failed System of Education, which is the only answer to the problem. In my book (of that name) I detail the specific problems as well as solutions to the education crisis.that has lasted for 200 years. At least we can give educators a vision for a better future and energize them toward a common goal. I also make it clear that charters and for profit schools don’t have a clue. They will be left in the rear view mirror.

    Of course, it is extremely difficul to to get people on board for a new way of thinking. Consider this: As students return from the pandemic crisis, their skills will be all over the board. Should educators do like New York is doing and not fail anyone thus moving them forward without learning? Or do we retain them thus diminishing their hope for graduation. Or do we give them sitting time in summer school and pretend they are “catching up”?

    In this system of education, there is no solution! Deborah Meier, who wrote the forward to my previous book, has encouraged me to stay the course and has guided that course. If we can give hope to a small group of educators, that philosophy will spread and the system will change. But we need educators to be on board. How many of you will be ready for the challenge? How many of you are ready to be energized to support a new direction in a system that has failed many students for 200 years.

    If there is doubt, do what I did while living in North Carolina.. Hop onto the Appalachian trail, enjoy the beauty. and then get on board. More details


  2. John, as you know we are lifelong D’s on the left side of left. We are even seeing bits of Populism here in YS. Maybe all driven by how easy it is to spew out a thing anytime via the social media. It’s like using one pipe for both potable water an sewage. Oversight ASAP ??

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  3. Strongly consider “Populism”, Mueller. Very clear and concise by eminent scholar.
    BTW. By social media standards, the “Yellow Journalism” of bygone times and even the worst Fox fantasies are mild compared to what the likes of Facebook do daily for dollars. Eating their own and everybody else’s Enlightenment. Yup, our Enlightenment. Sounds odd except that a few of the Enlightenment’s outcomes were things like the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
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  4. Thanks, John. I’m sharing this with several people, including a young friend who just took a medical leave from teaching art in Sarasota, FL and is not planning to return to teaching in public school.


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