March 18, 2021 Reading Time: 5 minutes

Jordan Schachtel, an investigative journalist and AIER contributor, recently made an important observation that has gotten relatively little press attention at the time of this writing. He pointed out that Eric Feigl-Ding, a highly regarded American epidemiologist, staunch lockdown advocate, and vocal school closure proponent, quietly moved his family to Austria so his children can attend in-person schooling. Meanwhile, he uses his influential social media presence and institutional power to advocate for exactly the opposite for the rest of the population. The College Fix also notes that Ding appeared in a Super-PAC ad for Joe Biden and that he was also a congressional candidate in Pennsylvania.

Jordan made this discovery from now-deleted tweets from Ding’s wife, who lamented about the state of online learning for their children and how she is glad they made the move to her native Austria.

The comments she made in these tweets summarize the pain that families all across the world are feeling when it comes to their children’s education. It is very much in line with the stance that AIER has frequently taken on school closure, as we have reiterated time and time again that not only are school closures unscientific but they inflict social harm in ways that will take years to fully understand. Closing schools has been viewed as a harmful policy by much of the mainstream scientific establishment since the summer of 2020 and has been ruled out as largely ineffective except in specific circumstances by some of the world’s top public health experts even a decade before the outbreak of Covid-19. 

Ding’s wife’s comments are wholly consistent with much of the American public. In fact, the Times Union reports that New York Public Schools are on track to experience the largest drop in enrollment since 1981. On this, they explain

“Student loss can be attributed to people moving out of state or current residents switching their children to private or parochial schools, or home schooling – all factors that have no doubt been influenced by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Ding’s wife is simply voicing the concerns and sentiments of families all across the country who are taking similar steps to save their own children, as they should. The problem with all this of course is that her husband has been one of the leading proponents of the policies that caused the very pain they have escaped. Rather than learning from this experience that clearly led him to have a change of heart, at least when it came to his own children, Ding has continued advocating school closure as seen in the tweets above which are from March 2021. His wife’s tweets are dated back to November 2020.

As recently as February 2021, Ding caused a stir when he went after British Columbia health officials and their opposition to mask mandates for elementary school children. He made a comment suggesting that British Columbia will be the Florida of Canada, likely making the comparison as an allusion to Florida’s lax Covid restrictions. For the record, AIER has noted that Florida has not turned into a wasteland of Covid death when it lifted lockdowns. In fact, it outperformed other states with high populations but strict lockdowns. 

In response to public agitation in British Columbia created by his comparison, CTV News writes

“The epidemiologist said he doesn’t regret making the comparison, but is frustrated by what he sees as the misinterpretation of his warning.”

“The implication is, how aggressively are we moving?” Feigl-Ding said.”

This is of course contrary to longstanding evidence that children are not principal in spreading Covid-19 due to important biological differences alongside notable concerns about children either being unable to properly wear masks for extended periods of time as well as lasting mental damage from a lack of exposure to facial expressions at a developing age. 

Ding and his wife seem to understand the importance of a normal, in-person education for their children, but advocating to stop other families from doing so is representative of a level of hypocrisy that has become all too familiar during the pandemic.

The College Fix details two more instances of high-profile school closure advocates caught sending their kids to in-person schooling in their article here. They begin by writing,

“Remember the Chicago teachers union bigwig who defended school closures while wearing a bathing suit in Puerto Rico? We’ve got another one…A video posted by a Twitter account called “guerillaMomz” shows the president of the Berkeley teachers union dropping his daughter off at in-person preschool.

“Meet Matt Meyer. White man with dreads and president of the local teachers’ union. He’s been saying it is unsafe for *your kid* to be back at school, all the while dropping his kid off at private school,” the account tweeted Feb. 27 with its accompanying video.

The bio for “guerillaMomz” sums it up: “Momma wants her babies back in school.”

It has been well-established that this level of blatant hypocrisy from our leaders has been a recurring problem throughout the whole pandemic. From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi patronizing a hair salon without a mask to White House advisors breaking their own travel advisories, America has seen its fair share of Covid hypocrites. In fact, there are now enough incidents that the Heritage Foundation created a detailed database of public leaders who violated such restrictions. From visiting families during Thanksgiving to sending their kids to in-person schools, such hypocrites have engaged in the most intimate and sacred activities while simultaneously working to ensure that their fellow citizens cannot do the same. 

Dr. Ding and school closure hypocrites, in particular, represent some of the most egregious examples of this quasi-feudal behavior, as they have seen firsthand the horrific damage their policies have brought upon the children of our society. Instead of working to right the wrongs they helped implement, they grab their children and flee for the sanctuary of private schools while leaving everyone else to suffer in the dystopia they helped bring on society. 

It should be easy to sympathize with the actions of Ding’s family and perhaps even forgive them. They did what many others likely would have done. However, it is impossible to look past the blatant hypocrisy and disregard for society Dr. Ding’s advocacy for school closure now represents in light of these findings. We have gotten to know this sort of hypocrisy all too well throughout this pandemic which illustrates the principle that we all share the burden of lockdowns equally, but some more equal than others

Ethan Yang

Ethan Yang

Ethan Yang is an Adjunct Research Fellow at AIER as well as the host of the AIER Authors Corner Podcast.

He holds a BA in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations with minors in legal studies and formal organizations from Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut. He is currently pursuing a JD from the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.

Ethan also serves as the director of the Mark Twain Center for the Study of Human Freedom at Trinity College and is also involved with Students for Liberty. He has also held research positions at the Cato Institute, the Connecticut State Senate, Cause of Action Institute and other organizations.

Ethan is currently based in Washington D.C and is a recipient of the 13th Annual International Vernon Smith Prize from the European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation. His work has been featured and cited in a variety of outlets from online media to radio broadcast.

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