Back to School, Vaccinating Kids, Space Security: RAND Weekly Recap

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Sep 2, 2022

RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss how educators are faring in the COVID-19 era; ways to help ensure that America's kids and teens get vaccinated; mapping racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism; the economic benefits of U.S. security policies; how to reduce friction in space; and the risks of North Korean weapons of mass descrution.

A teacher helping elementary students at their desks, wearing face masks and separated by acrylic partitions during the COVID-19 pandemic, photo by kali9/Getty Images

Photo by kali9/Getty Images

Back to School: How Educators Are Faring

A longtime teacher in Connecticut, Sheena Graham says her classroom did not feel the same after the pandemic began: “What was going on in the world—all the arguing, the politics—it was creeping into the school.”

Graham's sentiments echo the results of a national RAND survey conducted in January. It showed that teachers and principals across America are hurting.

  • Educators were two or three times more likely than workers in other professions to say that politicized topics—namely, COVID-19 safety measures and teaching about race, racism, or bias—were sources of stress in their jobs.
  • Overall, educators were twice as likely as other workers to experience frequent job-related stress.
  • They reported higher rates of depression and burnout, and much lower rates of resilience.
  • One-third of those we surveyed were so disillusioned that they were considering leaving the profession.

As students, teachers, and principals head back to school for the third time during the pandemic, these findings suggest that educators need more support.

Support didn't come soon enough for Sheena Graham, who decided to retire earlier than she had planned. But she remains optimistic about her former profession. “I believe in educators,” she says. “I believe we have the ability to change the world.”

Esme, 11, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the American Museum of Natural History's kids vaccination site in New York, November 29, 2021, photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

Esme, 11, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, November 29, 2021

Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA via Reuters

Vaccinating America's Kids

Only 10 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds—and about a quarter of 12- to 17-year-olds—are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. How can the United States jump-start the momentum for vaccinating all kids and teens? Recent RAND research suggests that community organizations may be key, even helping to reach people who have the lowest vaccine confidence and face the highest barriers to access. Importantly, this type of community-based work takes time, potentially working block by block, or door to door.

Enrique Tarrio and the Proud Boys demonstrate near Freedom Plaza during the Million Maga March protest regarding election results, in Washington, D.C., November 14, 2020, photo by MediaPunch Inc/Alamy

Enrique Tarrio and the Proud Boys demonstrate during the “Million MAGA March” protest in Washington, D.C., November 14, 2020

Photo by MediaPunch Inc/Alamy

Mapping Racially and Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism

Racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism, or REMVE, is largely an online movement. To better understand this threat, RAND researchers analyzed over 27 million social media messages from more than 2 million global users. They found that the REMVE landscape is mostly made up of small cells or lone actors, and that users in the United States are overwhelmingly responsible for REMVE discourse. The authors also highlight ways to counter this dangerous online activity.

A Japan Ground Self Defense Force soldier (left) and a U.S. Army soldier (right) salute the Japanese and U.S. flags during the opening ceremony of Rising Thunder 2021 at Yakima Training Center, Washington, December 1, 2021, photo by Spc. Dean Johnson/U.S. Army

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier and a U.S. Army soldier salute the Japanese and U.S. flags, Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021

Photo by Spc. Dean Johnson/U.S. Army

The Economic Benefits of U.S. Security Policies

Does America's economy benefit from U.S. alliances and forward military presence? A new RAND report finds evidence that it might. Alliances increase bilateral trade in manufactured goods, and, in turn, this has a modest but positive effect on U.S. economic welfare. The authors note that decisions about security policies should be based on a range of factors beyond potential economic benefits. However, these findings can still help inform how America approaches the world.

Signing of Treaty on Outer Space in May, 1964, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/itupictures/16661050412">photo</a> by United Nations/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>

Signing of Treaty on Outer Space, May 1964

Photo by United Nations/CC BY-SA 2.0

How to Reduce Friction in Space

An exponential rise in dangerous “space junk.” A growing number of nations and private actors competing for orbiting space. The rising risk of extraterrestrial warfare. Addressing these security concerns may require updating existing international space treaties, says RAND's Douglas Ligor. International and multinational institutions, diplomatic processes, and binding international agreements are effective tools that can help “preserve a sustainable space in the future for the entire global community,” he says.

Kim Jong-un watches a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People's Revolutionary Army in this image released by KCNA on April 26, 2022, photo by EyePress via Reuters

Kim Jong-un watches a military parade in Pyongyang, marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the KPRA, April 2022

Photo by KCNA via Reuters

The Risks of North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction

North Korea has amassed a variety of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as a wide range of cyber capabilities for covert and illegal purposes. What are Pyongyang's goals in employing such weapons? How do these weapons and capabilities affect peacetime relations on the Korean Peninsula? And what can South Korea and the United States do to rein in Kim Jong-un's provocations and reduce the risk of a major conflict? A new RAND report examines these questions and more.

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