A Modest Proposal. Satire by Anne Sorbie



For Sending Alberta Children Back To School

Since there is a growing number of COVID-19 cases among the province’s school-age population, our proposal suggests closing schools immediately and forming a test group to better determine and predict future rates of infection.

First, we highly recommend engaging in the test group, the children of Alberta’s 1% who are currently registered for the 2020 / 2021 school year. These children best represent the most advantaged of the population, and those most equipped to handle the socio-economic losses and future health challenges, possibly long term, that the test may incur. Side effects may include contracting COVID-19, having an inflammatory response to CV19 that leads to multi-organ failure, coma, intubation and ICU stays, the infection of siblings, parents, grandparents and other extended family members, and exponentially, their immediate family members, friends and community contacts. Additionally, death may occur in a very few cases. These elite children (or subjects) will be conscripted. However, if the children volunteer to take part, their parents can avoid the province’s newly minted wealth tax.  Volunteer subjects will be included in the test on a first come first served basis and will represent students from a number of undisclosed schools.

Second. There is research to support the idea that these elite children will make the best subjects. Alberta is home to approximately 970,400 children aged 0 – 17 years. We examined statistics describing the health and socio-economic status of all of those children. For example, according to alberta.ca 17% of the province’s children are from low-income families. However, we know that after six months of the pandemic, 17% is a gravely understated figure. We also researched instances of childhood cancer, diabetes, anxiety, low birth weight, disabilities, and addiction. After excluding children effected by the aforementioned challenges, and basing our calculations on numbers of remaining school aged children of the general population (the 99%), we reached the conclusion that there would not be a large enough number of subject children in the 99% to form a test group.

Third. Based on our research above, we are taking the unusual and unpopular step of following the provincial government’s lead, and allowing our experiment to cater only to the 1%. We also gathered provincial data detailing the percentages of children registered for elementary school, junior high, and high school for the 2020 / 2021 school year. Children attending ECS through grade six make up 55.5% of Alberta students, grades seven through nine, 21.5%, and grades ten through twelve, 23%.

Fourth. We compiled a list of elite school-aged children in Alberta. As a result we determined that our test group subjects number between 9,704 and 10,392.

Fifth. For illustrative purposes the age group spread of the test group subjects is based on the lower number and is detailed here:




% OF






ELEMENTARY 55.5 5 386
JUNIOR HIGH 21.5 2 086
HIGH SCHOOL 23.0 2 232
TOTALS 100.0 9 704

Sixth. The Alberta Students’ COVID-19 Return to School Test Group (elite children of the 1% only) may (or may not) be completely representative of the children of Alberta’s wealthy. As well, it may (or may not) provide the most reliable results. However. This can be seen as an example case of what can occur when following the provincial government’s lead.

Seven. These sacrificial lambs, which we will take great pains to prepare for the reckoning, will become legendary. The daily activities and movements of the test group subjects will be live-streamed via Zoom. Anyone may tune into The ABC’s of the Alberta COVID-19 Games. Subscription is free for the 99%. The 1% may donate to subscribe. Their donations will demonstrate their degree of commitment to their children and to the future of Alberta education. Special recognition and additional tax exemptions will be given to the highest donor.

Eighth. The parents of the test group subjects will be responsible for the safe transportation of their children to and from their schools, curricular and extra-curricular activities, and extended family and friend gatherings. This may be undertaken personally, or the subjects may be escorted by nannies and or drivers, or by other family members, including willing grandparents. All involved must complete a waiver and register with the Test Group Lead. Social distancing and mask wearing rules apply wherever and whenever deemed necessary by the federal government, the province of Alberta, the Cities of Calgary and Edmonton, the specific boards of education governing the schools being attended, and possibly by the parents of, and or by the test subjects themselves.

Ninth. We, the 99%, will thank the 1% and their elite children for their sacrifices to and for the betterment of our province and country, and by extension, other provinces and countries.

Tenth. Our deepest respect and gratitude will go to the teachers who volunteer to take part. They will design, implement, and deliver all curriculum on short notice, or what will be referred to as, the meat and potatoes of the Alberta COVID Games. Most of the educators will either be ageing out of their positions, or suffering from an underlying health issue. This makes the end of their careers (and perhaps their lives) highly possible given the test group circumstances. Praise be to them for their gifts to herd immunity. Further, the young school principal who suggested their appropriateness for participation in the test group, and who has outlined the small degree of loss that School Boards might suffer as a result of their contributions, will be the designated Test Group Lead. As such, she will be responsible for personally carrying out all administrative functions for the schools involved; these will be conducted with the utmost prudence. We recognize she may experience challenges re-engaging custodial staff to undertake the recommended increase in the sanitizing of bathrooms and classrooms, hallways and gathering spaces. To that end, we assume she will directly engage volunteer parents and or their proxies in those duties as well when and wherever required.

Last. The Alberta Students’ COVID-19 Return to School Test Group (elite children of the 1% only) will return to school on October 1, 2020. The experiment will continue until December 15, 2020 or until those participating are infected, schools are closed because of outbreaks, or the test group end date is achieved. Results will inform the return to school by the children of the 99% in January 2021.


Online sources consulted:

“A Modest Proposal,” by Jonathan Swift
The Calgary Herald
The Edmonton Journal
The Globe and Mail
CBC News
CTV News
Global News

Other Notes:

All percentages mentioned are from alberta.ca (2019 and 2020)
The numbers of Alberta children aged 0 – 17 have been rounded to the nearest hundred
The 2020 student population is reported on alberta.ca
The children of the 1% test group subjects number is my own invention and is for the (satirical) purposes of this article only.

Return to Journal

Anne Sorbie is a Calgary writer whose third book, Falling Backwards Into Mirrors, was released by Inanna Publications In October 2019. Most recently she performed, “This Is A Prayer For You,” for The Indie YYC and published a piece in YYC POP (Frontenac, July 2020) edited by Sheri-D Wilson.  photo (credit Monique de St. Croix)

Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie's first novel, Stillwater, will be released in the spring of 2023. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: