It's about risk management, which is much, much more important for almost all non-scientists. Some engineers, who read published papers to do their work, perhaps, in some cases, should care more about science than risk management.

I think there is a lot of cheerleading about science these days. I think it might be worth praising scholarship, specifically, because just copying the answer off someone else's sheet isn't good science or good scholarship, but it's more obviously not scholarship. So science becomes an empty target that's more of a tribal thing than a procedural or results-oriented claim.

But risk management? You'd have to be a fool to ignore that. Everyone needs to consider risks and benefits and trade-offs. Not being a scholar is fine, for most people. It's a virtue very few are tested in. But not appreciating risk and trade-offs is the truest state of childhood. Adulthood is defined primarily by understanding risk management and responsibility, and the latter is probably more salient.

From the numbers I've seen, about COVID-19 transmission risk, as well as my own experience getting massively different quality outcomes from different schooling environments, I think all schools, up through high school, should be open and operating with the best precautions they can manage, with the exception of the youngest age cohort, who will be more distracted if outdoors and get the least value from masks – their risk is so low that only the teachers should engage in any meaningful protective measures.

Colleges should probably inform their 18-22 year old students that it's an overly expensive signalling scheme poorly designed to train them, and they're being saddled with (frequently brutal) debt for no purpose other than appeasing regulatory boards the schools themselves lobbied – and if the students still want to attend, use regular random testing as well as proactive isolation measures with fairly strict consequences for people who test positive and break isolation (expulsion seems like a pretty reasonable modal effort). But, as with all activities between adults, I truly do not care what level of risk you decide on. Pick something, and I get to mercilessly mock graduates of stupid institutions if I ever interview them.

I'm legitimately not sure what scientific questions people think are embedded in those recommendations. Transmission risk numbers? I don't think people are doubting the estimates there. "Believe the science" isn't even addressing your target audience. There are people who would crawl through barbed wire to get to an elite American university – surely we ought to let them, right? Science doesn't demand that we be busybodies, minding every else's risk management.