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School's Out On Mandates

Who ever thought that wearing masks over our noses and mouths would be commonplace in 2022? If you told me in 2019 that this would be a highly debated topic just a few short years later, I would have openly laughed and made a suggestion that you seek some sort of counseling.

And yet here we sit. People have been arguing about masks for the better part of two years. Some people have flipped their stances on masks a few times, a few have even suggested we wear two masks at the same time and others say that masks are otherwise useless. No matter where you stand, the idea of arguing about what people wear on their face does seem a tad silly doesn’t it?

Well, this silly debate seems to be on its way out in a number of states. Several states including Connecticut and my home state of MAssachusetts have made the decision to let the mask mandates in public schools expire.

If you want my opinion, this is a good thing. The ones that are suffering the most from these mandates are the kids. These kids are forced to wear masks that are uncomfortable to protect them from a virus that hardly impacts them at all. They are sacrificing key speech and social skill development so a bunch of adults can feel a little bit safer. In previous years, it would be the other way around. The adults would make sacrifices so the kids could feel better. That is how it should be done, not what’s happening right now.

As a teacher during the remote learning nonsense, I was willing to do whatever it took to get the kids back in school. If the masks were part of that, then so be it. Now that we’ve seen students can safely go to school, and remote learning was an absolute disaster for them, it is time to get rid of the masks. I know a lot of parents are on my side, and all teachers have the damage that the masks have had on kids’ social skills. Kids interrupt each other, can’t read facial expressions and can’t appropriately express their feelings which makes learning very difficult.

But let’s put my opinion aside. Half of you hate me by this point and the other half love me. My thoughts on masks aren't the point of this blog anyway. The real point of this is purely semantic.

Does anyone out there know the definition of mandate? If you don’t, here you go: man·date: an official order or commission to do something. Basically, it means that you have to do something. Seems simple to me, but who knows, someone might have needed that.

As it relates to masks, the mandates say that all students and staff must wear the masks at all times while in school. There are a few exceptions, but for our purposes, let’s move on from those.

What is happening in the coming weeks, is these mandates are being allowed to expire. And here we come to the big misconception.

A mandate being lifted doesn’t mean a ban has been introduced. There will be no law that says masks are not allowed at schools and anyone who wears one will be punished (like those who refused to wear them were). There are some folks reacting like masks will become illegal.

Want proof of this? Take a look at some of the responses underneath Governor Baker’s announcement on Twitter. This one is from someone with the handle @jcatcoolcat. This person says, “This is so unfair to educators and students learning in tiny, unventilated spaces. Why would this take place immediately following February break travel, when we saw HUGE surges after Christmas break?! And we’re finally seeing cases go down, largely due to wearing masks.” My only response to @jcatcoolcat is, if you’re so worried, wear a mask if you want. Nobody is going to come up to you and forcefully remove it from your face. Or have your kids wear a mask if you want. That’s up to you. This isn’t taking the control out of your hands like mandates did. The lift of the mandate is actually putting the ball in your court and letting you make your own decision. Which is refreshing.

Here’s another from @jensuths. This one dusts off a classic from the ones that are most “worried” about the virus. @jensuths says, “look forward to all the infections once they return from the february break! great job.” Besides the poor grammar, this person is seemingly hoping for people to get the virus that is so “dangerous” for kids. Doesn’t that seem a tad backwards? Again, there is nothing stopping people from wearing masks, or having their kids wear them at school.

That is the big divide in this debate. One side wants people to have a choice. The other side wants no choice and if people have a choice, then that equates to an all out ban. These extreme reactions are what makes these debates truly insufferable. Little logic is used and one side refuses to listen to reason. All or nothing is never a good way to negotiate.

Thankfully, level heads are starting to take control of things. The overreactors aren’t having as much control as they did in the beginning of this pandemic. The powers that be know these mandates are unpopular and otherwise useless. So they’re doing the right thing.

My last message goes to those who want masks to remain in schools. If you want to wear your mask, go ahead. Those of us who won’t be wearing masks will not treat you like villains like you treated those who wanted the mandates to drop. You do your thing, and I’ll do mine. As I tell the kids at school all the time, you do you, and I’ll do me.

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