Two Dollar Words
I love the English language. It is so easy to add words, change the meanings of words, and use the same word to mean vastly different things. It is also hysterical to watch someone find what my daddy called a $2.00 word to express what a $.02 word would say better.
Lately, how our politicians use words has run the gamut between hilarity and a cause for concern. While their word choices are often suitable for comic relief, it is the lack of forethought many of our political leaders have for their constituents today that surprises me. I’m not sure why I keep holding out hope for just one to do the right thing, but I digress.
Is ‘ridiculosity’ a Word?
Sometimes our leaders’ lack of concern for their constituents does more than surprise me. In fact, it often angers me, and sometimes, well, it scares me. The most recent example is reported in Zak Koeske’s article in The State, “McMaster calls it ‘ridiculous’ that SC students are forced to wear masks at school.” As is popular today, Governor McMaster tweeted his own word, “ridiculosity,” which, by the way, is a word, while pandering for votes.
Governor McMaster said, I paraphrase, that it is ridiculous to require students to wear masks at school. However, I’d be willing to bet that if the tides were for wearing masks, his stance most assuredly would have been it is ridiculous for schools not to require masks.
Many Agree with the Governor
Quite honestly, many of you will agree with the governor’s statement. I respect your disagreement and would fight for your right to disagree–as long as we could have an honest conversation addressing why we differ and then work together towards agreeing on how to handle decisions that pertain to public health. We may never fully agree, but we would both walk away with a better understanding of the other side and quite possibly find an excellent compromise.
This issue should not be an “us” versus “them” matter. It should be a “Let’s do what is in the best interest of public health and when in doubt, err on the side of caution” matter.
I am a fully vaccinated teacher. My husband is fully vaccinated, and most of my friend group is fully vaccinated. It is so comforting to be able to hug my mom. I love knowing I can now spend time with my daughter, who is an ICU nurse who has fought to save lives this entire pandemic. I feel safe regularly spending time with my youngest daughter and only granddaughter.
But that is where the problem arises. My granddaughter is only three. She cannot get vaccinated, and Covid-19 does not care.
Freedom and Personal Choice
I am all about freedom and personal choice. I believe in state’s rights. I believe no one knows a child better than the child’s mom. But I also know that while most parents agree on what is best, the few who do not agree often have the loudest voice.
This statement seems especially true during a pandemic that happens once every 100 years.
So let’s be clear, none of us know how to navigate this pandemic; however, erring on the side of caution seems prudent for everyone. Even when it makes us uncomfortable, relying on science is best for all concerned, even those, like me, who find masks uncomfortable.
Why Have Schools Been the “safest” Place to Be?
The governor says schools have been the safest place to be, but could that be because students, at least in the beginning, were kept apart either through hybrid school days or online learning, and those who were in the school were required to wear masks? Weren’t teachers cleaning after every class? Weren’t entire buildings being deep-cleaned once a week?
Weren’t most of the outbreaks we saw due to athletic events or extracurricular activities where masks could not or would not be worn?
This sudden outcry to stop requiring masks seems ludicrous at best, deadly at worst. People are actually purchasing billboards to spread their message that masks should now be voluntary in schools. The prevailing argument seems to be because teachers who want the vaccine have been vaccinated. But what about our kids? No vaccine is approved for children under twelve, and many families who have vaccinated sixteen-year-olds also have unvaccinated ten-year-olds.
I’m not sure why I expect our governor to be a voice of reason. He has kept us in the highest US rate of Covid-19 cases for many months of this pandemic. But right now, he’s speaking for (or against?) our children who have no voice in his decision. Sure, teachers who wanted to have finally received the vaccine, but our students have not. A strong leader, one who cared about people over position, would explain the plight of our children and end with, “And so we wear masks a little longer.”
This governor’s statement that this decision should be left to the parents shows that he has no clue what he is talking about. If left up to the parents and parents require masks, students who do not want to wear masks will simply say their parents don’t want them to wear masks. I can’t tell you how often a parent reports that the dress code violation they pick their children up for was not what the child was wearing when they left their home.
Leaving this choice up to anyone besides science and the people who are IN THE BUILDING EVERY DAY is asking for more divisions, continued outbreaks, and a longer pandemic.
The belief wreaks of weak leadership.
It wreaks of disregard for others.
It is evidence of a governor who needs to surround himself with people who do not think as he does because it takes many sides to make the best decision.
What the Pandemic Has Taught
One of my colleagues posted a Tweet last week that describes this situation best. Someone asked this question: “What is one thing the pandemic has taught you that you will never forget.”
Kat Arnet, a person I do not know but whose answer totally admire, responded, “There are two types of people: those who believe in doing what’s best for everyone even if it means personal sacrifice, and those who see their own inconvenience as unacceptable no matter what.”
Sadly, SC’s leadership seems to be the latter type, but do we really want to live in a world and teach our children to become people who behave as though the only way to make a decision is to choose what is convenient, profitable, or popular?
I don’t like wearing masks. From a teaching standpoint, they make it take longer to figure out which of my students “get it” and who needs more help. It takes longer to see if someone is having a bad day, and the dang things are hot.
But all of those negatives can be overcome. For one thing, transparent face masks are available, and that appears to be a suitable compromise. For those who find masks uncomfortable and hot, mask stands work well. (I use them.) A strong leader will talk to all concerned and determine how to compromise on the issue without compromising safety.
At the End of the Day
We have about six weeks left in a school year that has been hard by even the most generous standards, but we have students back in the classroom, which the majority of the state needed. (Who knew that so much of the US economy rested on teacher’s shoulders?)
August will be a time to revisit this topic, but for now, the virus is still very active. Covid cases in schools are rising, even if they aren’t being reported. Remember, many people can treat the symptoms of the virus at home, so they do not report it, but what about the people they come into contact with who face debilitating symptoms?
I can be inconvenienced for those people. I can wear my mask for my students, my school, and my state even if the governor believes requiring masks in school is “ridiculosity.” What is ridiculous is understanding human behavior and then making a statement like that which has a great potential of impacting public health – my granddaughter’s health.
Keep the masks on, even if you don’t believe they work. Science has proven that they work in keeping all kinds of viruses away, not just Covid-19, so why would we require that students attend school, require them to adhere to dress codes, bell schedules, classroom rules, and all the rest, but call it “ridiculous” to require them to wear masks during a pandemic?