We’re All Hypocrites? And What’s The Precedent On The WH-FL Mask War?

Light posting, it’s August, but a few things. Today is Robert Plant’s birthday. Everyone who ever went to a middle school dance knows him from Stairway to Heaven. But his recent work with Allison Kraus is really amazing cross genre work I highly recommend. They have a new one coming later this year. Preview here. In certain circles it’s trendy to knock him as not appreciating a debt to the blues. But if you’ve ever heard him talk about the blues, blues history, and music more generally it’s a harder case to make.

Everyone always says, “listen to the community.” But what they mean is listen to the community when they agree with me. To use an extreme example, I don’t know anyone who thinks we should listen to the Taliban about what opportunities a community should provide women and girls. People have values that lead them to viewpoints about human affairs. And that’s generally good, and creative tension between various viewpoints can lead to progress. Local control is another of these. People who say they favor local control append an asterisk also. *When the locals do things I like or that fit my politics.

That’s on full display with the increasingly crazy debate over mask mandates. There was mask resistance in 1918, too. It’s not new. And since the pandemic is not as over we we hoped it’s not too late to read The Great Influenza! Anyhow, from where I sit the evidence indicates you should get vaccinated and wear a mask, that’s where we are in this pandemic. The increase in asymptotic transmission means mask wearing seems like common sense. Governors playing politics on mask mandates certainly seems unhelpful, and yes hypocritical if they claim to be local control supporters.

The political nationalizing of the pandemic is unhelpful, too. Even if you are fine with masks, we might pause to ask, what are the downstream consequences of the Biden Administration’s choice to wade into the issue with particular school districts (that just so happen to have a lot of Democrats)?  Is there a precedent here? The base politics are obviously pretty good. If you’re a national Democrat or even a statewide candidate it’s hard to go wrong attacking Florida’s Ron DeSantis. And he does seem pretty concerned about 2024 optics.

But we might rue the day that every disagreement becomes a “civil rights” issue. There are certainly equity issues around provision of education during the pandemic (and in the Barry book there is some chilling racial history from the 1918 one) but even as a mask supporter*, I’m not sure masks get there. The White House is throwing itself in to what is essentially a very state education issue. 

On the other hand, I think federal rules to ensure accountability for historically underserved students are a civil rights issue and other people see that as essentially a state education issue. So, again, it’s mostly about viewpoints.

Do yourself a favor and read the census data itself rather than the “takes.”

This essay is interesting on race and class. Some implications for our sector.

Coming attractions:

*I know it’s controversial, but masks sort of seem like one of those things in life where it’s worth asking what’s the worst that can happen? In this case if you wear one for a bit? I don’t like being told what to do either, but if you wear one voluntarily, really, what’s the worst thing that can happen?