the loss of civility

As a retired educator with thirty-seven years in a public school system and three of those years in an administrative position, I am compelled to address the loss of civility I currently see running rampant surrounding the mandate requiring students and teachers to wear masks while in school. 

Televised school board meetings are packed with parents and members of the community arguing both sides of the mask mandate.  Screaming, name calling, faces distorted into ugly countenances. . .   threats, illogical reasoning, disinformation being flung across the room. This is what we have deteriorated into – a species that seems to have forgotten how to be civil.

Opinion pieces published in the local newspapers are also often packed with disinformation, skirting the real issues that need to be addressed.  

What kind of example are we setting for the children who will be our future? They are growing up in a world of social media where anonymous avatars and trolls brainwash anyone who is unwilling to go one step farther and FACT-CHECK the information being spouted.  We live in a world of information overload where real issues and truths get buried in mounds of ridiculous non-sensical thinking and false information. 

It’s apparent that a lack of civility is destructive.  With this destruction comes the breakdown of our society and ultimately the strength and unity of our country.  People have lost the ability to listen, respect differences, and disagree civilly.  It often is very worthwhile to stop and consider the “other side” instead of turning a deaf ear to another’s differing thoughts and opinions that JUST MIGHT have some merit.

Are we perfect individuals? Do we never make mistakes? No, so we have a responsibility to be informed and to work with others cooperatively to reach the best resolution for all involved. 

What is the REAL issue here that faces our school districts?  It is not requiring students and teachers to wear masks. It is not about convenience or in-convenience.  It is not about keeping our children happy.

We are in a pandemic, folks! This is the REAL issue. The REAL issue is that the virus is taking full advantage of being able to mutate because of unvaccinated hosts, lack of attention to social distancing, and no masks.  The mutations then cause variants which are different than the original virus.  Could a new variant affect children more frequently and more dangerously than earlier strains?  We don’t know for sure yet, but is the risk worth taking?

Our school districts are trying to act in the best interest of our children, teachers, school personnel, and wide-spread safety in our communities.  If a child has an educational challenge that makes wearing a mask difficult or impossible, you can be assured that teachers and staff will do their best to support this child so he or she is able to function academically. 

So, it is time to stop the screaming, name-calling, and placing blame where it does not belong.  It is time to join forces, to be united in our singular battle against the Covid pandemic.  It is time to start working together, armed with FACTS, for our common cause. It is time to contribute responsibly to ending this pandemic.

It is time to return to civility. 

Author’s note: This piece was written at the height of the pandemic when children were returning to classroom learning. School districts were trapped between medical mandates and an outspoken, angry community. Somehow it got shoved into a distant corner on my desktop and was never published. Even though circumstances have changed somewhat, the loss of civility has not. . . so I decided it was still worth publishing. (dg)