May 23, 2020

The Hazards of Mandating Masks at Our School

The time has come to speak and say that we need to resist the pressure to wear face masks at our school. 

Today Ralph Northam is debating whether to force masks on Virginians.  See here. 
In many places people are wearing face coverings regardless.  Our response is going to impact our kids at Oak Hill. 

1.  Truth
We teach first graders that Virginia has 3 branches of civil government.  Laws come from the legislature.  

Can the governor decide when a mask requirement ends?  Can he decide where one has to be worn and by whom?  These types of decisions are made by legislation.  “It’s the Law” means that it was created by those who create laws.  The legislators are those who  using their own limited authority create laws.  Northam isn’t even a legislator.  Yet, here he is considering pronouncing more rules rather than carrying out the rules the General Assembly has given him and our independently elected sheriffs to enforce.

We cannot condone the Governor’s actions and teach 3 branches.  Even if we did, the students would see through this and learn to be as untruthful as we were.  Or, they may just be confused.  They’ll memorize “legislative, judicial, executive” but never really  grow to understand what the difference is between a legislative and an executive power.  They’ll never mature in this case to love the wisdom of American government—the concept of not giving a lot of power to one person or to one group.

The popular thinking is that the governor can override the law in an “emergency.”  Well, that isn’t true.  And, I think the emergency is over.  Models showing an unusual death rate didn’t come to fruition.   

Are the masks designed to stop the spread?  At the start of this, I recall the experts saying that it was not necessary for the general population to wear masks.  Or are the masks, coming late in the game, a way to continue the panic and prolong the claim to crisis powers? 

2.  Communication
A priority of classical education is teaching students communication.  Teachers must model this and train it in the kids.  Wearing a mask makes speech difficult.   It makes eloquent speech nonexistent.   It also eliminates the emotions and ethos that come from watching a person’s face and mouth.  Masks would ruin communication and promote poor social adjustment in children. 

Teaching also requires one to sense the impact that a lesson is having on students.  This requires that a teacher be able to hear what a student says and also that he be able to see whether a student is smiling.

3.  Freedom
Another aspect of education is teaching students to be fearless.  Not imprudent.  We teach handwashing.  We look before crossing the street—we don’t gamble.  Those who are sick should be isolated from everyone else.  I’m happy to even increase these standards.  But, do we really need to be afraid to walk around without masks?

Do not students see that we are relatively safe?  We will face viruses like this in the future, maybe every couple years.  The WHO says even Corona may never go away. See here.    Has not God given us in America ample resources to maintain our health and to fight sickness when it does come?   We need to teach our children to fear God.  We need them to gear up for real battles.  We don’t want them to run for safety when they aren’t seriously threatened.

4.  A Mask Can be a Symbol
Over the past weeks we have seen legally enshrined God-given rights taken away in the name of an emergency.  Our right to assemble for school or worship or play has been taken through orders and through fear of spreading Corona.  You can’t have a political meeting.  You can’t even go into a coffee shop and talk to someone.  You can take your food and run.  In a week you can get your hair cut, but don’t plan to talk to the barber because you’ll be wearing masks.  The only place left to “talk” is on social media.  And, the left has been noisily complaining that social media needs regulated. 

What message does a mask send to the children?  If we support mandating them are we not snuffing out some of the last vestiges of speech?  Health issue or not, do we want someone to be able to force a person to cover his mouth, the mouth which he uses to spread ideas and with which he confesses his beliefs and with which he worships?

What We Can Do
I ask patience from those who sincerely wish to wear a mask or who are among those who genuinely need to wear one. 

My dad often told me that American government was more reasonable than one would expect.  That comment came from an Ohio farm boy who had dealt with his share of government.  (For example, he was audited by the IRS 18 out of 19 years in a row.  He never had any problem with them but their annual multi-day visit to his office was something I grew up with.) 

I think we will find our government officials will intercede for us.  I think we will find plenty of opportunity to see them being reasonable.  Northam himself may back down.  The sun is out and lockdowns are evaporating.  Virginia has a long tradition; God is merciful; and our culture won’t die quickly.  I call for optimism.  But, we also need to know what we are pushing back against and why. 

by Robert Thoburn, Headmaster and Founder of Oak Hill Christian School
B.A. Grove City College, J.D. Pepperdine University School of Law

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1 comment:

Krishna Thotakura said...

Thank you for being outspoken. Although I am not religious I agree with you about the rampant abuse of power with covid and the detrimental effect this is having on our children and large sections of our society.