We recevied an email yesterday from our daughter’s school. We’ve received an email every day from our daughter’s school. Each email has revealed new positive cases amongst the student body. Sometimes it’s three or four cases. Sometimes it has been as many as seven cases. These are all new cases. Last year, we got maybe one of those emails a week. When we got them there were usually only one or two positive cases.
Now, if we were to act like a scientist (crazy thought I know) we would make a mental note of all of the differences between this year and last. The first major difference is that virtually all of the students have returned to school. Last year was really a 50/50 proposition. My child’s district offers a stay home option, but they cease to be students at their neighborhood school. That means they can’t participate in any extracurricular activities at that school. So, that’s a non-starter for nearly 99 percent of the families around these parts.
The second major difference is that extra curricular activities were severely curtailed last year. Sports schedules were drastically reduced. There were virtually no clubs or organizations. Field trips dropped to zero. There were no pep rallies or other events that schools of all levels often take for granted. Even schools like mine that have few of those things canceled stuff like our Fall Festival.
The third and last major difference was a universal mask mandate. Now, a few large districts are requiring it, but otherwise it has become optional. I still see a majority of students and teachers wear masks, but there is obviously enough of a percentage that don’t to where we notice a difference. Of course, I could be getting ahead of myself here. Technically, any of those three differences (or all of them) could be the reason why we saw fewer cases last school year.
This begs a very simple and straightforward question. How many additional positives are acceptable? How many additional hospitalizations are acceptable? How many additional deaths are acceptable? We have some smart readers around here (a lot smarter than me) but if anyone new stumbles in, it might be good to talk about the difference between natural freedom and political freedom.
We aren’t covering new ground here. Yet, it hit me hard last night as I watched our daughter play volleyball. We watched dozens of students for the other school have a blast as the girls played a long and tough match. The school required everyone to wear masks. A few broke the rules, but most complied. It didn’t seem to curtail their fun at all and both sides gave fist bumps to each other as the girls walked to their bus. They all had fun.
To put this as simply as I can, we know what the human costs are of having half of the students at home. We know the lack of human interaction causes damage to the psyche and we saw its effects academically. We see the tangible and intangible effects of skipping out on those activities that we all used to take for granted. We saw it in reverse last night when we saw how much fun everyone was having.
This comes back to the difference between natural freedom and political freedom. Life has to be sancrosanct. It has to be the most important thing because without it freedom doesn’t exist. Yet, we all can respect the notion that skipping out on too many of life’s simple joys makes life not worth living. So, a balance is needed.
Masks don’t enter into that equation. Kids can go on field trips and wear masks. Kids can go to football and volleyball games and wear masks. Kids can go to pep rallies and wear masks. Kids can go to homecoming and wear masks. Kids can all go to class and wear masks. Obviously, it’s too early to tell whether masks, social distancing, or curtailing activities was the most responsible for limiting cases. We do know that there are more cases. So, we return to our basic question. How many additional cases are acceptable? More importantly, if we don’t want kids to miss out on those experiences and we still want those numbers to stay low, can’t we just try requiring everyone to mask up?