Sunday, Sep 26, 2021

Conflict Over Mask Mandates Part of a Larger School Policy Dispute

The emotional national debate during the past few weeks over President Joe Biden’s call for universal mask mandates in school classrooms, and his condemnation of the bans on such mandates enacted by GOP governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gregg Abbott of Texas, are the most recent manifestation of a deeper and broader dispute between “woke” progressive liberals and a growing coalition of proud Americans and parents from a broad range of ethnic and political backgrounds alarmed over the drastic recent changes in their children’s education. This coalition is finally pushing back after decades of efforts by liberals to radicalize public school curriculums, deemphasize the teachings of traditional academic subjects, and undermine respect for the American heritage.

From a broader perspective, the extended disruption of normal classroom learning due mostly to an overreaction by local Democrat officials to the pandemic is merely another manifestation of the more fundamental dispute between two incompatible visions of the American heritage and the values which should be taught to this country’s children.

The growing alarm over the devastating impact of last year’s lockdowns on schoolchildren was expressed over the weekend by an incisive New York Times editorial. Even though this once great newspaper has, in recent years, become a tool for promoting the radical socialist agenda promoted by the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders, AOC, and her notorious squad of anti-American Democrat radicals, this particular editorial was refreshingly honest.

It recognized that “one of the most distressing aspects of the pandemic has been seeing governors and state education officials abdicate responsibility for managing the worst disruption of public schooling in modern history. . . Virtually every school in the nation closed in March 2020, replacing face-to-face schooling with thrown-together online education or. . . a disruptive scheduling process to combine the two. The resulting learning setbacks range from grave for all groups of students to catastrophic for poor children.”

CONDEMNING DISTORTED DEMOCRAT PRIORITIES

The editorial then condemned the (mostly Democrat) “elected officials [who] seemed more concerned about reopening bars and restaurants than safely reopening schools. . . Failed leadership continues to be painfully evident as the states enter yet another pandemic school year without enforcing common-sense public health policies that would make a much-needed return to in-person schooling as safe as possible.”

While then taking a position in support of the universal student mask mandates that Biden and his fellow liberal Democrats are now demanding, the New York Times editorial still recognizes the basic point that deciding the mask debate on the basis of partisan politics rather than objective public health considerations is actually “hamstringing localities that want to prioritize student safety,” rather than seeking partisan advantage by deliberately distorting the underlying issues.

In fact, both DeSantis and Abbott have no problem with students whose parents agree to have their children wear masks in the classroom. The concern of these Republican governors is to preserve the right of parents to veto any such government mandate if they truly believe that wearing a mask would not be in their child’s best interests.

SCIENCE DOES NOT SUPPORT MASK MANDATES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

In fact, there is now ample scientific evidence to support such a conclusion, which is why many European countries have chosen not to impose a student mask mandate, and are allowing their live classrooms to remain in operation despite the surge in infections due to the Delta variant.

At the same time, the editorial is harshly critical of (again, mostly Democrat) “governors and other elected officials [who] are trying to whistle past the devastating learning setbacks that schoolchildren incurred during the shutdown. . . the alarming extent to which all groups of students are behind where they should be in a normal academic year, and how the most vulnerable students are experiencing the steepest drop-offs in learning.”

LOCKDOWNS HURT STUDENTS FROM POOR MINORITY FAMILIES THE MOST

The Times editorial cites the results of one credible study which “found that Latino third graders scored 17 percentile points lower in math in the spring of 2021, compared to the typical achievements of Latino third graders in the spring of 2019. The decline was 15 percentile points for black students and 14 percentile points for Native American students, compared with [the performance of] similar students in the past.”

The editorial also cited the alarming results in a report by the McKinsey consulting firm which concludes that the pandemic lockdown “has widened existing opportunity and achievement gaps and made high schoolers more likely to drop out.” Quoting the McKinsey report, the editorial states, “‘The fallout from the pandemic threatens to depress this generation’s [schoolchildren’s] prospects and constrict their opportunities far into adulthood,’” by significantly reducing their future higher education prospects as well as their lifetime earnings potential.

Again, failing to mention that they are talking mostly about Democrats, the Times editorial board concludes that “these findings constitute a scalding rebuke of those who have minimized the impact of the school shutdowns.”

These studies clearly show that the students who suffered the most from the school closures were from poorer families, including a disproportionately high number of black and Latino homes less capable of enabling their children to engage effectively in the remote instruction, which was the vastly inferior substitute that public school systems offered their students for in-person classroom learning.

ONE MILLION MISSING SCHOOL CHILDREN

The editorial also quotes a previous New York Times story which reported that because of the lockdown of schools, “more than a million children who had been expected to enroll in local schools [this school year] did not show up, either in person or online. The missing students were concentrated in the younger grades, with the steepest drop in kindergarten — more than 340,000 students.”

The editorial concluded that, “the learning catastrophe that has befallen the country’s most vulnerable children will take longer than one academic year to remedy. . . This project will not be easy to accomplish. But pretending that everything is fine — and that no extraordinary measures are needed [to make up for the lost educational ground] — is a recipe for disaster [for the affected children].”

While the disturbing conclusions of the editorial were refreshingly frank and accurate, its wording was carefully couched to avoid any direct mention of the local and statewide elected Democrat leaders largely responsible for instituting and prolonging the unnecessary school shutdowns which were so damaging to millions of public-school students and their families who found themselves prisoners in their own homes from New York City to Chicago to Los Angeles.

BIDEN’S POWER GRAB TO CONTROL PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATION

Despite the growing revolt by a public fed up with more than a year of Covid restrictions against a new round of Democrat-proposed student mask mandates in school districts across the country, Biden and his Department of Education are seeking to invoke unprecedented federal powers in support of Democrat-dominated local school boards.

In Florida, Texas, and other “red” states, these school board officials are defying the lawful executive orders issued by their Republican governors — and in some cases, laws passed by their state legislatures — which were issued to preserve the right of parents to opt out of local government policies they believe to be harmful to their children.

In fact, the CDC, Biden, and his administration are doing the bidding of their political supporters, the teachers’ union officials, who first successfully resisted the reopening of the nation’s schools last year, and who are now pushing for all students, as well as vaccinated teachers, to wear masks in school this fall, whether there is a valid public health need to justify such a measure or not.

STATE VS. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY

The angry rhetoric of the very public dispute between Biden and Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, which was ostensibly over the issue of student mask-wearing, has steadily escalated in recent weeks, and has degenerated into a test of raw political power for its own sake.

Biden’s Education Department claimed it was launching federal investigations into those “red states” — including Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah, in addition to Florida and Texas — which have banned local school boards for instituting a student mask mandate which does not give parents the power to have their child exempted.

The Education Department claims it is only responding to complaints from “parents and advocates who argue that prohibiting masks mandates could deny a student their right to an education by putting them in harm’s way in school.”

But in fact, Biden’s Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, has been using the investigations as a thinly veiled threat to force governors to cede their lawful authority over local school districts in their states to the federal government, and using the now widely-recognized need for a safe return to in-person classroom instruction as an excuse to justify the power grab.

Biden claims that it is the Republican governors, rather than his Education Department, who have exceeded their lawful authority. He falsely accused them of opposing the use of “masks” in schools, when in fact, they are only seeking to preserve the right of the parents to opt out, on behalf of their child, of any mask-wearing mandate.

BLAMING YOUR OPPONENT FOR YOUR OWN FAULTS

Using a typical Democrat tactic — accusing their opponents of doing something that they themselves are guilty of — Biden said of the Republican governors last week, “Unfortunately, as we have seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain. Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by banning masks in school. They are setting a dangerous tone.”

DeSantis had the Florida Board of Education carry out his threat last week to remove some state funding from the two local school districts in Broward and Alachua counties, which had defied DeSantis’ July 30 executive order against issuing a student mask mandate without an opt-out for parents. Secretary Cardona then responded by pledging Biden administration support to “assist any district facing repercussions,” from Florida’s governor.

Meanwhile, the confrontation between Florida’s governor and the Biden-supported local school boards has continued to escalate, with Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, and Palm Beach counties joining Broward and Alachua in challenging DeSantis’ authority. Together, the five school districts challenging DeSantis with their universal mask mandates account for almost 40% of the state’s schoolchildren.

But DeSantis is not backing down. A news release issued by the Florida Department of Education said that state funding will be withheld from the members of the school board of the first two counties which violated his executive order against passing a student mask mandate without a parent opt-out.

MASKS THE LATEST ISSUE IN THE BATTLE OVER KEEPING SCHOOLS OPEN

As governor, DeSantis refused to order the statewide closure of Florida schools when the virus first hit last year. Since then, he has made support for the right of parents to make key decisions about their child’s education — including state funding enabling them to send their child to the public, private, or parochial school of their choice — a central theme of his state policy agenda.

Meanwhile, a legal confrontation is unfolding in Texas state courts over a similar executive order issued by Governor Greg Abbott against the imposition by local school boards of a universal student mask mandate. One North Texas school district has tried a novel legal tactic to get around Governor Abbott’s executive order by making the wearing of masks part of the school dress code for the current academic year.

At a school district in Austin, Texas, some parents are taking the political war over mask wearing very personally. One parent ripped off a teacher’s face mask while others yelled at another teacher to remove her mask because they claimed it made it difficult to understand what she was saying.

Ironically, in Illinois, the challenge over the universal student mask-wearing mandate that was recently ordered statewide by its Democrat governor, J.B. Pritzker, is just the opposite of the situation in Florida and Texas. Instead, dozens of local school districts across Illinois are defying Pritzker’s order to put a mask mandate in place, despite a similar threat by the governor to cut their state funding.

SCHOOL REOPENINGS DISRUPTED BY THE DELTA VARIANT

Nationwide, according to a Washington Post report, the resurgence of the Delta variant has disrupted plans by most school districts for a return to normal operations for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Instead, school officials are again navigating uncharted territory as the number of new infections climb and large numbers of students exposed to the virus have already been forced to go into quarantine during the first days of the new school year.

One significant change from last year, however, is the widespread realization that for the sake of the children, every effort must be made to enable schools to remain open, and that government and school officials should order school closures only as a last resort, after all available mitigation strategies, including student mask-wearing mandates, have failed to halt the spread of the virus.

MAYOR DE BLASIO HAS LEARNED HIS LESSON

In New York City, for example, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was quick last year to close the city’s public-school system at the start of the pandemic, has apparently learned his lesson. In preparation for the new school year which starts on September 13, de Blasio is so determined to return public schools to normal operations that he has eliminated the option he had given parents last year to choose remote instead of in-person learning for their children.

Another piece of good news is a study published by the medical journal The Lancet, which found that of 1,700 school-aged kids who had been infected by Covid, the typical symptoms were headaches and fatigue, and a full recovery after about six days.

For the week ending August 12, there were more than 121,000 new Covid cases reported nationwide, with a relatively high 18 percent of them occurring in children. But even though more young people are being infected by the Delta variant, they are not getting any sicker. As a result, for most young people, being infected by the Delta variant is no more serious than contracting a routine case of seasonal flu.

GROWING PARENT PUSHBACK AGAINST RADICAL SCHOOL CURRICULUMS

But the bitter partisan disputes over school policy are not limited to responses to the challenge of the pandemic. In local school districts across the country, President Biden’s progressive supporters are increasingly finding their radical educational ideas being aggressively challenged by a fast-growing coalition which includes the many Americans parents from all ethnic and political backgrounds who remain proud of this country’s heritage, and who are deeply concerned about the content and quality of the education that their children are now receiving in their classrooms. These parents have rightfully become alarmed by the recent successes of liberals in getting public schools to adopt race-obsessed curriculums guided by the radical teachings of Critical Race Theory.

The result is that many schoolchildren today are no longer being taught the basic facts of American history. Instead, they are being indoctrinated to reject as racist the unique combination of democratic values and governing principles upon which this country was founded.

A BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS

The battle between the two camps is for nothing less than the hearts and minds of the current generation of American schoolchildren. The progressive liberals, with the open support of the mainstream media and the Biden administration, are seeking to imbue the country’s young children at the grade school and even pre-school levels with a deliberately distorted view of American history. The secularist progressive ideology has nothing but contempt for the traditional Judeo-Christian ethical and religious beliefs which lie at the foundation America’s strength, coupled with its proud national heritage of support for individual freedoms and democracy.

In a systematic effort to undermine children’s love of country, progressives have been demonizing America’s Founding Fathers. This country’s greatest leaders, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and even Abraham Lincoln, have all been unfairly depicted by progressives teaching Critical Race Theory in schools as racist slave-holders, oppressors of blacks, women and American Indians, and immoral hypocrites, in an attempt to discredit their great accomplishments and inspiring ideals in the eyes of today’s American youth.

BACK TO THE ‘60S

The culture conflict between liberals and conservatives over American values is hardly new. Its origins can be traced back directly to the liberal protests which sprung up on college campuses across the country during the 1960’s and early 1970’s against the American involvement in the Vietnam War. Another root of the current liberal disrespect for American institutions of law and order were the violent race riots during the same era in minority-populated neighborhoods of major cities across the country, such as New York City, Newark, Chicago, Detroit, and many others.

The radical anti-war movement and the rise of black militancy at the same time enabled them to feed off of one another. It was at this point that liberal ideologies became dominant on American college campuses.

LIBERALS HAVE ABANDONED THE RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH

Over subsequent decades, slowly but surely, liberals abandoned their traditional support for the principles of free speech and the open exchange of ideas. Instead, they began to intimidate into silence or discredit anyone who dared to offer serious public criticism of their increasingly radical ideas and opinions. The liberal influence also became a dominant force in America’s media culture, which has become increasingly saturated with images and messages celebrating violence, crime and sensuality, while simultaneously ridiculing and undermining traditional American moral values.

It was only natural that liberal activists in more recent years began to seek ways to extend their longtime control over the expression of thought on America’s college campuses. Their next goal was to similarly indoctrinate a captive audience of tens of millions of younger students enrolled in the K-12 public school systems in their ideology. Their decades-long pursuit of that mission was on the brink of nationwide success when the pandemic hit last year. The resulting public health crisis prompted Democrat elected officials across the country, who had already been forced by progressive activists to adopt their radical policy agenda, to order the unnecessary school shutdowns which had disastrous results, not only on school-age students and their families, but also the entire national economy.

EFFECTIVE DEMOCRAT EXPLOITATION OF THE RACE ISSUE

For decades, Democrat candidates, both black and white, were able to successfully play the “race card” to gain permanent political control over the nation’s largest cities. They won re-election time after time by unfairly portraying their Republican opponents as racists and bigots who hated and exploited blacks as well as members of all other minority groups. But in fact. it was the Democrat elected officials who played the greatest role in exploiting and perpetuating the poverty in the minority-populated areas of this country’s inner cities.

Part of that exploitation was the control of inner-city public-school systems by Democrat officials who ran them primarily for the benefit of the teachers’ unions rather than the students and their families. In return for their huge contributions to Democrat election campaigns, the teachers’ unions were rewarded with overpriced, sweetheart labor contracts, at the expense of the taxpayers, which rewarded teacher and principal mediocrity, and accelerated the broad educational decline and failure of the nation’s largest public-school systems.

PARENTS AWAKENED BY THE SCHOOL LOCKDOWNS

This self-perpetuating Democrat power system had been in place in the nation’s largest cities for decades. Before Covid, many parents had taken the urban political status quo for granted. But the major disruptions caused by the school lockdowns in the daily life of their families forced parents to take a new look at what was really going on in their local public schools and communities, and many of them quickly realized that they didn’t like what they finally saw.

Most minority group parents in the inner cities had long accepted at face value the claims by local Democrat elected officials that they had the best interests of their children at heart in formulating their public-school policies. But their disinterest in re-opening their kids’ schools, because of the selfish objections of the teachers’ unions, made many parents realize that they and their children were being ruthlessly exploited as a captive audience by their elected Democrat officials, for whom providing an effective education for their children was near the bottom of their list of political priorities, despite their protestations to the contrary.

Many of these parents also became concerned by the changes forced by progressive on their public school’s curriculum, not only because they disagreed with the anti-American attitudes that the new curriculum sought to instill in their children, but because those politicized messages were replacing the teaching of basic learning skills, including reading, writing and mathematics, which their children would need in order to achieve success as adults.

USING CAPTIVE PUBLIC-SCHOOL CHILDREN AS POLITICAL PAWNS

They also came to realize that their local Democrat elected officials were also deliberately trying to prevent dissatisfied parents from having the ability to transfer their children from their failing public school to a charter or parochial school which would give their children a much better education, because it would mean diverting taxpayer funds away from the public schools over which they and the unions exerted total control.

As the lockdowns dragged on well into a second school year, the frustrated parents began to organize themselves politically to demand that their schools be re-opened, and that they be granted tuition vouchers and other forms of government funding that would enable them to send their children to other schools which would be best for them.

TRUMP’S SUPPORT FOR PARENT SCHOOL CHOICE

This long overdue awakening of poor and minority group parents to their exploitation by Democrats had its origins during the four years of the Trump administration. Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, was a long-time outspoken advocate for school choice and private school education. She was often viciously attacked by Democrats, teachers union officials and members of the public-school education establishment. However, DeVos’ advocacy of common-sense proposals to reform the nation’s education policies eventually began to gain traction, especially with minority parents who had lost their trust in the public-school system after the lockdowns started.

The results became apparent in the results of this past November’s presidential election. Even though Biden carried the black and Latino vote nationwide, it was by a significantly smaller margin than Democrat strategists had been expecting. Apparently, more blacks and Latinos were switching their votes, not only because Trump’s economic policies had resulted in historic employment and wage gains for low income black and Latino workers before Covid shut down the economy, but also because black and Latino parents favored Republican school policies which gave their children far better educational choices and opportunities than what the Democrats have been offering.

EDUCATION SEEN AS A WINNING ISSUE FOR REPUBLICANS

Republicans like governors DeSantis and Abbott increasingly see themselves as being on the winning side of today’s bitter political disputes over educational policies. As public-school systems across the country prepare to start their new academic year in the weeks ahead in the face of a new Covid threat due to the Delta variant, most will be doing everything they can to re-open their classrooms safely, and keep them open, for in-person learning.

These Republicans have chosen to support the right of parents to make the key decisions in the education of their children, rather than again ceding that authority to elected officials who are more concerned with pleasing the union officials who support them politically than enacting the education policies that are in the best interests of the children and their families.

Republicans believe that they are on the winning side by working to empower parents and their families to choose the best schools for their children, public or private, rather than being forced to continue sending their children to failing inner-city public schools that are increasingly incapable of providing them with an effective education.

THE ONGOING BATTLE OVER CRITICAL RACE THEORY

Republicans also believe that they are right to support the parents who do not want their children to be indoctrinated in the classroom with the socialism-based and racially obsessed anti-American teachings of the Critical Race Theory. Republican are convinced that the vast majority of American parents, regardless of their ethnic heritage or past political affiliations, most want their children to be taught in school to have pride in the American heritage and respect for traditional American moral values, that America is an inherently good and great country rather that one whose society is morally tainted by the stain of systemic racism.

Republicans are convinced that most parents want their children to be encouraged to pursue the traditional American dream, to take advantage of their equal opportunities in America’s free enterprise system to earn advancement through their own hard work and initiative, rather than a government-imposed “equity of outcomes” which promotes the perpetual dependency of individuals on welfare handouts and punishes those who are successful by confiscating the material rewards that they have earned. Most parents also hope, Republicans believe, that if their children can succeed through fair competition in the free enterprise system, they have a right to be generously rewarded, without any need for apology, for the individual successes and accomplishments that they have earned.

THE BATTLE OVER STUDENT MASK-WEARING MANDATES

More specifically, with regard to the current dispute over the right of government officials to unilaterally impose student mask-wearing mandates, regardless of the wishes of those children’s parents, Republicans believe that they have the scientific facts, as well as a superior moral and logical argument, on their side.

Three months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a ground-breaking large-scale study of Covid transmission in American schools. Most of the major news outlets reported the key finding that was highlighted in the study’s summary: that masking unvaccinated teachers and improving ventilation with more fresh air were associated with a measurably lower incidence of new viral infections in schools.

But other findings of equal importance from the same study which were omitted from its summary were not widely reported. They cast doubt on the effectiveness of many of the most common Covid mitigation measures that have been widely used in American schools since the start of the pandemic. These include social distancing, hybrid live-remote classroom schedules, the installation of plastic barriers in the classroom, the use of HEPA filters in ventilation systems, and, most notably, requiring students to wear masks while in school.

The study, which looked at data collected from 90,000 elementary-school students in 169 Georgia schools from November 16 to December 11 last year, compared the incidence of new Covid infections in schools with those mitigation measures in place to other schools in the same area without those measures. The result was that the researchers could not find a statistically significant benefit from the use of any of these measures on the rate of new infections in the classroom.

The finding that having young students wear masks did not change the rate of new infections was not, in itself, surprising. It was consistent with the experience of several Western European countries, including Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, and Scandinavia, which have not required young students to wear masks in classroom. The European schools suffered no greater incidence of new Covid infections than those in the United States, where student mask wearing mandates were the norm in most of the public schools that were open last year.

HOW MASKS INJURE KIDS

On the other hand, there is now substantial evidence that requiring young children to wear masks in the classroom does have injurious effects on both their academic and social development, and possibly on their ability to breathe normally as well. As a result, the guidelines in effect in these European countries, and those promoted by the World Health Organization, criticize mask mandates for young children in the classroom as not only unnecessary, but harmful.

Nevertheless, in July, a month after the CDC published its study of the Georgia public schools, the CDC, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), issued updated guidelines which contradicted the study’s conclusion that it could find no evidence that requiring students to wear masks in the classroom reduced the rate of new Covid infections. Instead, the new guidelines recommended that everyone in a school over the age of 2 be required to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.

When asked about the apparent contradiction between the findings of the Georgia study and its new guidelines, the CDC’s press office responded that the mask mandate was necessary because there is currently no vaccine approved for use on children under the age of 12, and the spread Delta variant of the virus has been causing a larger number of young children to become infected than before.

However, the Delta variant, which became the dominant strain in Europe long before the United States, has not prompted either the European countries or the World Health Organization to change their official view that imposing a mask mandate on young schoolchildren is likely to do more harm than good.

Defenders of the new CDC guidelines argue that the Georgia study did find that when several mitigation factors, including the social distancing, hybrid schedules, plastic barriers, HEPA filters, and masking, were applied together, there was some reduction observed in new infections. However, critics of the new guidelines point out that, because of the way that study was conducted, there is no way of telling which of those mitigation measures, such as masking, were responsible for the reduced the spread of Covid in elementary schools, and which were not.

An article by David Zweig, published by New York magazine last week, quotes public health experts who now challenge the justification for the CDC’s new guidelines. They are now demanding that it produce clear scientific evidence demonstrating that the benefits to students from mask-wearing during the next school year in reducing Covid infections, outweigh the known risks from masking to the well-being of those children.

In an attempt to verify the CDC’s claim that its student mask wearing mandate was justified by credible research, Zweig reviewed 17 different studies that the CDC had cited. He found that they all suffered from the same procedural defect as the Georgia study. None of them had looked at the effect of student mask usage on new infection rates in isolation from other Covid mitigation factors, or against an unmasked student control group, making it impossible to prove that student mask-wearing reduced the threat of infection.

MASK MANDATES DO CHILDREN MORE HARM THAN GOOD

Elissa Schechter-Perkins, director of Emergency Medicine Infectious Disease Management at Boston Medical Center, told Zweig, “A year ago, I said, ‘Masks are not the end of the world; why not just wear a mask?’ But the world has changed, there are real downsides to masking children for this long, with no known end date, and without any clear upside. I’m not aware of any studies that show conclusively that kids wearing masks in schools has any effect on their own morbidity or mortality or on the hospitalization or death rate in the community around them.”

She also disagrees with the argument that the increased number of young people being infected by the Delta variant makes mask-wearing more imperative. She cites a new German study which indicates that while more kids may be getting infected with the Delta variant, they are not experiencing more severe symptoms.

“I don’t think that Delta changes the calculus because it still seems clear that it doesn’t cause more severe disease, so it still doesn’t change the fundamental question of ‘What are we trying to achieve by masking kids when they are still extremely unlikely to suffer from severe illness or death if infected?’ And the adults in their lives have the opportunity to be vaccinated and also protected so we don’t need to worry about transmission.”

YOUNG KIDS STILL LARGELY IMMUNE TO THE VIRUS

Pediatric immunologist Schechter-Perkins also emphasized that, “We know that the risk to kids from Covid is vanishingly low. Yes, we’re seeing it, but it’s rare.”

Since the pandemic started a year and a half ago, only 361 out of the more than 600,000 Covid deaths have occurred in children under the age of 18. By comparison, during the much shorter 2018-2019 flu season, there were 477 pediatric deaths in the United States alone.

As a result, Schechter-Perkins concluded, “Even with a new variant, the onus is on those who recommend masking kids to robustly demonstrate a meaningful benefit, especially when the pre-Delta study of the Georgia schools did not find one, and when there are obvious socio-emotional and educational harms from masking children for this unprecedented duration of time.”

A LACK OF SPECIFIC EVIDENCE OF EFFECTIVENESS

Dr. Vinay Prasad, a health researcher at the University of California in San Francisco, also dismisses the CDC’s arguments to support its child mask-wearing recommendation because, he says, they, “are incapable of anticipating and tallying the effects that emerge when real people are asked to do real things in the real world.” Prasad contends that in the absence of any hard evidence on the effectiveness of child mask-wearing, “the CDC cannot [claim to] ‘follow the science’ because there is no relevant science.”

Jeffrey Flier, a former dean of Harvard Medical School, agrees with Schechter-Perkins and Prasad. He wrote, “We lack credible evidence for benefits of masking kids aged 2 to 5, despite what the American Academy of Pediatrics says.”

Even officers of the AAP itself, which supports the new CDC child mask wearing guidelines, admit that there are downsides to the recommendation. “Mask-wearing among children is generally considered a low-risk mitigation strategy; however, the negatives are not zero, especially for young children,” said Lloyd Fisher, the president of the AAP’s Massachusetts chapter. “It is important for children to see facial expressions of their peers and the adults around them in order to learn social cues and understand how to read emotions,” and that is particularly true for children with special needs who suffer from articulation delays.

Another pediatrician and AAP member interviewed by Zweig, who disagrees with its support for a mask-wearing mandate, and didn’t want to quoted by name, said, “There are very good reasons that the World Health Organization has repeatedly affirmed their guidance for children under 6 to not wear masks. Reading faces is critical for social emotional learning. And all children are actively learning language the first five years of life, for which seeing faces is foundational,”

Pediatricians also have a popular saying that “you can’t treat children like little adults.” With regard to their reaction to exposure to the Covid virus, children are significantly differently from adults. It has long been known that they are much less likely than adults to get seriously ill, and when they do get infected, they are less likely to be symptomatic, or to harbor high concentrations of the virus, making them inherently less of a threat to infect others. According to Dr. Prasad, that fact alone could explain why putting masks on young children did not have the same protective effect as putting masks on unvaccinated adult teachers in the Georgia study.

THE DISPUTE IS OVER IDEOLOGY, NOT SCIENCE

But the ongoing public debate over whether a student mask-wearing mandate is justified by our scientific knowledge is fundamentally misleading. At the core of the dispute is not the health and welfare of our children but rather the values that they are being taught in school and the underlying ideological clash between socialist-inspired liberals with a secularist world view and those who support the traditional American values of democracy and freedom as well as the Judeo-Christian moral and religious beliefs which have historically provided the firm foundation for American society.

That is, ultimately, what the current school mask dispute is really all about.

 

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