Surprise. They weren’t there. I am sorry for them if they were intubated in some ICU along the way from Sturgis to Clute. Yet I was relieved to see the coast was clear for me to speak my piece without the likelihood of incident.
In fact, I was delighted to see, as we moved through the list of speakers, that there were three others there to advocate for mandating masks in the elementary and secondary schools. Three women spoke and I would have to say they were much more direct than I was. One was pretty fierce. I thought she may climb over the table and challenge one of the board members to a little mano-a-mano. But the two of them seemed to have a history and I stayed in character – a gentle old man with nothing but love in his heart and a some guilt-inflicting words to lay on the leadership, you know, in the Methodist tradition.
So, here is what I told them:
My purpose is to share a view on public health that comes from a different place than much of the discussion I hear today.
In my century, just after the war, we saw things differently.
The view that a government directive to use a mask or take a vaccination for the general good is an act of oppression is not something I understand.
The people who came before us in our families made significant sacrifices in the cause of freedom. And it wasn’t about wearing masks. It was about free elections, rule of law, the right to speak, meet and worship freely. In the year I was born, it was about death camps. To say that a directive to wear a mask, a proven public health measure, violates one’s freedom, trivializes the ideas they fought to defend.
After the war, there was something else we feared: polio.
Science and medicine helped us overcome polio, as it had smallpox. And tuberculosis, and measles, and mumps and many others. All thanks to our system of public education. We trusted science and the professional educators who taught them. And we trusted the governments our parents’ generation had recently fought for, especially the ones closest to home, our local school boards.
Texas required certain vaccinations before we could go to school.
We got our shots because, in addition to our value of freedom, we were taught a sense of responsibility to the people who sat beside us in school and to our teachers. As a brave six-year-old, I wore my vaccination scar with pride — like a kiddo Purple Heart.
Based on this old school view of the world, I encourage you to do the things you must as leaders in public education to keep the doors open for teaching and learning in the classroom and for keeping our students, teachers, and administrators safe.
Your responsibility is to them. If it means you have to ignore the governor’s dictate as many districts have done, there are patrons who will understand and support you.
I wanted to be sure you were hearing a variety of viewpoints on this issue. My generation doesn’t get much press. Sitting between the Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation. We are the quiet ones, the Silent Generation. But this is too important, even for us, to stay quiet.
Thank you for listening and thank you for your many hours of service.
In that last short paragraph I took out an expression of gratitude for their courage. When I wrote it, I was thinking about the harassment of local school board members around the country I have read about. But I was afraid it might make some cowboy think I was insulting his Mama’s child-raisin’ so I took it out.
After I saw that elementary school mom hinting around at putting one board member’s eyeballs out out on the table for his cowardly evasiveness, I think maybe I should have left it in.