Over the years, many of our society’s challenges have shown up at our schoolhouse doors seeking resolution.  When poverty was finally recognized as a major impediment to student achievement, the federal government created Head Start and worked with schools to provide hot lunches so that students would not have to try to learn while hunger burned a hole in their bellies.

When educators advocated for students whom they could see were arriving at our schools experiencing ongoing trauma, schools provided counselors, social workers, and developed instructional techniques to help mitigate the trauma and to put these students on their paths to learning and fulfillment.

The schools, following Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, became the laboratory for creating a desegregated and more equitable society, often at great peril.

Now, as we are besieged by this pandemic, the education community finds itself in the position of having to step up its efforts to keep our children and colleagues safe.  Why? Because, for several reasons, society has not embraced its personal responsibility to flatten the curve of Coronavirus infections.

For months, epidemiologists at the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been preaching the gospel of Coronavirus mitigation: Practice effective hand hygiene, socially distance, avoid crowds, and wear a mask.  In fact, Dr. Robert Redfield has said, “the best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds.”

On another occasion, Dr. Redfield stated, “If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control.”  He said this months ago.

Had we taken his advice; I would not be writing about this today.  We would not be seeing divisive arguments about masking and freedom on our Twitter/FB feeds.  Teachers and ESP across ND would not be experiencing the unprecedented stress that they have been subjected to due to changing work policies and uncertain expectations.

We are not seeing these soaring infection rates in many parts of ND by accident.

We are seeing them because we have abandoned our responsibility to protect each other.  Too many of us are too invested in our personal ambitions to take the simple steps to get us what we all want.

It is a classic case of not being able to see the forest for the trees.  We want to get back to normal but will not be inconvenienced for a few weeks to accomplish that goal.

The result, then, is that we remain at loggerheads between those who will do what it takes to mitigate the pandemic and those who will not act in a way that expedites a return to normalcy.  This has long-term negative implications for our students and teachers alike.  We need leadership at the federal, state, and local level now more than ever.  #MaskUPND