The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

To Mask or Not to Mask?
It’s Not the Right Question, nor the Only Answer

Sep 27, 2021

Genesee County Health Officials receive death threats after issuing mask mandates. Parents gather to protest Oakland County school mask mandate. Grand Blanc parents have mixed feelings about mask mandate. Crowd of unmasked students press into Washtenaw County school, violating COVID-19 mandate.

These are just some of the headlines in Michigan newspapers, reflecting what has happened in the past month with the return to in-person schooling after 19 months, and with the focus on mask mandates—where the experts say that “will help students go back to school safely.”

And so, you have parents on either side of the masking question, fighting each other at protests; parents attacking health department and school officials at school board meetings; parents accosting school staff at school entrances; parents taking their children out of school. And into this mix, there are political, sometimes right-wing forces, that have consciously used parents’ concerns for their children to direct them into either reactionary, backward attitudes about science and education, or to lull them with the view that masking will solve all of the problems.

Today, parents everywhere, are being directed to focus on the mask mandate. And for those parents who want masking, yes, it’s true that masking can be among the mitigation measures used to reduce the spread of the virus. But that is not all that is necessary, by a long shot. For what has been done, in the last 19 months, to put in place the primary measures that would be necessary to allow our children to be able to breathe? To go to school and learn. And play with their friends. And see their teachers’ faces. For teachers to see our children’s faces and read their expressions. And make up for all the deficits in learning and socialization that occurred in the last 19 months. And be as safe as possible from the virus.

There are many, many steps that COULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN to mitigate the problems associated with COVID, but, for the most part, especially in working class and poor school districts, they haven’t been. Where is the social distancing, with smaller class sizes, which would require more classrooms and therefore, more schools? Where are the outdoor pods and facilities constructed that would allow kids, not just kids from privileged backgrounds, to enjoy fresh air, and not be in close quarters? Where are the new ventilation systems, the extra school buses and drivers, the extra and better paid teachers, extra support staff, extra social workers, and nurses?

It will take a tidal wave of resources, of money, of planning, to even begin to address the problems associated with COVID, and the ability to provide a decent and quality education and safe environment for our children.

And so, if today, the powers that be have directed us to focus on masks, it is a way to divert us and have us turn against each other, rather than stand together. Because they have been unwilling and incapable to really seriously address the problems they have created. Hell, they can’t even provide PPE to nurses, but they are happy to see ordinary people at each other’s throats, fighting over the masking mandate. Anything to keep everyone misdirected from where the fight has to take place.

No, today, we should refuse to be turned against each other, because the real fight that should be taking place is not over the question of masking. The real fight, for parents, teachers, and anyone who values children as our most valuable resource, is to fight to take back the wealth we have created by our labor, and use it for our children, and the rest of society.