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Opinion
Sarasota Thursday, Sep. 2, 2021 11 months ago

Mask wars: Coercion only brings destruction

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This fight or war over masks on school children brings into vivid focus the incongruity that has existed with education from the day it became the domain of the state.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

This is ridiculous — this political war over masks in schools.

It is yet another example that accentuates why state-controlled education is a fallacy and delusion and should be abolished.

Yep, here we go again, you say. Another extreme, wackadoo idea.

But au contraire.

This fight or war over masks on school children brings into vivid focus the incongruity that has existed with education from the day it became the domain of the state.

It has always been thus: strife and tension between the Legislature, which controls the money, curricula and policies, and the local school districts, school boards and educators. They are always at odds.

We recall former state Sen. Nancy Detert when she decided to give up her Senate seat. She was exhausted and exasperated at how the Legislature had changed for the worse. In particular, she noted how so many newly elected legislators would come to Tallahassee on their white horses to reform the state’s education system — despite what little they knew.

Since the beginning of the state’s present public school system in 1868, lawmakers have created a nightmarish Leviathan of regulations. In 153 years, they have amassed 573,253 words of mandates and regulations. The Bible, which covers 4,000 years, has 783,140 words — but only 10 rules.

Meantime, back in the local districts, you could talk to any school administrator or teacher, and they chafe over the dictates and mandates coming down from Tallahassee ordering them how to do their jobs.

This arrangement epitomizes what Leonard Read, a great 20th century American philosopher-entrepreneur, wrote about in his book, “Anything That’s Peaceful”: “Coercion, by its nature, is destructive.”

Coercion — the force of the government — only creates strife. It produces nothing creative.

This is what we have in the war over masks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, both Republicans and strong believers in individual liberty, used their positions to mandate (coerce) all public schools not to impose mandatory masks for students.

Although they took the side we endorse — let parents decide — they used their authoritarianism to encroach on home-rule decision-making.

Predictably, school boards dominated by members from the Democratic Party fought back with their own authoritarian tendencies. They voted to defy the governor’s executive orders and impose their own mask mandates. They used their positions to coerce hundreds and thousands of parents who have vocally opposed mandated masks. More strife.

And get this: With these mask mandates, these school boards have decreed they will send home any student who does not comply.

How can that be? The Florida constitution says it is “a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children.” How, then, can students without masks be denied what others wearing masks have? If they are denied, do their parents become entitled to a refund of their school taxes?

This political war becomes even more absurd when you consider the following:

Around the state, parents who want mandated masks have sued (Gov. Ron) DeSantis and the Department of Education, alleging they are violating the state constitution by not complying with this provision: “Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe (bold italics added), secure and high quality system of free public schools.”

At the same time, other groups of parents oppose mandated masks because they contend the masks are harming their children’s physical and mental health. In other words, mandated masks are not creating a safe system of public schools.

Indeed, what constitutes “safe”?

All of this makes Read’s point and our point: Coercion will always be destructive; and a “uniform,” state-controlled education system is a destructive delusion. It cannot possibly deliver high-quality education for “all children,” all of whom are different.

We know it’s far-fetched to think Florida’s public education system would ever be abolished and replaced with market-driven schools that would serve its customers first.

But in the absence of that, the decision to mask or not to mask should not be up to governors, legislators or school boards. Parents are the guardians of their children, and government is best closest to the people. Every school should let its parents vote in a democratic process.

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