Parents know that one of the toughest things to get kids to do isn’t their chores or their homework; it’s simply to focus. Focus on the thing you’re doing. Don’t be distracted by the TV, TikTok, YouTube or video games.
Focus. Teachers tell us our kids are unfocused, studies show us our kids have trouble focusing. Distance learning makes it hard to focus.
Distractions are the enemy.
Recently the Clovis Unified school board met for the first time in 2022, and there were a lot of things to talk about. Scores were down, COVID infections up, staffing is a major issue, and, prompted by student activists, the district dress code was up for amendment.
Not all of these were things the board particularly wanted to discuss, and they certainly weren’t interested in taking responsibility, as exemplified by Trusteee Tiffany Stoker-Madsen urgently asking if the district had done enough to tell parents that COVID rules and regulations “were coming from Sacramento, not us.”
Yes Tiffany, we know you’re not taking responsibility for … well … anything.
While Ms. Stoker-Madsen might not realize she’s saying the quiet part out loud, members David DeFrank and Stephen Fogg know the best way to avoid topics is to distract. And thus came a nearly 10-minute discussion about COVID vaccine mandates. Nobody asked about the mandate, and the board has zero authority to overrule the California Department of Education or the governor if a mandate is instituted. But DeFrank and Fogg wanted to make it very clear that they oppose them. Why? Distraction.
Don’t look at lax mask mandate enforcement, including the members of the public allowed into the board meeting without masks (“if they are not wearing a mask, we assume they have an exemption” an assistant superintendent told those questioning why the mandate wasn’t being enforced). Don’t look at the rising number of cases, don’t look at staffing shortages, it’s about vaccine mandates!
How do you distract? It’s not that hard, just open up your book of outrage mad libs and plug some words in. It goes like this:
(Proper Noun) is/are the real threat here, and if (a thing) is/are allowed to (action) then we will lose our freedom!
C’mon, try it with me:
“Vaccines are the real threat here, and if a mandate is allowed to happen then we will lose our freedom!”
None of it has anything to do with the real issues, and there is never a solution proposed, it’s just an opportunity to outrage, and distract. It works for all kinds of things:
“Hillary is the real threat here, and if her emails are allowed to be hidden, then we will lose our freedom!”
“People of color are the real threat here, and if them voting is allowed to happen, then we will lose our freedom!”
“Liberals are the real threat here, and if the prosecution of the insurrectionists is allowed to find out which congressional representatives were helping them, then we will lose our freedom!”
The students — as usual — showed us exactly how to beat these tactics. Focus. For more than a year some smart, brave, frustrated, and organized students have remained focused on getting the CUSD dress code amended. They did not get distracted. Not during school shut-downs, not during finals, not during a pandemic. They stayed focused, and not even the outrage mad-libs could distract them.
It might be time for some school board members to put their outrage away, and focus.
Noha Elbaz of Clovis is a college administrator. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.