PPPPardon the Interruption - Four P's Summer Special (#161)

Mandatory Masking, Social Contracts, Micro/Macro Aggressions and New Loves.

I wasn’t going to do this. The Four P’s newsletter/blog closely adheres to the academic calendar here in the northeast, wrapping up for summer hiatus at the end of June, and returning after Labor Day. But I just couldn’t wait. 8 weeks is a long time for me to be quiet. And since our school administration and Board of Education cannot take the summer off while planning for the start of a third school year impacted by COVID-19, neither should I. So here we are, with a special, rare August edition:

  1. Mandatory Indoor Masking.

  2. Revisiting Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau.

  3. Toxicity in Marketing.

  4. A Summer to Discover.

Something Practical: Mandatory Indoor Masking

Last August, I was astonished at how poorly our local school district approached the re-opening plans for the 2020-2021 year. So along with other parents, educators, and local medical professionals, we created an advocacy group to ensure that our elementary school students could safely return to school five days a week last year.

A year later, very little has changed for unvaccinated children. The “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is also being perpetuated by a nasty variant of COVID-19 that is more transmissible and quite different than previous strains. Most would agree that schools (+ supported programs) are fundamental to child development and well-being, and provide our kids with academic instruction, social/emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/occupational/speech therapy, mental health services, health services, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits. Everything possible must be done to keep students in schools in-person again for the upcoming school year, and all policy considerations for school COVID-19 plans should start with a goal of keeping students safe and physically present in school.

All major medical and health organizations agree that the best way to ensure that kids are in elementary schools this fall with minimal disruption is with mandatory indoor masking for all . An added benefit of universal masking is protection of students and staff against other respiratory illnesses that would take time away from school due to pending tests.

While New York State’s DOH now seems unlikely to issue statewide guidance on masking and vaccine requirements/protocols for the fall, the onus is  falling on local school districts to implement these safety and health requirements.

Tonight, my local school district will present a plan to the BOE and the broader community. While it is expected that they will follow the CDC’s guidelines (since the state essentially passed the buck back up), no plan will eliminate all risks and appease all parents. But if we want to keep schools open this fall, they must continue to take a multi-pronged, layered approach to protect students, teachers, and staff (ie, vaccination, universal mask use, ventilation, testing, quarantining, and cleaning and disinfecting). Combining these layers of protection will make in-person learning safe and possible.

Read what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say.

Something Political: Our Social Contract

On local Facebook parenting groups, message boards, and in town meetings around the country, a small, but vocal, minority of individuals has become increasingly adamant that their right to “choice” with respect to vaccines and masking their children is somehow more significant than the greater public health crisis ravaging our country. In one thread on our town’s page, the back-and-forth has gotten quite nasty and personal. I really do understand the emotions of parents who are advocating for own child’s health, but one comment amidst all of the fury on all of the threads still resonates with me a few days later.

Our society will only work if/when individuals are able and willing to surrender individual liberties to ensure a functioning civilization. We live with written and unwritten codes that form an agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits. Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau were required reading for a reason in PoliSci 101. Sacrificing some personal freedom for state protection are at the foundation of government and the obligations of subjects. This is the definition of the social contract, where certain individual liberties are, have been, and will continue to be partially limited in order to live in a “community.”

This is now being put to the test with COVID, climate change and even gun ownership rights. In the same way that Courts have ruled that you cannot “shout ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater” as a protected First Amendment right, individuals do not have unlimited freedom to make personal choices that impact the health and well being of others. 

Something Professional: Be Good to Be Great

Over the July 4th Weekend, the marketing/advertising/agency world was jolted by a revelatory essay (and ensuing fireworks) penned by Zoe Scaman. She is the founder of UK strategy studio Bodacious. “Mad Men. Furious Women.” recounts incidents of sexual harassment, bullying, and gaslighting over her career.  The essay also includes a number of anonymous accounts from others. If you haven’t read it, you must:

Musings Of A Wandering Mind
Mad Men. Furious Women.
(Throughout this piece, I’ve added in quotes from women who were brave enough to come forward and to share their stories with me. These quotes sit apart and are not woven into the narrative, but I think it’s critical that you can read their words and their experiences. All have asked to remain anonymous…
Read more

Scaman describes a horrific incident where she was sexually assaulted by her boss after a work night out. That is criminal behavior, but the broader context of the situation required her to just deal with it on her own. Which is how far too many survivor stories go.

As a marketing agency lead, a manager, a man, a father… as a human being, it was somewhat jarring to see not just the post itself, but also the range of reactions far and wide. The first is a personal reaction. Has anyone I know or care about been impacted, and how can I help them? Naturally I began thinking about, and questioning, my own past, behaviors, attitudes, approaches, and experiences. I hope that I never treated anyone in a way that made her or him uncomfortable, let alone that even remotely approached a level of criminality that Scaman discusses.

Then I think about those with, around, and for whom I have worked these past 20+ years. Over that time, I had been made aware of several instances with co-workers who were victimized in different ways, and hindsight reflection is still valuable. Did the companies I was working for at the time handle things properly? What could they have done beforehand to prevent them? Or afterwards to deal with them?

Then I think about the entire marketing industry as a whole. By and large, a corporate culture is toxic because of what happens over time, with amassed micro aggressions (many of which are mental/emotional), as opposed to bigger instances of physical assault/abuse (which are likely more rare). If individuals are not called out on it, they may never know they’re making people uncomfortable (or worse). And how do we improve not just “company culture,” but develop an actual means for fixing this with preventative training/behavior?

In the days that followed Zoe’s post, important conversations began to take place in public forums and threads. I don’t know if they happened in smaller groups around specific instances. Over the past month, the broader conversations and public responses have definitely subsided. We cannot just let this one go. I still think about all of it quite frequently (hence writing about it in a mid-summer post). And I think that’s a good thing. I hope others are doing the same.

Something Personal: Interest Discovery

Ending this on a much more positive note, I left off the last newsletter/edition of the Four P’s with a preview of my plans for a summer of discovery with our kids. Status: “In progress.” In addition to various sports camp, we also executed the first father-son New England road trip that includes a mix of activities and adventures. With some of these experiences, we’re in a far better place to understand what it is that interests and excites our kids… and what doesn’t. Progress! Some highlights:

  • My kids are great readers, but it took this summer for my son to discover his interest in American history. He’s plowing through books about slavery and the Underground Railroad, American Revolution and WWII. He even liked seeing the historical sites from the Revolution during our New England road trip.

  • We’ve now seen baseball games in three different home stadiums over the past month, and the level of interest has been mixed. My son loved sitting in the upper deck bleachers at Yankee Stadium, marveled at the engineering feats of being so high up, but had no interest in the game itself. He loved the Green Monster at Fenway… but had no interest in watching the game. He enjoys the ice cream and the Home Run Apple at Citi Field, but didn’t truly the significance of seeing a walk-off home run.

  • Art: My daughter loves passing the time doing anything creative - drawing, painting, jewelry design, lanyards. And she’s quite talented. Our dining room table is cluttered with beads, glue, markers, paper and more. Now we have to find the right ways to enhance and develop that talent… and this is a world in which I have very limited experience or expertise.

  • Camp: Sydney loves camp. She is excited to go every day. That may sounds obvious, but with Jake, that just wasn’t the case. Maybe we do have a sleepaway kid in our future!

  • Golf! Midway through the summer, and golf is the game. While I was never that good, I was decent enough to enough to enjoy rounds with friends. So after a few years off, I’m back on the range and trying to learn the game all over again. This was also partially inspired by my son’s budding interest. He’s currently in golf “camp” (yes, that’s a thing for you non NYers), and both enjoying it and improving. We may even play our first father-son round in a few weeks!

These are summers unlike any I’ve ever experienced, but I’m striving to be more “in the moment.” Between remote working and inconsistent social gatherings, we’re being tested to find new ways to challenge ourselves, stimulate our brains, and enjoy life. We’ve got 3-4 weeks before school starts up again, and another round of “new normal” sets in. I hope you’re all well, safe, healthy and staying sane. Talk soon,

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