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What if society ran as smoothly as our schools?

This was a few days back now, a conversation with an administrator from a local high school. He is the dean of discipline, happily noting how that aspect of his job has been rather boring this year.

"The kids have been great," he said. "Disciplinary issues are down to virtually nothing. Everybody wears their masks, stays respectful of the situation and others. They do what they're asked."

And then he paused. The other shoe was about to plunge, this a figurative size 19 EEE falling with the thud of a bowling ball off the dining room table.

"COVID cases are up and everybody wants to blame school and the kids," he said. "No way. Everybody follows protocol here. Everybody. Want to know why cases are up? Look at the house parties, picnics and other gatherings. There's your problem. It's not the schools. Not the kids."

Conversations with administrators at other schools have produced similar comments. School rhythms have rarely been smoother. Kids remain respectful and cooperative.

Is there a lesson here?

Straight up: If the rest of society followed the rules with the same verve and voracity as schools do, COVID would be closer to purge than surge. But schools, because their inhabitants are in close proximity, become a convenient target, providing both shield and sword against the truth: A societal unwillingness to follow the rules. They just don't apply to ME.

The strict protocols at schools don't merely protect kids, teachers and administrators from COVID. They protect kids, teachers and administrators from themselves, too. It's unfathomable that a school's COVID rules would ever be loose enough to allow, for example, a maskless, social distance-less party on school grounds.

So why are parties and other gatherings happening? Because they can. Because who enforces the rules outside school? The endangered species known as our consciences. Remember them?

Example: The worst kept secret in East Lyme is the real reason the high school recently went to distance learning for a bit. Numerous town sources say the genesis of positive COVID cases was a house party. It cost kids in-person learning time and a week or two of sports. Amazing what abject selfishness can accomplish.

Surely, some of us try to process the daily flow of new information and changing circumstances. But there are others not interested, preferring instead to cannonball into the I KNOW MY RIGHTS, DAMMIT echo chamber.

As author Mark Manson wrote, "these people claim they desire freedom above all else and are willing to make sacrifices for that freedom. But what they really mean is that they want freedom from having to deal with any values that do not map onto their own. They want freedom from having to deal with change or the marginalization of other people. Therefore, they're willing to limit and destroy the freedom of others in the name of their own freedom."

Once again: In school, rules are in place and they are enforced with inherent penalties and punishments. Out of school, rules are in place with nothing but our conscience to enforce them. A more cynical fellow might wonder if the concept of martial law is underrated.

Yet societal delinquency roars on. I'm still aghast at the rise of these farcical independent football leagues, for example. Another state newspaper published a photo of a recent independent league game which featured fans — about half of whom actually wore masks — clustered in the bleachers, while some coaches weren't wearing masks on the sidelines.

These leagues purport to serve the godforsaken kids who would otherwise not have film to provide prospective college recruiters — as if it were an affliction akin to a collapsed lung. They actually serve bored adults who need their social time and use — as my friend and New London attorney Scott Sawyer says — "their degrees in epidemiology from Facebook" to thumb their noses at the State Department of Health.

And soon, COVID cases rise and we are back spinning our wheels.

I'm proud of our schools. Our kids. Our teachers. Our coaches. Our administrators. They are trying. They are doing it right. Every day. Too bad the rhythms of school haven't permeated other areas of our society.

Yeah. I know, I know. You have your rights. How's that going for the rest of us?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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