We’re publishing a piece today by Hugh McCarthy, a retired Headteacher in Northern Ireland who until recently served as a Director on two of the province’s main education councils and who remains a ministerial appointment on one. He says the evidence on the masking of children in the classroom – which remains a school-enforced requirement in Northern Ireland, acting on ‘guidance’ from the Government – is clear: it is harmful and ineffective and should be stopped immediately and never reintroduced. Here’s an excerpt.
What does the science say?
A widely known experiment called the ‘still face experiment’ reveals that children become emotionally distressed when they are unable to see and reciprocate facial expressions. According to these findings, having children spend time around people whose facial expressions are masked could have potentially disastrous consequences for their social and emotional development.
Dr. Raj Persaudi, a Consultant Psychiatrist, explains that the brain fills in the gaps in what we know about others and so the brain speculates on what the mask is hiding. He says: “In a pandemic the face mask looks like it might be concealing a dangerous infection. Filling in the gaps in what you know about others but doing so under background conditions where the brain projects threat onto the outside world, is now linked to serious mental illness.”
The message projected by masks is clear: You are a danger to me, and I am a danger to everyone.
What does this mean for the primary purposes of school?
Education requires an atmosphere conducive to learning. Learning cannot take place in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety, or where the child is unable to learn due to oxygen deprivation.
Teaching and learning require unimpeded visual and oral communication. Good teaching involves a variety of strategies, which take into account the different learning styles of pupils. It involves interactivity, group work, teamwork, discussion and detailed complex explanations. Imagine a question-and-answer session, a drama lesson, a language lesson, a poetry reading, a role-play session, or a singing lesson with masks.
Do we not value choirs, clubs, drama productions or sport? These all play an important part in children’s education and development. The development of leadership, teamwork and negotiation skills are enhanced through children’s participation. The insight gained by watching children participate in a range of activities enables teachers to recognise and value attributes such as commitment, leadership, and reliability. Important engagements with outside agents such as authors, sports coaches, careers officers, counsellors, translators, actors and artists are also inhibited by the wearing of masks.
Worth reading in full.