Masks, Social Policy and Reconciliation

One of the principles of Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community is Reconciliation. One way to think about reconciliation is seeking friendship and understanding with your opponent (

Aside from the discussion of vaccination or anti-vaccination, I can’t think of anything more immediately divisive right now where I live than the issue of mask wearing. My Metro school system instituted an all mask policy (students, faculty, staff, anyone in the building) a week before school started. I was thankful for it. None of the adjacent county school systems had a policy before school started and now we are a week in for most of these systems. Some are making changes and some are not, but I have (once again) fallen guilty to the reading of social media comments posted by people and cannot really fathom the vitriol that some people have for mask wearing, as well as the vitriol that some mask wearers have for non mask wearers. Good. Land. (As my grandmother would say.)

But it did make me think of a lesson from last fall. I teach an Intro to Policy class each fall semester. Rarely is anyone excited about policy from the get go but I always have a good time and a good challenge teaching them about its relevance to social work.

Here’s my basic info to them on “what is a social policy?”:

We have some discussion on the first three examples before we get to the last one, and last fall it helped people to see how to frame the issue differently. I chose the particular image with a mask and Bible verse because I happen to teach at a faith based institution and also talk about broader values that get embedded into policy, including religious values. (I spend a whole other session talking more specifically about how we see values embedded into social policies, particularly into social welfare policies, with a <if I say so myself> cool amalgamation of videos from them to see historical and current examples of this.)

Anyway, last year after we discussed social policy examples we talked more in depth about various examples of “mask mandates” at different system levels, some of the pushback we had seen, and how data could be used well and poorly in the framing of an issue. This is a good piece from Frameworks Institute to pair with that discussion: “How to Foster Solidarity While Others Fuel Division” This is a strategic, policy focused way of saying how we work toward reconciliation. I really appreciate the focus on advancing your big ideas instead of commenting on the chaos. (Now if I can just stop reading the other people who comment on the chaos.)

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