Vermont — This week, Vermont's Republican Governor, Phil Scott announced the state's plans to have children questioned next week about what they did over the Thanksgiving break and if they attended any gatherings outside of their home. If children respond to the questions with the wrong answer, they will be quarantined for 14 to 7 days.
The idea of the state essentially interrogating children without their parents' permission and then implementing consequences as a result is chilling. But it is exactly what's happening and the governor had no problem Tweeting it out to the world.
“Unfortunately, we know some will still get together and schools have asked for help,” the Republican governor tweeted Tuesday. “[The Vermont Agency of Education] will direct schools to ask students or parents if they were part of multi-family gatherings and if the answer is yes, they’ll need to go remote for 14 days or 7 days and a test.”
“Maybe you just aren’t worried about getting the virus,” he wrote. “You’re young/healthy, you can work remotely or you just don’t think it’s a big deal. But you never know if you’re going to be the domino that leads to a nursing home outbreak or pushes an entire school to remote learning. Enough of these dominoes put our health care facilities at risk. Protecting our family and friends is in our hands and we all have a role to play. So I’m asking you to help by avoiding getting together with people outside your households and not travel this week.”
The Bennington Banner asked Scott what schools could do if families are less than truthful about their Thanksgiving activities, and whether the policy was in effect asking children to “tattle” on the families. Scott's answer did nothing to ease these concerns and essentially answered back with a threat.
“If you don’t want your kids to have to transition to remote learning and quarantine for seven days maybe you ought to make other plans,” Scott said. “We’re asking people to tell the truth to protect others. I don’t think that’s tattling.”
The top education official backed up the governor's chilling proposal by shaming students into "doing the right thing" by essentially ratting out their families for getting together over Thanksgiving.
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“Schools operate on trust,” Secretary of Education Daniel French said. “We are hopeful this will give our schools additional tools to do the right thing and keep students safe.”
Obviously the avoidance of large gathering is a good idea to prevent the virus from spreading and families should take that into consideration when making plans. But the idea of having children tattle on their families should shock the conscience. Regardless of the governor's claims that this is not tattling, it is far worse.
The state asking children to inform on their parents is the exact same scheme out of every totalitarian regime throughout history. When you sever the trust between children and their parents, you can easily mold the children into obedient pawns of the state who will have no problem outing their subversive families to authorities.
In Soviet Russia, there was a famous story used to inspire children to inform on their parents. It was the story of Pavel Trofimovich Morozov — a Soviet youth who was praised by the state run media as a martyr. According to the story, which has very little evidence of actually happening, Pavlik denounced his father to the authorities and was in turn killed by his family.
Regardless of whether or not the story was true, it became the subject of reading, songs, plays, a symphonic poem, a full-length opera and six biographies — all which pushed the idea that opposing the state was selfish and reactionary, and state was more important than family. The apotheotic cult had a huge impact on the moral norms of generations of children, who were encouraged to inform on their parents.
Having school children tell their teachers and officials about what their parents did for Thanksgiving is only different in degree to the Pavlik story, not different in kind.
Yes, we need to do everything thing we can to preserve life and stop the spread of the virus. But if we destroy the fabric of a free society as we do it, then what life are we trying to preserve?