Who is raging against masks in schools? These are not the incredibly resilient British teens | Zoe williams

The first professional trip I took was to Jersey to interview a teenage skateboarder. He was supposed to win a big competition, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you if he did or what his name was. What I remember was standing by the skate park, next to his mother, in that weird low island light, as he crashed to the ground, several times, and pulled himself together. raised.

Soon after, her elbow was bleeding – but that, her mother assured me, was an old wound, so it opened almost every day. He swept it away – didn’t even seem to realize it – along with all the other brutal encounters with physics and gravity. “Well he’s 14,” his mother said. “They bounce back at this age.”

He skated in my thoughts this week, as the news was on fire with the back-to-school mask mandate in England. Educators were (and are) rightly upset, because they received this communication – that all students in grade 7 or above should wear masks in class – long after the media was informed.

But disgust at the sheer mess of government standards was nothing compared to the rage of anti-mask libertarians. It sounds like a niche group, but it includes many Tory backbenchers, along with their supportive comments.

Adolescents, these anti-masks argue, have suffered enough already. Face coverings interfere with their learning, leave them unable to communicate with their peers, render them insensitive to the daily pleasures of life, and reduce them to a state of slavery (okay, I saw the latest claim on Twitter , where the collective resolution 2022 appears to be “be crazier”).

The thing is, my house is ugly with teenagers and I stupidly agreed to stop writing about them. But I’m still allowed to make the most general observations (I think). I’ve seen them forget their masks, try to eat through a mask, pick up a mask from the street and put it on, and exchange masks. But I never heard any of them complain about wearing one.

Please don’t leave with the impression that this generation has stopped complaining. They constantly get stomachaches over stupid things, like having to spend all day in the same classroom, rather than switching from one subject to another. “What’s so fun about walking down a hallway?” I have wondered out loud more than once. It’s the journey, not the destination, they say wisely. The hallways are where it all happens. Sticking around and waiting for the teacher to come makes you feel like you’re in elementary school. Will they put up with it, in the interest of public safety? Yes, but they want management to know that this is not ideal.

They don’t complain, but it is visible in their behavior that it undermines their life force when they have to go to school from home. They absolutely hate that non-essential stores are forced to close. They weren’t crazy about the bubble phase, when they had to self-isolate after testing positive from someone they didn’t even like. There was a brief period in 2020 when they were only allowed on certain buses; it was a real violation of their human rights. But they adapted to the masks absolutely seamlessly, without complaint, faster than a baby adapts to a sock.

There are many plausible explanations why teens might complain less about masks than adults. They have better hearing, so they don’t trust lip reading without realizing it. They tend to have better cardiovascular health, so they don’t constantly wonder why the stairs have gotten harder.

Basically, though, they’re just more adaptable. We are constantly talking about all the ways the teenage brain is like an adult brain, only less good – more volatile and impulse-driven, less able to predict consequences – and hardly ever talk about how teenagers are superior. . Their entire day is structured around the unreasonable demands of life and they just get acclimated. That unfazed resilience and psychic elasticity – or bounce back, in the lingo of a ’90s skateboarder mom – suddenly seems a lot more mature than what passes for maturity.

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