Disclaimer: This is a departure from my normal posts about PBL and SEL. I would also clarify that I in no way believe any conspiracy theories about this disease. This post does address education at the end, I promise.
I started reflecting yesterday about how the effects of the Covid-19 virus are similar to 9/11. My son is a senior in high school who is supposed to graduate in 2 months, but we honestly have no idea what will happen with that. I think, particularly for young people like my son, this is the first, big “defining moment” of his lifetime. He has been tracking the Covid-19 story since December and predicted that it would be a world wide pandemic.
The first way that Covid-19 parallels 9/11 is the feeling of vulnerability. People are rightly scared of something that can not be controlled. Americans have long felt secure, geographically insulated from much of the world by the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. Pearl Harbor demonstrated that another country could attack us and destroyed that myth. But each new generation “forgets” and feels secure once more. 9/11 proved that we are still vulnerable and rather than fearing an enemy country, we had to be wary of terrorist groups.
Terrorists are sneaky and can attack at anytime. Covid-19 feels like this. It can be spread by healthy carriers with no visible symptoms. Again it feels like a threat to our society. The economy is taking a huge hit and there will be an extended recovery from this.
There is a sense of shock from how fast it spreads. We have known about the existence of the virus for about 4 months now, but there is a shock factor now that it is spreading in the U.S. and coming to a town near you. We watch the news more and see new reactions and restrictions on our lives from lawmakers daily. Like post 9/11, we feel a bit numb, and we are not sure how to process indefinite school closures, restaurants closing, and staying at home.
Not going to get political here, but one huge difference is that after 9/11 the country unified. It didn’t matter what political party you supported or your views on specific issues. Everyone (unless you were Muslim, then you were discriminated against, but that is another topic) came together for a few months. George W. Bush, who many do not look back at fondly, had some of the highest presidential approval ratings in history. The fact that we are in an election year is a huge factor in both parties making the Covid-19 virus a political topic, and our current president has never shown that uniting people is a priority of his.
We have the ridiculous stereotypes of different generation dividing us too. Young people flaunting social distancing and some elderly folks not taking it seriously. Everyone needs to do their part, but I am tired of hearing how Generation X (of which I am a member) are the ones handling this the best. Every generation ever complains about the next one. I think generational stereotypes are like horoscopes. How can everyone born the same month or year in the case of Chinese Zodiac, have the same personalities? It makes no sense. It also makes no sense that an entire of generation of people born in the same decade will all have the same experiences and tendencies.
For example, I see Generation X bragging about being self-sufficient because they were latchkey kids who raised themselves. But that is not my experience. I had a stay-at-home mom when I was young, and she taught school later so I was never left home alone. Generation X complains that Millennials and Generation Z were babied with “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. If that’s the case, then who is to blame? The Generation X helicopter parents! So before complaining, maybe look in the mirror.
As a teacher, every year I had unique students of a myriad of personalities. Some were extremely hard-working and others were unmotivated in school. No generation fits a stereotype!
So what does the future hold? Like 9/11, I do think this a historically defining event. After the terrorist attacks, we started wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and are still in those countries almost 20 years later. The federal government launched enormous programs such as Homeland Security and TSA at airports. These were permanent government expansions that will never go away.
I believe that we will see a similar expansion in government in reaction to Covid-19. The president has already announced a trillion dollars in spending. Covid-19 may or may not bring about universal healthcare. Americans deeply value safety, and I think that we will see expansion in government programs to prevent future diseases. It may be the creation of a new agency or an expansion of existing ones.
The other shift will be in education. Parents are freaking out about having to take care of their children and continue their education. It makes me wonder, what do families do in the summer? I understand that it is more complicated because daycare is not available either. One effect of this pandemic is the public is forced to acknowledge how schools have become holistic social services providing daycare, food, counseling, and medical services on top of educating children. Maybe we can stop vilifying and underfunding public schools and recognize their vital role in our society!
I don’t know what the future of education will look like, but a shift toward more online classes seems imminent (I am not a fan of what I think this will look like). I think educators need to think through what a purposeful and appropriate response to this kind of crisis should look like. How can we shift to online learning that is deep, meaningful, and connected to humanity? Otherwise publishers will reap huge profits designing shoddy online learning experiences for students. It will be a lucrative market, full of bad products.
What permanent shifts do you think Covid-19 will bring? How can we influence them to improve education and healthcare, not just increase spending?