Early Lessons of the Coronovirus 3/23/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

This crisis is for naught if we don’t learn from it. Frequently I would say that there are no problems, only opportunities. Opportunities to learn, opportunities to rise, opportunities to do better. If you are somebody who needs to assign a purpose to everything that happens, I respectfully submit that learning is the purpose of the Coronavirus.

Let’s get the obvious lessons out of the way first, lessons of policy, before we get to the personal ones. Recently I’ve read a couple of articles on how the infrastructure of the US is not up to the challenge of the Coronavirus, and anybody who is truly paying attention know this to be the case. Part of this is the lack of materials to keep up with the needs of the medical profession, but that’s only a part of the problem. Another part is our privatized insurance system, wherein only a portion of our population has health insurance, and of that portion, there are still more who cannot afford the deductible. Typically, I believe people are too quick to run to the doctor when they have a sniffle, but in this crisis, we really need much heavier testing and need to encourage people to get tested, if for no other reason than self-isolation. I’ll grant you that we don’t have enough test materials available which is another part of the problem, but even without them a doctor could tell a patient if it is likely the Coronavirus and should isolate or not. Instead, we have people who will not go to the doctor because they can’t afford it and are likely not going to self-isolate because they’ll assume it’s something else. Yes, lack of insurance will contribute to the spread of the virus.

The trend in politics is away from worker rights and strengthened industry. This might seem to be a good thing for corporations. Allowing them to “self-regulate” lets them figure out what is best for themselves, increasing their profits and improving the economy, but their self-regulation has lead to the need for bailouts, a stock market in crisis and potentially the failure of many large companies. Part of this is the stripping of employee benefits that, at one time, included insurance from many of these companies, but it’s also unpaid sick leave or no sick leave at all. Without paid sick leave, people who are not feeling well, and perhaps infected with the virus, won’t feel like they can afford to take the days off, or worse, some companies are even threatening employees that if they do stay at home they will lose their jobs altogether. The result of this is that, instead of temporarily losing a few employees who feel secure in taking sick leave, they are at work infecting all other employees (and in the case of retail customers) around them. Instead of sick employees, now we’re facing sick companies. When the shroud finally lifts, trying to spin back up to full scale production will be hurt because these companies will have lost employees either through terminations, or because they were forced to look for alternative work to find an income. Recovery from this crisis will be slow as a result. Isn’t it funny that things that would seem to have cost money, such as universal health care and guaranteed paid leave, would have protected the economy all along?

Although I have no children, I’m part of parent homeschooling support groups for parents find themselves thrust into this position. This might seem odd, but I’m a part of these groups to offer my expertise in science and mathematics for parents in need. As I follow these posts, what is coming to light in the minds of many parents are the challenges of teaching, and the holes in public education. I believe there is a lot of people who are beginning to understand just how challenging it truly is to be a teacher. As if teaching isn’t difficult enough, let’s add to that parents who always want things done differently, and not just a few, but many parents who will jump to criticism and complaints to try to trump policy that was set to try to appease another group altogether. Some parents want sex ed taught in school but others oppose it. We don’t need handwriting anymore how can you not teach handwriting. What’s the point of music music is critical for learning math. Choose a topic, any topic, and I can start a fight in a small gathering of parents. And the center of it all?

The teacher.

Although I’ve never had children, I have nonetheless thought about what I would want to be as a parent. As an educator myself (at the college level), education has been long on my mind on how I would raise my children were I fortunate enough to have had any. The conclusion I’ve reached is two-fold. First, to participate in public education, although I could state my opinion in the proper environment (that is, parent teacher meetings), participating in them means tacit agreement to abide by the policies of the system. That’s just the way it has to be; the will of the many will outweigh the desire of the one. But the other conclusion is that education was never meant to be the sole responsibility of the school. I’ve long believed that education should always be supplemented at home. I’m not talking full on two school approaches with double the homework, but parents should be involved. If anything positive comes of this crisis, I hope it’s the involvement by more parents in their children’s education, just being around and helping when they do homework, and deciding to fill those voids themselves with fun and lighthearted activities. Personally, I believe cursive should be taught in schools, but it’s being phased out. But what a great opportunity to turn cursive into a home art project for when kids are bored?

And maybe, just maybe, we can learn to share the toilet paper.

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