Pandemic Lessons

A friend of mine sent me a video in which Dennis Pranger of Prager U, addresses the graduating class of 2020 on what the Covid-19 pandemic has taught them about life.

The address is called Graduation 2020: The COVID Class

Early on in the address, he characterizes our unique times, not with reference to the contagious and potentially deadly disease that has swept across the globe, but as a time when “healthy people, and people living in free societies, have been confined to their homes.”

This take on our current situation is central to Pranger’s message which is taken up in his third point.  His first two points are spot on and part of my motivation to write this post is to pass on these astute observations and wise words.

Pranger U is a conservative American organization that creates videos on various political, economic, and philosophical topics.   There are a lot of Christians who like what Pranger has to say but being conservative and being Christian are not the same thing.  This is born out in Pranger’s third lesson to the COVID Class.

Lesson 1: Life is Hard, Unfair, and Unpredictable.

Your life is very easy.   In the developed West, all our lives are easy compared to those in other parts of the world.  We have easy access to food.  Clothing and shelter are not much of a problem for the vast majority of  North Americans.  We are healthy and have a lot of leisure time and a plethora of entertainment options.  We can easily get the idea that this is normal.  It’s not.

Covid-19 and its effects begin to help us to sense how hard life is, “and that understanding equips you to deal much better with life’s challenges, which are inevitable.”

Pranger’s right.  To walk into life from high school expecting the world to be easy, fair, and predictable will lead to disappointment and bitterness.  This is a valuable lesson.

Lesson 2: Always be Grateful

Pranger says that “gratitude is probably the most important trait you can have because it is the source of both happiness and goodness.”

I don’t necessarily agree that gratitude is the source of goodness, but I agree with his premise and that grateful people are happier than resentful people.   We have so much to be grateful for but, ironically, we tend to be ungrateful in our culture. This may be because we are continuously barraged with advertising and social media that teaches us we don’t have enough or are not good enough.

If Covid-19 has helped you to appreciate what you have both materially and relationally, then allow that lesson to colour and shape your life.  This is an incredibly valuable lesson.

Lesson 3: Freedom is Fragile–Very Fragile

Lesson 3 is the main point of Pranger’s video.  And, from a biblical perspective, I think he’s way off here.  Pranger tells graduates:

The ease with which most Americans acquiesced to the removal of many of their most basic rights . . . should take your breath away.  At the very least it should make you realize how easily any government can take away people’s most elementary freedoms.

Pranger is critical of the extent to which some jurisdictions restricted contact in their reaction to the virus.  In some states where there was very little infection people were told to stay home anyway.  I am not going to argue with Pranger on these particulars–he may be right.  Some governments may have overreacted–we won’t really know what the correct degree of response should have been until all this is over.  (Since this video was released, numbers suggest that the response of many American states did not go far enough.)

Judging from the graphics in the video, America’s most basic rights are freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to wear a hardhat.  These are the rights that he claims we have been so breathtakingly surrendered to governments.

In reality, the only fundamental right that we surrendered, temporarily, was freedom of assembly.  This has some immediate effect on freedom of religion and the economic (hardhat) freedoms of many citizens.

But wasn’t it a good idea to suspend the freedom to assemble in large groups?  Are Americans supposed to hold onto these rights under any and all circumstances?  Is not a highly contagious, potentially fatal virus, not the exact circumstance in which this right ought to be quickly surrendered?  I can’t even come up with an analogy to drive this point home.  No analogy is clearer than the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Isn't it a good idea to suspend our freedom to assemble? Are we to demand these rights under all circumstances? Is not a highly contagious, fatal virus, the exact circumstance in which to surrender this right? Isn't this biblical? Click To Tweet

Would Pranger have us ignore the quarantine and gather anyway?  Take guns into government buildings and demand our rights to assemble?  To defiantly not wear a mask as the new symbol of personal freedom?

The Statue of Responsibility

France gave the United States of America the Statue of Liberty, says Pranger, “because America, more than any other country, symbolized Liberty.”

The problem is, the American emphasis on Liberty has become unbalanced.  Someone forgot to give America the necessary and complementary statue–The Statue of Responsibility.

The Statue of Responsibility was the vision of psychiatrist, philosopher, and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl.

Frankl is right when he says:

“Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.

Man’s Search for Meaning

Viktor Frankl is saying that without responsibility, freedom will degenerate into mere license–doing whatever you want.

In a practical sense, we practice freedom in balance with responsibility all the time.  We have the freedom to drive, but this is balanced with the responsibility to adhere to traffic laws.  We have freedom of speech, but we balance this with the responsibility to not yell “fire” in a crowded theatre.

But now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, some people adamantly resist the curbing of dangerous behavior for the public good.  And the more we see this resistance, the higher climb the numbers of cases and deaths from COVID-19.

What is going on here?

The Idolatry of Freedom

Tim Keller describes idolatry as making a good thing into an ultimate thing.  Freedom is a good thing.  But when it takes the place of God as the ultimate thing, it becomes a cruel deity that demands sacrifice–human sacrifice.

Both liberals and conservatives have a problem with idolatry. They both worship Freedom and are willing to make human sacrifices to this cruel deity. The only difference is the particular victims they respectively place on Freedom's firey altars.Click To Tweet

Both the Old and New Testaments are consistent in saying that God is God, and he created all good things.  The Bible tells us not to worship these good things.  He also created human beings in his image, making human beings are more valuable than any good thing–more valuable than money, beauty, fame, power, America, the flag, or freedom.

The Bible teaches that we obey governments unless their laws come into conflict with God’s law.  Quarantines and social distancing are not contrary to God’s law, they are merely contrary to the law of our false god.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks, quarantines, and social distancing save lives–this becomes more and more clear every passing day.  To refuse to wear facemasks, and defy quarantines and social distancing mandates, is to choose freedom and the economy over human life.  It’s to choose a good thing (freedom) over the image (humanity) of the ultimate thing (God).

If we don’t worship God, we will worship something else.  In America, we worship Freedom and the Economy.  In America, it is your right to do so, but it is not biblical.

If we don't worship God, we will worship something else. In America, we worship Freedom and the Economy. In America, it is your right to do so, but it is not biblical.Click To Tweet

Ironically, the numbers seem to indicate that those jurisdictions that most faithfully complied with quarantines and social distancing regulations, will be the jurisdictions that most quickly restore freedoms of assembly and recover economically.

But this is not why I reject Denis Pranger’s third lesson.  I reject it because it is unbiblical.

I’d like to replace it with my own.

My Lesson #3: It’s Not Just About You

The global pandemic and the quarantine reminded you that it’s not all about you.  Lots of people will tell you that there is nothing more important than your individual freedom.  This is a tenet of our society.  It’s the only thing that liberals and conservatives agree on, albeit in different directions.

You hear it from the college kids on the Florida beaches and the conservative radio hosts and bloggers:  “If I’m willing to risk catching Covid-19, I can do what I want.  It’s my life.”

A friend of mine has a university-aged daughter who works at Starbucks and lives in their home.  He also has several sets of older parents who he is taking care of, since they are vulnerable and, consequently, are taking the quarantine seriously.  The daughter’s co-workers ignore social distancing protocols.  They like to party with friends.   Because they are not worried about catching the virus, they believe they can ignore the protocols.  They are free to choose risky behaviour if willing to take the consequences.

They are not vulnerable.  They correctly assess the risk to be minimal.  Why should they give up their freedom?

The answer is, they have a responsibility to others.  They have to protect themselves from the virus so that they don’t pass it onto my friend’s daughter, so she doesn’t pass it onto her parents, and her grandparents.

Freedom is a good thing.  But it’s not the ultimate thing.  Your life is interconnected with those of many others.  You can’t always do whatever you want because you are responsible for other lives.

My objection to Pranger’s third lesson is rooted in my faith.  Christians are to love God and love our neighbour.  In our current context, we love our neighbour by limiting movement, social distancing, wearing a mask in public.  It is not possible to love both Jesus and Freedom as ultimate things.  One must give way.  One results in human flourishing, the other results in human sacrifice.

 

Advice for Young Teachers

I am currently reading I, Claudius (1934) by Robert Graves.  I watched the miniseries on PBS in 1976–I was fascinated by the story then, and I am loving it again.

This time though, I am a teacher.  And this passage from early in the book encapsulated my evolution as a teacher.  If I have any advice for young teachers it is here:

Athenodorus told me, the very first day of his tutorship, that he proposed to teach me not facts which I could pick up anywhere for myself, but the proper presentation of facts. And this he did.

One day, for example, he asked me, kindly enough, why I was so excited: I seemed unable to concentrate on my task. I told him that I had just seen a huge draft of recruits parading on Mars Field under Augustus’s inspection before being sent off to Germany, where war had recently broken out again.

“Well,” said Athenodorus, still in the same kindly voice, “since this is so much on your mind that you can’t appreciate the beauties of Hesiod, Hesiod can wait until to-morrow. After all, he’s waited seven hundred years or more, so he won’t grudge us another day. And meanwhile, suppose you were to sit down and take your tablets and write me a letter, a short account of all that you saw on Mars Field; as if I had been five years absent from Rome and you were sending me a letter across the sea, say to my home in Tarsus. That would keep your restless hands employed and be good practice too.”

So I gladly scribbled away on the wax, and then we read the letter through for faults of spelling and composition. I was forced to admit that I had told both too little and too much, and had also put my facts in the wrong order.

The passage describing the lamentations of the mothers and sweethearts of the young soldiers, and how the crowd rushed to the bridgehead for a final cheer of the departing column, should have come last, not first. And I need not have mentioned that the cavalry had horses: people took that for granted. And I had twice put in the incident of Augustus’s charger stumbling: once was enough if the horse only stumbled once. And what Postumus had told me, as we were going home, about the religious practices of the Jews, was interesting, but did not belong here because the recruits were Italians, not Jews. Besides, at Tarsus he would probably have more opportunities of studying Jewish customs than Postumus had at Rome.

On the other hand I had not mentioned several things that he would have been interested to hear — how many recruits there were in the parade, how far advanced their military training was, to what garrison town they were being sent, whether they looked glad or sorry to go, what Augustus said to them in his speech.

There it is.

That’s how you teach if you want students to learn anything beyond the next test.

 

Green with Envy

Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on Unsplash

Why is envy green?  

Envy eats vipers and the poison of her victuals accumulates and concentrates in her body till her skin erupts in green, festering blisters. 

I was reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses with coffee this morning.  Ovid was a Roman poet and this work is considered his magnum opus.  Anyway, in book 2 there is this incredible description of Envy.  Minerva is super mad at Aglauros, so she goes to Envy to ask her to curse Agrauros with a touch.   

[Minerva] Then sought out Envy in her dark abode,

Defil’d with ropy gore and clots of blood:

Shut from the winds, and from the wholesome skies,

In a deep vale the gloomy dungeon lies,

Dismal and cold, where not a beam of light

Invades the winter, or disturbs the night.

 

Directly to the cave her course she steer’d;

Against the gates her martial lance she rear’d;

The gates flew open, and the fiend appear’d.

 

A pois’nous morsel in her teeth she chew’d,

And gorg’d the flesh of vipers for her food.

Minerva loathing turn’d away her eye;

The hideous monster, rising heavily,

Came stalking forward with a sullen pace,

And left her mangled offals on the place.

 

Soon as she saw the goddess gay and bright,

She fetch’d a groan at such a chearful sight.

 

Livid and meagre were her looks, her eye

In foul distorted glances turn’d awry;

A hoard of gall her inward parts possess’d,

And spread a greenness o’er her canker’d breast;

Her teeth were brown with rust, and from her tongue,

In dangling drops, the stringy poison hung.

 

She never smiles but when the wretched weep,

Nor lulls her malice with a moment’s sleep,

Restless in spite: while watchful to destroy,

She pines and sickens at another’s joy;

Foe to her self, distressing and distrest,

She bears her own tormentor in her breast.

                                                                    –2.760-782

The Greeks and the Romans had a penchant for personifying emotions and ideas.  Personification is a figure of speech were objects and ideas are given human qualities or are represented in human form.  Ovid takes the human emotion, envy, and makes it into a person–Envy.

What attracted me to this representation of Envy is that it struck me as true.  I’ve seen this creature before, not only in others but in myself as well.  It will do us well to look take a careful look at her in order to know the effects of her touch.  

The Deep Cover of Envy

Envy’s dwelling is hidden in a “deep vale.”  

The vice, envy, is also hidden.  Envy is different than the other deadly sins.  It is fairly easy to see Wrath and Gluttony, and we aren’t all that embarrassed by them.  Some, like Greed and Pride, are even celebrated in our culture–even Lust is celebrated today.  But not Envy.  We don’t want any one to see our envy.  To show envy we’d be admitting that we feel inferior.  Envy is so petty.  We know it’s petty, and we are embarrassed by it. 

Envy personified in hidden away in a dark and “gloomy dungeon” where the air is stagnant; it is “dismal and cold.” 

The Envy is Poison

Envy gorges on “the flesh of vipers.”  Her appetites are both glutenous and foul.  Her heavy rising suggests she is not wasting away, but this is poisoned food.  The toxins from the vipers feeds her malice which bubbles in “greenness o’er her canker’d breast.”    

As with the diet of Envy personified, the emotion of envy is nourishing as well–we take a small comfort in the misery of others.  But this comfort is toxic.  The one who envies is in the hideous state of being eaten while eating.

Shakespeare and Ovid are on the same page here:

“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.”

                                                             Othello–Shakespeare

Envy is Different

All the other seven-deadly-sins involve some element of pleasure for the sinner.  Not so with envy.  Not only do you not enjoy the sin, but the very nature of envy also makes you unable to enjoy the good things you do have.  You can’t enjoy your beauty, wealth, strength, intelligence because someone else is more beautiful, richer, stronger, or smarter.  

Envy enjoys nothing–she doesn’t enjoy her food; she doesn’t enjoy the beauty of her visitor; she never even enjoys the pleasure of taking a little nap once in a while.

All the other seven-deadly-sins involve some element of pleasure for the sinner. Not so with envy. Not only do you not enjoy the sin, but the very nature of envy also makes you unable to enjoy the good things you do have.Click To Tweet

Minerva’s Commission

Envy is immortal, but what happens when she touches you?

Minerva commands Envy to destroy Aglauros, and she does so with a touch.  Here’s what happens:

To execute Minerva’s dire command,
She stroak’d the virgin with her canker’d hand,
Then prickly thorns into her breast convey’d,
That stung to madness the devoted maid:
Her subtle venom still improves the smart,
Frets in the blood, and festers in the heart.

To make the work more sure, a scene she drew,
And plac’d before the dreaming virgin’s view
Her sister’s marriage, and her glorious fate:
Th’ imaginary bride appears in state;
The bride-groom with unwonted beauty glows:

For envy magnifies what-e’er she shows.
Full of the dream, Aglauros pin’d away
In tears all night, in darkness all the day;
Consum’d like ice, that just begins to run,
When feebly smitten by the distant sun;
Or like unwholsome weeds, that set on fire
Are slowly wasted, and in smoke expire.

Argros is destroyed by envy of her sister’s marriage–something one would hope would make her happy.  Instead, because of envy, she pines away. Melts like ice on a sunny day.  Burns up like dry grass in a fire.

Dealing With Envy

Worship of God takes care of envy.  By this, I do not necessarily mean singing praise and worship songs in church.

Experience of God’s love and grace erases envy.   Where do you experience these things?  Songs?  Maybe you do.  I don’t.  

I get it from Word and Sacrament. 

But let me focus briefly on the sacrament of communion.  In The Lord’s Supper, Christ extends his hand to us and gives us the sacrifice of his body and blood.  His death erases my sin and brings me into the family of the Heavenly Father.  Nothing is required of me except to accept the offer of this incredible gift.  I get so much, for so little.   

In the light of the overwhelming Grace of God, how can I be harbour resentment for someone is smarter, or more beautiful, or more wealthy than I am?

The Importance of Routines (In the Time of Pandemic)

Wokandapix / Pixabay

I have had students tell me that they are not feeling all that motivated to do school.  Some of these students are “attending” their classes from their beds.

My carefully edited response to this is, “Don’t do that.”

Get up.  Shower even.  Get dressed.  Have a work place.  And get to work.

I have found routines to be very helpful in getting my work done–and not just school work.  Routines during the time of the pandemic are essential.

I think we are made for routines–throughout human history, our lives have been patterned by the seasons.   We picked berries in summer and killed salmon in the fall.  Then we planted in the spring and harvested in the early autumn and killed pigs in the winter.  We had festivals and ceremonies to commemorate these annual occurrences.  In the Old Testament, God established a pattern of worship that celebrated his providence and holiness and the Christian Church established a calendar that would teach the people the story of God’s faithfulness.

Things are different today, at least before the pandemic; we can get berries, salmon and pork year-round.  Air conditioners and furnaces keep us at a steady 21 degrees Celsius through all seasons.   And the pattern of our worship calendar is down to, basically, two annual events–Christmas and Easter.

We were made for daily patterns too.  Wake up, shower, eat a quick breakfast, go to school, class-break-class-lunch-class-break-class-home, watch something, eat dinner, homework, friends, bed.  Or something like that.

Then came the coronavirus.  Covid-19 with its social distancing and quarantines has messed up our annual patterns–we didn’t go anyplace for Spring Break.  It messes up Airband and Sportsday, and Grad.  This is very disappointing, but the effect of the disruption of our daily patterns can be even more significant.

We sleep and when we wake up we spend our time on a screen, either for school or for fun.  Without a more robust routine, the day can devolve into a featureless morass of sedentary listlessness.

Wake up when you wake up–lay around in bed until you feel like getting up–grab a granola bar as you walk past the kitchen to the couch–watch three screens at the same time till you don’t feel like it anymore–then do it some more because there is nothing else to do–heat and eat a frozen thing–return to screens and maybe fall asleep–take 5 minutes do something your mother asked you to do–back to the screens…

This can mess you up bad.

Creating a daily routine can have important mental health benefits, and by creating one, you can make room for the important things in life.  I found that having to create a new routine has helped me refocus.

Here are my suggestions for routines:

  1. Set an alarm, or at least get up when you wake up.
  2. Sit still, without a screen, while you drink the hot beverage of your choice.
  3. Be deliberate about all your meals.  Fry an egg or make a sandwich.
  4. Do devotions.
  5. Set aside time to produce something–don’t just consume.
  6. Set aside time where you do something your mom or dad wants you to do–and give it the time it needs to do it well.  Inform your parents of this plan so they don’t randomly ask you to do little things all day.  But be open to helping whenever needed of course.
  7. Do something physical every day–I go hiking up “My Mountain.”
  8. Don’t fill up your free time with screens–read a book!!

Some students have a difficult time with school under the current circumstances.  Motivation is only one of the struggles they are experiencing, but it’s a big one.  This is something akin to what many experience when they move out of the house or start their first year of university.  The motivation doesn’t come from employers or professors.  It’s got to come from within.

For grade 12s, this is a lesson that was going to have to be learned in September.  You’ve just got a jump on it compared to other years.

How to Wake Up Well

Here is the message I delivered to our school’s chapel today:

Click on this link: How to Wake Up Well

 

Survey Shows that Christians are Less Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading and watching The Walking Dead it’s that the Zombie Apocalypse is filled with life-and-death moral decisions.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created conditions in which hospitals have had to make difficult decisions–life-and-death, moral decisions–about who gets a ventilator and who does not.

There are two ways to go in this.

Either you give them to the patients in the most need at the moment, or you give them to patients most likely to recover.   If you go the first route, more people will die, if you take the second path, you are denying treatment to people who need it.

A recent Pew Research Center discovered that religious people tend to say we should give the life-giving treatment to the people who need it most.  And the less religious folks lean toward the more utilitarian–give it to those most likely to recover.

Pew survey shows that Christians are less likely to survive the zombie apocalypse. Click To Tweet

When zombies lurch through our streets, the life-and-death, moral decisions increase–it’s like you need to make one every 20 minutes or so.

Zombie narratives are about these moral dilemmas.  Actually, they are about the difficulty and the necessity of making a practical decision–no matter how hard it is, and it’s usually agonizing.

The research by the Pew Research Center shows us that religious people will not necessarily take the practical path.  With the increase in the number of deadly decisions that need to be made during the zombie infestation, consistently taking the non-utilitarian route will result in the death of more people.

Would anything be gained by the less practical approach?  More people would likely die, but society would be built on the idea that those who are sick or old would receive the care that they need.   That foundation is worth considering.

Teaching in the Pandemic (3)

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

We’ve just completed the first week of school in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.  It went very well.  I think that the majority of students were ready for it and are happy to be connected to the school again. That’s my first observation.

A Few Observations

  1. I’m putting in just as much time I would have during normal school.   In order to have effective online schooling one needs to communicate with students and their parents.  Every Friday, we post the general outline of the objectives and activities for each of our classes.  This is very helpful for both parents and students, but it takes time to create it.  Most of my communication with individual students during normal operations would be a quick conversation before or after class.  Now I have to compose an email or a message.  Then there is the production of learning materials–I’m making videos and creating documents that would not be necessary if we were in the presence of each other.  A lot of this work is important, even when there isn’t a pandemic–now it’s essential.
  2. Students are, by and large, happy to be at school.  They’ve told me so.  They like having something to do besides watch TV, play video games and argue with their siblings.  The felt like they wanted to be “doing something productive.”  They like the connection to, not just friends, but acquaintances and even teachers.  I don’t think they necessarily appreciated what they have at school, despite the homework.
  3. We’ve shifted from content to competencies.   This is the direction that the government has been moving education so it might accelerate some teachers’ shift to the new paradigm. You can’t lecture very well in this mode of teaching; you can’t expect students to sit passively and learn content for a test, if for no other reason than the test is no longer secure.  In this learning environment, students can be more active, doing the work of learning, while the teachers provide feedback on their work and create resources for the next steps in developing essential competencies.  Active students learn more than passive students.
  4. Speaking of competencies.  Students are having to become more competent at producing, revising, communicating and collaborating in digital environments.  It’s amazing what kids have had to learn out of necessity.   Many of these skills will be necessary for future learning and careers.
  5. Students are learning more self-discipline.  At least, if they aren’t learning it, the effects will be significant.  I can tell when a student has arrived into the digital classroom, but once they are there, I can’t tell very well if they are engaged, or even if they are in the room.  I can assign work and tell them I expect them to be working on this for the next 30 minutes, but I can’t tell that they are.  If they need to knuckle down, it’s just their knuckles.  It’s up to them. Until now, many have been reliant on others to do that work.  I think this is great. Some have told me that this is hard–to be self-disciplined.
  6. From where I am sitting, student learning has not been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic at all.

 

Teaching in the Time of Pandemic (2)

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

I don’t think I’ve ever had a more relaxing spring break than this year.  We didn’t go anywhere, or do anything.  We left the house once a week trips to the grocery store. That’s it.  Consequently, it was the longest spring break I’ve ever experienced.  By the end, I was so relaxed.

Then came the week just past.

Teachers got the marching orders.  We got schedules for classes and the list of expectations.  We went to work researching, planning and creating resources.

I loved what I was doing.  One of my favourite things about being a teacher is linking content to students to skills, in other words, I like planning.  And then trying to figure out how to optimize the technology to do it.  So I happily dug into the work.

By Friday, I could barely stand.  My back was seized up from my hips to my neck.

I hadn’t really paid any attention to my body–my mind was completely engaged, and it expected the body to do it’s bit; it just couldn’t keep up.

Reflecting on it, it was a combination of stress and too much sitting at the computer.

But I have sat at the computer for days without these effects.  Just two weeks ago, my gaming buddies and I met online for our bi-annual Game Weekend LAN Party.  It was supposed to be in Seattle, but we cancelled of course–so we worked out a four-day schedule of gaming, and went at it.  By the end of it all, my back was the same as when we started–it was like jelly.

So I figure it’s not just sitting.  It must also be the stress.

And when I teach in “real life” there is some stress as well, but then I walk and stand all day long.  All last week, I just sat.

It would have been a good idea to get away from the computer this weekend, but that wasn’t possible.  So I sat in front of the computer for two more days.  I got up every once and a while and I think that helped.  I’ve been stretching some.  So it’s not as bad as it was.

Here I am, sitting at the computer, awaiting my first virtual class.

If you have any suggestions as to how to get the back loosened up, and then keep it that way.  Let me know.

 

Teaching and the Pandemic (1)

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

It’s six in the morning, and I’ve been working at the computer for the last two hours.  Covid-19 has changed our lives.  Even for those who aren’t sick, or don’t know anyone who is.  Some of this change is very difficult–people’s jobs and businesses are at risk.

My life is not changed so drastically.  But I wanted to write about how the coronavirus changed my teaching, and that story started this week.

Spring Break was extended a week in order to give teachers time to plan for remote teaching and learning.  It wasn’t until Monday morning, in the swirls of ever-changing edicts from the Ministry of Education, that we received our marching orders.

Our principal said that we are not going to turn into a school where isolated students perform fill-in-the-blank tasks to earn a grade; we will remain Abbotsford Christian School, we will just do that differently.  This means “engaging hearts, nurturing minds and shaping God’s world.”

So now we have to figure out how to do that with our students.  We need to have full class instruction, meaningful one-to-one conversations, and small group discussions.  We need to create opportunities for them to do as well as think.  This involves teachers learning new technologies with enough proficiency that we can teach students how to use them.

It involves a lot of clear communication with both parents and students.  Today I will send out an email to the students, and their parents, in each of my four classes, informing them of the plan for next week.  To write that letter, I need to know exactly what I am doing and how I am doing it.  A tall order.  I worked till 10 last night and woke up at 4 this morning to finish these letters.

Now that I know what I am doing, I will create the resources.  For me, this will be making instructional videos, documents, and assignments.  Thankfully, these don’t need to be done until Monday.  So that’s the plan for the weekend.

In the middle of all this, I received an email from a student who had turned in an assignment that was 3 weeks overdue.  They said, “I handed in my assignment yesterday and I was wondering why my mark still indicates it’s missing.”

I would have been able to get all this work done without getting up so early, but today is grocery day.  I used to go to the grocery store almost daily.  Now we don’t even go every week.  Shopping also now includes parents who are isolating themselves in their homes. Two weeks ago, this took half the day.

The rest of this school year will be a lot different than we expected–for me, it will mean a lot of time in front of the computer.  For my students too, I expect.  I am excited by this challenge.  And I am confident that, although my student’s social lives might take a bit of a beating, their education, and I use that term in a broad sense,  will not.

Lysol Wipes and Moral Retardation

Hoarding Lysol

What got me about the Vancouver pair who were buying all the Lysol wipes from Costco and selling them for inflated prices on Amazon, was not just that they were doing it.  It was the attitude–they were proud of it.

They had no idea that they were doing was morally reprehensible.  I have previously written about this issue regarding cutting in line at the border.  It’s the same garbage, different pile.  It has to do with moral development; some people get stalled out, morally speaking.

Moral Retardation

I did some research to figure out what was going on with cutting in border line ups.  According to a guy named Lawrence Kohlberg, there are six levels of morality.  If everything goes well, as you grow up, you will move up the ladder, hopefully, to the highest level, but for one reason or another, people can get stuck.

  1. The first level is called “Obedience and Punishment” where people will simply obey the rules because you could be punished if you don’t.
  2. The second stage is called “Individualism.”  At this stage, people make moral judgments based on self-interest.
  3. The next level of morality is based on “Interpersonal Relationships.” Here one is concerned with living up to social expectations and roles.
  4. Some face moral choices based on a perceived duty to “maintain social order.”  This fourth level begins to consider society as a whole in moral decisions but sees the rules and laws as coming from an authority.
  5. The fifth level is “Social Contract and Individual Rights.”  At this stage moral questions are less black and white because there is an understanding of differing moral values and opinions.  And rules and laws ought to be negotiated with others in society.
  6. The last level approaches moral judgments with ” Universal Principles” in mind.  These abstract principles are arrived at through moral reasoning.  Then they are internalized and followed even if they come into conflict with society’s rules and laws.

When our Vancouver pair was grabbing up all the Lysol, there was no rule against it, so they have achieved level one. Yay!

What about level two?  Their plan was clearly based on self-interest, 100% as far as I can tell, so I think we can congratulate our couple for clearly having advanced to stage two.

Everyone wishes, out of self-interest, that they had thousands of $20 items that people would be willing to pay $80 for.  I do that all the time, but these conditions are rare.   These occasions will pop up occasionally when there is a big change.  Like a global pandemic for instance.  We all see the opportunity, some people grab at it, others resist it.  At level three, our subjects would be considering what other people are thinking.  This appears to have no effect on their behaviour because there were a lot of people who were looking askance at their truck full of product.  But perhaps they have achieved this level; I don’t know if they would charge their parents $80 for the wipes.  But clearly they’d do it to their neighbours, so I am going to say they have not achieved level 3.

They certainlly haven’t gotten to level four, because there is a blatant disrespect for the “authority” of society.  If everyone behaved as they did, the effects of the pandemic would be far worse than they would be otherwise.  Because their behaviour can only work if there are a few who do it, it is, in principle, a behaviour that is immoral at the fourth level.

The last two levels actually allow for some flexibility in one’s approach to rules and laws, but neither would accept their behaviour under our current circumstances.

My diagnosis is that people who attempt to buy up all the necessary supplies from Costco in a pandemic (and those who sell candy at exorbitant rates on the elementary school playground) are stuck in the second stage of moral development.

And that’s probably fine if you are six years old.

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