The primary function of education during Covid seems to be – an indicator of ’lockdown’ gravity, a sort of normality metric. School’s on, the epidemic is fine; the epidemic is back, school is cancelled… and so on. If education were a switch, it would have broken by now.
Allow me to begin the tale of education during a pandemic:
The current, bite-size historical account of the pandemic is as follows: the virus somehow, somewhere, mutated and began attacking humans; then, humans changed – everywhere and in every way – so society itself mutated. One of the main societal shifts is probably the division of labour and every other civilizational force to:
- essential – those who can and must go to work, even in these epidemiological circumstances;
- the rest, who can work ’from home’, or not work at all, having lost their jobs.
There are no medical studies as of yet on the topic of health and immune systems of supermarket cashiers, pharmacists, truck and public transportation drivers. Nor will Marvel make a film in which, for example, the Wonder Woman of our time no longer has a breast-hugging bodysuit or a shield, but an over-washed uniform, and change in her hand, which somehow has no traces of Covid-19.
From this important civilizational and labour legacy, we move to education.
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Precisely at the border between the two newly diagnosed human races – those who leave home and go to work, and those who have had work move into their home – are the ’semi-essential’ workers, our teachers. Almost like members of the military reserve, they return to their teaching fronts on command, when the currently important parameters show the epidemic is under control. The primary function of education during Covid seems to be – an indicator of ’lockdown’ gravity, a sort of normality metric. School’s on, the epidemic is fine; the epidemic is back, school is cancelled… and so on. If education were a switch, it would have broken by now.
And it probably has.
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This ‘on and off’ playground game has had generous ‘help’ from electronic means of communication. Classes are performed as TV show episodes; you can now ‘binge watch’ art or chemistry. Educators with higher tech capabilities can hold their classes in virtual classrooms, acutely concerned about what else their students are watching on their countless screens – always with cameras and microphones switched off. If education was in trouble – and it was – before the epidemic, regarding its struggle to remain competitive with countless forms of virtual and mobile-accessible entertainment, this problem has now reached a gigantic scale. It’s a paradox, really: how do you make people want to learn anything in an era of limitless access to knowledge?
The word ‘content’ has had a grand entrance into our lives in the twenty first century. It signifies images, words, and ideas we are willing to spend time engaging with. It’s turned out that entertaining and bizarre ‘content’ has an advantage – us humans like to be entertained. And on the entertainment list, education comes last. After all, bored school-goers find Flat-Earth theories and QAnon a lot less boring than geography or political science. And so, amid a pandemic, the education system has transformed into a periodical ‘babysitting’ system of the younger generations staring at their phones, while the adults are trying not to get fired.
With varied success.
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And so the school year is soon coming to an end.
What has been taught via alternate, pandemic schooling? Probably little.
What has society learned about education and its faults? Probably even less.
What has civilization learned about itself? Nothing, so it seems.
What can we conclude? Well, for example: educating on how to fix education is probably the most sensible path – with the purpose to understand how to vaccinate education, when it’s its turn, in this educationally backward vicinity.