The 14th century was a time of great suffering. The Hundred Years' War between England and France ravaged both countries and provided a tremendous sense of instability to the whole of Europe. Strange weather patterns led to crop devastation which, in turn, led to widespread famine in some parts of the continent. Many believe the famine so weakened the constitution of Europeans that, when the Black Death arrived, their bodies stood little chance of fighting it off.
These days most education is moving online amidst the frenzy of doomsday alarmism and a dogged trust in fiscal stimulus bills and N95 masks; unusual practical concerns—will Safeway have beans and toilet paper today?—beset many households; the specter of economic recession haunts our minds, employment, and portfolios. These days it’s hard to maintain focus on teaching and studies, when the familiar securities of the saeculum are shattering around us, when hopeless cries for human intervention cram the airwaves.
What motivates a person to make the decisions he makes, to do the things she does? What motivates a group of people, a community, a city or whole nation to do what it does, to decide what it decides? Some people are motivated by what is right and what is wrong. Some people are motivated by what will earn them recognition and honor. Some people are motivated by the "return on investment." Some people are motivated by what will be an expression of their freedom, the right to choose what they choose to choose. What other things motivate us? As individuals? As communities?
Understandably teachers around the country right now are balking at the prospect of accomplishing their classroom objectives online in what is looking like a prolonged season of quarantine. Many are doing this under the assumption that this is a fool’s errand, that we cannot possibly accomplish the same goals online as we can in the three-dimensional classroom.
Dear parents who suddenly have their schooled children at home,
A Quiet Place has become one of my family’s favorite movies over the past few years. Anytime we have a house guest, my children’s first question to them is, “Have you seen A Quiet Place?” If the answer is no, that guest had better be prepared to get their pants scared off because my children will force them to watch it.
What can I say? My children are homeschooled and therefore unsocialized—not much I can do.
The quarantine is the perfect occasion to develop a taste for something you wish you liked, but don’t, like black & white films, opera, coffee, chocolate, or, in my case, mid-century Modern literature. Since giving up social media, I’ve had so much more time on my hands, and a good bit of that extra time has gone towards reading fiction. In the early part of my career, I more or less gave up reading fiction and took up history and philosophy, in large part to become a more competent lecturer.
Over the last week, the administrative team at Veritas in Richmond collaborated with teachers to launch Veritas at Home, a strategy for quarantined students to carry on the school year in the safety of their own living rooms. As opposed to dictating to teachers all they should do, the administrative team began by seeking the counsel of several experienced teachers about what was reasonable to expect of students and teachers alike.
William McRaven devoted thirty-seven years of his life to the U.S. Navy. He served as a SEAL, rising to become a team commander and, eventually, a four-star admiral. Near the end of his career McRaven was Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. He was actively involved in some of the most precarious missions in the War on Terror, including the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
After a good bit of prefatory work on the part of teachers at Veritas, yesterday was really the first day in which students began working from home in earnest. My wife is on the administrative team at the school, and while the quarantine means less work for some people, it means far more work for people such as herself. So, between writing and podcasting, I supervise Beatrice (8) and Camilla’s (10) studies, field endless requests to play outside, and keep house.
After all these years, the real test has finally come.
The real test was never going to be a set of math problems. It was never going to be lab work. It was never going to be a list of facts. The real test was never going to be an essay on Jane’s relationship with Rochester, a fill-in-the-blank about which monster was Scylla and which one was Charybdis, or a series of multiple-choice questions about the Apostles, the Cold War, or “biblical economics.”