Time to Ask

Now that we are beginning to ease the restrictions that have been necessary to bring the pandemic under some kind of control, I hope some thought is being given to taking advantage of this rare opportunity we have now (but in a very short time will not).

My career before retirement was in education, and I see school systems rushing back into the same patterns as before COVID. The same structures, the same curriculum, the same set of priorities, likely the same tests. I understand the temptation to get back to some kind of solid ground after over a year of uncertainty; there is, however, a rapidly disappearing chance to avoid stepping back into essentially the same routine as before. There are questions that can be asked now that can’t be reasonably asked six months from now, when all the old structures and methods are back in place.

Are we teaching the things we should be, given the fact that the children in school now will enter a world none of us can predict with any confidence, and is changing at an ever-increasing rate?

Are we acknowledging the shift in the cultural landscape that has occurred, in some cases during the depths of the pandemic?

Is our methodology well suited for the kind of learning these children need?

Are we asking what role the schools should play in the various communities that exist now (physical, electronic, global) and what roles could be better filled by other existing or as yet unformed organizations and structures?

These and many other questions can be asked now, and may well have been considered during the last year and a half, but it concerns me that all of us were (and still are) so much in survival mode, trying to find some kind of footing, that questioning of this type may not have occurred. If not, now is a good time, and a year from now will not be.

Similar things can be said, of course, about business, religion, politics, and other areas.

I must say I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing what artists have been up to. As a community they, more so than others, are used to stepping back for a different look, asking questions others have not yet thought about, and tackling things that have not been tried before.

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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