Learning in a Pandemic: Defining the Season

The first step for a leader in the decision-making process, according to Al Mohler, is to define reality.  He writes, “Leaders are deeply invested in reality and must help the entire organization understand the realities that frame its work and future (Mohler, Conviction to Lead, 144).”

This is especially true when we are called to make tough decisions, especially decisions as important as when and how to have school this year.  So, before you can craft an approach to learning in a pandemic, you must define the season, because understanding the nature of our new reality helps shape the approach.

In this regard, I have been helped by a man name Andy Crouch.  Crouch helps leaders understand our current situation by comparing it to different variations of winter.  He says there are three.

  1. Blizzard: You can’t go out — zero visibility and hostile conditions. The primary needs is to shelter.
  2. Winter: You can go out, but not for long. Wear protective clothing and check the forecast for storms. The primary need is to survive.
  3. Ice Age: Things don’t grow the way they used to — but we’re finding new ways to live and even to thrive. The primary need is to adapt and rebuild.

Crouch argues that leaders must decide which version of winter we are living through and plan accordingly.

As I look at our current situation, I can see aspects of all three, but it seems clear to me that we are in a miniature Ice Age where we must learn to adapt and rebuild.

Let me explain.  I have no confidence a vaccine is coming out any time soon.  I believe predictions of a November vaccine is a pipe dream.  In addition, if a vaccine does come out, no one seems to be sure how efficacious it will be.  Will it work 30% of the time?  Maybe 50%?  Could it have a 75% effective rate?  In any case, no one is saying it will be 100% effective.

Moreover, I am not sure how many people will rush out and take a vaccine that has been rushed through the process, cutting it in half, and inject this into their body without any studies to show to possible long-term effects.  Could the cure be more harmful than the disease?  Just watch commercials for any prescription drug and listen for the list of possible side effects.  Will people just through caution into the wind and give it a try?

(I will be honest with you.  I am not taking it until you do.  I want to see if you grow a third ear, before I try it).

If I am not alone, then there will be at least a segment of the population that will be un-vaccinated.  And if there is segment of un-vaccinated people, there will still be a threat posed by the virus.

Therefore, if I am correct, this means we are going to be living with this threat, at least in some way, for the foreseeable future.  (And if I am not, we can all be happy).

This begs the question: How shall we live in the meantime?

I believe we have to learn to live with the risk.  Sure, we must take all the precautions we can, but we cannot adopt a bunker mentality, where we confine ourselves to our houses, as your children’s youth slips by one day at a time.  We cannot stop education, unless we are comfortable with a generation lagging hopelessly behind and paying the price for years to come.

The beginning point of crafting an approach to learning in a pandemic begins with a conviction we must have an approach, an approach that honors the reality we find ourselves in.  And I believe that mentality is a miniature Ice Age mentality.

We can neither bemoan the past or forget the future.  We must adapt and rebuild in and through our new normal, which is why we are in school today.  We believe we have to learn to live and thrive in a pandemic instead of waiting until it is completely over.

This especially makes sense of follower of Christ.  After all, if in Christ, we are not afraid to die, then it stands to reason, we must not be afraid to live, and for us living means seeking to shape our children’s hearts and minds for Christ as we move forward with him into our new normal, confident that the God who is the same yesterday and today and forevermore will be with us every step we take.