It seems like months ago, and it has
been for China and some countries in Europe. I remember a week of
errands, including shopping for groceries and taking my cat to the
vet for his shots. I kept track of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and was
alarmed at the number of deaths, particularly among the elderly. Dr.
Li Wenliang, one of the first doctors to respond to COVID-19 patients
in the city of Wuhan and who had tried to warn of the seriousness of
this illness, dies on March 6, 2020. Citizens in China protest.
The drastic measures taking in
Wuhan, China reminded me of Camus’ The Plague. Just
as I considered re-reading the 1947 novel, I receive an email from my
local library. March 12th.
“A message...” with a banner, reading “OPEN.”
The library system has taking precautions—the libraries have
been sanitized. The risk “remains low.”
two days later, “A notice...” The libraries will be
closed from March 16th
to April 6th.
while COVID-19 registered as serious business for many around the
world, for Trump, it was nothing more than a flu-like thing. Watch it
“miraculously” disappear, folks! There’s something
so menacing about governments for whom the denial of reality is
paramount in overwhelming the mindset of its citizenry. But
sometimes, these governments are not always successful.
been a week now, beginning on March 16th,
when we in Wisconsin were told to practice “social distancing,”
that is, stay six feet from the nearest person. Pick up groceries or
get medical care if necessary. Otherwise, stay home. Isolated,
a new norm, just that quickly. And yet, it seems like a very long
time ago, there was another norm.
I still refuse to purchase a
television. I have my laptop. I read books, long articles online,
investigative pieces, or in-depth coverage of an art or music or
science topic. I searched for lectures on science and the arts,
including those in which authors give lectures at the last few
remaining bookstores. I listen to podcasts. YouTube viewing of Star
Trek, the original and TNG, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and
for me in the evening to keep stress of living while black in America
I did this before the
pandemic. So neighbors know I’m far from a white, conservative,
Christian—someone black but
at least going about life with the familiar qualifying credentials.
On Friday of last week, I had to
make a quick trip to the nearest grocery store, where employees are
doing their best to keep items on the shelves. Still no Purell or
disinfectant wipes, but luckily I have enough for another two weeks.
But when I returned home to my building for senior, I encountered
three neighbors in the lobby, not necessarily practicing “social
distancing.” I want to try and do so without coming across as
that one who properly takes all this Coronavirus business seriously.
You know it in your bones, as it’s hard and hard to escape,
even while hearing and reading about the need for unity. Unity.
Did you hear about the tanker?
Apparently, a tanker with the label
“COVID-19” on its sides overturned on some road. See the
video on the Internet!
I’m not searching the Internet
and clicking on this bait.
But before I reach my apartment,
another neighbor informs me that I need not worry about anything:
“God” will solve the problem!
While at the store, I heard from a
fellow shopper that “He” has a plan to rid the world of
I have friends, former students
twenty years ago, who are now teaching in other states. I say,
teaching, but it’s safe to say that they are doing their best
to teach, that is, to educate for an academia that is now so
beholding to a business model, if not outright corporate, that it’s
a struggle to be an effect teacher to students paying an arm and a
leg for their education. Stressed students, stressed young
teachers—both groups struggling with student debt.
My younger friends tell me that as
of last week or the week before, they’re teaching online
instead of in the classroom, and it’s much harder—more
time consuming considering the lack of health insurance, adequate
salary, and job security.
Who’s enabling the unity of
greed and ignorance?
I think about education; I don’t
need to be standing inside a classroom or listed as faculty on some
college’s payroll. I read the emails of my friends and, given
that I have a little more free time, I imagine what it would be like
to live in a country that values education. Real education. Education
that serves the citizens, serves to produce citizens who won’t
inform fellow citizens about a tanker filled with the COVID-19 virus.
Currently, in the US, 69% of seniors
graduating from a 4-year institute has on average $29,000 in student
loan debt (Student-debt Statistics). In the last few days, House
Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar have introduced a bill
to eliminate $30,000 of debt per borrower.
In 2020, this is where we’re
at—begging fellow Americans to think in order to end suffering,
and save lives? How much sense does it make to structure an
educational system that forces young people from the economically
poor, the marginalized, and the working class for wanting to attend
college? Why are young people forced to live stressed out by
collection agencies tracking them down, even while struggling to
locate meaningful employment? Here we are still promoting systemic
levels of greed and ignorance.
The total debt for all students with
outstanding loans is $1.7 trillion dollars (CNBC, 2020). Last year,
according to Forbes, when the
debt was at $1.5 trillion that was the “highest ever.”
From my friends I hear their stress before the pandemic as they coup
with the “business model” in academia and with students
becoming increasingly strung out from having to borrow so much to
receive an education.
in a profit driven country like the United States of America—and
Trump wants to make it “great” again by handing off the
country to his friends on Wall Street.
the COVID-19 pandemic, the LA Times reports
that “gun sales are surging” in this country, especially
in states hardest hit by the pandemic! California, New York, and
Washington—folks are buying guns and ammunition. These aren’t
the only locations, the article continues, for, sales of guns are up
in areas less-affected with first-time buyers leading the surge.
There are American doctors in desperate need of masks; hospitals in
need of more ventilators; and, above all, fellow citizens, testing
for this virus, but who are dying. And the purchase of a gun comes to
the minds of many Americans?
is the beginning of week two: Most Wisconsin’s residents are at
home. Traditionally a hunting state, where residents love their arms
for tracking down deer, I have yet to hear about surging gun sales. I
would like to be optimistic, but I know change doesn’t happen
I recall, long ago when we had those Democratic presidential debates,
Joe Biden tried to scare Americans by suggesting that the idea of a
“revolution” isn’t want people want. “‘People
are looking for results.’”
Wall Street on the minds of our politicians while many Americans
struggle and suffer. And die. Always thinking, profits. Profits!
Yes, I do think a lot about
education, free for all. And lifelong education. In terms of
transforming a system that doesn’t work, we should begin with
relieving students of debt. And then look for not returning to
business-as-usual, that is, profits for Wall Street.
heard some podcast or I read an article in which the discussion was
about lifelong learning. I was curious, and looked up the subject.
Lifelong learning isn’t a novel idea; in fact, it’s
practiced where most countries put the wellbeing of their citizens
above profits for educational institutions and bankers on Wall
Street. Denmark is one of those countries.
to Denmark.dk, most
education in Denmark “is tax-financed and free of charge for
start with daycare. It starts when the child is nine months of age,
followed by public kindergarten where the staff, with degrees in
early childhood, teach the “basics,” that is, “letters
and numbers.” Most of the child’s day is spend on “free
play” and outdoor activities. By the age of six, the child is
ready for formal schooling.
young students, the Danes are introduced to working in groups, rather
than focusing on re-producing hierarchical structures. Students greet
their teachers by their first names: “The educational approach
in Denmark avoids class ranking and formal tests.” Instead,
working in groups is valued as beneficial to all. The emphasis is on
problem-solving, rather than memorization.
addition, students are taught “to challenge the established way
of doing things,” so as to counter the development of
for all children under the age of 16-years old is free. However, some
parents may opt to send their children to private, that is, “Jewish,
Christian, and Muslim” schools. International schools, such as
“English-language schools, French-language schools, or
German-language schools are also available for students to attend.
isn’t a communist state,
but “all schools are required to follow the national
government’s basic requirements for primary education.”
nationwide test is given just before students graduate from primary
education so students—valued—don’t find themselves
falling in an ever widening gap. Those with “strong abilities
often select a gymnasium for their secondary education, where they
can focus on languages, sciences, math or similar subjects to prepare
them for university.” However, a path to “high-paying,”
skilled jobs such as “metalwork, electrical technology or
mechanics” is an option along with business schools for those
students interested in leaning accounting or software development.
Still others may be interested in “theatre or sports along with
their academic requirements.”
completing secondary education, Danish students “choose from a
variety of tertiary options, including a standard university that
grants bachelors, masters, and PhD degrees.” University college
awards BA degrees in “hands-on subjects” such as social
work, public arts, architectural academies as well as the Royal
Academy of Music.
or SU are available to full-time
students, from the government, even if the student is working to pay
expenses while studying. “It is common for Danes to begin
working in their future job roles while they are still in the process
of education, either as a paid praltikant (intern)
in Denmark does not stop with graduation.” Danes with degrees
continue to attend extra classes to improve job skills or begin a
hobby. In fact, one out of three Danish adults, between the ages of
25-64, enroll in some kind of continuing education course, sometimes
to improve work skills, or to return to work if unemployed.
public and private investment in the development of new
qualifications and skills is one of the highest in Europe. The idea
is to maintain a highly qualified and well-educated workforce that
can succeed in a global knowledge economy.”
not all lifelong education is about preparation for the professional
world. Many adults in Denmark enroll in “cooking, painting,
foreign languages, music or dance” classes “just for fun”
since most are “publicly funded” course while others are
offered for “a minimal fee.”
people’s high school or the folkehøjskoler or
been offering education to “ordinary” adults since 1844.
The goal of these institutions is to help adults develop skills
needed to “thrive as citizens.” Inspired by “the
influential Danish educational leader Neils Grundtung (1783-1872),”
to offer higher education in rural populations in union with the
cultivating of the urban intellectual elite, these seventy højskolers
specialize in subjects such as
“film, design, sports, theatre, and politics.” Spread out
throughout the country, these schools are voluntary, and there are no
grades or exams. “Many offer live-in courses” for a week
or more, and while they are not tuition-free, prices are low and the
cost of attending includes room and board.”
the future be the same, business-as-usual? We have a COVID-19,
healthcare, homelessness, and climate change for openers, problems
that need the attention of all, regardless of nationality or
ethnicity. Will we continue with the nonsense of “alternative
facts” and “alternative realities”? During this
pandemic, Americans have no excuse not to think of ways to respond to
an ideology that re-produces greed as a virtue and ignorance as
bliss, an ideology as much a threat to life as the Coronavirus.
maintaining such a culture of learning here in the United States!
Let’s talk about unity and
not offer merely empty, if not rhetorical, cliches. Imagine this
country actually valuing idea of democracy! It can happen! It is
not in the United States?