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Take a breath, exhale and sit down. Let’s face reality – the Coronavirus is going to be with us for some time and simply opening back up and expecting that everything will be fine is misguided. We are in this for the long haul, at least until there is a safe and available vaccine – a vaccine that must be distributed to every human on the planet. Is this six months, a year, or longer? We don’t know, nor do the scientists who are working non-stop to develop the solutions. OK – did that sink in yet? Knowing this frees our minds to compensate and plan ways to effectively adjust, as best we can.

Much of the dialogue today sounds like this: “We recommend that you consider doing this or that, but it is up to the states and local communities to decide how they want to address the plethora of issues that stem from the reality of the virus.” Really?? The last time I looked we are called the UNITED States of America, not the INDEPENDENT States of America. We have a federal government for these reasons more than anything else. When in time of crisis we need a united effort, expert guidance, and creative thinking that must be effectively implemented in ALL states. During these times we expect our government to take the lead.

The first concern with the pandemic continues to be the safety and wellbeing of our population. We can’t even agree on this because every state is able to make its own decisions on how to approach control. If we can, at some point, get ourselves together on the need to have a universal approach towards containment – then we must address all of the systemic challenges that will define who we are as a country for decades to come. These are education, economics, healthcare, innovation, infrastructure, and equality. Let’s just take a look at education since many would agree that it is the most critical component of recovery and growth.

Overnight – teachers were required to transition their classes from on-ground to on-line. This was true from elementary school to college. Let’s applaud teachers for the wartime effort that they rallied behind. Now that one semester of programming is complete, try asking those teachers how effective on-line was, comparatively how well did students perform, how much support did teachers receive as they “figured it out”, and how would they evaluate their own capacity to create meaningful educational experiences?

Now that it’s summer – most of those teachers from elementary school to college are breathing a sigh of relief – they made it through the term and they are able to enjoy a well-deserved break. What is going to happen in the fall? What is the plan, how is the system being adjusted to help teachers be excellent at what they do in the fall when the virus will still be with us? Most schools do not know what direction to take in just two months time. Elementary and secondary teachers have likely been told to prepare for three options: full return, hybrid return, full on-line. Is there guidance on what this will look like and how to prepare for something that is probably foreign to all of them?

We have wrestled with the onset of on-line education for some time now and the vote is still out. There are examples, in some cases, where it works, but there is little research as to what extent and how effective it can be as the only option for all students. There are also many questions from those who teach in fields where hands-on application has long been viewed as essential. Certainly in my field (culinary arts and hospitality), but what about medical studies, nursing, engineering, building trades, and law? How can we prepare individuals for these careers without face-to-face education and ample opportunity to practice skills in a live environment? What will the virus do to the supply of trained doctors, nurses, engineers, tradespeople, etc.? If we are to face the existence of the virus, at some level, for the next year or more – what impact will it have on those skilled workers that are already in short supply?

So, where is the government effort for the UNITED States of America? Where is that critical taskforce (unknown if anything has been planned in this regard) led by the National Department of Education that is researching, planning, and preparing to guide states and those who teach and administer educational programs? If we freely print more money to support the bailout of various private industries – where are the funds to support the absolutely essential education model in the U.S., an education model that despite talk about shifting to private school vouchers – is best served by a public education system that has countrywide guidance and support?

If we simply allow the federal government to turn the decision-making and implementation of educational solutions to states without giving them the resources to do so (not just money, but also guidance and well-researched models) then we will continue to erode our outcomes where the best education is relegated to states that can afford it, cities that are more economically sound, and neighborhoods where affluent residents are able to add an influx of cash to the system. Is this the right approach for a great country?

If we agree that education can be the key to opportunity for our young people, if education can be one of the solutions to issues of inequality, if education is a vehicle for creating hope as well as opportunity for our future leaders, then there has never been a more important time to insist that our government unite the states behind a universal approach towards finding solutions.

If we simply think that this time is just a bump in the road and that there will be no real long-term challenges because “students and parents just need to relax and adjust their lives to the new laid back approach towards learning, then we are driving blind. One semester is significant, more time removed from an effective educational model will be devastating to society, will fuel more discontent and social unrest, and will severely limit opportunities for our children for years to come. THIS IS A HUGE ISSUE and there seems to be very little unified, creative thinking around it.

Everyone is trying to figure this whole thing out as we go along. It is a crisis that we have not faced in 100 years, and we were, for all intents and purposes, caught off-guard. But, we have had four months to settle in to reality and do what we have always done best – problem solve. “We have a problem Houston”, a problem that impacts every aspect of our lives so – let’s insist that government do what they should do: provide us with the tools to solve it.

People will not return to restaurants until this is addressed, people will not return to retail stores until this addressed, people will not travel until this is resolved, and our economy will not recover until we resolve it.

If how we deliver, what we deliver, and when we deliver our educational model is not resolved it will impact the future of our children, parents ability to work and keep their children safe, the economy and our ability to get business back to business, our standing in the world market, and our ability to set the stage to resolve some of the great social and humanitarian issues of our time.

This is not an INDEPENDENT states issue this is a UNITED States issue. This is the opportunity for the greatness that has always defined our country. At the core of any truly great society is the quality of its education model.

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER

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