You are in this school for the precise reason that one day, one of you will develop a cure to diseases such as this. And if there is no cure, then you have the proper analytical frame of mind to design containment procedures and to develop public health policies that minimize epidemics and improve the overall health of our population.
You can always excuse yourself for being merely high school students now. I don’t have to think about that yet, sir. True. But think about these.
Personal responsibility makes a difference
What if people were more hygienic? What if they did maintain a hygiene kit? Washed their hands? Covered their nose when they sneezed? Their mouth when they coughed. What if? What if? What if!
Basic manners could have made a difference in containing A(H1N1). It is said that how a person keeps his or her surroundings is a reflection of how they keep themselves. Lately we’ve been pushing everyone to be more conscientious in maintaining the cleanliness of the school and segregating food in the cafeteria. I hope you didn’t see this as pointless or cheap. Otherwise I’d be worried how people look after their own selves.
Are we egoistic enough to worry just about our own and not look after others? That is debatable. But for sure, A(H1N1) wouldn’t have spread as quickly or as widely if we got the basics right. And while manners and etiquette are things that you can learn from school, applying them in real life is something only you yourself can look after.
Our actions do impact others. If anything, our struggle with this virus should teach us that. We can’t afford to live isolated lives anymore, thinking that there will always be someone to clean up after us. Transposing the law of conservation into a social context, the energy you spare from not cleaning up will be the same energy another person uses to do so. And let’s say there are at least five dozen yous, then just one janitor. No wonder it’s a tough job. Not everyone does their share.
Everything is part of a system
One consensus we had in our meetings earlier is that we didn’t fully appreciate the threat of the virus until it was too late. And when it did hit, still not everyone was convinced. Others called us too paranoid or that all we’re doing is overkill. The reality is, what we’re doing may not be enough.
We should see the effects of the virus not just on one individual, but on the entire system. “So we have one confirmed case. But it’s just one!” was the cry of many. And yet that single one began a chain that endures until now. It was downplayed because of its apparent mildness, and yet the rate of its spread has left our school crippled.
Think of your equations. A(H1N1) is not a constant; it’s a variable. It’s entrance into the equation has altered the balance drastically and we’re seeing values we never saw before.
I may not have the aptitude in math that most of you have, but I did take one valuable lesson from all my math teachers before: one small change can make a big difference. It’s something I brought into my study of the social sciences and history. And it’s one thing that should help put all of these in perspective. Just take a look at all these changes we’re seeing now. That had to come from somewhere.
There are things more important than grades
I think we have a fault in all this. Instead of absenting themselves because of sickness, students carry on to avoid missing exams and precious class time. They also don’t like the burden of additional make up work. True, the PSHS curriculum is so advanced heavy that students can’t even de-load themselves to get well. To get well!
I don’t know about you, but I find this fishy.
Then what do we do? To make up for lost time, we put them to task during an imposed quarantine. As they struggle to get the rest they all need, they’re catching up with readings, problem sets, and research papers. They’ve begun to abhor the quarantine and fear returning to school and see all the tests waiting for them.
I completely understand the position of my colleagues. We have deadlines to meet, courses to complete, a job to do, and students to teach. But we teach them what?
That to tell me that you’ve learned, you pass this requirement.
That when you pass this requirement, you get a good grade.
That when you get a good grade, then you’ve learned something.
Then the cycle repeats itself.
Both students and teachers are trapped in a spinning wheel of meeting standards and expectations. I’ve always wondered who set those standards and why, and whether those same standards still apply to us today. To say that these standards have been working for us is a poor argument to make; there is never nothing we can’t do a little better. (And there definitely are.)
PSHS was built in the milieu of the Cold War when competition was the global standard. But it’s the 21st century now. In the era of the Internet, it’s all about creation and collaboration (hence an argument has to be made for protecting Humanities Week in some shape or form).
Times have changed, but have our standards?
As a student once said, “the requirements have come in the way of my learning. The teaching was come in the way of my education.”
Does it follow that just because we teach our students more, they learn more? This may sound like a funny question to ask, but think about it. In economics it’s called the Law of Diminishing Returns — that there comes a point when you simply overdo something for it to be effective.
I think we’ve reached that point; surpassed it even. We’re beginning to do too much that it has become dangerous to our students’ health. Just take a look at what has happened.
Teachers have long felt that a curriculum review is in order. I think the comment that students rather go to school than recover from ILI has to be taken seriously and used to argue not just for a curriculum review, but a reassessment of what our goals are as an educational institution.
I have always believed that our report card underestimates who we are. Yet I can’t shake away the feeling that the card is only where it begins. There is so much potential here, and I feel that we aren’t tapping into its entirety.
I hope that when one of this school year’s students becomes a teacher in the PSHS, look back at this year and tell us — what would you be rather doing during the quarantine, and what would you want to look forward to in going back to school?
You can ask yourself that question now, or begin answering it here. Leave a comment.