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The Wide Angle: A different age of education

For a while now, I have been positing a philosophical question to those that are in education.

It usually comes on the heels of a story I’ve written or am writing in regards to distance learning the schools had to adopt because of COVID-19, probably the most hated word in the world at this point. Well, that and the word “moist.”

Schools had to learn on the fly an entirely new and different kind of teaching as schools were shuttered and education went online.

Some places had somewhat of a leg up, including schools like Austin and Blooming Prairie, who have been using the one-to-one ratio in that each student within a certain grade brackett received a laptop.

It was something of a head start and it allowed schools to get over the hurdle. Schools were, in general, pretty happy with how they got through the 110-meter high hurdles of a coronavirus pandemic, but they would probably also agree that maybe it wasn’t the smoothest race in the world.

I’ve seen plenty of track meets in my life and I would wager it’s comparable to the sound I hear of hurdlers hitting every hurdle down the straight away and still finishing.

Pretty? No. Finish the race? (thumbs up, teeth missing behind a somewhat satisfied smile).

Of course in my mind, I still consider it a whale of an accomplishment considering the hurdles were taller than I was in high school. Yes, an exaggeration … but not by much.

Now, where is this question I alluded to at the beginning that was so philosophical in nature?

I ask you, if you have kids, to think about this school year when suddnely you were thrust into the role of homeschool teacher. You were partially responsible for homework schedules, spelling tests and some science stuff you didn’t understand and simply shrugged at when your child claimed to know what they were doing … because science and you don’t understand science.

I’m not judging. I don’t understand science either. The way I see it, science is like math … it’s just numbers and letters put into obscure combinations that smart people can understand. I am not smart, I just happen to think science is cool as I take scientist’s word at faith value.

Not like I can prove them wrong anyway.

So, you are now a parent and a teacher of sorts. Congratulations. I hope, by the way, that many of you took this to heart and made your child raise his or her hand if they wanted to go to the bathroom.

Fun fact: Myron Nelson, a teacher I had in high school and friend of my family, once had a special pass for going to the lavatory. It was a toilet seat that identified its purpose with a phrase I don’t remember.

I still don’t know to this day if it was fun to carry or embarrassing, mostly because I was never concerned about being embarrassed. If you’ve ever seen me dance, then you know why.

Onward quickly now because I’ve wasted more than enough of your valuable coffee-drinking time.

Taking much of your time now dedicated to teaching into account, I want you to think back to when you were in school. If you were like me, it was the 80s and 90s and I was younger than I am now — clearly.

Now, imagine if COVID-19 hit. I mean, we had a plague of sorts during those years, but I suppose you can’t count Milli Vanilli truly as such. Many of you probably didn’t live through their music or are at an age where you didn’t hear their music in the first place.

Girl, you know it’s true. Ooo, ooo, ooo.

To say we didn’t have the technology we have now is laughable. We did have computers: The Apple IIgs. A magnificent machine that allowed us to do such things as type documents, print documents, change the background and text colors, play “Oregon Trail” … huh, that was about it.

I was a man of technological growth in those days, learning supreme typing skills on both the Apple and the machine-gun sounding electric typewriters. No internet, no wifi, just the thundering sound of a typewriting class and a toilet seat hall pass.

I can’t even conceive of how schools would adapt to having to deal with the coronavirus. Distance learning would have meant learning would have been very, very distant.

We just wouldn’t have been able to drive each day to pick up packets and there was no email  so you couldn’t even send a question to your teacher.

The closest I had would have been sending a note to my parents in the house. Get it? E-mail … my name is Eric … e-mail?

That being said, I would have probably had to continue given both my parents and a grandfather were in education.

Still, it would have been chaotic and probably wouldn’t have happened — I don’t think anyway. I mean, I have made a career of under and overselling things so there is a relatively good chance I’m wrong on that account, but long-time teachers have been agreeing with me, and they’re teaching, so I would say that makes them smarter than me.

Now, give me that toilet seat. I have to go to the bathroom.