Pandemics Know No Boundaries

Ever since COVID-19 began, I’ve been thinking about boundaries, wishing my parents were here, so I could learn how they coped with disasters they experienced when they were young. They lived in a chicken coop for a while during the Great Depression, and my husband’s parents walked hundreds of miles when the Nazis invaded France during World War II. They all made it through their hard times and went on to live successful lives, but how did they do it?

Our parents saved every scrap, wasted nothing, learned new skills, and pitched in to help each other, sacrificing for the greater good. In the face of a pandemic, we can follow the example of our ancestors and great leaders, using history, research, and education as guides for how to meet a crisis. Research on the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 found that cities practicing social isolation and sheltering had better health results and stronger economies in the long run than those without strict quarantines. Today, Czechia has lowered their rate of infection faster than many other countries worldwide because everyone started wearing masks early on.

Learning from the past can help us adapt to present challenges and build a more resilient future.

These examples show how to learn from experience and reach across boundaries, seeking new ways to connect and share innovations, data, and social practices. As we ease separation, people talk to neighbors, families spend more time together, young people reconnect with older generations, and even air pollution worldwide decreases as people drive less. Teachers and students, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are developing new online skills, with more inter-generational contact. Businesses, schools, restaurants and social networks are discovering we don’t all have to drive several times a day to learn effectively or get business done.

Imagine a world a few years from now, where learning has been transformed, with retired community members or college students helping school children with online reading, history and math lessons, or kids showing parents and teachers graphic computer skills and applications in a new model for education. Let’s keep finding more ways to connect. Being forced to adapt to COVID-19 can point to efficient, effective ways to accomplish goals of caring for people, keeping our economy and ourselves healthy, and educating our children. As we connect to each other, let’s learn from the past, live in the present, and look to the future.

When we see what’s at stake and how much we have in common, let’s choose cooperation over competition, generosity over greed, science over superstition, history over myths, and education over ignorance. In Texas this November, we have the opportunity to elect a new State Board of Education, choosing educators with a vision schools in the 21st century. Let’s bridge boundaries, working toward the common goal of educating all our children and building a more connected and sustainable future.

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