Back in March, when lockdown started, I made one trip to the office to pick up things I needed to run my courses from home. I also picked up my copy of Albert Camus’ The Plague. It’s had been years since I’d read it, and I started reading a little bit in the morning with my coffee.
I was asked by a colleague recently what I think is going to happen in the Fall. My answer was that I don’t even pretend to know.
There’s not too much overlap between my professional expertise and my opinions on our current situation, but there’s this: There is more uncertainty than you’d like to admit, but that doesn’t mean that you can say whatever you want. This holds both in general and in the present specifics.
In the first post reflecting on this wild semester, I discussed a class that went from face-to-face meetings to Zoom meetings. I turned my other class upside down completely.
Understanding Science, as it happens, is the only thing I’d ever taught on-line before. When I designed the course for Summer 2015, I faced up to some basic realities of the medium: Asynchronous interactions are best.
In the previous post, I lamented that most of the students didn’t use video in my seminar this semester. It came at a cost of making conversation and genuine interaction harder— and also of souring my own experience of the class meetings.
Commenters here and on Facebook consider the possibility of requiring or at least strongly encouraging students to turn on video.1 I think that adopting that kind of policy would be a mistake, at least for me. Here are some reasons why.
When I write a comment on Facebook or Twitter, I often start with one thing in mind but end up coming up with a different take half-way through. Either one would be nice and punchy, but I like them both. So I mash them up in a way that doesn’t effectively make either point.
I spent today attending the Doing Science in a Pluralistic Society Colloquium.1 Part of the event was an Author Meets Critics session for Matt Brown’s forthcoming book, Science and Moral Imagination. Matt’s project is framed by the doubt-belief model of enquiry which I’ve been blogging about recently.
Last year I attended the annual Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology Conference hosted in Dallas and organized by Matt Brown.1
I got great feedback on my presentation, which ultimately grew into a paper. I hung out with old friends and made new ones.
So I submitted an abstract again this year. Today, I received an e-mail indicating that my paper was accepted along with an e-mail saying that the conference was canceled. The cancelation was inevitable, of course, but Matt had delayed officially canceling the conference until verdicts had been reached. This way would-be presenters can list the acceptance on their CV. It’s a classy move— I don’t need the line on my CV, but students and junior scholars might do.2
My missing the conference this year is not a terrible imposition, really, since I missed it for eight years before attending at all. It is a small sacrifice, in the grand scheme of things— but these accumulate like rain drops on the tin roof that is my inability to land a metaphor.
Back in the halcyon days of three weeks ago, I made this glib but sincere post to social media—
I wish fewer of my friends would make posts advancing some conspiracy theory about the election that they dreamed up over breakfast.
In the meantime, the world has gotten very strange. Election speculation is gone, replaced to a large extent by commiseration, solidarity, and plain kvetching. Yet there have been definite in-roads among my friends toward posting broad conclusions about covid-19.1
I have opinions about elections and diseases, but these are times of great uncertainty. It’s a sign that I’m getting old, I guess, but I have less of a taste for the rhetorical mode of laying down facts under conditions of ignorance than I used to do.
I’ve formulated and not written several blog posts about life in the time of Covid-19.
Last week was Spring Break, which meant that events didn’t quite register the way they would have done any other week. Being at home and not seeing students would have happened anyway. Now classes have resumed, such as they are.