The lockdown diaries week 12: the hardest week yet

Another week of lock down and the death toll in the UK as I write is 41,662.  The numbers are slowly decreasing but the UK is still in the top three highest death tolls in the world.

We are still very far away from it “all being over”.  I hope our politicians are looking to  New Zealand as an example of how to manage a pandemic.  but I very much doubt that they are. We’re not out of this outbreak, and already there is talk of the second wave. I really hope that there isn’t one, but fear that there will be as economic drivers always outweigh everything else I strongly suspect there will be. 

I really struggled this week.  It was the first week since lock down that I hadn’t had any work related meetings, but I just couldn’t settle to anything else. Perhaps my malaise was just a natural reaction to “the situation”.  We seem so close to being able to do a bit more, see more people, but still so far away from it.  Perhaps my feelings of helplessness were increased by the attempt to overshadow the black lives matter movement with neoliberal ideologies and distractions and a nagging feeling of “what can I do?” The increasing attempts by politicians  to obfuscate civil and civic rights with law and order, the global pandemic and the need to “be alert” and “stay safe”.  And then I read this piece by Henry Giroux.  He writes:

Neoliberalism is not only an economic system, it is also an ideological apparatus that relentlessly attempts to structure consciousness, values, desires and modes of identification in ways that align individuals with its governing structures. Central to this pedagogical project is the attempt to prevent individuals from translating private issues and troubles into broader systemic considerations. By doing this, it becomes difficult for individuals to grasp the historical, social, economic and political forces at work in shaping a social order as a human activity deeply immersed in specific relations of power.

Reducing individuals to isolated, discrete, hermetically sealed human beings whose lives are shaped only by notions of self-reliance and self-sufficiency is a pedagogical strategy that utterly depoliticizes people leading them to believe that however a society is shaped, it is part of a natural order.

In our rush to get back to the “new normal” the need for critical pedagogy is more important than ever. We need to be able to critique our contexts, to not divert back to technology providing the answers to our new problems (or are they opportunities) in education.  To that end Sean Michael Morris’s piece “technology is not pedagogy” is worth reading.   A good contrast to this Microsoft’s position paper on re-imagining the future of education. Amazing what they are so convinced they know about after only a couple of months  . . .  I’m also still working my way through Ben Williamson’s UCU Scotland Report “ The Automatic University:  a review of datafication and automation in universities.” 

We need to arm ourselves and our students to be able to critique and question, to not just take a piece meal approach to decolonizing the curriculum, but use this time to explore our history. To have an informed debate about the role and location of statues, the gender and racial inequalities they perpetuate, the value system they represent.  These issues are fundamental to our future, to our “new normal”.   

Anyway, I hope this week coming will be better. I am feeling more positive again so that is good. In the meantime, dear reader, stay safe.  

spotted on one of my walks this week

2 thoughts on “The lockdown diaries week 12: the hardest week yet

  1. Sheila, that makes a lot of sense. I had a lot of work meetings this week, but that same malaise was also there, and the difficulty of focussing on anything outside work.
    Staff, naturally, want support for next term; but exams and just keeping going are draining.
    Finding the space and time to really look at what could (should?) be done – rather than “pivoting to the new normal” (or whatever seems to be a good phrase) – isn’t happening.
    Your comment about Microsoft reminded me of something I’ve just read in Naughton’s “Gutenberg to Zuckerberg”. He was discussing the impact of printing on just about everything, so asked the reader to imagine asking the following questions in 1455 (some 18 years after the invention of the printing press)
    On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 indicates ‘Not at all likely’ and 5 indicates ‘Very likely’, how likely do you think it is that Herr Gutenberg’s invention will:
    (a) Undermine the authority of the Catholic Church?
    (b) Trigger a Protestant Reformation?
    (c) Enable the rise of modern science?
    (d) Create entirely new social classes and professions?
    (e) Change our conceptions of ‘childhood’ as a protected early period in a person’s life?

    Of course, at that time, no-one could have possibly imagined all of these happening. Will Society and Education change so radically in the future? Who knows, but I agree, it’s hard to base the future on 3 months of chaos …

    Have a good week 13, Sheila!
    (P.S. – I take it you meant you couldn’t settle to anything, not you could)

    Naughton, John. From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know About the Internet (pp. 11-12). Quercus. Kindle Edition.

    1. Thanks Emma – and updated that could to couldn’t! Who knows what lies ahead but I take comfort from my network and the people like you who critique, reflect and care. Hope you have a good week too and you and yours all safe and well.

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