This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Education in the Age of the Chinese Coronavirus
As we look at the light at the end of the tunnel, we can see that the global pandemic is starting to come to an end. With nearly a quarter-million people losing their lives to this disease, we are starting to see the ability for life, in most cases, to return to normal. However, the changes that we are going to see in society need to be considered as we transition from house arrest, returning to a free global community. As we enter a transition phase, society needs to ensure that it does not simply treat the symptoms.
Too often, people learn nothing from a crisis, and return to the same patterns of life that caused the problem in the first place. Worse still is when people simply accept that the missteps of their governments were in their best interests. These are two things that we must truly avoid.
Freedom is a fragile thing. One of its greatest enemies is an irrational fear.
While we are fully capable of moving past this crisis, there will be those who choose to cling to the semblance of power this crisis gave them. Their reliance on fear “after the fact” is a very dangerous aspect of corruption. As we move forward, we must watch our steps, but not give in to institutional panic.
Education in the Time of Corona
One of the greatest casualties of the Corona Crisis is the global education system. Over the last 100 years, Universities have been exchanging students to promote global awareness and understanding. These programs are, by most accounts, the purest form of education there is. Students learn from experiences, not the lectures of a professor.
Even though the death count for Coronavirus has been well short of the common flu for the age group most commonly in college, schools are afraid. Many schools have canceled all study abroad programs for 2020 and some are eyeing canceling programs for 2021 as well. This is a sad situation for students but could be even worse for humankind. The more we exchange, the less likely we are to see war.
History has taught us for millennia that when our children or our businesses are in another country, relations are more stable. With the current dearth in accessible programs for students, these numbers will drop. With a drop in numbers, we see a drop in futures, especially business futures in the countries to which we were exchanging with. This destabilizes the world “trust” factor, which could lead to war.
Planting the Seeds of Peace
One way to think of these exchanges is the planting of the seeds of peace. When we send students to other countries, and they send their students here, there is an exchange of comfort. Students who study abroad have the ability to better adapt to the business communities that they have visited. This in turn makes them valuable assets to businesses who are looking to work in those countries.
When we cut off the supply of students who have studied abroad, the “crop” of businesses working internationally will dwindle. Those that do continue doing international work will suffer from the absence of experience that these students bring to the markets. Businesses will fail, making relations even more strained. As fewer businesses are working between countries, we lose those valuable lines of communication between countries.
I think we can all understand that “high level” government communications in areas are minor when compared to business communications. If a business has a reason for a region to stay stable, the region stays stable. Governments cannot do this, as we have seen in Afghanistan, Kashmiri, and Syria. How many bombs have fallen on the Saudi or Iraqi (hell, even Iranian) oilfields in the last 20 years? Very few, because businesses are turning a profit in these regions.
The State Farm Model
In the 1930s, during the depression, the fledgling insurance industry in the United States was dying. While many companies were reducing their footprint and closing shop, State Farm was expanding as rapidly as it could find credit. This choice during a time of crisis helped State Farm become one of the most powerful insurance companies for the next 100 years. Education works the same way.
Individual learning programs are using an outdated model. Schools struggle to maintain even the minimum number of students for courses, which leads to “lowering the admission standards.” Worse yet, we see junior faculty leading trips to places that they have no connection with. We call these “faculty vacation” trips.
Schools need to band together in the age of the Coronavirus to ensure that the exchange programs stay alive. The way to do this is to follow the State Farm model and consolidate holdings during this time. Schools should be willing to work with other schools. Also they should work with the private sector, all to ensure that there are large scale programs, with top-level faculty. This will ensure that there is a next generation of business, social, and legal professionals with connections around the world. This will ensure peace for another generation.