In retrospect, we may come to see the impact on secondary education of the current Covid-19 pandemic as akin to the iceberg that struck the Titanic. In mid-stream, the course of the Good Ship Education carrying high school, college-aged, and graduate students––including Waldorf teachers in training––was abruptly arrested. University campuses emptied out. Dorms and libraries and research labs fell silent. Tuition income drained from college coffers. SAT and other test score requirements, suspended at the time of the pandemic, lost their near ubiquitous control over the process of college admission. It is too early to say whether this venerable old vessel will sink, but for sure it is taking on water.
When a big boat begins to sink, passengers and crew must take to the lifeboats. This does not mean that flimsy life rafts will forever take the place of giant cruise liners or tankers. It means only that in moments of danger and crisis, you need to take action in ways you would otherwise never countenance.
Survive a crisis of this magnitude, and you may well learn how to redesign both life rafts and the boat that carries them. And indeed, designers of a future vessel may choose to incorporate some of the features of a lifeboat. But in all of this, it is important to remember that life rafts and the mother ship on which they are stored serve different purposes, even though both are intended to transport human beings or at least the merchandize they need and desire.
As constituent members of Waldorf schools and institutes, it is remarkable how nimbly we have leaped into lifeboats of online courses and begun to paddle away towards an as yet unillumined shoreline. In a matter of days and weeks, entire programs have been shifted to virtual learning options, even while the schools and institutes acknowledge the huge compromises inherent in this switch. When it comes to pedagogical survival, as with medical triage, some modalities will involve less compromise and more efficacy than others, but all require an element of improvising. Right now, we are living by the protocols of a jazz jam session, not of a carefully rehearsed concert.
Inevitably, the question must be asked: What will adult education look like once the current pandemic has begun to recede? Will we continue to see giant educational cruise liners and tankers on the high seas of learning, or will they give way, not to a flotilla of tiny lifeboats but to some form of smaller, nimbler watercraft? To be sure, it is premature to answer this question with any confidence, but it is to be hoped––indeed, it should be required––that college education and graduate training programs not revert to their pre-pandemic form. At the same time, the tempting––oh, so tempting!––idea to convert adult education entirely to online learning cannot hold the solution either, since in the end human beings learn best from other human beings, not just from the books or plays they write, the music or poetry they compose, or the computer programs and platforms they design. We know from the disastrous experiment with the so-called “MOOC’s” (Massive Open Online Courses) that real face-to-face encounters with other human beings hold the secret to lasting success in education, at any age.
That is why CfA has given its new online summer program the subtitle: “Serving in the Interval”. A musical interval arises when two or more distinctly different notes are sounded at the same moment, creating a new and fleeting reality that draws from both tones without being identical with either. In this sense we recognize that the forthcoming summer will have the quality of an interval arising between a past note that is now fast fading away and a new tone that is just beginning to sound. In the present moment we hope to experience a harmonious transition from receding past to fast-approaching future. We invite you to join in our summer song! Lend us your voice and contact us with your thoughts and interests at www.centerforanthroposophy.org