Coming to Community

I was hoping that the uptick in cases in Johnson County would make it clear that in-person school is not safe right now.  Johnson County has 10% of tests positive for covid.  One teacher ask was 14 days with no new cases.  One union ask was that if positives were over 5%, there we online school.

It’s a lot of numbers.

Today’s morning reading included a bit about mature spirituality, including this tidbit: “We never know reality directly; we only know our internal experience of it.”  The author is referring to Immanuel Kant, who apparently, in addition to writing one of the most famous books most likely to put you to sleep, also had some wisdom.  (I’ve never tried to read Phenomenology of Spirit-– seeing a friend suffer through it was enough.)

I feel like the debates I keep having over this school reopening issue are all existing in the “internal experience” realm, and not moving to the realm of ethics.  Discussing and setting standards for ethical behavior is how we come together as a community: what do we value?  What behaviors are so destructive that they require intervention by law enforcement, or removal from society?  (Needless to say, these conversations are rife with institutional racism and every kind of prejudice, but they still need to happen.)

When do the desires of an individual (parent or child) trump the right of another person to health and life (teacher)?

I’m just as shocked as anyone to see how I’ve become concerned with ethics at this point in my life.  I’ve always been a laissez-faire, you do you sort of person.  I’ll push for my agenda, and you can push for yours.

This is different.

I understand how reasonable people can see abortion differently.

I understand how reasonable people can differ on where power should be held, at a local level, at a national level, an international one.

I don’t understand this difference.

Maybe it is that our leadership and our culture have created such a pronounced split between the servers and the served, that those who are served can’t imagine the servers as people like them.  People who not only have a right to health and life, but also a right to make choices about the risks they take with their health and life.

One wonderful thing about being a teacher is that I can immediately put my concern into my teaching.  I reconstructed the class I’m teaching to focus on what various fields have contributed, and how they might contribute in the future.  I’ve focused even more on considering values and noticing the prejudices we all have.

Another wonderful thing about teaching is that it teaches me so much about myself.  I don’t think I would feel so angry if I didn’t also feel like I had sacrificed for the education of our community, again and again, and I’ve ended up with tens of thousands of dollars of debt that regardless of my years of service, no one will forgive, and a broken heart about how teachers are treated.  I can understand my own subjective experience better.

We have to take our subjective experiences and consider them in the context of how we want to proceed as a community.  I know that when asked, teachers are extremely willing to jump in and make sacrifices.  What I don’t know is if the people in their communities will return the favor.

What would it be like if we valued the lives and health of teachers so much that we would all sacrifice a little to protect them?

Image: “Plaque with Scenes at Emmaus,” Carolingian, ca. 850-900 CE, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Quote from Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by James Hollis.


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