I am a big fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his theories on what makes systems fragile. I would highly recommend reading his book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.
Taleb, I am sure, has a lot to say about the spread of the coronavirus and the hysteria it has created among some groups in the US. Of course, not all hysteria is genuine. Leftist politicians and their base in particular think feeding hysteria is useful. Remember all of the things Democrats have said would literally kill people over the past few years? They argued that tax reform, which doubled the standard deduction and increased the child tax credit, was going to kill people. They argued that people would die over net neutrality. It’s insane.
But the economic and human impact of the coronavirus has exposed major sources of fragility in the way societies operate. The more centralized any operation becomes, the more fragile the entire system becomes.
Having the world’s manufacturing operations concentrated in a country with low standards for human rights makes the world economy unstable.
Having workers all have to be physically in one location so they can be micromanaged spreads disease.
Having every child physically report to a classroom for most of their day spreads disease.
I saw this article recently about how the nearly one million students in Hong Kong became homeschoolers overnight. I thought it was revealing how little role some parents had in their child’s education. They aren’t adjusting very well to having to help their kids learn:
In Hong Kong, the home of schools that are the envy of high-achieving and aspirational parents everywhere, education is making a huge shift.
To the dining room.
Concerns about coronavirus have led to a two-month school closure for the city’s 800,000 students, prompting a crash course in digital learning.
Instead of calling off lessons, many schools expect students to keep up their work online, sending them assignments to complete and submit for grading. Six-year-olds are writing nonfiction books and toddlers are having live video interactions with nursery-school teachers.
The academic experiment has children and their parents, many of whom also have to work at home because their offices are closed, crammed into the same space. It’s a potential harbinger of what might face the U.S. if the virus continues to spread.
Karen Taylor, whose three children attend an English-language international school, used to send them off in the morning and return to their 1,100-square-foot apartment to work remotely as a manager at a software company. Since early February, her 5-year-old and her 10-year-old twins have been mostly cooped up at home, attending virtual lessons that include video meetings with classmates and teachers.
“I can’t watch every single one of them all of the time,” said Ms. Taylor, who has put up the children’s schedules on the dining-room wall.
Her husband, Paul Crowe, who still goes to the office, helps with homework after he gets home and sometimes works on the apartment’s balcony. On a recent day, he was doing work calls and answering emails from his spot outside, while a few feet away the twins helped each other with school work. At the dining-room table, Ms. Taylor tried to persuade 5-year-old Miles to finish a worksheet.
Ms. Taylor has struggled to help her kids with fractions and long-division problems—“I only vaguely remember doing that at school”—and has caught them watching videos on YouTube during lesson time. Recently, the twins’ teachers stopped classroom-wide Google Hangouts and moved to smaller online class groups.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it? This is such a western response to education. Young professionals pride themselves on having attained a certain level of education. But once they have their credentials, learning becomes beneath them. The woman they have interviewed is well-educated, but she can’t do fractions and long division, which is lower elementary school-level mathematics. She’s educated but innumerate.
A lesson folks in education in the US should take from this is that perhaps they should change the system to bring families back into what their kids are learning. Florida already offers K-12 education entirely online as an option that thousands of families have already taken advantage of, so a situation like what is happening in Hong Kong would not be as disruptive to education here.