“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This is typically said with a tinge of cynicism, but I believe we have an opportunity to learn from our current crisis and come out better for it. History shows that times of crisis serve as an impetus for change and innovation, often very rapidly. I want to focus on three areas where I think we can use the lessons of today for a better tomorrow: education, the nature of work and healthcare.
I spent my career in public education and believe it is the foundation of building a strong, functioning society. Unfortunately, our education system is one of the slowest parts of society to change. School today is much the same way as over the last 100 years. In recent days, I have watched as my wife and other teacher friends have adapted to using e-learning and other innovative ways to reach students. Online learning cannot completely replace classroom instruction, but I believe in our era of extreme connectivity we have to rethink how we deliver assignments and interact. We have to question our outdated mandate of so many hours of “seat time” as a way of assessing education and instead focus on outcomes. A hybrid approach of lessons completed online, individually and with other students, and classroom time to ask questions and assess competencies may be the future we need. It could be a way to keep students engaged, teachers empowered and be more efficient with our education hours and dollars. Certainly there will be challenges. We will need to make sure everyone has access to reliable, high-speed internet. During the Great Depression one of the more successful programs was the Rural Electrification Act - if we dedicated ourselves to a similar program for internet access we could level the playing field for not just our students, but also their parents.
Much like the idea of seat time in education is outdated, for many jobs the idea of a standard 8 to 5, Monday through Friday, 40-hour work week is outdated. The same connectedness that allows for e-learning also allows for remote work. During Michigan’s mandated shutdown of non-essential businesses and stay-at-home order, my two daughters have been working from home. Both have jobs where much of what they do can be accomplished online. Kate is a counselor and has been “meeting” with her clients via video conferencing. Like in education, there will still be times when it is best to meet in person. But why not, when possible, give employees the flexibility to work from home and set their own hours? What if workers’ evaluations, and pay, was based on their productivity and not just how many hours they spent at the office?
My hope for healthcare is that we finally recognize it as a basic human right. In this healthcare crisis, why should some not have the same access to testing and treatment as others? As the layoffs mount, the problem of having a person’s health insurance tied to their job becomes clear. Just when people need it most, they are losing their health insurance. Our free-market based healthcare has provided amazing innovations, and I have faith that they will eventually develop treatments and immunizations for this disease as well. We do not want to stifle that innovation, but we must come up with a way to keep the best part of our current system while making sure everyone has coverage.
Many are watching this crisis unfold and seem to expect the worst, I am looking ahead and hopeful positive changes will come. Let's stay positive, help each other and come out of this
stronger than before.