I’m writing this on February 16th, as, dare I say it, an unprecedented winter storm rips through our country. I am in Dallas, TX, and most of the metroplex started experiencing rolling blackouts yesterday morning due to a surge in the amount of energy needed to heat everyone’s homes as temperatures plummeted. I knew that electricity was very important before yesterday, but I was quickly made aware of my gratefulness for it when I couldn’t make coffee, couldn’t take a warm shower, and couldn’t access the internet. Despite the inconvenience, my wife and I had a pretty good day together. We stayed warm under a big weighted blanket, we took one of our two cars (an AWD Subaru) out to get coffee from Central Market, and we had fun watching our yellow lab have the time of her life in the snow.
It wasn’t until this morning that I realized the depth of my separation from the reality that so many people on this earth face. As I complained about having a caffeine headache, thousands were forced back outside to endure the cold with whatever they had on their backs; while I pitied myself for the inability to take a warm shower, millions don’t even have access to clean water; and though I was inconvenienced by not having access to the internet for a few hours, many right here in the United States have never had access to a reliable internet connection from their own home. I have a friend who works at OurCalling, a homeless ministry in Dallas, and if you want to be reminded of how good you have it, check out some of their recent posts. This situation has dealt me, and others in a similar socioeconomic class, minor inconveniences, but for the most part the cold weather and the snow has been more enjoyable than not. I have loved seeing the snow-laden trees and the dogs prancing in the snow. I’ve had fun driving slow through snowy streets and throwing snowballs at my pup. I think that we often don’t even realize how lucky we truly are, and how grateful we should truly be. As the lights flicker off, I’m trying to focus on my gratefulness that I have a home that had electricity to start with. As I throw on an extra coat, I am grateful that I have one to throw on. As I lose internet and cannot work, I’m grateful that I have a job that I can do from home. I don’t necessarily have a point with this, I’m just reflecting, in hopes that it inspires you to as well.
Although today I’ve been forced to reflect on the inequities of society because of a snowstorm, it would be impossible to ignore the similar inequities that happen in education every day. Honestly, there are too many to highlight in one blog post, so I’m not sure I’m going to try. Since we’re on the topic of internet connections and staying at home, consider how virtual learning has affected certain students over others. I don’t think examples are needed. Consider what a play-field-leveling metric like grades does to students who go home to situations that are anything but a level playing field. The inequality doesn’t have to be socioeconomic either- some students are just better test takers than others. In a system dominated by tests, that’s pretty unfortunate for a good chunk of students.
I am a do-er, so as I look to conclude this short post, I wonder what there is to do about this. We can recognize inequality in our reaction to a snowstorm, but does that mean we should go stand out in the cold without a jacket to recognize our privilege? Obviously not. We can recognize that some students don’t have equal opportunity in the classroom, but does that mean that we should encourage our students not to do their homework to level the playing field? Obviously not. But maybe there’s value in simply recognizing our differences- where we are fortunate and where others may not be. Maybe that fosters empathy, and I think it’s possible that empathy is far more valuable for our society than we realize.
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