Art teaches us to live a life that has meaning, by accepting the responsibility of becoming aware. Inside our little beehives, we are now growing more attentive. We’re paying attention to food sources, for example. We’re asking, who’s bringing my food to me? How is it prepared? We should also ask, when we go back out do we continue as we were, or are there things we need to let go? Art answers: Leave behind that which isn’t nourishing. Not only have we been in a culture that’s marked by a predominance of processed foods, there’s also a predominance of processed ideas, colonized ideas, that follow a particular template toward a particular end, namely fame and money.
We’re at a crucial and incredible moment of reckoning, and of opportunity. The pandemic challenges us to recognize the immense experiment that planet Earth is, and that human beings are part of the same community—all peoples, past and future ancestors, animal human beings, tree human beings. We have been thrown into the center of knowing. Our great challenge will be in sustaining what art helps us become.
—As told to Zak Jason
How We’ll Learn
Janice K. Jackson, CEO, Chicago Public Schools
If you had asked me three months ago, “Janice, how long would it take you to put together a remote learning program?” I would say, “Give me two to three years.” Turns out, we did it in a couple of weeks. Right away, we focused on meeting students’ basic human needs, like providing meals. We also distributed more than 124,000 laptops and tablets.
A life-altering event like this brings equity into sharper focus. Unfortunately, the kids who were most vulnerable before the closures—low-income students and students of color—have been put at a greater disadvantage. That’s something we should keep top of mind: How do we use this as an opportunity to solve inequities that existed prior to the pandemic?
In the past, people might have considered providing students with technology as a nice-to-have. Now it’s clear that a lack of internet access is a barrier to education, and as a city we’re currently looking at ways to respond to that need. I hope there’s a greater investment in public education after this. People would be outraged if a school didn’t have adequate textbooks. They should be outraged from this point forward if every child doesn’t have an internet-connected device.
Students and educators are finding such creative ways to lift each other up. Every day, I see something online that gives me joy, like teachers driving in “car parades” through their students’ neighborhoods. One school posted a video of a kid presenting his science fair project. At first I thought, “Poor baby.” But now he has an audience of thousands. I hope we don’t lose that in our post-Covid world.
—As told to Pia Ceres