COVID-19: Crisis, Opportunity and Ethical Dilemmas
COVID-19: Crisis, Opportunity and Ethical Dilemmas
This 3PN symposium invites participants to join a conversation prompted by three contributions or “provocations”.
These will explore the moral and ethical dilemmas raised by how schooling systems in the UK and the USA have responded to the challenges of maintaining formal learning opportunities for children and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conversation will commence with three 10-minute presentations:
•The new post-COVID normal: resetting the moral compass
•The COVID crisis and moral distress
•Leading in a New Era: Compassionate Leadership for Place and Belonging
Participants will then consider how these ideas relate to their own experiences during COVID-19 and then question how the lessons learnt might inform the future provision of schooling in their own working contexts.
The outputs from this symposium will inform a post-ICSEI Think Piece published through the 3P Network.
Anton Florek, Strategic Adviser, The Staff College. UK
Karen Seashore Louis, Regents Professor, University of Minnesota. USA
Jeff Walls, Assistant Professor, Washington State University. USA
Kathryn Riley, Professor of Urban Education, UCL, Institute of Education. UK
Co-Director, The Art of Possibilities
Dr Manuela Mendoza, UCL, Institute of Education. UK
Boudewijn Van Velzen, President, EduXprss Cooperative. Netherlands
Presentations of the Symposium
The New Post-COVID Normal: Resetting The Moral Compass
“Humankind is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation…..Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours. Immature and even dangerous technologies are pressed into service, because the risks of doing nothing are bigger. Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments…. In normal times, governments, businesses and educational boards would never agree to conduct such experiments. But these aren’t normal times”. Yuval Noah Harari
As the COVID-19 pandemic plays out across the globe, countries which are emerging from the containment or managing phase are finding the return to any form of normality increasingly complex. Episodic local infections are flaring up, schools are grappling with the challenge of reopening whilst adhering to their respective physical distancing regulations and the travel and leisure industries are coming to terms with how to be hospitable whilst keeping everyone safe. It’s also clear that all of us are going to be dealing with COVID 19 for the foreseeable future and as Yuval Noah Harari stated in his forward-looking article, “….the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive — but we will inhabit a different world.”
In many countries this rapid acceleration of crisis responses has had a profound impact on schooling systems. Distance learning and new blended approaches have become common place and indeed, over the past few months, many national education systems are getting used to on-line learning, digital platforms and differentiated approaches to curricula which are becoming part of the new normal for many children and young people. However, there is a growing understanding that for many children, young people and families these new approaches are in fact increasing the learning divide between pupils and students which is exposing the long- standing dilemma of equity in so many schooling systems.
Given this, we believe there is a moral imperative that we take time out to reflect, check our moral compasses and rethink:
what is important?
what are we leaving behind?
what are we retaining and why, i.e. to what purpose?
The COVID Crisis And Moral Distress
The COVID-19 crisis has led to greater disruption in the U.S. than in most countries because of the constitutional decentralization of responsibility to the individual states and the lack of financial support from the federal government. No state has done a good job of developing coordinated policies, and thus the development of responses has devolved to individual districts and, thus, Superintendents. The closing of schools and the rapid switch to remote learning revealed inequities that were previously hidden, largely because of the variable access to the internet (creating disparities between rural and urban areas) and within-and-between school variation in family circumstances (access to computers and space for on-line learning).
This presentation will draw on the emerging idea of “moral distress” among educators who are faced with accountability expectations for student achievement when there also are institutional barriers to supporting the success of students in very challenging circumstances. The idea of moral distress will be positioned in frameworks that identify dimensions of ethical school climates. The presentation will be based on 16 interviews already conducted with Superintendents in one large state, which will be supplemented by additional interviews that will reflect the emerging “2nd wave” of the virus.
Leading In A New Era: Compassionate Leadership For Place And Belonging
Unexpected and extreme occurrences put leaders’ values, beliefs, and practices to the test. These events come from many directions: a terrorist attack; a sudden influx of young people from refugee families brought about by conflicts in distant lands; a Global Pandemic, such as Covid-19. Whatever the source, the impact is intense and deep wells of compassion are needed.
How school leaders think, decide and respond to these events, and the degree to which they draw on their knowledge to create a roadmap of possibilities is critical to the well-being of children and adults, and to their sense of belonging and agency. This presentation draws on findings from a collaborative research inquiry, ‘Leading in a New Era’ which involved sixteen headteachers from three localities (Hackney, Islington, and Telford and Wrekin), carried out during Covid-19.
What emerged was a view of leadership as a highly relational, compassionate, and place-based activity in which leaders enact their agency by recognising the importance of making connections; bringing others on board; and communicating in ways that provide the spaces for the many voices to be heard. These research findings lead us to ask an important question about the future of leadership:
• What kinds of leadership are needed to help create the conditions for school belonging – and what’s compassion got to do with it?