Many elementary schools in the Netherlands have put letters behind their windows saying ‘we miss you’ as a message to the children. Heart-breaking and sweet. Most probably, by now the kids actually do miss their respective schools and the interaction with others after having been in lockdown for over a month. The promising outlook of ‘staying at home for a month’ turned out to be a bit of a utopia it seems.
When people ask me what I am doing for a living, I used to say that I am an optometrist, or a contact lens researcher, scientist or something in that arena. But more and more I got to realise I am actually an educator. Nothing more, nothing less. I like bridging information between pure science and practical implications. Albert Einstein once said it: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” There is such a truth in that one-liner. The essence of education is that ‘stuff’ should be made as simple as possible. But the real truth and beauty of the quote is in the second part: ‘but not simpler’. You should downscale information as much as possible, without losing site of the truth and of the essence. In other words: you should not over-simplify things. That to me is the essence of education.
There is an incredible amount of online education now. I love it – as I have always easy access to all kinds of platforms and information in whatever shape and form. At the tip of my fingers from my rooftop office in Amsterdam, I can bring in the entire world. Lots of that is good information, but some of that is a bit of guerrilla-broadcasting, in a rush to get ‘something’ online. Just like with the internet in general, we need to pick our sources carefully.
But what I miss these days, is the interconnectedness. The solidarity. By now, I must have skipped dozens of lectures that I either would have given or followed – live. Again, that is replaced by online courses and although I love those, it is not the same. It is hard to pin down and describe exactly what is missing. But it comes down to this. A columnist in an Amsterdam newspaper wrote that he had ‘attended’ his first online funeral. He was in bed wearing his pyjamas. Some of the speeches were nice, but during music or a lessinteresting speech he got up for a bathroom stop and to make some coffee or something. He may have looked at his phone too, once or twice. In essence, a corona-funeral via livestream misses exactly everything that you go to a funeral for normally. You hope to be of support to the friends and family, and to share the feeling of loss. And precisely that is lost here. Interconnectedness is something we do need physical, or at least live eye contact for. Nobody sees your tears; you don’t feel someone else’s sorrow.
My agenda is empty with no meetings in the foreseeing future. We will get by with online education, and we will survive – and even see that some benefits of online education will stay. At the same time: I miss you. Hope to see you soon again, somewhere. Because if you want to achieve things and make a real change – we can only do it together.
This Eef@online series is kindly supported by an educational grant from Contamac
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
In the series Eef@online articles:
WE MISS YOU