Outside Reading — Breathing Lessons edition


COVID-19 should encourage creative reform in higher education by John McNay

I’ve previously used my little corner of the digital world to share articles that detail the opportunity of the current moment, the clearing of stagnant practices that would allow us to rebuild our institutions into better, more humane operations if we collectively had the imagination and will to do so. Instead, self-destructive political dickering — much of it driven by one major political party’s mind-boggling fealty to an impulsive, narcissistic moron — is hampering all efforts at genuine problem-solving. While much of the current discourse is a debate about the wisdom of sending children back to school (despite compelling evidence that the school setting is a public health disaster waiting to happen), less attention has been paid to colleges and universities. Already ailing institutions before the pandemic, these places of higher learning are poised for financial devastation. But the situation is partially a reflection of the increasingly untenable model in place, including a strange unwilling of the institutions to forcefully argue for themselves as a vital public good. Writing for Medium, John McNay offers a convincing argument for how the situation can be fixed moving forward. Necessarily short on details given the length of the article, the overall sentiment expressed should be a guiding principle.



We Need to Talk About Ventilation by Zeynep Tufekci

Of course, part of the current problem is that scientific understanding of a new virus is playing out in real time in the public sphere. Best guesses, developed with limited information, are contradicted as new data comes in. Those who are incapable of thinking through contradictions and those who are eager, for whatever insidious reasons, to exploit uncertainty team up to sow greater confusion and distrust in the populace. That makes it incredibly important to take the time to examine new, science-based understandings of COVID-19’s spread and accept that regular adjustments to practices need to be made. Writing for The Atlantic, Zeynep Tufekci has done a better job than most journalists of researching the latest studies and laying out their implications. In this article, she argues that there hasn’t been enough attention paid to tools that can be used to combat airborne transmission, despite evidence that droplets containing the virus can stay in the air for long periods of time, especially when pushed around and held aloft by closed ventilation systems.

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