Reader's Query:

An overseas friend asks “How are you handling the return to classes?  Are you doing everything online in your country?



At my own university, only 5% of this semester’s classes are being held entirely in person.  Some are hybrid, but most are entirely online.  The university is like a ghost town.  I belong to the minority who have elected to teach entirely in person.  After a long spring, it was good to be with the students again, but it has been strange to conduct class discussions in almost-empty classrooms with persons speaking through sound-absorbing barriers who can't see each other’s faces.  Physical presence itself has become a lot like Zoom.

Surprisingly, the young people are careful about keeping their distance.  Many of them wear masks not only indoors, where face coverings are required, but even outdoors, which seems unnecessary because people in the open air are usually separated by great distances.  Course enrollments are capped at a small fraction of room capacity, and the rooms are well-ventilated.  Despite all this, and despite the fact that teachers are almost always at least twelve feet from students during classes, faculty are required to wear masks even while lecturing.

Off campus, the hypocrisy of public officials continues.  In November, the mayor of my city streamed a video urging citizens to stay home, because “we may have to close things down if we are not careful.”  He didn’t mention that he was streaming it from Mexico, where he was on vacation.

Hypocrisy alternates with hysteria.  The original goal of “flattening the curve” has long been forgotten.  Many months ago it morphed into eliminating all infections, which is impossible.  By that standard we should follow the same rules during every flu season.  In fact, we should follow them all the time.  After all, someone is always sick with something.

That’s how it is in my country.  How is it in yours?