Category: writing Page 1 of 21

For the Historians

The USS Fletcher at sea in July 1942
The USS Fletcher at sea in July 1942.

What would the Greatest Generation think of us?


I had to write a paper for a doc class this summer that examined the history of community colleges in a national, state, and local context, an assignment that gave me the opportunity to revisit Bill Moose’s very good history of Mitchell Community College. The college’s narrative is one of institutional persistence, of the gut-borne determination to survive.

In the fall of 1918, as the first World War was drawing to a close, the flu pandemic forced Mitchell to close its doors and send its students home. The town mostly shuttered and folks stayed put. The college’s women returned in December; they attended classes six days a week to make up for lost time, taking only Sundays and Christmas Day off.

In the spring of 1919, the flu returned, but this time the college stayed open. Women’s colleges of the day were unapologetically strict about letting their fragile charges wander outside the buildings anyway, so this version of a “stay-at-home” order fit in naturally with the college’s normal operations.

Five Thoughts on Returning to School

Philadelphia Inquirer photo

Sending students back to school in the midst of a pandemic presents an unparalleled challenge to educators, but it’s not impossible to overcome.


What happens every fall under normal circumstances–that is, the beginning of a new academic year in public schools across our country–has suddenly turned into one of the most challenging logistical feats educators have ever encountered.

Making matters worse, the ground keeps shifting under the schoolteachers, administrators, and local and state leaders who grapple with how to safely educate the millions of students normally under their care. COVID-19 is in a full rampage: multiple states are setting record-high infection rates, and national healthcare advisors warn of the consequences yet to come.

How, then, do we begin to explore the idea of teaching kids in a way that keeps everyone as safe as possible? Here are five things to keep in mind.

The Joy Amidst the Sorrow

What if it took a global pandemic to find work-life balance? And what does that mean when it’s over?


These days I wake up without an alarm, usually sometime around 7 a.m., often to the quiet chatter of our kids playing somewhere in the house. I lie in bed for a few minutes collecting my senses, looking outside at the emerging dawn, the tender, pregnant buds on every tree, the muted birdsong, quiet streets.

Within a few minutes, I remember: there’s a pandemic.

It’s a bit like grieving a death, really. You wake up, and for a few precious moments your brain pulses about, hopscotching from one synapse to the next until suddenly it lands upon the bruised one, the lightning-trigger that drops your stomach. Each morning is a little easier than the previous one. That’s what endurance does for you. How quick the new normal.

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