As I write, New York City has declared a state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus. We may be headed for a full lockdown. Almost all of our staff members are working from home already. Many colleges and universities across the country have shut down, and are moving to “distance learning.” The country’s normal business will be disrupted for some months.
So far as I know, no NAS members or staff have been infected by the coronavirus.
NAS will continue its daily work. Our writing, editing, social media, and press interviews can all be done by internet or phone. We are in frequent touch with one another by email and phone—and we will reply to member queries immediately. (Email, either to staff members individually or to [email protected], will get a quicker reply than phone calls.) Our conference calls to members will continue. We are open for business.
Our events, however, have been postponed for the duration of the coronavirus emergency. Our Fraser Barron Renaissance History talk at First Things was scheduled for March 19, and has been put off indefinitely. We planned a conference in Austin this April, to critique The 1619 Project; now we’ve penciled in early September as a possible replacement date. We will begin to schedule NAS events again once the country emerges from this prolonged hunkering down.
I’m in no hurry to develop an NAS position on the coronavirus pandemic. The closing of in-person classrooms; the emptying out of residence halls; and the cancellation of college sports events—probably for the rest of the school year—suggest that we will learn something. We are, in effect, running an experiment on how essential the traditional formats of American higher education really are.
Some students, no doubt, will make good use of the time by reading carefully and systematically; some may discover that they like online instruction better than they thought they would. Or perhaps when the restrictions are lifted, students will return to college with a much greater appreciation of the value of in-person instruction and campus life. Maybe the interruption will also change the dynamics of student protests and dampen enthusiasm for shutting down free speech.
We will wait and see.
In the meantime, we hope you and your family remain healthy and that you make good use of this unexpected respite from your daily routines.
National Association of Scholars
Image: Andrew Neel, Public Domain