It's possible that right now isn't the best time to obsess about providing a continuous stream of curricular objectives for our students. That time will come, but it's probably not now.
We're all familiar with A. H. Maslow's theoretical hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, love, self-esteem, self-actualization, and, in his later writings, self-transcendence . While we often think of these in a pyramid shape, this is a post-Maslow depiction of the theory. It's best, Maslow writes in his 1943 paper, to think of them not as having a “step-wise, all-or-nothing relationship to each other.” Rather, Maslow argued that “normal” people “are partially satisfied in all their basic needs and partially unsatisfied in all their basic needs at the same time.” The most useful way to think of Maslow's hierarchy, then, is in terms of “decreasing percentages of satisfaction as we go up the hierarchy.” He continues,
For instance, if I may assign arbitrary figures for the sake of illustration, it is as if the average citizen is satisfied perhaps 85 per cent in his physiological needs, 70 per cent in his safety needs, 50 per cent in his love needs, 40 per cent in his self-esteem needs, and 10 per cent in his self-actualization needs.A. H. Maslow, A Theory of Human Motivation, 1943 (link to free access here)
He makes me think of each level of his hierarchy as a sieve — the more porous the physiological and safety and love sieves, the more motivational goodness that can drip down into the self-esteem, self-actualization, and self-transcendence ones.
Here's the thing: for all of us, the physiological and safety and love sieves have gone haywire this week. Our cognitive, emotional, and spiritual inboxes are flooded with NOISE.
So in the midst of the present mayhem as schools and states around the world debate about equity and access and distance learning, I think we owe some thought to Maslow. The stabilization of these top three sieves is Job One.
Physiological: Let's make sure our students know where and how they can get food. This should be communicated exhaustively and using various means. And let's encourage the taking of walks and the walking of dogs in places where it hasn't been outlawed. Our bodies weren't made to be locked indoors for days on end.
Safety: Once we all understand how the virus spreads and what social distancing means, let's turn off the news. Five minutes per day is plenty. The news isn't designed to make us informed citizens. Remember — it's designed to sell our eyeballs to advertisers.
And, full disclosure since my hypocritameter is buzzing right now: I'm a recovering news addict who has had a major relapse this week. Too many hours of the past five days for me have been devoured by the monster that is neomania. I have to keep reminding myself that staying up on the news doesn't make me a responsible citizen — it makes me mentally and spiritually unhealthy.
So let's all read a book or two next week — we'll feel better.
Love: Moments of genuine connection always matter, but they're uniquely important now. So, with our students and colleagues and family members, the goal is having conversations or sending notes that communicate that we value, know, and respect them. It's a decent time to pull a Dean L. Stuart and write a note or two per day to our students to let them know our appreciation. And hey, want to do your civic duty? Create a moment of genuine connection with three strangers per day. Everyone can use it.
(Tangent: I think I'll defenestrate a coffee mug if I hear “we'll get through this together” one more time right now, but this bit from John Green is beautiful.)
I hope these help a bit in your thinking about next week. They have helped in mine.
Note 1: Self-transcendence appears in Maslow's later writings, but not his seminal paper from 1943.