Prof. Stephen Morrow

I carry some sadness this week. I am afraid we have lost the warm spirit of the American “snow day”.  My snow days were happy, happy hours. No classroom sitting, many red-cheeked sled riding hours, neighborhood kids hanging out in play. A free pass for a whole day of life. What gets much better than that! I remember a Nickelodeon film, Snow Day, that I always enjoyed watching with my young boys. It was about status quo snowplows and bullies on the move, but also about young people having time to find themselves in relationship to others. Relationship skills we may get to practice in a classroom or a college course, but not with the same sense of adventure and freedom. And the best thing about my snow days? 

Making hot chocolate for my boys (their choice of marshmallows or whipped crème). Remote leaning, remote work, virtual lesson learning has now stepped in as the new “snow day”. If, indeed, we are losing those deeper freedoms and eases and nature’s gift of a snow day, we should never, ever give up hot chocolate with our loved ones (marshmallow or whipped crème their choice)!

For any loss, I am with my friend Sheldon from The Big Bang: share a warm beverage with your friend in need. 

The Poet, Elizabeth Bishop, in her poem, “One Art,” reminds us that losing something is an art.  Today, I lose the sentimental hope of a future of snow days for our children, chances are that you lose something today or soon enough, and tomorrow, we look ahead at looming losses across our society.

Some of those losses are sunny and we cannot wait for: the loss of structural racism, the loss of income inequity, the loss of pandemics and cancers, the loss of division and ignorance.  But mostly and honestly, the idea of loss for us is shadow. 

I want to step into a shadow that is part of my students’ future that includes the loss of some job skills and opportunities and the space made for new skills and opportunities: the effect of AI and technology in the workforce.  It is here, and though not yet fully defined and clear, we know its advances will be loss for some and change for all.  Onward to human art and the Humanities! What? Why not to science and coding and tech skills? Well, yes, there, too. But I remind you: our starting point is always the human person we are in the here and now.  You know: Socrates’ Know thyself!

In Joseph Aoun’s, Robot Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (thank you Dean Moffett for the suggestion), we are privy to a futuristics of what will probably be. Doesn’t look good for the traditional labor and middle management positions in industries and professions like finance, law, transportation, and many more. His lesson: robot proof with a right mix of human soft skills and life-long learning in tech advancements. Sounds doable for sure.  But only if we are willing to be artists of change, artists of loss.

We do try to look ahead in our lives, particularly with the deep human responsibility of providing for self and others-for most of that means getting a job.  And higher education is still the best route to the best job opportunities. But even AI and tech is deeply forcing seismic change there, too.  OCCC wants to be a safe and wise place for our students as the life quakes of change and loss come faster and shorter between.

So, some simple, first considerations as you prepare for change and practice in the art of loss:

Study your humanities courses for critical thinking, creativity, and effective communication skills.

Study your math and coding courses for the expected basic skills in tech jobs.

Study yourself in psychology, philosophy, and in your diverse relationships.

Make curiosity and compassion your daily default behaviors.

Consider these your warm beverages we offer you at OCCC (your choice of marshmallow or whipped crème). We understand the stresses and the unknowns that face you in your personal and professional growth.  

And if you can, take a day off, just because, and just go sledding😊.

Go Humanities!

– Professor Stephen (Alvin Toffler) Morrow

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