September marks the start of the school year in many European countries. This year 2020, in the middle of the global COVID pandemic, the uncertainty and risk of upcoming confinements threatens the “normal” development of classes. Accustomed to face-to-face teaching and learning, many people (teachers, students, families…) are concerned about the potential negative consequences of the necessary adaptations for the “new normality”. A common perception is that the current situation is going to remove all the advantages of an educational model historically based on presence. However, these kinds of alarmist critiques with the online educative model in COVID have distracted systemic issues with the previous educational model. The obvious losses and challenges associated with the educational “new digital first normality” have been pointed out, but not other more insidious chronic and “normalized” losses, absences and obstacles from the “old” educative normality.
This is because we have normalized the differences in access to higher education between people of different social classes or ethnic backgrounds (How many Roma people, for example, are studying at your university?). We have assumed that it is normal for migrants to have greater difficulties in recognizing and validating their previous studies, that they have to pay higher tuition fees, or that they have to overcome a series of extra obstacles in order to be able to continue their education regularly, like other local students (How much is the difference of tuition in your university for students of the country or for foreigners?). We have normalized that the vast majority of referents and authors of our subjects are men of European or North American origin and that scientific knowledge is the only valid one for the academy (How many women or authors from places considered as “peripheral” are part of the bibliography of your subject?). We have assumed that study and research topics and also project financing are mainly dedicated to issues and problems that affect a Western and Eurocentric majority, middle or upper class (How much money and time has been invested for a vaccine against the Covid vs. the vaccine against malaria or AIDS? How much money is being dedicated to the biomedical research of Covid vs. the social and collective behavior research involved in the pandemic?). What are we going to consider “NORMAL” in higher education going forward? What normality do we want for the university?