Monday, August 24, 2020

Coronavirus 37

 1. It's good to avoid being judgemental of others' behaviour. Their circumstances will be unknown.

2. The virus will disappear if nobody meets anybody else.

3. #2 is not going to happen but it's a useful fact to build any decision making upon.

4. Some of us are in a position to avoid meeting many other people. Such behaviour is part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

5. If the R is kept below 1 then the virus will disappear. The arithmetic dictates that.

6. It is wrong to think that the disease will be with us forever and cannot be eliminated. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy if it leads people to behave in a way that allows R to exceed 1.

7. Suppression and elimination should have been the preferred policy from January and, had it been vigorously pursued, we wouldn't be in the current mess, yet it remains the best policy option available. Best as in the one that ends with the fewest deaths and injuries. 

8. Any behaviour that risks increasing R, that is any behaviour which facilitates the virus jumping from one person to another, risks prolonging the pandemic, increasing the deaths and injuries, damaging the economy and increasing misery.

9. Keeping away from other people as much as one is able is one's civic duty.

10. But don't be judgemental about others, for you know not their circumstances.


A NARROW girdle of rough stones and crags,
A rude and natural causeway, interposed
Between the water and a winding slope
Of copse and thicket, leaves the eastern shore
Of Grasmere safe in its own privacy:
And there myself and two beloved Friends,
One calm September morning, ere the mist
Had altogether yielded to the sun,
Sauntered on this retired and difficult way.
----Ill suits the road with one in haste; but we
Played with our time; and, as we strolled along,
It was our occupation to observe
Such objects as the waves had tossed ashore--
Feather, or leaf, or weed, or withered bough,
Each on the other heaped, along the line
Of the dry wreck. And, in our vacant mood,
Not seldom did we stop to watch some tuft
Of dandelion seed or thistle's beard,
That skimmed the surface of the dead calm lake,
Suddenly halting now--a lifeless stand!
And starting off again with freak as sudden;
In all its sportive wanderings, all the while,
Making report of an invisible breeze
That was its wings, its chariot, and its horse,
Its playmate, rather say, its moving soul.
--And often, trifling with a privilege
Alike indulged to all, we paused, one now,
And now the other, to point out, perchance
To pluck, some flower or water-weed, too fair
Either to be divided from the place
On which it grew, or to be left alone
To its own beauty. Many such there are,
Fair ferns and flowers, and chiefly that tall fern,
So stately, of the queen Osmunda named;
Plant lovelier, in its own retired abode
On Grasmere's beach, than Naiad by the side
Of Grecian brook, or Lady of the Mere,
Sole-sitting by the shores of old romance.
--So fared we that bright morning: from the fields
Meanwhile, a noise was heard, the busy mirth
Of reapers, men and women, boys and girls.
Delighted much to listen to those sounds,
And feeding thus our fancies, we advanced
Along the indented shore; when suddenly,
Through a thin veil of glittering haze was seen
Before us, on a point of jutting land,
The tall and upright figure of a Man
Attired in peasant's garb, who stood alone,
Angling beside the margin of the lake.
"Improvident and reckless," we exclaimed,
"The Man must be, who thus can lose a day
Of the mid harvest, when the labourer's hire
Is ample, and some little might be stored
Wherewith to cheer him in the winter time."
Thus talking of that Peasant, we approached
Close to the spot where with his rod and line
He stood alone; whereat he turned his head
To greet us--and we saw a Mam worn down
By sickness, gaunt and lean, with sunken cheeks
And wasted limbs, his legs so long and lean
That for my single self I looked at them,
Forgetful of the body they sustained.--
Too weak to labour in the harvest field,
The Man was using his best skill to gain
A pittance from the dead unfeeling lake
That knew not of his wants. I will not say
What thoughts immediately were ours, nor how
The happy idleness of that sweet morn,
With all its lovely images, was changed
To serious musing and to self-reproach.
Nor did we fail to see within ourselves
What need there is to be reserved in speech,
And temper all our thoughts with charity.
--Therefore, unwilling to forget that day,
My Friend, Myself, and She who then received
The same admonishment, have called the place
By a memorial name, uncouth indeed
As e'er by mariner was given to bay
Or foreland, on a new-discovered coast;
And POINT RASH-JUDGMENT is the name it bears.

The character of the eastern shore of Grasmere lake is quite changed, since these verses were written, by the public road being carried along its side. The friends spoken of were Coleridge and my Sister, and the facts occurred strictly as recorded. William Wordworth.


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Exams, What Are They Good For?

 Abolutely Nothing!

The pandemic has stimulated opportunities to re-assess several aspects of what were our normal lives and perhaps now we should
 take a deep look at what the purposes of school exams are and whether those purposes might be better served by other means.

Exams test the ability to pass exams. For sure there are corellations between exam passing ability and some other abilities but the actual skills involved, memorising a lot of information and being able to use that information in an ordered way to present an argument in a very limited time with no opportunity to check the veracity of the memorised information, is a skill that is required in precisely no situation in the rest of our lives.

It is unlikely that a measurement of this skill is a good predictor of either the ability to benefit from a university education or that it is a skill that ensures the productivity of an employee.

We have exams because, from the point of view of the employer or univerity, they are a cheap and easy metric, which, if everybody else is doing the same and nobody is thinking too hard about it, we can just carry on with and few folk complain.

Until something goes wrong. 

This year there were no exams so the nation has fallen upon pretend exams and teachers' guesses from many months earlier. Unsurprisingly, there is disquiet.

This is a good moment to look at what we want and how best to achieve it. There appear to be three broad objectives:

1. To provide incentive and motivation for students to stury diligently.

2. To allocate university and college places to the students who will benefit most from courses.

3. To help employers recruit the people best suited to the jobs to be done.

To expect that a single metric, supplied by somebody else, could fulfill all three objectives is lazy, wishful and fanciful thinking. Our education system should be smarter than this.

Aspasia, who probably never took any exams.

The Tory Government abandoned decades of gradual shift towards continuous assesment of school students wherby course work and end of module tests reduced the emphasis on final exams. This had been a progressive development, making results better matched to the world outside. The Government's step back to the old system has now unravelled.