Thinking about conspiracy theories

The class I run on Outschool is actually “Critical and Ethical Thinking”, so it’s not always about purely ethics. This weeks topic is more of a critical thinking exercise, as we discuss conspiracy theories. I wrote the lesson today, ready for the first few classes this evening. We talk about Flat Earthers, moon landing denial, and anti-vaxxers. That gave me enough material for plenty of questions to ask the kids, exploring things like:

  • How likely is it that all of the scientists who study the Earth accidentally got the shape wrong?
  • Does it make any sense at all that scientists and governments would deliberately lie to everyone about the shape of the Earth?
  • What do you think would make some people believe NASA didn’t really land on the moon?
  • If someone believes the Earth is flat, does that cause any harm?
  • Should we try to show conspiracy theorists they are wrong, or is it a waste of time?

Apart from writing the lesson and running 3 classes, I spent time working on comics, and walking up to the shops with Scully to get some lunch and buy some things.

And now I’m going to get an earlier night after staying up last night for that meeting that never happened.

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Ethics off the rails!

I did an online ethics class today that went completely off the rails. There was a new kid, from England, who was super talkative and kept bringing up extra points to every answer – often stuff that I’d planned to ask everyone later in the lesson. Rather than talk about farming, we ended up in a huge digression about whether we should force everyone to become vegetarians or not. Given the others were also keen to butt in on the topic and offer their own opinions, I just let it meander of its own accord for most of the lesson. It felt totally out of control and my lesson script went out the window, but it was fun, and we were still talking about interesting and ethical questions, so it was good in the end.

My sore back stiffened up again overnight, and it was painful turning over during the night. But again, it’s improved a lot during today. I got a better sleep, but hopefully tonight it won’t be as painful during the night.

I didn’t have my face-to-face ethics class at the school today, because New South Wales teachers held a strike today, seeking better pay and working conditions. They fully deserve it.

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And going to the physio

I had my physiotherapist appointment this morning for my sore back. It stiffened up again overnight, but wasn’t nearly as bad as the night before. I got a much better sleep and managed to get myself out of bed in the morning without too much pain.

The physio worked on my back for about 45 minutes and I felt significantly better after he’d loosened up the muscles and released tensions and whatever it is he actually does. I’ve been to this guy a few times over many years, and found him to be really good. Usually one visit is enough to make the movement freer and less painful, and then it improves rapidly over the next day or two. He also gave me a bunch of exercises to do some years ago, which I now do regularly to maintain my core strength and recover myself from minor strains.

Back home, I wrote my next week’s ethics lesson, on farming this time. I have a series of questions for the kids on the ethics of various types of crop agriculture, then we move on to farming animals, either for meat, or other products such as milk and eggs. In one of the classes there was a wide range of opinions from the kids, including “it’s fine to farm animals, because we need the meat”, “farming animals is cruel and we shouldn’t do it; we should hunt wild animals instead”, and “people should eat less meat so we don’t have to farm so many animals”. I suggested to the second kid we could eat less meat, but he said no, no, keep eating the same amount of meat, just hunt it all rather than farm it. I guess he hadn’t thought through the logistics of having to hunt for the amount of meat that we currently consume.

At lunch I took Scully for a walk up to the local shops and I had some Vietnamese fried rice from a “new” restaurant. I say “new” because I haven’t tried eating there before – it actually opened about 3 years ago, replacing a previous Cuban place that we quite liked.

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Ethics of gambling

I began the ethics of gambling lessons today. It was interesting. One class had pretty much all of the four students agreed on the premise that gambling is inherently bad, while another class mostly agreed that gambling is just a thing that people do, and it’s only a problem if people do it too much or take advantage of people by gambling unfairly.

One student told an amusing anecdote about his father, who used to work in a casino. I shouldn’t say more for privacy reasons, but it had the other students giggling.

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Anzac long weekend Monday

Today was the Anzac Day public holiday, although it didn’t make much difference to my day, as I had ethics classes online as usual. We finished up the topic on contact with extraterrestrial life. I started writing the lesson for tomorrow’s new topic, which is gambling. I mentioned during a class this morning that next week’s topic is gambling, and we’ll be talking about betting on sports—

At which point a student interrupted and said, “That’s not gambling! Gambling is like blackjack and stuff!”

So… maybe it’ll be an interesting topic for some of the kids. I guess they don’t have a lot of experience with actual gambling at their age.

There was a bit of housecleaning work and cooking and baking bread today, and some work on the secret project, and walking Scully, and that was about it.

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More ethics than ever before

I had a special request from a parent for an introductory 1-on-1 ethics class for her daughter today before putting her into a group class, so I scheduled a new class, meaning I had 4 classes today. Previously I’ve never had more than 3 on one day. So it was a bit exhausting, and ate up much of the day, as they were scattered around with not much of a gap between any of them in which to do other things.

I did manage time at lunch to go for a walk with my wife and Scully, down to the waterside park and back. It looked fine when we set out, but we got a heavy shower while out. it was pretty heavy rain, and strong wind so it came in at a steep angle, but it didn’t last too long, and was fine again with the sun coming out by the time we got back.

I cooked up another batch of bunya nuts and made pesto, which I’m saving for dinner with pasta on the weekend, but I used part of it as a sauce on burgers for tonight’s dinner. They were beetroot and black bean burger patties from the supermarket.

Tonight is virtual board games night. We’re currently in the middle of a game of El Grande. I’m winning, but I’m not sure it’ll last.

Edit: And I won the game of El Grande! Wow, I hardly ever win in games against my friends…

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New ethics topic: Emotions

It’s Tuesday, which means the start of a new topic for the week of online ethics classes. This week we’re discussing emotions. I wrote the lesson this afternoon, and this evening I taught the first three classes. It seems this one is more of a critical thinking exercise than an ethical one, as there was barely any disagreement or alternative opinions among the students to most of the questions. Instead of exploring diverse opinions, we’re instead teasing out an understanding of various emotions and why we feel them, using critical thinking skills. Which is part of the class scope and description, so that’s all good.

I got up early this morning and went for my run first thing. This was after doing yesterday’s run in the evening after dark. It was the first time I’d done a run at night time, and it was a little disconcerting going at pace along streets and footpaths, with dark shadows everywhere and not having a clear view of the footing. So yesterday’s run was slow compared to times I’ve been doing recently. (Although still good compared to what I was doing a couple of months ago!)

I forgot to mention it here, but on Saturday Strava informed me that during that day’s 2.5k run I clocked my fastest 1k split ever. I ran the first kilometre in 3:53, which Strava told me was my fastest 1k ever. (At least, since I’ve been using Strava – although given I’ve never really been much for running, it may well be the fastest 1k I’ve ever run in my life.) I was pretty pleased with that, since I’ve been aiming at breaking 4 minutes for 1k for a while.

At lunch today I took Scully for a walk up to the shops and got some sushi rolls for lunch. I chose to walk a little further to another small park to eat, rather than the small square in the middle of the shops. The latter is convenient and a nice place to sit and watch people go by, but the grass there has all died, and it’s also haunted by posses of magpies who have become increasingly aggressive over the past few years. They will literally steal food from your hands while you’re trying to eat. This other park we went to is also very small, but nicely grassy, and blissfully empty of magpies, because it’s more out of the way and less trafficked. So I enjoyed my sushi rolls in peace, and then we walked home in the lovely warm sunshine.

This sunny weather won’t last. It’s supposed to close in tomorrow, and Thursday is going to be extremely wet, with 100 mm of rain and flash flood warnings. It remains to be seen how possible it will be to travel into the university for my lecture class on that night…

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Double writing day

It was a very busy day today. I had to write the ethics lesson for this week, on trial by media. Then I had to write a report on the ISO Photography standards meeting I attended back in February, to send to Standards Australia in time for our follow-up national meeting on this Friday. I should have done it a bit earlier, but I’ve been so busy that I put it off to this week. Those two tasks took a good chunk of the day. And then tonight I had three classes to teach, the last ending at 10pm! Thankfully from next week all the classes will be an hour earlier, since we go off daylight saving this weekend. (And I’m leaving the classes unchanged for most of the students who live outside Australia, so they’ll be an hour earlier by my clock.)

I also took Scully out for a drive at lunch time, because it was raining and I didn’t fancy a long walk in the rain. We went to the Italian bakery and I got some treats for me and my wife for dessert tonight, as well as lunch.

We had close to 60 mm of rain overnight, but it eased off during the day, being light for most of the day. Although this evening as I type it’s pouring down again. I added up the rainfall so far since the beginning of the year, and we’re not over the average annual rainfall for Sydney yet, but we’re getting very close.

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Scully grooming day

Scully was looking a bit scruffy and shaggy recently, which means it’s time for her haircut/groom at the dog groomer. I picked her up from my wife’s work at lunch time and took her to the groomer, then collected her with her new haircut a few hours later. We can see Scully’s eyes again!

Otherwise it’s been another fairly busy and exhausting day. I had my face-to-face ethics class at the school this morning. After 5 weeks of teaching this, there are still about half a dozen kids on the roll who I haven’t seen yet – maybe sick for the past 5 weeks? I’m not sure. Thankfully the kids who have been showing up are pretty good and the class runs smoothly, mostly. There was an incident today though when a teacher poked her head in and told us to open the windows for ventilation, and a kid ran over and did it… and a fly screen fell out of one of the windows, dropping two floors to the ground below! The kids thought this was hilarious, and several ran over to look out the window and see where the screen had fallen. I sent two of them out to go retrieve the screen and bring it back. I didn’t bother trying to reinstall it – I just told the regular classroom teacher about it when he came back after the class.

Oh, there was something amusing after the class too. The room I have is next door to the Anglican scripture class, and on the far side of that is the Catholic class. The kids all split up to go to their relevant scripture class (or ethics), and return to their regular classrooms afterwards. While I was leaving I overheard some kids talking outside:

Did you know Mary was a virgin??
Yeah, she was a virgin, but God stuffed a baby up there anyway!

On my way home from dropping Scully at the groomer, I stopped at the bakery at Naremburn to grab a sweet treat, since I was driving past. I like popping in and seeing what new items they have – they always seem to have something new in the rotation. Today they had what looked like rocky road tarts, which I confirmed by asking, and a delicious looking individual cakes topped with icing and coconut shavings, which turned out to be mango cakes. I had the rocky road tart to eat while sitting outside at the cafe tables, but then I decided I’d go back in and grab a mango cake for dessert tonight, because who knows how long it will be before they appear there again!

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The ethics of magic

Today I wrote the material for the next week of online ethics classes, on the topic of magic! I’m using several examples of things from the Harry Potter stories, and posing questions like:

  • Would it really be okay for children to use hexes to affect other kids, even if no serious harm was done?
  • Harry uses one of the Unforgivable Curses in his fight against Voldemort and his followers. Is that okay or should he be punished for it?
  • Is the Killing curse (Avada Kedavra) any worse than shooting someone with a gun, or is it similar?
  • Why would a small group of people who could do magic want to hide from everyone else?
  • What could happen if the rest of the world found out about wizards and magic?
  • Can you think of any legitimate, ethical uses for Polyjuice potion?

I’ve just run the class with three groups of kids this evening, and so far every student has been familiar with Harry Potter, so that’s good. I have enough explanation that if any student isn’t familiar with Harry Potter, they’ll still be able to get enough context to answer the questions.

That’s about half the class. The other half discusses how real world historical societies who believed in magic made laws regarding the use of magic, and if those laws would make sense in a world where magic is real.

In other news, Sydney had two consecutive days with no rain, yesterday and today! This is the first time this has happened in over a month. But it won’t last… we’re predicted to have another 100mm or more of rain over the next four days.

And today I decided to extend my usual 2.5k run to 5k. I haven’t done a 5k since just before Christmas. It felt tough, but I did my second best time over that distance, despite doing it on the street route with hills, rather than around a flat oval. So yeah, maybe my fitness level is still improving, which is nice.

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