Ethics of activism

This morning I went for a 2.5k run, while it was still cool and cloudy, before the sun burnt off the morning cloud cover. Then I had to make a new Darths & Droids comic – I’m working a bit close to the bone at the moment because of lack of time to build up any buffer, alas.

Then I had to work on writing my lesson plan for the older kids’ ethics topic this week, which is on Activism. I could have chosen many historical examples, but I chose to structure it around the campaign for women’s suffrage in the UK, as it included good examples of both peaceful and violent protests. I didn’t quite finish the lesson as I had other more urgent things. I need to get it done by 9am tomorrow, and if I don’t I’ll just have to wing the second half. I have plenty of questions, but need to come up with introductory passages for each question.

Oh, Scully had a haircut today! And is wearing her St Patrick’s Day bandana, ready for Friday.

St Patrick's Poodle

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Ethics of archaeology

New ethics class week starts on Tuesday and this week we have the topic of Archaeology for the younger students. I spent this morning writing up the lesson plan. It was fairly easy, as I had a lot of questions and supporting background material based on Howard Carter and the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the Lake Mungo fossils, and the Elgin Marbles. With three classes this evening I quickly found I had plenty of material, and didn’t get to cover it all. Which is good – much better than running out of material partway through a class, let me tell you.

It rained heavily this morning. I took Scully for a walk in what I thought would be a break in the rain at lunchtime, but it started raining moderately heavily a few minutes in and was steady throughout the remainder, so she was pretty wet by the time we got home. (I took an umbrella, but my shoes and socks were wet.)

Also today I booked the final hotels for our trip to Japan in June, in Kyoto and Tokyo. That’s everything booked in advance, so we can relax a bit now before departure.

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Another busy day…

Today I had to concentrate on writing a new lesson for the older kids ethics class – this week on the topic of artificial intelligence. There’s a lot of potential material for this topic and lots of discussion questions. I had plenty written out and had about a third of the questions left over after I’df fleshed the first 2/3 out with scenarios and information. So I have heaps of backup material if the classes run short, which I don’t think they will.

Did a 2.5k run this morning, and took Scully for a few walks. And…. oh! I had the 4th class of 6 in my current iteration of the board game design class. The student and I are converging on a design for a game involving players having various fantasy roles, and potentially involving families of vampires competing, or maybe witches and wizards… it’s a bit in flux still. I need to distil it into a workable game design by the weekend and send her the file and rules so she can playtest it with family ad friends before next week’s class.

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Ethics of offence

Tuesday means a new ethics topic for my online classes. I had to write my lesson this morning, since the past few days have been too busy to do it early. This week’s topic is “being offended”. I had plenty of questions to ask, and tied them together with some short scenarios, so managed to get the lesson written fairly quickly.

I took Scully for a few walks during the day. The weather is getting a little cooler, which is nice. This afternoon I assembled and uploaded the rest of this weeks Irregular Webcomic! strips. I’ve been working close to deadline on a number of things, after last week’s ISO meeting ate up so much time last week.

I’ve also started learning Japanese using Duolingo. I started German not long ago, but decided I should probably concentrate a bit more on Japanese, since I’ve also booked tickets to Japan in June, for the next ISO meeting, which will be held in Okayama. My wife and I will be flying into Haneda Airport in Tokyo and catching a Shinkansen down to Okayama for the meeting. Then we’re planning to spend a few days in Kyoto, and a couple in Tokyo before flying home. We also have time to stop off somewhere else along the way for a day or so, and I’m trying to find somewhere conveniently close to the Okayama-Kyoto-Tokyo Shinkansen line, that is not a big city, so we can see something a bit more rural and countryside-ish.

I wondered if Duolingo would just teach Japanese conversation and not bother with the written language, but no, the very first lesson throws hiragana at you! Which is good, because I could certainly do with learning those.

Tonight I had the first three classes on “being offended”. It’s very interesting seeing what examples of potentially offensive behaviour are in fact considered offensive or not by different students.

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Planning a lesson on UFOs

Today I wrote my lesson plan for an upcoming class (starting next week) on the topic of UFOs. This was a special request from one of my students. It’s definitely more a critical thinking topic than an ethics one, although I did manage to think of some ethical questions to ask, such as: Is it ethical of media to publish stories of UFO sightings? If they know most of them have mundane explanations?

I found some very interesting graphs to show to the kids, such as the ones in this article indicating UFO sightings peak in the northern hemisphere summer, and have been growing year by year since the 1960s (after an initial peak in the 1940s and 50s). And ones in this article indicating the global distribution of UFO sightings (hint: over 80% of all sightings are in the USA; less than 20% in the entire rest of the world). And then I’ll ask them what could explain these trends. it should be a very interesting class!

But today I started the topic on Lying. This is a retread of one of the first topics I did two years ago when I started the class. Since none of the same kids are still enrolled I’m able to rerun the topic. That saves me some time writing a new lesson plan (which I can spend writing classes for the older students…)

Last night I finished watching the movie Viking Wolf on Netflix. As the second Norwegian creature film I’ve watched recently, I rate it higher than Troll (2022), which was very formulaic. It’s not the best werewolf film I’ve seen, but I enjoyed it enough to recommend it.

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New pizza tray

It was a pretty bog-standard Monday. Three ethics classes, to wrap up the topic of Games with the younger students. One particular question that I asked was very interesting. It needs a bit of introduction to set up, and there were other questions I asked along the way, but I’ll condense it down to the essentials for the pertinent question:

Tegan, Josh, and Adele are playing a board game together. They roll dice and play cards and move pieces on the board, chatting and laughing while they play. At one point in the game, Tegan makes a really good move which forces Josh to lose a bunch of points.

Later, as the game nears the end, an interesting situation develops. All those points that Josh lost put him in last place, and he only has one turn left. He knows he can’t score enough points to win. Tegan is currently in the lead, and she will win the game… unless Josh uses his turn to steal points off her. If Josh does this, Adele will win the game. Or he can just try to score as many points as he can, in which case he’ll still come last and Tegan will win.

While Josh is thinking about what move to make, Adele sees that he can steal Tegan’s points. She says, “Josh, if you take her points and make me win, I’ll give you a chocolate bar!”

If you were Josh, how would you respond to Adele in this situation?

Most of the kids throughout the week said they’d accept the chocolate and steal Tegan’s points, letting Adele win the game. (One of the earlier questions asked if it was okay for Josh to steal Tegan’s points, and most said yes, because it’s within the rules of the game.) A few kids said that accepting the chocolate would be bad, because it’s bribery outside the game – there are no in-game rules for chocolate bars, so it shouldn’t be allowed, and Adele was bad for trying it.

But in all the classes I did this week, one kid said:

I’d turn to Tegan and say, “If you give me two chocolate bars, I won’t steal the points from you.”

Honestly I burst out laughing at that point. I thought it was a brutally honest and clever answer. One of the other kids in the same class said, “Ooh, start a bidding war!” It was a great moment.

The rest of my day was pretty standard. Took Scully for a couple of walks, got fish and chips for lunch, made a sourdough loaf, and also made pizza for dinner tonight. I tried using the brand new pizza baking tray I bought last week, so we have a second one, to enable me cooking multiple pizzas on Friday night when the guys come over for Dungeons & Dragons. Our first pizza tray has holes in the bottom, which allows heat to bake the crust from beneath, making it crisp. But I didn’t find any with holes, so this new one is a solid aluminium pan, and the pizza turned out with the base a lot less crisp. I considered a pizza stone, but they’re expensive and I didn’t want to start messing around with that. I’m wondering now how difficult it would be to drill some holes in the aluminium pan.

New content today:

Planning population growth

I slept in today, after getting up early yesterday after a slightly restless night. I did a 2.5k run as early as I could manage, which was after 9am. It was still cool enough, but sunny and warming up rapidly to another warm day.

I spent most of my time today writing a new ethics lesson plan for the older kids, on the topic of population growth. This required a bit of research, and grabbing some graphs to show to the kids. I learnt that in the year 10,000 BCE, the human population of the world is estimated to be around 4 million people, which is fewer than live in Sydney, which is only about the 100th most populated city on the planet.

I didn’t really do much else today… Cooked an Indian style curry with eggplant and paneer for dinner. Um. Yeah…

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Back to school day

Today was back to school day for most of the schools in New South Wales. The start of a new school year, kids going to school for the first time, kids moving up to high school for the first time. I did my 2.5k run this morning and passed many kids walking to school – a sight not seen since mid-December.

And it’s the first school year in seven years that I won’t be returning to teach Primary Ethics face-to-face with a classroom of kids. I mentioned my last class last year and why I’ve decided not to go back this year. I was still enjoying it, but wanted to get that weekly time back.

This evening I have three online classes, starting the new topic about Games. I had one student from last year returning after the school holidays. I said I hoped she had a good holiday, and she said, “Yes. I nearly died!”

I was… appropriately shocked and concerned and asked if she was okay. She said she’d been collecting shells on a beach with her family, and picked up a cone shell. I immediately gasped, as these are well-known deadly marine creatures. I asked if it actually stung her, but she said no, she managed to drop it before it got her with its sting. Phew!

In the third class, which was at 9pm, I had a new student who signed up last week. And then a few days ago I got a message asking about the time, which Outschool was informing them was 4am. They said they were in Texas, and I confirmed that the conversion was correct – the class would indeed be at 4am for them. I’m not sure how they managed to sign up for that, as Outschool should display times in local time for all users. The only thing I could think is that it showed “4am” and they misread and thought it was 4pm. Anyway, I offered to transfer the kid to a better time, but the mother replied that they were out that day and said they’d stick with the 4am class. I replied saying I’d be happy to refund the fee they’d paid if the time was inconvenient, and then next week we could work out a better time slot. She came back and said her son was super keen on the Games topic this week, and she was okay with him getting up at 4am for it… So, yeah, he showed up in the class at 4am Texas time! He was actually surprisingly awake and lucid.

In other news, I went to the dentist today. One of the fillings I had in December has been bothering me, giving the occasional sharp twinge when I chew food. I suspected the tooth might be cracked and need a crown. But the dentist said that he thought the filling was flexing. He decided to replace it with a different, former filling material and see how that goes. He used a quick anaesthetic which wore off after just a few minutes and was amazingly good, so that was good in that I didn’t have a numb face for the next several hours. Hopefully he’s right and it won’t hurt any more. Even better, he declined to charge me for the repair!

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… and very wet

The humidity that was oppressive yesterday has really peaked today, and the clouds burst early this evening. We had 60 mm of rain in just over 2 hours, and it’s still coming down, with more on the way.

My day was filled with ethics class activity – teaching 4 classes, and in between writing a new lesson plan for the week beginning tomorrow (I update topics on Tuesdays). The next topic for the 10-12 age group os “Games”. I wrote a long scenario involving three kids playing a board game, punctuated by questions at appropriate events in the game. Here’s the beginning:

Tegan, Josh, and Adele are playing a board game together. They roll dice and play cards and move pieces on the board, chatting and laughing while they play. Whenever the three of them get together, they like to spend some time playing a game like this. They’re playing a game where the goal is to win. Only one of them can win – the other two have to lose the game.

  • If you’re playing a game like this, is it okay to be competitive – to try your very hardest to beat your opponents and make them lose? Why or why not?
  • Generally, it’s considered to be good to be nice and generous to people. What makes it okay in a game to deliberately try and make your opponents lose?
  • What about the opposite: If you’re playing a competitive game, is it okay to not try to win? Why or why not?

Tonight I made pizza for dinner – well, my wife made the dough and I did the toppings and cooked it. We do this once every week or two, but I mention it tonight because it turned out extra delicious today, with the crust nice and thin and crispy. Or maybe I was just really hungry. 😄

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Lazy Australia Day

It was hot and my wife had the day off work for the public holiday, but I still had a couple of ethics classes to teach. I did the first advanced lesson on the topic “The Meaning of Life”. I thought this would be good, because last week the two kids in this class bounced ideas off each other and it was a lot of fun, but at the last second the parent of one of them sent me a message saying that the kid had a medical appointment and couldn’t attend. So I had to run the topic with just the one kid, and it was difficult to get him to expand on his answers, so we got through the material quickly and I had to stretch it which is always tricky and less enjoyable. I have this topic again tomorrow and I hope there’ll be more than one kid in the class!

We stayed in mostly and used the air conditioning to keep cool. We took Scully for a mid-length walk in the evening when it had cooled down a bit. It also clouded over and threatened to storm, but so far we haven’t had any rain, but there are severe small storms pushing across Sydney now.

My leech bite seems to have healed nicely.

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