New walking route

Ethics teaching day! We started a new topic today (having finished “stealing” last week): Jumping to conclusions. It’s actually about applying a bit of formal logic to statements to transform them into other statements, and how that changes the truth value. For example, one of the statements we discussed today is “All carrots are vegetables”, which is true. If you reverse the statement, “All vegetables are carrots”, you get a false statement.

Then we moved to trickier examples, like “All Persian cats are fluffy” – which you can’t reverse in the same way as easily: “All fluffy are Persian cats”. You need to add a noun to the second part: “All Persian cats are fluffy animals” → “All fluffy animals are Persian cats”. Again, true becomes false. Then “All birds have wings”, which needs to be modified to “All birds are animals with wings” → “All animals with wings are birds”. Again, true becomes false.

Next week we move on to examples where the truth value doesn’t change when you reverse the sentence. The goal of the topic is really to get the kids thinking about the rules of logic rather than to teach them rote rules, so that they can avoid jumping to incorrect conclusions.

On the way home I walked a new route which I haven’t explored before, through a local bush park. This is a park that straddles a creek, and consists of uncleared eucalyptus forest. I took some photos on the walk:

Lane Cove track

Gore Creek

It’s nice having relatively untouched bushland so close to home. There are several areas like this within walking distance of my home. The full walk to Ethics and home via the bush park was over 9 kilometres, and I climbed 176 metres of elevation. It’s a very hilly area around here.

Speaking of which, I’ve been keeping track of everywhere I walk using the Fog of World app for a few months. Here’s my current map showing everywhere I’ve walked in that time:

Fog of World map

New content today:

Late Wednesday update

I had some strange issues with WordPress last night, so this post is several hours late.

On Wednesday my year 6 Ethics class topic was the Heinz dilemma. I introduced it by reading the text from the syllabus: “Today we’re going to discuss a famous ethical dilemma.” Immediately one girl put her hand up and asked “What, like the trolley problem?” I hadn’t expected anyone in a class of 10 and 11 year olds to be familiar with that, but it was good to hear! I had to say no though, it was a different problem.

I was interested in how this discussion would go because in a previous topic most of the kids expressed the principle that saving a human life was of paramount importance, while previously in the current topic (on stealing) several of the kids had stated that stealing is always morally wrong, because it’s against the law. Often the same kids. So pitting the saving a human life against having to steal to do it led to a lot of interesting back and forth as the kids took their turns to talk. In the end, most fell on the side that stealing to save someone’s life was morally acceptable, but there were a significant number of holdouts who said that because it was against the law, sadly they would have to let the person die. Hopefully the kids will continue to discuss this one after the class.

I spent much of the rest of the day researching and writing annotations for the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I made earlier in the week. I still have a few more to do to complete the batch, and then it’ll be on to writing a new entry for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe.

New content for Wednesday:

On a road to nowhere

This morning was my Ethics class, and we continued the topic of stealing, with three example stories about various common forms of theft that many people do: pirating software, not reporting being undercharged by a shop, and public transport fare evasion. We discussed whether these things are actually morally wrong and, if they are, why so many people do them. The kids were reasonably well behaved today – I think my behaviour management efforts from last week have had some effect.

After the class, I’d decided to go for a bit of a drive and check out a game shop out in the suburbs which has a good reputation but which I’d never visited before. They had a bunch of sale items on their web site and I thought I’d browse around and maybe pick up a cheap board game or two. The website said they opened at 10:30. I arrived a few minutes early, so went for a a bit of a walk around the premises, which was an industrial estate – it seems most of their business is mail order shipping, rather than walk-in customers.

I got back a few minutes after 10:30, but the door was still locked. I looked on it and saw a faded sign saying they opened at 11:00! So I had half an hour to wait. There wasn’t anything else interesting in the area, so I checked Google Maps and found a bakery about 10 minutes walk away, where I could go to get a snack and a drink. I did so, then waked back again, arriving a bit after 11:00… only to find the door still locked. I examined the sign again, and saw that they opened at 11:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They were closed all day Wednesday!

So I’d driven 40 minutes to this place for no reason, spent over half an hour waiting around fruitlessly, and could do nothing but drive home again. That pretty much wasted half the day, and it was hard to get motivated again after returning home, so I ended up wasting a lot of the afternoon too. I did achieve going to the hardware store to buy some stuff, and taking Scully to the pet store to let her browse around – she loves visiting the pet store and sniffing everything. But didn’t get any sort of work-type stuff done.

Sometimes you just have one of those days.

New content today:

Ethics of stealing

It was time for my weekly Primary Ethics class again this morning. Today we started a new topic: stealing. The discussion centred around a series of questions designed to probe the question of what exactly is stealing, and even if it’s illegal is it always morally wrong?

We started easy with: “If you borrow a book from a friend and forget to return it, does that count as stealing?” Then follow-up questions: “What if you really love the book and decide not to return it?” and: “What if you know your friend doesn’t even like the book?” The kids were pretty agreed that forgetting to return the book isn’t stealing, but keeping it if the friend asks for it back is stealing and is morally wrong, even if you know they don’t like it.

Next: “If you pick fruit from a fruit tree in your neighbour’s front garden, does that count as stealing?” Kids said yes. Follow-up: “What if your neighbour isn’t picking the fruit and it’s just going to rot?” Now some kids (but not all of them) were of the opinion that picking the fruit while technically stealing, isn’t morally wrong if it’s just going to go to waste otherwise.

Next: “Suppose it’s a very cold day and to warm up you decide to wander around a shop even though you have no money to spend. Does using the shop’s heating in this way count as stealing?” Kids said no. Follow-up: “But the shop is paying for the heating, and you’re getting the benefit, even though you have no intention to buy anything. So is it stealing, is it morally wrong?” Kids were generally no, it’s okay, because the shop invites people in.

And now the most interesting one: “You walk past a bakery and stop to smell the delicious smell of the freshly baked bread. Is that stealing?” The kids laughed at this one – of course it’s not stealing! Ah, but then: “The baker bought the flour and other ingredients, and paid for the electricity to run the ovens, so does he own the smell of the bread?” Kids laughed again – no of course not! Then: “Suppose the baker seals his shop so the smell can’t get out, and then allows people to come inside to smell the freshly baked bread, if you pay $1. Is he allowed to do that?”

Kids, a little uncertain: Yes, he’s allowed to do that.

Me: So he does own the smell? If you went inside to smell it, but didn’t pay the $1, would that be stealing?

Kids: … Yeeeeeeeessss….

Me: What if you found a crack near a window, and stuck your nose right up against it to smell the bread. Would that be stealing? Would it be morally wrong?

By now the kids were realising this topic isn’t as easy as they thought, and they’re giving really thoughtful answers across a spectrum of responses. It was a good class! And after it was over and the kids left to go back to the regular classrooms, I walked out past the other classes, and overheard one kid telling a friend who hadn’t been in my class about the bread smell example. So I consider that a success! Getting the children talking about the topics outside the classroom is basically the measure of success for my classes.

New content today:

Secret project

Wednesday is Ethics day! My class this morning was about half the normal size, 9 or 10 kids, down from 18, because of what they explained to me was a rehearsal for some sort of dance performance thing, which apparently lots of the students are involved in. It was the final lesson of the moral responsibility topic, so I had to do the sum up discussion with just half the class. The thing about this topic is that the kids were pretty much all agreed that people should help those most in need, rather than their own friends or family if their needs are less. So there weren’t a lot of opposing opinions to go through like there are on some other topics. Next week we start on stealing, which should be interesting.

After teaching my class, I travelled into the city to visit some book shops and a game shop. I bought a copy of Stephen Fry’s Heroes, part two of his retelling of the Greek myths, following Mythos, which was stories about the gods. I do love the Greek myths, and have a few different versions of them on my bookshelves.

When I got home I worked all afternoon on a secret project. Not secret from you, dear reader, but secret from my friends, some of whom might read this blog, so I dare not share any details here until the time is ripe. I can say that it’s related to a Magic: the Gathering card game evening that I am planning to hold – but no more than that. Oh, I can show you the invitation I just sent to my friends:

invitation

I am so looking forward to this!

New comics content today:

D&D prep

Wednesday is Ethics day, and I took my regular Year 6 class again this morning. We discussed various scenarios where people had to choose between friends or relatives and other people who were more deserving by some measure. It was interesting that in each case there were kids willing to argue in favour of either decision. Also there were some circumstances where they clearly favoured the family/friend while in another scenario with different circumstances they favoured the non-family/non-friend.

One scenario was a girl whose parents buy her a new soccer ball because hers is old and worn out. Her friend’s ball is also old and worn out, but the friend’s parents don’t have as much money, so can’t afford to get her a new ball. The question was, should the wealthier child’s parents buy her friend a ball as well? Most of the class said no, the parents had no obligation to their child’s friend.

Another scenario was a boy out sailing in a custom built two-person boat. Near shore, two people call out to him to take them for a sail: one younger boy who is a sailing club member who helped build the boat, but is not allowed to sail it alone, and the sailor’s friend, who is older but not a club member and didn’t help build the boat. In this case, most of the class said the sailor should take the younger boy, because he helped build the boat. (I get these scenarios in the teacher curriculum – I don’t make them up.)

The other thing I did today was visit Andrew Shellshear, who is hosting Friday night’s D&D extravaganza. I’m doing some stuff with projections for ambience, and we tested out his projector and figured out where to point it. He’s constantly designing board games these days, and showed me his work in progress on a new version of a game he’s been working on for a few months. Our group has been playtesting it and it’s pretty good! Hopefully I’ll be able to point you all at a Kickstarter or something in the future.

This afternoon my wife and I took Scully for a walk at a nearby park. I did some more prep for D&D on Friday, and that was the day. Tomorrow morning I hit the photography set for new comics!

Ethics day

This week is the first week of the third school term of the year, and on Wednesdays I volunteer to teach a class on Ethics to Year 6 children at a local school. This is part of the New South Wales Primary Ethics program, a volunteer program to offer classes in ethics during the weekly lesson time set aside for religious education, as an alternative for parents who don’t want their kids to attend religion classes. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now.

Today we started a new topic: Moral Responsibility. The first lesson involved a couple of stories providing contrasting choices: helping storm victims who live near you, versus tsunami victims in another, poorer country; and providing mining and forestry jobs, resources, and money for schools and hospitals, versus leaving wilderness areas untouched for future generations. We read the scenarios and then discuss them. The kids were pretty evenly split on helping local disaster victims versus foreign ones, but they were mostly in favour of preserving wilderness, even at the expense of jobs and infrastructure for people in the present. It’s always interesting listening to kids’ perspectives on these topics.

I walked to the school and back home, a trek of 8 kilometres according to my fitness tracking app. So that took up most of the morning. This afternoon I took it a bit easy, hacking a little bit on the mezzacotta random generators code.

On the walk home, I found a patch of nasturtiums in the warm winter sunlight. They looked cool from above, but even cooler from below:

Under the nasturtiums