Getting Schooled by the Coronavirus

I’ve been busy the last couple of days, and will be for the foreseeable future, since my girlfriend and I have taken our two young children out of school.

I have informed my parent friends of this decision, but I am not advocating that they, or anyone, follow our lead. My girlfriend and I are lucky in that we are financially secure (for now), and are currently freer of work than we might otherwise be.* It is easy for us to bring the kids home, and we could see no good argument against it. Other parents are much less fortunate, and may have a very difficult decision ahead, very soon. I really feel for them, and for everyone dealing with this mess.

This brings up a general and hugely important question: should schools stay open? Honestly, I have no idea. It is an aspect of Australian discussion that I have been trying, and failing, to get my head around. It seems that the main argument for keeping schools open is simply as a childminding service, so that the oldies don’t do the minding and the doctors and the nurses can get on with running themselves ragged. Is that a sufficient argument? I’m sceptical, but I don’t feel confident to say “no”.

Here are two links to articles discussing the matter (in Australia), neither of which I either vouch for or reject:

Why Australia is not shutting schools (The Guardian)

No, Australia is not putting teachers in the coronavirus firing line (The Conversation)

I’m open to people’s thoughts. But, I’ll just add one thing. Prime Scott Morrison has threatened private schools that might close, and he has expressed his confidence in the decision to keep kids at school:

I’m telling you that, as a father, I’m happy for my kids to go to school. There’s only one reason your kids shouldn’t be going to school and that is if they are unwell.

I wonder if all of Morrison’s Liberal colleagues agree.

*) Thank you, to a very stupid university and a very stupid school. I will be forever grateful.

33 Replies to “Getting Schooled by the Coronavirus”

  1. Thanks, S-T. I assume ScoMoFo is correct here, that the current advice is that he should not be tested. Also, given the nature of politicians’ work, it is reasonable to believe that Dutton and Bragg and McDonald contracted the virus independent of one another (although McDonald is indicating she doesn’t know how she contracted the virus).

    But, I am curious to know if any Liberal pollies are keeping their kids at home at the same time Morrison is bashing people for doing so. And, there is the much more important issue, of whether or not schools should be closing.

  2. Hi,

    Hopefully the Pollie’s spin doctors don’t just trot out the modus ponens fallacy of “affirming the consequent”

    for example

    If someone is Y ,they will be critical of our government ,take their children out of school …etc
    X is critical of our government,…etc
    Therefore X is Y?.

    supply your own definitions of X and Y to suit your argument.

    another example from the oil wars

    I vaguely recall the “coalition of the willing?” during the prelude to the Gulf war seeking invisible weapons of mass destruction using the line “You are either with us or a Y?”

    Steve R

    1. Thanks, steve. It actually seems that ScoMoFo is, at least in part, trying to handle this crisis in a reasonable and honest manner. The problem, apart from his being semi-competent at best, is that ScoMoFo is intrinsically a greasy huckster who, along with his gargoyle mates, has thoroughly poisoned Australian administration and public discourse, so that the trust he sorely needs is just not there.

  3. This is an historical event in the sense that most of us have not experienced anything like it before. I assume that decision makers rely on the best advice that is available to them. I also assume that the advisors cannot be certain that their advice is optimal – time might tell.

    1. Terry, why would you assume that “decision makers rely on the best advice that is available to them”? The Liberal Party have made an art form of ignoring “best advice”.

      1. I assume this in this particular case, not in general. The fact that the views of premiers and the prime minister seem to be in harmony suggests this to me.

        1. OK, I understand the point. There is an immediacy and undeniability to death from coronavirus that doesn’t apply, for instance, to global warming. But, I think you’re wrong.

  4. Marti,

    Agreed . Though I would be very unlikely to consider voting for a party who is largely funded by the fossil fuel industry and consistently ignores scientists on climate change reality . At least they are taking advise from medical experts on this occasion and not showing up in hazmat suits pointing at petri dishes in front of the cameras

    Steve R

    1. Yes, steve, there’s a modicum of straight serious leadership about the Liberals on the coronavirus. But, first and foremost, they are fifth rate political hacks.

    1. It’s looking increasingly likely that it’ll be cancelled, with a number of players openly criticising the decision to run the tournament, and some concerned about being able to return home after its completion. There have been some interesting games so far, though.

  5. We here in the United Kingdom have been compelled to expose ourselves to Covid-19, as part of a “science led” strategy intended to have the majority of the population develop “herd immunity”… Common sense has gone out the window – the idea that having a mere 20,000 casualties will be a successful outcome beggars belief… There is clearly NOT enough known about Covid-19 to have taken this horrendously risky path, rather than follow WHO guidelines and those countries and states who experienced SARS (China, Taiwan, HongKong, Singapore)… So called experts make me sick, and I mean, they really could make me and the majority of the population physically sick!

    1. Well, at least you have Marina Hyde and Michael Spicer to keep you sane.

      Thanks, Ewen. I’ve read a little about the herd immunity thing in England, and assumed it was insane but haven’t had time to look into it. Does it originate with that psychopath Cummings? I hope to post more CV articles soon, but haven’t had much chance for anything.

  6. Only an imbecile could possibly believe that an idea like “Herd Immunity” – traditionally associated with Measles and the like (where 95% coverage is the WHO standard) – could be employed to hit 30-40% of the non at risk public with Covid-19…Absolutely non scientific, non evidence based – “ a finger in the air”, Or “stab in the dark” policy, applied to an unknown pathogen by a re-knowned psychopath,(sic.)… Cummins is a “master puppeteer”, Johnston a charismatic clown, and both of these ego driven numpties have no idea what they’ve instigated .. I fully expect the death toll here to reach 5000 within a month – despite having one of the best health services in the world…Very sad, we – the U.K. lost our WHO Measles herd immunity accreditation (through the failure to have 95% children vaccinated)…Lessons learnt – not a bit of it!

  7. VCAA’s current response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here:

    VCAA (Link fixed by Marty)

    The response is predictably moronic, vague and devoid of any leadership. It would be hilarious if the situation was not so serious.

    It takes a very special kind of imbecile to think that SACs in any form should run in Semester 1, and that a ‘wait and see’ approach should not be taken on whether or not SACs run in Semester 2.

    Memo to the VCAA: If the AFL, NFL and A-League (and the IOC) can be dragged kicking and screaming to the only possible common sense decision, grow a pair and make the only possible common sense decision regarding SACs.

    Re: The GAT. An announcement on Naplan has already been made and should be applauded as a triumph of common sense. Surely an announcement regarding the GAT should be made?

    And I wonder what’s happening with the NHT VCAA exams (held midyear in the Northern hemisphere) ….? All I hear at the moment are crickets.

    1. Thanks, JF. The link didn’t work for me, but I think I fixed it. It obviously doesn’t surprise me if/that VCAA is fucking this up, although I don’t envy anybody having to deal with VCE or university admin. (The rest of school is pretty much no loss, and no one should stress an ounce over it.) As for SACs, they are intrinsically such bullshit, I won’t concern myself with whether the VCAA is permitting them to be bullshittier.

    2. And VCAA’s LACK of leadership continues to set a low standard:

      Silent on the GAT (which should *never* have been postponed in the first place – big mistake), silent on exam dates, silent on Unit 4 SACs, silent on a modified curriculum.

      Congratulations, VCAA. You continue to fall well short of my very low expectations. You’re as agile as a tree stump.

      (Water finds its own level, so how about it, VCAA? You can get the fuck out of Victoria and go to NSW. And NESA can leave NSW and come to Victoria)

  8. On the subject of closing schools – here’s something I noticed back in the 70s. I was reading 3 books at the time, in parallel as is my wont, and I noticed that all 3 (semi-famous) authors had severely interrupted schooling. They had a long illness or parents had taken them to distant parts, or I forget what. Over the years I kept noticing similar stories about successful people, and when the internet arrived found others mentioning something similar. The key seems to be separation from other children and more interaction with adults. So get ready for a brilliant future. Either that or I will learn that a sample of 3 is small and that I am prone to confirmation bias.

  9. One of the joys of teaching mathematics, for me, is relating the topic in hand to news of the day. Poisson distribution – light plane crash; joint probability – cluster of cancers. My favorite was teaching mean and standard deviation when Greg Chappell had just made: duck, duck, duck, 200. So the present crisis at least is providing lovely material. For example transmissibility > 1 -> exponential growth. Did anyone notice the tautology gem in the Coles ad? I paraphrase “We are absolutely sure that this may change”.

        1. Tom, very interested in all this – but also in Salter Marine Cloud Brightening. Do get in touch if you want to discuss.
          Meanwhile, NSW lockdown is a bit of a shambles…

          1. Hi Hugh
            Just finished replying to Tony Bannister who mentioned your name! Would love to discuss Marine Cloud Brightening as our last best hope. We should take this away from Marty’s site. Have found a Cambridge email for you – will write as soon as we finish today’s Guardian cryptic.

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