Why “Swine Flu” proves Schools fail

If you watch CNN, the BBC or any other media outlet, they’ve suddenly switched from saying the world has ended from the “economic crisis” to now we’re all doomed by “swine flu”. Those people not living on planet Earth, or those who believe what they read in the news, would think it’s the end of the world. But so far all it is is a complete failure of how the world is educated, on so many levels.

Failure in maths

The reason the flu or any other pandemic is dangerous is because it has the potential to become huge. But we’re no where near there yet. From the reactions of news readers you’d think that millions of people had already died. But so far it’s “only” a few hundred. I say “only” here because obviously the death of someone close is unbelievably painful. But we have to look at the big picture, to understand what that number really signifies. Yesterday several thousand, that’s more than ten times more, people died in car accidents. But nobody understands what that means. That’s much more horrific, but why aren’t the media reporting it as such? It’s because people wouldn’t listen, because they don’t understand the math. They can’t see the difference between four hundred and four thousand.

Many people still incredibly believe that air travel is more dangerous than travelling by car. It’s a total failure that people can believe such things simply because they can’t balance the emotional impact with what the numbers really mean.

You think it’s not important? What happens if this thing became big and millions of people got infected. Or billions. Would you know what that means? Would you know when it was safe to go outside or go to the store for food?

Failure in biology

The first things that some people started saying were things like “should we start taking antibiotics?” Why, it’s a virus not a bacterial infection. But many people don’t know the difference. Again some people think science isn’t important, but last week how many would have known whether to take an antiviral or antibiotic?Β  One will help, one will make bacteria stronger in the future.

Governments have to put out warnings telling people to wash their hands. Yes, wash their hands! It’s unbelievable that people don’t already do that in a supposedly educated society such as the United States. How can they not know about this simple method of disease control? “They know, but they just don’t do it” is what some people say. But that’s where the failure is. The teacher has failed if someone merely knows about something but doesn’t put it into practice. That’s lecturing, not educating.

Some people believe that because the media label it as “Swine Flu”, presumably because Mexico’s embassies don’t want it called “Mexican Flu”, that eating pork is bad. Again it’s a total failure that so many people don’t know such basic biology.

Failure in geography

The latest headlines are always “another new country infected”, “dozens of countries reporting cases”. Countries are an artificial, and totally out of balance way of measuring this planet. I admit I’m guilty of it when I say “used in over 200 countries” but it doesn’t really mean anything. The world is one these days. Just ask any kid, they don’t see lines on a map, they see continents on Google Earth. But most adults just don’t understand where on the world they live and where other people live. How can we not know where our neighbours are?

Failure in thinking

The worst thing I’ve seen so far is so called experts from the WHO using the phrase “worrying.” In any success course the first thing you learn is that “worry” is one of the biggest wastes of energy and dangerous things you can do. It’s the proverbial fear of fear itself. If there’s something you can do to stop something, then do it. If there’s nothing you can do then use your energies elsewhere. But worrying serves no purpose at all. It’s not an emotion or even a word that professionals should ever use.

Where’s the positive side?

Those people who know me will be wondering why on Earth I’ve written such a negative sounding post, isn’t my job to genkify people? Well yes, but I’ve never seen anything like this before where so many different areas of education have failed so much. And it’s by acknowledging these basic failures that we can improve things for the future.

It doesn’t matter if not everyone on the planet speaks perfect English or can do advanced algebra. But everyone on the planet must, has to, should understand some of the very basics of human existence such as simple biology or the understanding of basic probabilities if we are to survive any major upsets to our lifestyle.

Swine Flu may turn into a pandemic and we’re bound to face even bigger threats in the future, but without the skills to see what is really happening then panic and worse will ensue.

Education is always the way we will fight these things. Education in the form of science and communications has already revolutionised how experts fight disease. But now we need everyone, not just the experts, to be up to speed on the key points of human life so that we don’t have to tell them what a virus is or to wash their hands several times a day.

If this thing does become pandemic people need to know the difference between 5% and 40%, between a virus and bacteria, where infections are located, they need to evaluate the risks of travelling, buying bread or going outdoors.

So let’s make sure we understand the world that’s around us, rather than relying on gossip, distortion and fear mongering that the media provides today. Emotions are fun, exciting and make life interesting. But let’s make sure basic skills to overcome emotion when needed are a fundamental part of what we teach. Knowledge and skills, education, is the light that lets us understand the problems we face and helps us find the solutions.

School isn’t about exams, it’s the instruction book for life. How to be happy, successful, caring and, if this thing does become big, stay healthy.

UK Government’s pdf Information Pamphlet on Swine Flu – yes aimed at adults, not children, although it could be good to use in class!

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

8 Responses to “Why “Swine Flu” proves Schools fail”

  1. Joy k.

    Hmm, Good morning, and thank you. Your thoughts are all granted. The media are all just doing their job for living. if they broadcasted the current pandemic problem of today boringly, nobody gets interested and listened. This is what I do. I don’t watch, I don’t listen I feel I’m a stone.

  2. Onimiki

    Dear Richard you are totally right.
    I think the mass media want to distract the people for what is really happening on earth. I wached many video on your Tube and there are a lot to think…
    I really want to see what will happend in the future, I hope for a better world.

  3. gumby

    Just food for thought. In the US, every year 5% to 20% catch the flu and 36,000 people die from it. I understand that it is a new type of flu and those who have died have not been the usual elderly, very young, or very sick. However, most do seem to be recovering without complications. Is this cause for world wide PANIC and slaughtering of pigs? hmmmm

  4. gumby

    Just to clarify. The 36,000 deaths mentioned in the previous posts should be flu-related (respitory failure etc) and not necessarily deaths caused by the flu (although I think the deaths from the swine flu follow the same pattern of thinking)

  5. Liza

    The phrase Weapons of Mass Hysteria springs to mind!

  6. Carol

    You are very right Richard. You have such an excellent way of putting things into perspective! Here in France they stopped calling it the swine flu because it has nothing to do with eating pork, so now they call it the Mexican flu.

    I was amazed that the media here also announced that 10s of thousands die each year from flu illnesses and yet are never declared pandemic. They posed the question why… one so called expert replied that is shocking that this comes North America with all its modern health measures. Hello, don’t they realize that Mexico has a different standard of living for many people, that hundreds of thousands cross the border every day to the USA for a better life? I feel the huge chasm between ‘poor’ and ‘rich’ in the world’s social and economic structure is the problem. The ‘rich’ countries can find money to bail out banks that are failing so that here in France at least, the bank exectuives could get their bonuses, but can’t find a way to improve the worlds inequality for health care.

    I tell my students here that don’t want to study and do anything with their lives other than collect govt aid, when you go to the doctor, you expect that this person was a good student and mastered everything so that they will help you, even save your life. Well who here is going to take over when the doctor gets old? They don’t anwswer… (Most doctors refuse to come here to treat the population. One hospital in the town where our space center is located is run by the Red Cross, and the hospital in my town gets doctors from MΓ©dicins du Monde (Doctors of the World).)

    ‘Education’ has failed again. But it’s not really the teachers..I blame the politicians in charge of running Education. Governments cut back on funding schools and eliminate teachers and subjects, but then when catastrophy strikes they are the first to call on those well-trained people! France doesn’t understand why the leading minds are leaving France…

    I just hope that govt’s will realize that education is important to our survival on this planet. A French news anchor just did a documentary shown on tv this past week about our planet going through a 6th mass extinction on this planet. She implied that humans will become extinct by our own fault…

  7. Songtao

    When seeing you fellows having such a mind-boggling dicussion, I feel like crying~
    Cos,it is not even possible to get to youtube from the world I am living in~ let alone the decent education~

  8. Val

    Richard for President!

    WoW… I quote in my facebook about the worring word concept with your name in the bottom of it..And people got crazy about it!
    I studied mass media… And I teach my kids in primary all about mass media tricks… I teach my students to think like you πŸ˜‰

    REgards from Argentina!
    THe country who is going to disappear due to the Dengue mosquito illness and now THe mexican flu!


    Hugs! VAL

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