Letters To The Editor

“Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once.” – Lillian Dickson

School closures

Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic has been a point of contention among lawmakers, school boards, parents, and students alike. Many schools and universities were reopened from 15th September. Due to the increasing number of cases with the reopening of schools, some of the universities and schools were quickly shut down again. The increased exposure that in-person classes would introduce makes it evident that even if schools could pursue reopening with strict safety precautions, they might still need to shut down again. For local schools, if they want to try and open up using some really practical techniques around mask-wearing and distancing and maybe even rotations of when students come, I think that is something worthwhile to try. But the virus is more prevalent now than it has been at any other time. If we move to open up schools, even with the best models we can think of, passing the virus is going to be inevitable. Kids can contract the virus – kids can transmit the virus. There might be some varying levels of what it's like in kids compared to adults, but it is clear that they can do that. The virus would be increasing during this time of the viral season in this country, so I think that it's the confluence of increased exposure at schools and the return of times that we typically see the viruses that would make it difficult for schools to reopen properly. I think it's reasonable for a local school system to try to put together a good plan on mask-wearing and social distancing and to try and go back to school. But for most of them, I think we'll find that that's going to be something that's not going to work out. But despite all this, Education Minister of Pakistan opposes the closure of schools again and believes that any hasty decision to close schools again will destroy education.

Laraib Abid,

Overcoming racism

Humans are the most cooperative species on the planet – all part of a huge interconnected ecosystem. We have built vast cities, connected by a global nervous system of roads, shipping lanes and optical fibres. We have sent thousands of satellites spinning around the planet. Even seemingly simple objects like a graphite pencil are the work of thousands of hands from around the world. Yet we can also be surprisingly intolerant of each other. If we are completely honest, there is perhaps a little bit of xenophobia, racism, sexism and bigotry deep within all of us. Luckily, we can choose to control and suppress such tendencies for our own wellbeing and the good of society. Thankfully, we can use rational thinking to develop strategies to overcome these attitudes. We can reinforce positive values, build trust and compassion, and reduce the distinction between our in-group and the “other”. An important first step is appreciating our connectedness to other people. We all evolved from the same bacteria-like ancestor, and right now we share more than 99% of our DNA with everyone else on the planet. Our minds are closely linked through social networks, and the things we create are often the inevitable next step in a series of interdependent innovations. Beyond theory, practice is also necessary to literally rewire our brains – reinforcing the neural networks through which compassionate behaviour arises. Outdoor community activities have been shown to increase our psychological connectedness to others, albeit right at this moment they are off-limits for those in lockdown. Similarly, meditation approaches alter neural networks in the brain and reduce our sense of isolated self-identity, instead promoting compassion towards others. Even computer games and books can be designed to increase empathy. Let’s defuse this ticking ethical timebomb and open ourselves up to a more expansive attitude of connectedness, empowering us to work together in cooperation with our fellow human kin.

Zubair Butt,