Reading habit on the decline

Editor,

Is the habit of reading books gradually declining? The answer is simply ‘yes’. The decline is compounded by the Covid19 pandemic necessitating online mode of classes and examinations. This changing attitude and behaviour among students is worrisome for both parents and teachers. Reading is the gateway to success in education. The many advantages of reading have been well-documented. From exposure to a wealth of knowledge to enhanced language skills to improved understanding of the world and its many cultures. It has personal values too. It is a door to almost all knowledge and vocations. Failure to read paves the way for all kinds of catastrophes in society. However, nowadays, reading is considered a pressure inducing activity rather than a pleasurable one. This attitude towards reading has become a serious problem since a lot of people do not realize the value of reading for scholarly pursuit or pleasure in their lives. Both young and old prefer to spend time with their smartphones, watching TV, gossiping and many other things instead of reading which is important to their personal well-being and development, and enhances their knowledge.
In Dallas, Earning by Learning Programme is being implemented to encourage reading among school kids. Under this programme, the school pays two dollars for each book they read. To collect the cash incentive, students have to take a computerized quiz to prove they’ve read the book. This programme worked best with second-grader in an underachieving Dallas School.
Students who miss the chance to connect with books in their initial stages of life will find it difficult to obtain good reading habits in their later years. Let’s build the affection for books, read books and stay intellectually active.

Yours etc.,

Dr Omarlin Kyndiah

Via email

Misleading facts on Covid19

Editor,

Apropos “Some facts about Covid19” dated 22nd January 2022, I was highly amused to see that under the label “facts”, Mr Sukrit Sabhlok’s letter is little more than an amalgamation of various disproved unscientific claims that have been floated in the last two years. It was an entertaining yet saddening example of the sheer amount of false information plaguing the discourse around Covid.
Firstly, Sabhlok dismisses Covid as a threat because statistically, the chances of a random person dying from the virus is extremely low, especially in the absence of any other condition. It is really depressing that two years into this pandemic, some people still don’t grasp the actual danger posed by Covid. The fact that Covid has low lethality has always been known, and lethality has never been its biggest threat. The threat of Covid has always been its extremely high infectiousness, the fact that it transmits between people extremely fast. Even with a low severe case rate, this leads to hospitals being choked with Covid patients, and erases our access to other critical health services. For example, in a region with high Covid cases, someone involved in a car accident would not have access to critical care. If someone has urgent chemotherapy scheduled, that would be postponed. If someone suffers a stroke and needs a hospital bed, he would be out of luck. It may have low lethality, but Covid kills access to every available health service, as is unfortunately occurring due to Omicron right now in much of the West, particularly the US.
Secondly, Sabhlok argues against lockdowns by saying that between 1900 and 2019, no research paper recommended mass scale lockdowns. Well, obviously, since that period did not have a pandemic of the scale we are facing today, lockdowns were not a prime topic of interest or attention. Sabhlok subsequently throws out a random figure of “two million people dying due to lockdowns” without any source for his claim. It is unclear what he is trying to achieve through this point.
Thirdly, Sabhlok cherry-picks Sweden and the US state of South Dakota to back his false claim that they are outperforming places with Covid restrictions. In Europe alone, countries like Germany, which have had extensive lockdowns, significantly outperform Sweden on both Covid cases and deaths per person, so Sabhlok is completely wrong there. Further, 41 of the 50 US states have performed better than South Dakota in Covid cases per person, and 31 of the 50 have been better in deaths per person, so again, he is completely wrong there.
Lastly, the Great Barrington Declaration that Sabhlok mentions is sadly yet another example of hilarious misinformation. This declaration is completely unverified and full of false signatories, to the point that it originally featured names such as “Dr Person Fakename” and “Dr Johnny Bananas” among its “expert” signatories.
In this pandemic-stricken world, a healthy discussion on the required extent of Covid restrictions is essential to balance safety and normal life, but arguments full of falsehoods and misinformation are of no value in this debate.

Yours etc.,

N.K. Kehar

Shillong-3

Will schools defer offline classes please?

Editor,

The world is shaken by an unprecedented pandemic and all of us have gone through loss during this period. We are slowly graduating back to normalcy but the fright of this virus is still real. I strongly feel for the students who have lost their precious years of nourishing education to this pandemic. I understand the need to bring the education system back on its feet but the question is when.
In just a couple days we have seen a huge spike in the number of Covid cases. The Government has ensured that only online classes be allowed but in a prestigious school like St. Edmund’s, offline classes are seemingly forced upon students. I am a proud alumni of the institution, and have always valued and been proud of the school’s decisions but with the outbreak of Omicron cases I find it hard to abide by the school’s decision to hold examinations for the Higher Secondary students offline. As a concerned parent, having senior citizens living at home with us, I try my best to avoid public events and I ensure my children do the same. Being kids, social distancing is hard to follow and because many of the kids their age are not vaccinated fully, opening of schools for offline interaction may not be such a wise action at this point in time. We parents should be given a choice whether we want to put our children in such a place or not. I reiterate that the interaction between a student and teacher is very important, but we have to find new strategies of doing so and not risk exposing our children to these uncertainties. I found that other schools are taking a different route, being online and with the current spike in cases, this is perhaps the best resolution.
While I don’t blame the school for doing their job, I hope they see the seriousness of this issue and the attendant risks. I humbly and gently remind them of the devastating rise in cases in the state as well as the entire country and to reconsider and give the students and parents their freedom to choose.

Yours etc.,

A Concerned Parent,

Name withheld on request

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