Ted's teaching tips

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
Terrible images like this have been seen on television for weeks. Disasters of this kind make us think about our society and how we cope with problems and threats, whether they affect everyone or only a few people.

Foot and mouth Why are animals being slaughtered in large numbers (prevent spread of foot and mouth disease)? What is foot and mouth disease (a highly contagious viral infection, spread by physical contact or on the wind, affecting cloven-hoofed animals, such as sheep, pigs, cattle, deer; humans rarely catch the disease)? Is there anything we can do to help if we are not involved in farming (avoid walking across farming land or travelling to areas such as Dartmoor where the public has been asked to stay away; follow recommended procedures, including disinfecting clothes, footwear, vehicles, if you are in an infected area)?

Farming How many people work in agriculture (in the 19th century about a third of the population, now less than 2 per cent)? Why are farmers particularly stressed (hazardous occupation, with income likely to be severely affected by disasters such as flood or drought; disease - BSE crisis, bovine tuberculosis, now foot and mouth; changes in economic strategies, such as having to switch from one type of crop or animal to another in the light of national or European policies)? Despite the problems, would you like to work in farming?

Public health We all know about individual health, but what is public health (looking after the well-being of whole communities)? What is done to ensure public health (making sure we have disease-fre facilities and services, such as clean air and water, proper sewage disposal; coping with epidemics through vaccination or advice about prevention; making sure buildings, food shops, businesses meet stringent standards of safety and hygiene)? How is this achieved (intricate human organisation: inspectors who check out facilities; scientists, doctors, medics and others who use their expertise to prevent or treat problems; emergency services and volunteers, including police, ambulance, fire brigade, army, ordinary citizens who cope with disasters)?

Writing (a) explain why you would or would not like to work in farming (b) are we all being hypocritical when we express dismay about foot and mouth disease, as we slaughter animals anyway to eat them?

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University


Should we cancel events like elections and sports because of foot and mouth?


The disease must be contained, so travel has to be restricted, a small short-term sacrifice. In an election, rural communities are disadvantaged if they cannot travel to vote, or canvassers cannot visit them. Sporting events often attract people in cars, which may transport the disease from infected areas.


The danger of spread is minimal if people follow correct procedures, such as disinfecting clothes and vehicles. Life must go on. Children in infected areas still attend school. In an election, rural communities could vote by post. Thousands attend football matches, but there is no evidence this has spread the disease.

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