January 17, 2017

Scrooge and the Report Card

At the conclusion of a 9-11 Nov. 2016 workshop in Annapolis titled “Integrating systems modeling and report card development to improve basin health & manage trade-offs”. I was able to convince the participants to act out a play that I wrote for the occasion. The play was entitled “Scrooge and the Report Card”, loosely based on the classic “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

The list of actors was the following:

Narrator (Karin Krchnak)
Alex, Scrooge’s niece (Alex Fries)
Report Card Scrooge (Pal Davidsen)
Chandet Cratchit (Chandet Horm)
Naroeun Cratchit (Naroeun Rin)
Ghost of Report Card Past (Simon Costanzo)
Ghost of Report Card Present (Michele Thieme)
Ghost of Report Card Future (Andrea Betancourt)

The stage is set for the "Scrooge and the Report Card" play

The stage is set for the “Scrooge and the Report Card” play. Credit: Alex Fries

The actors were not given any time to rehearse, as I didn’t want to interrupt the productive workshop discussions. But they performed brilliantly, nonetheless. Pal Davidsen was particularly good in the starring role of Scrooge, especially when the lines he had to read were critical of his modeling group at the University of Bergen. I was impressed with the good narration, at the improvisational acting of the Cratchits, Scrooge’s niece and the ghosts. And Naroeun delivered the final line with great gusto. It was a great way to wrap up our workshop and have a bit of fun.

The script for “Scrooge and the Report Card” is as follows:

Narrator: The scene is Ebinezer Scrooge’s house and his niece walks in to greet her uncle.

Alex: Hello, Uncle Scrooge! Have you seen the Orinoco Report Card?
Scrooge: Bah, Humbug!
Alex: The report card is a Humbug, Uncle? I hope that’s meant as a joke.
Scrooge: Well, it is not a joke. Don’t waste my time.
Alex: I only want to wish you a Happy Report Card. Don’t be cross, Uncle.
Scrooge: What else can I be when I live in such a world of fools as this? Report cards! Out with report cards! What are Report cards to you but a time for playing around with stakeholders; a time to find yourself chasing data to make these report cards–you certainly are not going to get rich. If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with “Report cards” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.
Alex: Uncle!
Scrooge: Leave report card alone. They will not do you any good.
Alex: There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I daresay, Report cards among the rest. And though it has never put a scrap of gold in my pocket, I believe it has done me good and will do me good, and I say God bless it!
Scrooge: Bah!
Alex: Goodbye Uncle Scrooge. (She leaves)

Narrator: Scrooge is very mean to his niece and she leaves angry. Scrooge’s long time employee is named Chandet Cratchit, who Scrooge treats badly.
(Chandet Cratchit walks in)

ch

Chanted Horm as Chanted Crotchet, Pal Davidson as Report Card Scrooge and Karin Krchnak as the Narrator. Credit: Alex Fries

Cratchit: Hello, sir.
Scrooge: Cratchit, I need you to work late tonight.
Cratchit: But sir, my son Naroeun needs me to help him with homework tonight.
Scrooge: But you work for me Cratchit, not for your son. I will not accept anything less.
Cratchit: Sir, does this mean I cannot take time off next week for the holiday?
Scrooge: That is right Cratchit. I don’t pay you to sit at home.
Cratchit: All right, Mr. Scrooge. I will work through the holiday. I would like to help produce the annual report card.
Scrooge: Bah! Why waste your time on a report card?
Cratchit: Because it is the right thing to do, Sir. (Cratchit exits)

Narrator: (The room darkens) Scrooge falls asleep and begins to dream. In his dream, various spirits come to him.
(Ghost of Report Card Past walks in)

Simon Costanzo as the "Ghost of report card past"

Simon Costanzo as the “Ghost of the Report Card Past”. Credit: Alex Fries

Scrooge: Who and what are you?
Ghost of Report Card Past: I am the Ghost of Report Card Past.
Scrooge: Why are you here?
Ghost of Report Card Past: Well, I wanted to show you how nice your river was when you were younger.
Scrooge: Bah, how do you know what my river was doing back then?
Ghost of Report Card Past: Well, I have this back cast Report Card that uses System Dynamics Modeling.
Scrooge: Bah! Who says you can back cast report card scores?
Ghost of Report Card Past: The scientists at the University of Bergen.
Scrooge: What do they know? I have it on good authority that the University of Bergen people don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.
Ghost of Report Card Past: Look here, Scrooge. The river was getting an A when you were a little boy.
Scrooge: I suppose you are right. It was amazing.
Ghost of Report Card Past: Take a look how much has changed Scrooge. And check out how badly the river would have been without the interventions you helped create.
Scrooge: OK, that is true. All of things we have been doing have helped the river. That is good to know.
Ghost of Report Card Past: I will see you later Scrooge.

Narrator: the Ghost of Report Card Past leaves, only to have the Ghost of Report Card Present walk in.
(Ghost of Report Card Present walks in)

Michelle Thieme as the "Ghost of Report Card Present"

Michelle Thieme as the “Ghost of Report Card Present”. Credit: Alex Fries

Scrooge: Who and what are you?
Ghost of Report Card Present: I am the Ghost of Report Card Present.
Scrooge: Why are you here?
Ghost of Report Card Present: I am here to show you how your river is doing right now.
Scrooge: Bah! I don’t need to know how the river is doing from a report card. I know everything that there is to know.
Ghost of Report Card Present: OK, Scrooge, then tell me what is the overall answer to the question “How is your river doing?”
Scrooge: Well, the mussels are not doing well, and there are not many native fish left, but on the other hand, the dissolved oxygen is pretty good and I like the improved turbidity. So, I guess all I can say is that it depends on what you are looking at.
Ghost of Report Card Present: Scrooge, this is a simple question, how is your river doing? Can you answer this question?
Scrooge: Well, no I cannot– I am having a tough time coming up with a simple answer. Let me think about it some more. It is going to be a long answer.
Ghost of Report Card Present: Scrooge, I do not have time to wait for a long answer, and I don’t want a long answer anyway. You need a simple way to answer my question.
Scrooge: I recently had a dream where a river report card was used to show me how the river used to be doing. I suppose I could use something like this to answer your question.
Ghost of Report Card Present: That is exactly why I came to you Scrooge. I came to show you the value of a river report card. I will leave now that you have seen this. Goodbye.

Narrator: The Ghost of Report Card Present leaves, and the Ghost of Report Card Future walks in.
(Ghost of Report Card Future walks in)

Andrea Betancourt as the "Ghost of the Report Card Future". Credit: Alex Fries

Andrea Betancourt as the “Ghost of the Report Card Future”. Credit: Alex Fries

Scrooge: Who and what are you?
Ghost of Report Card Future: I am the Ghost of Report Card Future.
Scrooge: Why are you here?
Ghost of Report Card Future: I am here to show you how your river will be doing in the future.
Scrooge: How can you do that?
Ghost of Report Card Future: Well, I use System Dynamics Modeling to forecast future conditions, under different scenarios.
Scrooge: Don’t tell me that you are working with those worthless scientists from the University of Bergen too?
Ghost of Report Card Future: I am afraid so Scrooge. They are the only ones with the tools that I need to create forecasts. We call this a future card.
Scrooge: Bah! Nobody can predict the future. It is impossible to know with certainty what is going to happen.
Ghost of Report Card Future: We are not predicting the future. We are forecasting what will happen if you choose various options to help your river. Like a weather forecast, it is a probability of something occurring in the future.
Scrooge: Well, I do want my river to get better. I recently was reminded of how nice it used to be when I was a little boy.
Ghost of Report Card Future: That is why we need to be able to see what we need to do to improve our report card grades.
Scrooge: There we are again with these infernal report cards. I can’t believe that I am hearing about how report cards can be used to show me the past, present and now future river conditions. I guess I need to reconsider my stance on report cards.
Ghost of Report Card Future: That is what came to show you, Scrooge. I will take my leave now. Goodbye.

Narrator: The Ghost of Report Card Future leaves the room and Scrooge falls into a deep sleep. Upon awakening, he calls for his assistant, Chandet Cratchit.

Scrooge: Cratchit! Come here at once!

Narrator
: Chandet Cratchit and his son Naroeun Cratchit enter. It is a holiday and Chandet has his son with him, because school is closed.
(Chandet and Naroeun walk in)

Chandit

Naroeun Cratchit (Naroeun Rin), son of Chandet Cratchit (Chandet Horm) with Chandit and Report Card Scrooge (Pal Davidsen). Credit: Alex Fries

Chandet: Mr. Scrooge, what do you need?
Scrooge: Cratchit, who is this boy with you?
Chandet: It is my son, Mr. Scrooge. He needs to be with me because his school is on holiday.
Scrooge: Well, I suppose that is OK since I am the one making you work today.
Chandet: Thank you Mr. Scrooge. And what is it that you need?
Scrooge: I need a report card for my river. And I would like this report card to be for the past, present and future.
Chandet: Where would I find such a thing, Mr. Scrooge?
Scrooge: Well, there is this group that produced the Orinoco River report card that my niece showed me. And then I dreamt about some System Dynamics Modelers who can back cast and forecast conditions. Maybe you can get them to work together to produce the past, present and future report cards.
Chandet: That sounds good, I will start right away.
Scrooge: Oh no, don’t do that. I want you to spend time with your son on this holiday. You can wait and do it tomorrow.

Narrator: The dreams that Scrooge had with the visits by the Ghosts of Report Card Past, Present and Future fundamentally changed him. Scrooge had a turn of heart when dealing with his employee as well. Seeing what the report cards could do, calmed him down and made him a better person. He did not go around saying “Bah, Humbug!” anymore. He smiled more often and his heart was full of good cheer. His employee’s son was so happy to be able to spend time with his father that he said . . .

Naroeun Cratchit: “God Bless Us, Every One!”

The end.

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About the author
Dr Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Applications at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.
Website: http://ian.umces.edu/people/Bill_Dennison/
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