I have sat through an assembly today that truly typifies a terrifying trope in the teaching of today's teenagers. (ooooh, alliteration)
I think that you are likely to have seen this assembly, or something painfully like it. It normally begins in this way:
Now, I know that we're all going to have a good time over Easter eating our eggs and having fun with our families, but we shouldn't forget that some around the world have less than we do. These images are to give you an idea of how lucky we are in this country.
And then the powerpoint inevitably racks its way through heart-wrenching images of impoverished children, homeless adults and amputee dogs.
And then we all feel guilty for having a little bit of cash in our bank accounts and a tv and our good health andthe numerous other things that make us lucky. And we are lucky. Even teaching in a school such as mine where a large proportion of my students are eating free school meals the student body still represent some of the wealthiest people in the world. At least they have the (part-time) support of a country that attempts to helps its citizens.
These students, are in my opinion having any sense of pride eroded. This is especially true of young white boys; A group who are now rapidly rising to being a statisitically failing group across the country. These students are not taught to take pride in their heritage because it is constantly demonised. It is only correct to teach about the plurality of social histories. I also firmly believe that equality among genders is paramount. It can, however become an extended trial where white male students feel accountable for the horrors of their race. Slavery, yes, was a western invention, but it was white males who stopped it as well as started it. White men were a major part of the feminist movement.
I apologise. That was deviation. I am being caught up in speaking for the defence in a centuries-long trial. It is not just white Boys who are stigmatised by assemblies of horrors. Students from difficult backgrounds who now live in more comfortable scenarios are now watching the scenes of those left behind. I teach a number of asylum seaker children and refugees who had no choice but to leave people behind. I firmly do not believe that they should feel guilty living in comfort. It is a positive thing. As a cultural group we should ask our students to recognise that they are in a better position than others, but to inspire them to help to exact change. Why show pictures of poor starving African stereotypes when you could show the Medicins sans frontieres nurse or doctor helping? Why show the injured animal when you can give the aspiration for students to become vets?
Just seems silly to me.