The Courage of Young People

Much has been made in the news today about the discovery of a body inside a well in London by a pair of gardeners. Interestingly, what has been glossed over is that the young man who discovered the body and raised the alam was just 17.

Look carefully at these young men.

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Picture source: http://bbc.co.uk/news

At first glance, you could put them down as a couple of young people, or ‘hoodies’ as the government so loves to call them. They look and dress like so many young people that are berated and demonised. In a group, you may not want to approach them.

But these two men, raised the alarm upon finding a body. By all accounts they have suffered some serious mental trauma from this experience. The last thing you expect when gardening is to find human remains. But. They may well have instigated the process of putting an entire family’s grief to rest. They may be the catalyst to ending many months, or even years of suffering. They did a good deed that will grow far greater that the initial act itself.

My point here is don’t judge all young people as terrifying hooded youths. These men (and after all, they are young working men) may not be in a uniform, but they have still acted heroicly. In the midst of a personal tragedy for one family, these men have shown on a national platform that young people are, just like the rest of us: mostly, law abiding, good people.

We should make more of young people who undertake positive acts. The more public these people are, the more likely they are to become role models. Who does the majority of media, school and parental attention go to? Is it the positive young role model?

BBC story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-24979959

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Too young to be a feminist?

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So, we’re sitting in the car driving back from taking the girls to their Kung fu lesson and I flick on the radio. The girls and I like a bit of Radio 4 comedy hour and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be exposed to more intellectual comedy than Peppa Pig (not knocking the muddy puddle queen – we still love you).

Or rather, I saw no reason. One may say I should’ve learnt my lesson after the Women’s Hour fiasco when I had a rather awkward discussion with my then 7 year old about why women might want a doctor to make her girl bits smaller (labia that is). That spawned the unforgettable conversation, “no darling, not many ladies do handstands with no knickers on, but some ladies worry that it doesn’t look very neat….. No I haven’t……. No I don’t want to….. I’ve never really thought about it…. I know you’ve got crinkle scissors. Ooh look a squirrel!”.

Well, today I’d forgotten that lesson, and with beanpole (now 8) and TinyPants (now 7) loaded up in the back alongside their various very feminine weaponry we clicked on Bridget Christie Minds The Gap. To my thirty three year old bitter sense of humour, this was a funny and painfully true representation of feminism. In my infinite wisdom, I totally forgot that every word would be soaked up by my little sponges who spent most of the time asking questions (more of this sort of thing!). Questions like:

  • “Mummy, what’s a mysoginist?”
  • “Mummy, why is she a witch?…… And why is it funny if she’s a lesbian?”
  • “Mummy, who’s Virginia Wolfe? Is she like a lady big bad wolf?”
  • “why didn’t the lady in the bookshop just look on the shelf? She could read Ruby Redford – that’s about girls!”
  • “is a feminist someone who only likes girls then?”

These and many other questions that I had to answer on the fly. I’m rather proud that they took such an interest and sort of get women’s rights (thank you Horrible Histories), but I’m just not sure they’re ready for The Female Eunuch. I’m not sure I am! For now, they seem happy with my explanation that feminism is about the right for ladies to wear enormous knickers which are much more comfortable instead of silly lacy ones, and mummy having a job that she enjoys and being able to read whatever you want and eat Yorkie bars even if they do say it’s not for girls.

When you fight monsters, you must be careful not to become one : talking about Anonymous in the classroom

When students pop up with the trademark of Anonymous on their desktops, I start to wonder whether it’s time to have a real discussion about it.

I’ve just sat and watched the BBC Storyville program about the group and was determined not to approach it with any pre-conceived ideas. Except I did if I’m totally honest. I see myself as an Internet savvy individual and someone who generally knows their stuff having worked and studied computer science and IT related areas for years. But, I am someone who has only come across Anonymous from the negative standpoint, and certainly whilst I find a certain amount of 4Chan amusing, they regularly push my envelope of decency over the table and into a puddle of dank water.

So why am I back to considering discussing the role of Anonymous with my students again? Because this program made me stop and think. Really think about the movement and why this might appeal to the younger generation and what this may mean for them.

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Is this now something that we ought to be discussing as part of PSHE? Not whether they should take part or not – that is a whole other discussion – but the history of the movement, and some of the lessons which can be learnt from what happens when people act as a group to oppose something that is perceived to be immoral. I am aware that there is no way I could show my students the actual program (the language used was enough to make even me raise an eyebrow), but it raised so many discussion points and the involvement of the movement in the recent Arab Spring to provide a means of communication just hasn’t been reported. Why is that?

It’s almost a lesson in the effect that the media has on our impression of groups in itself. I still can’t morally accept that a DNS attack is acceptable on a personal level, and the jump between memes and activism seems a very big jump (although humour is a good way to propagate an idea), but I can see why people who have strong beliefs would want to use the Internet to create a space for protest. In a way, that’s what I’m doing here – I’ve created a little bit of the Internet for my own thoughts, uncensored and laid bare for whoever happens to see them.

The title of this post is actually a quote from one of the ‘hacktivists’ when debating where Anonymous will go next. The offshoots of the group have created some seriously bad press for them in the media (especially in the UK), and the feelings linked with the group are often uneasiness with a group that attacks people when in fact it seems that the soul of the group is actually promoting free speech whatever your opinion may be.

This is not a new phenomenon.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. – Voltaire [François Marie Arouet] (1694–1778)

For now, I think I need some time to mull over the questions popping up all over the place and work out a way to integrate a balanced discussion into the classroom. Is that possible? I don’t know.