Inequalities. Where do you start?

On Tuesday we had our first Values: Self, Society and the Professions workshop. I was in Carrie’s group, she was the person who interviewed me for this specific degree just a few months ago!! So as you can imagine I was a bit nervous.

We were divided in to four groups. Carrie used our birthdays to accomplish this, which I thought was a nice idea, as usually you group people alphabetically. I’m definitely going to remember that. Each group was given a brown envelope. We all gave each other a look of “What is happening?!”.

We had to make a useful object for university students for their first few days. It’s probably about time I tell you what was in the envelopes. Group 1 had an entire stationary shop on their table, well maybe that’s exaggerating, but they had paper, coloured paper, rubbers, pencils, markers, clips and god knows what else. Group 2 had similar stuff, just slightly less. Group 3 was also similar but quite a bit less. And then there was my group, group 4. We had 1 pencil, 1 pink post-it, 1 rubber band and 3 paper clips. The lucky group right?

So we set off with 10 minutes, or was it 15?, to think of an idea. Our first idea was to use the envelope and draw a map of the campus, and to use the post-it as a way of marking the important buildings. We all thought it was a great idea, but then Carrie approach our table and gave a disapproving look, and most likely made a comment. She managed to make us completely question our idea, so idea number 2 was to use the rubber band as a way of getting to know people in your course. After being told we only had 1 rubber band that idea was scrapped. So we went back to our original idea. We had to present our idea to the other groups and that was when we realised how little we had been given in our envelope.

We had 10 minutes to create the object. I quite liked our idea, a campus map, with the fluorescent pink post-it torn into three, one for each module, with the location and timetable of the module, clipped to the map with the paperclips. However, the interesting part of this part was the way Carrie was acting towards us, she would come over and question us if we were happy with the product, she would look out the window, she spent a long time with group 1 and 2. She made us question ourselves, and managed to make us feel like the outsiders, we weren’t good enough. She also insinuated in one of her comments that maybe we should try and get some more materials from other groups. Two of my group members set off with the rubber band (which we weren’t going to use) to try and swap it for a rubber or a pen, but they returned empty handed. Why? Because the group they went to had so many rubber bands our rubber band was useless to them. Why would they help us if they couldn’t get anything out of it?

We presented our final product, we were the last to present. Group 1 got a very good response from Carrie, group two also. Group three didn’t get much of a response. But the lucky group? Well we presented and we were told to sit down. That’s it. “Sit down”

At that stage we were slightly wary that this was all planned, but then again we didn’t know Carrie. Maybe she did just really dislike us!

It turned out it was all pre-planned and the intention of the workshop was for us to think about inequalities, specifically material inequalities, on a small scale and on a wider scale.

If you would have asked me a few days ago about what inequalities exist, I would have thought of economical, gender, educational inequalities, and that’s about it. If you asked me the same question now I wouldn’t really know where to start. Economical, material, gender, educational, health, political situation, environmental, criminal rates. Where do you start?

The workshop was centred on material inequalities. On a large scale there are inequalities between countries and societies, some have more resources than others. It’s difficult to equalise it. After all a country isn’t going to share its resources. Even on a smaller scale, individuals and groups aren’t going to share their resources if they can’t get anything out of it. This was demonstrated in the workshop, group 1 wasn’t prepared to share their materials with our group.

In a classroom environment the students won’t be on a level playing field with respect to their material possessions, but as the teacher you must be aware that you must treat all the students equally. Carrie demonstrated how important this is and the impact it has on the individuals or group you don’t treat equally. Though Carrie’s behaviour towards us we began to question ourselves and thought of another idea. After all, the less you have the easier to manipulate you into doing something you might not have wanted to.

Luckily I have four years of thinking ahead of me.

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