In today’s society, you hear someone mention the word ‘feminism’ and it is followed by sarcastic remarks plus some sniggering. Feminists are seen by some as women who hate men and are set out to destroy them. That is nowhere near the truth. They are women who fight every single day to ensure women are equal to men. Note that they are looking for equality – not to take down men. These are women who want a fair society, where their daughters can live happy lives without thinking they are ‘lesser’ than men.
Everywhere you go you see examples of inequality – both internationally and at home. There are countries were women can be stoned to death for committing some crime, girls being forced into marrying someone decades older than themselves and some being sold as slaves. You listen or read about these stories and think ‘Well at least I don’t live there, that would never happen here’. Maybe women are not stoned and primary school children are not forced to marry men who are over thirty. Though that certainly does not mean that the UK is a gender equal society. Women are not paid the same as men, certain jobs appear to be men only, women are subjected to sexual harassment (I am not saying that men cannot be sexually harassed but it is more common for women) and the list can really go on. The UK is nowhere close to equality and that is truly sad.
We learned about the waves of feminism – though the Suffragists and the Suffragettes were ones that inspire me the most. Studying CFE Higher History at school, Women’s suffrage was one of the main topics – I even wrote my assignment on their impact because I was very interested in learning more. The dedication of these groups – no matter what method – manage to fight for the right to vote. Lobbying and petitions by the Suffragists earned them support from the government then self-starvation in prisons to throwing bombs by the Suffragettes forced the government to make changes. If it hadn’t been for these women, who knows how worse off women could have been in today’s age.
I could write on and on about how feminism impacts today’s world and how it can influence children. Women are in a constant war for equality that will end in who knows how many years. Hopefully in the future, I can be teaching a class full of children in a society that really is equal.
Before our values lecture, we were all asked to write down what our definitions were of the words race, ethnicity and discrimination. Now initially I thought these words would be easy to define. When I actually sat down and thought about it, it was a little bit more challenging to write one simple sentence. I had various ‘ideas’ what each term meant but actually trying to condense hundreds of thoughts into one sentence was quite difficult. After an hour or so of careful deliberation, this is what I came up with:
Race= An idea that people have created over time in order to separate people into different groups to justify a feeling of superiority.
Ethnicity= A term used to encompass people that come from a different culture than from our own.
Discrimination= When people take out their dislike/hatred on another sector of society, either in a verbally or physically threatening manner.
During the lecture it was confirmed that these are terms that have been created by society and it make me wonder how this could have come about. How did racism become an everyday problem that results in the death of so many? During the lecture we learned about Emmett Till, Stephen Lawrence and the police shootings in Charlottesville – how lives were snuffed out due to racism. Emmett Till’s story was especially thought provoking and his death was horrifying as during the lecture we all saw a picture of his body in an open casket. His face disfigured from what he endured in his last moments on Earth. I think about what he could have gone on to become if he had lived, the family he might have had and the man he might have become.
That is what the input made me think, what these people who died could have become. The input really showed me how people believe that there are people of different race, that one race becomes better than another. That there are people out there who do not have the values that I have been brought up with, to appreciate a person on who they are – not on what they look like or where they come from.
‘Values: Self, Society and The Profession’ – the title of the module to me means that the classes would focus on what our values are and how this affects the way we interact with the world. On the Tuesday of Week 2 the class experienced their first seminar of the module. Since it was the first ever seminar, most of us were slightly worried yet curious as to what was going to happen. I was in Group One of the Education group and as soon as we sat down on the chairs, we were divided into five groups and given a large brown envelope. I was in Group Three and opened the brown envelope to find the following inside:
- A sheet of white and yellow paper
- A sheet of orange card
- An envelop
- Four post it notes (two blue and two pink)
- Three felt tip pens (orange, green and blue)
- Four coloured bands
- Three paper clips
- A bulldog clip
- A small lump of Blu-Tac
The initial reaction from the group as a whole was some nervous laughs and looks of disbelief. The brief was to use our resources to create a welcome pack for a new student starting at the University of Dundee. A simple enough brief but I had no idea as to what we were going to do with this random array of stuff. As a group we discussed various ideas as to what we could do with what we had received. After some thought and discussion we settled on creating a map of the Dalhousie Building and surrounding area with key facilities – such as ‘The Union’ and the library. The idea appealed to us as becoming lost on campus and within the Dalhousie Building was something we all had in common.
Now during this time I’ll be honest in saying that I did not think about the other groups, I was focusing on the task at hand and work with the other members of the team. It was not until we stood up to give presentations to rest that I realised things were not fair. The first two groups had a large supply of paper and stationary yet Groups Four and Five had next to nothing in comparison. It was clear that the resources had not been shared out equally and since it was a ‘values’ seminar, there was clearly an important idea hidden I this task.
After our initial presentations, we had to use the resources to create our ideas which would be given a score between one and ten. So for Group Three this meant trying to draw a comprehensible map that a student could follow. After the realisation that the resources were not fairly divided, some of the group also realised that the lecturer was only talking to the first two groups and ignoring the rest of us – yet another disadvantage.
Another presentation with the finished products and it was time for the scores. Groups One and Two had beautifully designed and colour coded timetables and little maps which were brightly coloured. As expected, they scored highly and given lots of praise. My group manage to get a four with the comment of “meh”. Groups Four and Five who had the least amount of resources scored poorly – despite using them rather creatively even if they were not as appealing on the eye.
So what had this all been about? Clearly it had not been about creating a welcome pack for a new student, which was a nice task in itself but not the main objective. It was about how some children will have plenty of resources available to them yet others will have limited assets to help them with their education. We were asked what we had noticed about the treatment of the groups – the main points being that the resources were obviously not divided fairly, the lecturer only focused her attention on two out of five groups and that the scores had been based on the quality of the work. One member of another group made an excellent point that despite a lack of equipment, their group had managed to work together and be creative in producing their welcome pack despite having nothing.
I began to think what this seminar had taught me personally. The idea of the seminar made me pause to contemplate what was to be expected when I am in a classroom with thirty faces all staring at me. Some children will have access to tutors or books or other resources to help them make the most of their education, yet others might come from backgrounds were these resources are just out of their reach. As a teacher I will have to make the judgement as to which child needs my help the most and ensure they can reach their potential – not matter what resources they have access. It will be my job that the children in my care will have the best start to their education and begin their journey through the education system – to secondary school and beyond.