Category Archives: 1.1 Social Justice

Basis Behind Belief?

In our country there would have been a period in which whatever the Pope said was what should be obeyed. For many centuries, the Ten Commandments were the ground rules. Has there not been a century when the king’s word was the final word (ever heard of Henry the 8th)? A few weeks ago in an input focussing on gender, the lecturer said that whatever the law said was to be followed. In my opinion, there also needs to be an examining of the law before it is obeyed. Who constructed the rules by which we live? Where do our morals come from? Are there such things as ‘intrinsic values’ or are our ‘morals’ imposed on us by the state and culture we live in? Where do the definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ come from? People tell you to speak ‘your truth’. Does that mean whatever seems good to you?

Personally, when I begin to think about these issues, the starting place for answers has to be where we came from; we have to go right back to the beginning of the world. There are two commonly acknowledged possibilities: the theory of evolution and creation. Back in National 5 Biology I was taught that I originated from primordial soup. The Darwinian belief that humans (and all living things) are nothing more than an accident of history, “cosmically inconsequential bundles of stardust, adrift in an infinite and purposeless universe” is a belief that is now “widely embraced within the scientific community” (Raymo, p.160). In the book Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life, Steve Stewart-Williams asks questions about evolution and its link to morality; if morality is a direct product of evolution, why are people constantly arguing about what is right and wrong? Why do we spend so much time teaching our children to be ‘good’ and instilling virtues like generosity in them? Why do we experience inner conflict between what we think is right and what we actually desire to do?

On the other hand, various evolutionists believe that the rules and morals we have are defined by society. However, some people believe society is not reliable because over time it has developed and seems to constantly change its tune (think about how slavery and capital punishment used to be perfectly normal in our country). Maybe in 200 years, humans will look back in horror at things we legislated during 2017? Strange thought.

Those who believe in creation say there is a super-natural God who designed us in His image and left us a moral code and set of guidelines. People who accept this as true also believe that you are ultimately accountable to this Creator-God; this belief is the main influence behind their actions. On the other hand, many people don’t believe there is enough evidence for this God and therefore disregard the principles set out.

I think it is important to discuss social justice and respect. I also consider it crucial for everyone to know why we are doing that and how our other beliefs are (perhaps unconsciously) influencing our actions. I would love to hear your insights on the subject. Please feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section.

I have found two interesting articles on creation and evolution and how they relate to morality. If you would like to read more, choose the case you wish to investigate:

Human nature informs morality, but morality sometimes counteracts human nature. Morality starts from evolved dispositions, but takes on a life of its own outside the individual’s skull.

We are ultimately accountable to our ‘Creator’? 

Poverty = Lack Of…

I don’t have a smart phone; I am poor. I live in a house with running water, a washing machine, a fridge, a freezer; I am rich. Different people would assess my situation in different ways. At this point we have to look at two different kinds of poverty: absolute poverty and relative poverty. Giddens (2013) describes them as:

Absolute poverty – lack of the basic conditions that must be met in order to sustain a physically healthy existence

(Not having the Galaxy S8 does not make me poor in this case)

Relative poverty – relates deprivation to the overall standard of living of a particular society

(This kind of poverty is culturally defined – if you are living in Britain where most people have a smart phone but you can’t afford one then you can be classed as living in relative poverty)

In my opinion, poverty does not only have to be the lack of physical resources. You can be poor in other ways. As I progressed through high school, I saw the impact of disinterested or absent parents on my class mates. It led to insecurity and upheaval and caused them to fall behind in their studies. Even if their family gave them £20 pocket money a week and £70 for each exam they passed, in my mind it couldn’t quite make up for the absence of their parents.

Looking back on my school experience, the wealth of parental guidance I received was amazing. Enthusiasm and involvement from my family and friends was key to my success. Even if my parents couldn’t afford to send my siblings and me on every school trip available, they were supportive in every other way they could be. They set boundaries for us. They made time to listen to our stories about school. They attempted to attend every concert or presentation given by us. My mum even occasionally put a note in our packed lunches (something that you pretended to be embarrassed about but secretly really appreciated…).

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the financial situation of your family is not the only thing which affects your education. As a teacher, my aim will be to make my class a place where children can feel safe and secure no matter what their home situation. I want to offer them the treasure of attention and acceptance.

Can I blame it on the novels…?

When I was younger, my knowledge of racism and discrimination stemmed mainly from my novel reading. I found it disturbing but still exciting to read books like A Light to my Path by Lynn Austin. It was shocking to hear of the discrimination against African-American slaves. It was thrilling to read of their eventual victory and freedom. However, all the novels related to slavery were set in America. This led to my assumption that Britain had never really had much of a problem with racial discrimination. A few years ago I watched the film Amazing Grace which recounts the story of William Wilberforce. The tale of his life work was captivating. However, I did not seem to realise that what was accomplished by him and his supporters did not stop racism altogether; it abolished the British transatlantic slave-trade.

Looking through the materials before our lecture on racism was quite a wake-up call to the scale of the problem in Britain post William Wilberforce. Hearing of the Bristol Bus Boycott and the murder of Stephen Lawrence made me realise that we in Britain are just as biased and discriminatory as any other country. Why had I never been taught about these incidents in my history classes? Where were the novels that also presented the story from Britain’s side? The account of the 1964 general election in which Peter Griffiths used a very racist slogan was shocking. If political correctness hadn’t even made it into politics…where are we to look for a good example? As a teacher it will be my job to ensure that equality is encouraged in the classroom (and maybe I should write a book for teenagers about the problems Britain had with racism and excessive discrimination just to keep them well-informed even in their leisure reading). It will also be important to speak of the mistakes from the past so that we can learn from them in the present and improve ourselves for the future.


William Wilberforce

Bristol Bus Boycott

Stephen Lawrence

Peter Griffiths