Last Tuesday, the first Values seminar took place led by, in my class’s case, Paul Cowie. My classmates and I were unsure of what to expect from this class, but we were in for a very useful and, more importantly, meaningful session. Everyone was separated into four equal groups and were told that we would be given two activities to take part in. The first one was about coming up with an idea for an object that would prove useful to newcomers, such as ourselves, to the university. The second task was simply to create the idea we had come up with. Each group was given an envelope which contained the materials which we were allowed to use during the tasks; our group’s envelope was full of many useful items, from the common, such as paper and pens, to the more obscure such as safety pins and a rubber-band ball.
Initially, our large amount of supplies proved difficult to work with as we were spoilt for choice. Our experience was different to two of the other groups in the class who seemed to receive a very limited amount of materials. Eventually, we settled on the idea of making a large pack of useful information in the form of a cocktail recipe book, something we felt would be close to the heart of most students. I was selected to, among two other members of our group, to give a brief overview of our idea to the rest of the class. I felt that the presentation, especially my own contribution, could’ve gone better, and yet our advisor gave our group a 9/10, which I silently found curious as we had been marked above every other group.
Next, we had to make our idea. While we were doing this, Paul was walking around the classroom and commenting on the progress of each of the groups. He told us that the idea we had come up with was his favourite out of the whole class, which was a major confidence boost to the members of our group. We weren’t quite finished by the time the groups were presenting their ideas; this was ok though, as Paul allowed us to keep working while the other groups were giving their presentation. Our own presentation seemed to go quite well and once again we were given 9/10, higher than all of the other groups.
Paul then asked us for our take on the task we had been given. Each group gave their thoughts; our group stated that we were happy with his thoughts on what we had created, while other groups offered their distaste to the way they had been treated in comparison to our group’s experience. Paul then told us the point of the task. The task had been constructed in such a way that would illustrate to us the inequalities that exist in some classrooms and in the outside world.
Paul told us that he had already decided what each group was going to get as their score before we gave either of the presentations, he based it purely on which envelope we had been given. This mirrors everyday life, as prejudice is extremely common throughout our society. Unfortunately, people instantly pre-judge those who they walk past in the street, based on skin colour, gender, sexual identity and their class. This leads to certain groups of people being treated differently than others.
This translates into the classroom, as many teachers and over staff do the same thing to the young people in the school. A child’s actions and background often lead to them being treated differently than the other children in their class. If two children, one very nice child and one child that seems to constantly be in trouble, do something against the rules in a classroom it is common for the nice child to be less-severely punished than the naughty one. This Values workshop was a valuable lesson for us to be taught and is something that will impact the way I treat people from now on.