Look! BOOBS!

The Duchess of Cambridge’s boobs have got me thinking: where do I stand on the privacy debate?  With respect to celebrities, this isn’t a question I have ever properly considered, nor is it as clear-cut as I anticipated. Perhaps for this reason, the laws involved are hazier still. In the case of Kate Middleton, for example, the status of the château at which the pictures were taken is bizarrely uncertain, according to Duncan Lamont of Charles Russell LLP, ‘The château is rented out and there may be debate as to how truly private it was.’ A legal battle could take years to resolve. Not that media giant Closer has cause to worry: any fines enforced will pale in comparison to the revenue generated by this week’s issue.

Credit: The Mirror

In my opinion, if a person doesn’t want their photograph published, it shouldn’t be. End of. Yet we live in a society where many celebrities covet the front page, even if it takes an untamed armpit hair to get them there. So how is the paparazzi to know where exactly the ‘red line’ (as it was termed in a statement by St James’ Palace) lies? Of course, one would be stupid to have imagined that the Windsors (with the exception of Prince Harry) were likely to accept such scandalous amount of boobage with a mere sporting laugh. But in many instances, the boundaries must be damn confusing: whilst celebrities are unable to endorse every shot of them pre-make up, such coverage is often welcomed by those needing greater publicity. It is as vital to them as a personal statement is to a university applicant (topical simile right there.) It screams ‘I’m just like you! See there, look at craaazy me disgracing myself after too much Dom Perignon. Take me into your hearts, love me, want me.’ Or something like that.

And we do want it. I expect that half of those currently condemning Closer have been just as fervently tapping Kate Middleton’s name into Google Images. The other half are making a bomb in newspapers such as The Guardian, reporting on the scandal with the same level of intimacy as any nude photograph.

So we can’t exclusively blame the press; the issue over privacy is much bigger than a few shutter-happy reporters. Either we stop our obsession with Paris Hilton’s knickers (or lack of), or simply accept the gossip-centred world that we live in. With laws so easily twisted and ignored, I can see no middle ground.

Project Disillusionment: Towns of Yesterday

Yesterday, a leaked document by the education department revealed Michael Gove’s latest plan to meet his three objectives as Education Minister:
1. Demoralise youth.
2. Recreate 1950’s Britain.
3. Achieve a class divide of which Thatcher would be proud.
By 1916 2016, GCSE’s will be obsolete. In their place, a resurrection of the two-tier examination system used in the mid-1900’s, with the bottom 25% of 16 year olds taking CSE’s, whilst the more academic sit O-Level’s.
  Conceived in 1984, GCSE’s provided hope for greater social mobility (admittedly, this hope was meagre under Thatcher, but let’s think long-term) by creating a full-spectrum qualification which would support the aspirations of all young people, not just the elite. Thirty years on and regressive thinking by the Tories threatens to segregate society once more;  2016 is sure to see the remaining sinews of social mobility perceptibly tauten. CSE’s are destined to become the qualification of the lower classes and, by corollary, the qualification of the North; Liverpool and Hull are already down as the ‘CSE towns of tomorrow’, according to figures by Chris Cook of the Financial Times.
  Aged 14, most young people have barely begun to seriously consider their futures- their main focuses in life are their friends and hobbies- and yet, according to Gove, this is the point at which we should effectively cut off the bottom 25%. How, when the futures of these young people are still so malleable, is it possible to gain any suitable degree of accuracy when determining their potential? Figures show that of those in the bottom 25% aged 11, one-third will have broken out by the time they are 16. Under Gove’s plans, such promise of development will be choked off at the midway point.
  Arguably, though, the pressure of a deadline may generate a more positive response to education, resulting in swifter academic development. Be that the case, why stop there? Let us end play fights and instead clobber our youth with textbooks; let us tear down the river ropeswings and drown them in Radio 4; let us pop those dastardly footballs, to be replaced with quick-fire mathematics. There’s no such thing as ‘too young’! Who needs childhood, anyway, when there’s a sparkling adulthood of affluence awaiting?

Curiously punchable

  Unfortunately, there is a flipside to that inspiring vision: a country simmering with dejection and resentment. To simply be told that your aspirations are now worthless and to be unable to revoke that decision, to claim back your future, is an extremely disempowering concept. Friendships, which are so important in youth, could be torn apart, not only through physical segregation, but through mental reassessments of status. Moreover, a child who has the potential to reach a grade C at GCSE level may, in 2016, find themselves moved onto the CSE curriculum. With the only possible outcome being a ‘dead-end’ qualification, why should they even bother? I know I’d give up. Admittedly, under the current system, we have ‘Foundation’ GCSE papers for those who are aiming at a grade C. However, unlike the proposed CSE’s, the grade isn’t belittled by the means through which it were achieved: there is no record of the person having taken, what could be seen as, a less-prestigious paper.
As for the longevity of these plans, don’t depair just yet: Mr Clegg has promised to block Gove’s proposals just as he did with Trident, and wind power, and Proportional Representation, and tuition fees, and… Oh dear.

 

After Auschwitz: Next Steps… The Jane Elliot Experiment

As ambassadors of the Lessons From Auschwitz Project, Lilly (lillyraining) and I were asked to engage in a Next Steps project, with the aim of sharing what we had learned from our visit to Auschwitz with a wider community. We chose to imitate the Jane Elliot experiment.

The Experiment

AIM:

– To enable deeper understanding of how it feels to be either a bystander or a victim of discrimination.

METHOD:

– A Year 8 Religious Studies class was given a survey (see below) which enabled us to determine the number of students with particular eye colours.

– The following week, we took over one of their lessons and explained that the government had decided to pilot the Nuremberg Programme (bear in mind that these pupils had not yet learnt about the Nazis so were unaware of the name’s origins) which aimed to segregate brown-eyed children from the rest of the school on the basis that they were socially and academically inferior. We argued that this would benefit both the brown-eyed pupils (who could now work at their own pace) and those with ‘superior’ eye colours (who would no longer be hindered.)

– Fabricated statistics were provided, all explaining the detrimental effects of the brown-eyed gene on society.

– It was stressed that if the pilot was successful, the Nuremberg Programme would go on to affect society on a wider basis meaning both higher education and job prospects would be implicated.

– The class was then separated, with the six brown-eyed pupils being placed on a cramped table in a corner whilst their classmates were able to sit where they pleased; the former received scrap pieces of paper and poor resources whilst the latter used Netbooks; their teacher focussed predominantly on helping those in the class with ‘superior’ eye colours. Having brown eyes ourselves, myself and a fellow ambassador were ‘allocated the job’ of working with the six excluded pupils.

– Everyone in the class was given a sheet to fill out ‘for government purposes’ in which they were asked to give feedback on the programme.

– At the end of the lesson, a presentation was given which revealed the true experiment, explained its aim and gave some background on the Holocaust.

– We ensured that every pupil understood that both the research and the Nuremberg Programme were fabricated.

RESULTS:

– Initially, there was a high level of disbelief and protest with one girl questioning: ‘Isn’t this discrimination?’

– Then came a degree of fear amongst the brown-eyed pupils as they realised the wider implications of the programme. What seemed most important to them was that their friendship groups would change. One boy became distressed at the idea that his younger, also brown-eyed, siblings would be affected too. A couple began to express a feeling of injustice: they were amongst the highest achievers in the class. When we explained that we understood there would be exceptions yet the measures were still necessary, they became frustrated: they were outraged at the idea that their once-bright futures were effectively ruined.

– It wasn’t long before the brown-eyed children began to act up, began to put on ‘stupid’ voices and neglect their work; the principle seemed to be: if you’re going to treat us as inferior we will become inferior.

– Meanwhile, the majority of the ‘superior’ pupils appeared to have recovered from the initial furore, had accepted the change and were getting on with their work.

Some feedback:

“I feel sorry for them.”

“I agree because not everybody works at the same pace… its probably in there genes.”

“We won’t see our friends and we won’t be able to sit with them.”

“You have got 99% of the diversity correct.”

“I don’t want to get treated different because of the colour of my eyes.”

“If it works then great!”

“If it does work I refuse to go along with it.”

Personal Response

I found the whole experiment very difficult and emotionally draining. Particularly upsetting was having to prevent the students from talking to their blue-eyed or green-eyed friends; such incidents were used as examples of the ‘disruptive nature of brown-eyed people’ and the ease with which both groups accepted such discriminatory chastisement was disturbing.
As we called the class for de-briefing, the tightening knot of tension- caused a) because the whole thing was just so horrible, and b) because I was worried that someone would suddenly shout ‘It’s all a lie!’- was released. Cruelly perhaps, I let out a laugh of relief as their faces became a spectrum ranging from anger-annoyance. I was grateful that they no longer wore expressions of the suppressed and apathetic.
Several of those directly affected remained indignant though, which worried me: had we actually done something worthwhile, or was the whole thing simply unethical?
This doubt was only fleeting, however. After some initial confusion, the feedback received was largely positive and one student managed to summarise what, for me, was our objective: the experiment gave an ability to understand discrimination on a level far beyond the capacity of any PowerPoint presentation.

The Jane Elliot Experiment

You’re well gay

The etymology of the term ‘gay’ is very interesting. Originating in the late fourteenth century, it initially denoted happiness and frivolity. By the seventeenth century, however, it had adopted negative connotations with the Oxford English Dictionary defining it as ‘addicted to social pleasures and dissipations… Of loose and immoral life’, and by 1890 it had become interlinked with female prostitution. The year 1935, though, saw it edging somewhat closer to its contemporary meaning with ‘geycat’ referring to young male homosexuals.

   Today, ‘gay’ is defined as: ‘(of a person, especially a man) homosexual.’ And yet it is quickly becoming a pejorative term(predominantly amongst young people) to replace ‘rubbish.’ Thus, ‘gay’ no longer exclusively relates to sexuality; it is also an insult. 

   So how long will it be before this derogatory definition appears in our dictionaries? And, more importantly, should it?

   Whilst ‘gay’ is rapidly adopting negative connotations, no other word has as yet offered to assume the definition of ‘homosexual.’ There was a push recently, notably involving human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, for ‘queer’ to do just that, but this is generally accepted as having a much broader meaning, encompassing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people alike. Moreover, the reclamation is only regarded as appropriate for exclusive use within the LGBT community due to its harmful past. So, for now,  we have a homonym (excuse the terrible terrible pun.)

   We can presume that the two definitions once went hand in hand, with homophobia transforming the once-neutral term into an insult. Today however, the majority of young people argue that ‘gay’, as an insult, has no sexual connotations whatsoever, suggesting that its use is not consciously homophobic. Nevertheless, many people argue that this negative evolution shouldn’t be allowed as it is possible that the lexical ambiguity may still introduce or reinforce homophobia in children. After all, a seven-year old child who has been calling broccoli ‘gay’ since he could speak cannot then be expected to accept his uncles’ civil partnership without question. There may even be some transference of meaning, either consciously (with the rationale that the two definitions must be interlinked as in many other cases, for example ‘nurse’, in either sense, refers to the act of caring) or subconsciously (it may be difficult to shake off the word’s negative associations.)

   The alternative view is that lexical evolution is vital to the progression of language; it shouldn’t be interrupted.

  

 

It would be interesting to conduct an experiment to ascertain the relationship between the derogatory use of the word ‘gay’ and homophobia. I would hypothesise a positive correlation but this doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with the latter argument: I am not homophobic and, as far as I know, it is not a low exposure to the derogatory version of ‘gay’ in childhood which has caused this. Rather, I consciously choose to avoid the word ‘gay’, in the negative sense, for I am aware it can cause offence. Therefore, any such experiment would need to establish the causal mechanism between the two variables before coming to a conclusion as to whether or not we should allow the term ‘gay’ to adopt a second, and negative, meaning.

Image 1: https://punchaday.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/fanny/