Here’s a nice, short little article about a lesson idea that a teacher used to get his students to think about the whole concept of privilege. Amongst other things, it’s clear that he wanted them to understand that even today getting an education, let alone a quality education is still a privilege when so many children are denied this fundamental human right for various reasons (one aspect of the current migrant crisis that isn’t really being talked about very much).
Tongue in cheek, I hoped that the teacher had a plan afterwards for how to put all those screwed up pieces of paper to good use – privilege is a big factor in what mankind is doing to the planet and environment, as well!!
As well as an interesting idea for a physical activity to inspire thought, discussion and reflection the article is also interesting for the high amount of comment it’s attracted (scroll down on the page) and particularly for the heated nature of some of those comments. Whilst some have sought to turn it in to an idealistic debate about equality, politics and ideas that the world should be ‘a level playing field’ where everyone has equal assets.
I personally feel that much of that debate misses the key point. Good quality universal education, available to all, SHOULD be a leveller to the extent that it facilitates opportunity for mobility in society. This point was put very well by Nelson Mandela when he said;
“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become head of the mine, and that a child of farm workers can become president of a great nation.”
However, data from UK, USA and many other developed countries shows that in reality education is failing to act as the great driver of social mobility. Individual exceptions aside, too often lower expectations, less direct input in the learning process at home and other handicaps lead to perpetuation of class structures and low mobility.
I believe firmly that as educators it is right that we continue to work to reduce the impact of such factors. Children from lower socio-economic backgrounds can be given access to the best of education at affordable costs with appropriate social and psychological support to overcome self-imposed limitations and expectations. When this happens, a society can become far more meritocratic and less likely to carry forward inefficiencies. it also represents a more humane and evolved society.