A year or so ago I introduced a 'Have Your Say' board in the boarding house. The idea is that in our weekly house meetings, we watch a video about an issue or something in the news that week. I produce a statement about it and ask the girls to weigh in and say whether they agree or disagree. The statement goes up on the board and the girls put a sticker under 'agree' or disagree' throughout the week.
What's the point?
We don't do anything with it. The point is that the girls get used to critiquing an issue and forming an opinion about it. The point is to give a voice and make it acceptable to have an informed opnion regardless of what it is. The bonus is that it often sparks lively discussion. It also means that everyone has accessed current affairs in some way each week for those less keen on following what's going on in the world outside of our bubble.
Just have an opinion
Things are happening in the world around us which are shaping the future of culture, economy, spirituality and so on before our very eyes. Within the safe and nurturing bubble of school, it's easy for our young people to miss these things. Young people are also becoming increasingly desensitised to the things they see on television, be it on Netflix or the news. Through this medium I encourage the girls to just have an opinion. I'll often say it doesn't matter what it is, just have an opinion.
Subjects which have worked well
One week it was Emma Watson's contraversial Vanity Fair cover photo. Another week we talked about victim blaming following Lindsey Kushner QC's accusations of blaming a rape victim for being drunk. Kenya's shoot to kill poachers policy to save rhinos sparked great discussion. I was really surprised about how many disagreed that the voting age should be lowered. It's ok for employers to dictate that female employees should wear heels. Agree or disagree? John Lewis' idea to ditch gender labels for children's clothing is a good one. Agree or disagree? We had a really good run of Donald Trump related 'Have Your Says'.
The point - Harvey Weinstein
The week before we broke up for half term, the news was full of Harvey Weinstein and his victims. So, in our usual way I set up the projector ready for our house meeting. After running through the usual half term packing requests and announcements for the week ahead we came to the 'Have Your Say' slot. I explained that there wouldn't be a have your say this week as the issue we were about to look at didn't need anyone to agree or disagree, it just was. We watched a BBC news video about the story which included comments from the likes of Emma Thompson. I explained to the girls that the reason this was so important was because it is them that this shifting culture affects. And it is those girls, their generation, who can influence this shifting sand of sexual harrassment culture and our reactions to it. I expalined that the sad reality is that at some time in their lives, they or someone they know is likely to experience some form of sexual harrassment or abuse. I said they must take away from this two things. First, should they ever experience sexual abuse or harrassment they must feel empowered to call that behaviour out and report it. Second, if someone they know ever says they have been a victim, they must stand by her (or him) like a rock of solidarity.
Being on the front line with young people is a little like being Batman. With great power comes great responsibility. Or was that Spiderman? Anyway, the point is that we must use our platform to encourage young people to recognise their own agency for change. We must challenge them to look at the world around them with a critical eye and to respond to what they think and feel in a way which makes them valuable citizens of the future. As Gandhi soort of put it, we must use our platform to empower our young people to be the change they wish to see in the world.