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Taboo topics or 'places you don't go' ?

Discussion in 'Teaching overseas' started by SMT dude, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    As a Bristol Boy I have no claim on even a tiny sod from the smallest molehill on the lowest foothill of the moral high ground when it comes to slavery, Oldgit.
    But in discussing Race with students I have (so far) always managed to steer very close to the rocks without doing a Capitano Schettino circus number.
    (I do share a surname with the Captain of the Titanic who as you all know was called William Sainsbury-Marjoribanks-Thistlethwaite, 'S-M-T' to his underlings in the engine room)
    Oldgit, you must be aware that there exist historians, not all of them 'Trots' by any means, who are cynical enough to believe that once we Brits lost our colonies on the American subtropical mainland, and our Caribbean islands thus became strategic but unprofitable, we pulled the plug on slavery doggy-style (dog in the manger, you understand) so that if we couldn't make profit out of the vile trade, then, by Harry and Saint George, neither would Yankee Doodle, Pedroo Portogee, Dirk van Dutchdijk or any other competitor.
    At least we put the measure through parliament and it didn't cost us 600,000 corpses as it did our bellicose transatlantic descendants when they got around to the project many years later.
    A sensitive topic, but one to handle carefully, not run away from.
    Next ?
  2. msmillreef

    msmillreef New commenter

    OK I have one.... What about it not being the subject matter you have to teach, but the place you teach also has a bearing. For example, teaching the one baby policy whilst in a Chinese school (or with a majority ethnic Chinese), or teaching about Bhopal in an Indian school etc.... Would that mean that it's not just the topic but other matters which make it unteachable? Right, off you go with that one then Mr TOK. [​IMG]
  3. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    The whole slavery is far from simple black and white.
    Slavery didn't start with the British in Africa, nor did it end. Arab pirates kidnapped europeans for centuries for use as slaves. The European slave trade during the 1700's industrialised the process to a scale not seen before, helped by African tribes who were keen to see their enemies deported (Badagery would not have flourished if it had not been for the support of Africans).
    In a nut shell, there are elements of truth in Oldgit's statement, and certain types of historians will always argue it was largely a British thing, but the truth is far more complex and far from simple black and white perspectives.
    As to topics I would stear clear off; depends on age and maturity of the group, and where I was. I've argued from a pro-Israeli stance on issues with IBDP muslims who took a simplistic pro-Palestian stance in the past, but would never do that whilst in the ME. Socially, nothing is off the table and, perhaps to no surprise, I will always take the role of devil's advocate with glee (that's what comes from being a past president of the debating society as a student - the topic is irrelevant at times).
  4. Slavery has been abolished? Well tickle my septum (from Yasi's disaster nookie class... [​IMG]), that's the first I've heard of it!
    Best let ours go, then...
  5. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Established commenter

    Some years ago I discovered that my black female neighbour on a transatlantic flight was a relative of the writer who sued Stephen Spielberg for plagiarism over the 'Amistad' script. We got on famously until I confessed to a certain admiration for General Robert E Lee.
    'How can you possibly admire the man who attempted to enslave my people?'
    In vain I tried to explain that Lee had freed his own slaves as soon as he had inherited them and that he had been opposed to slavery not least because he felt that it degraded the white man more than the black. Fortunately, perhaps, I never got as far as his opinion that a free white man will always be more efficient than an enslaved black man. Give or take the immolation of a few hundred thousand Yankees Lee was a humane man who would never have descended to flogging a horse, dead or alive, so I decided on discretion rather than further valour.
    There is no hard and fast rule. My Salvadoran students readily initiated surprisingly open conversations about their civil war. In contrast the Chileans studiously avoided the subect of their dictatorship except to remind me at intervals that my style as principal was decidedly pinochetista.
  6. yasimum

    yasimum New commenter

    No FP, she can either keep the baby with her for the duration of her hospital stay or she can opt for the baby to be in the nursery and have the staff look after him. She wants to have the baby with her. When she is ready to go home, the baby will stay in the nursery for 30 days which is the cooling off period in case she changes her mind. He will then go to foster care until he is placed with adoptive parents.
    I just meant that I don't want to go and visit. I know I'm a coward, but so far I been able to confine my emotions to the car. If I have to go and see them together I don't think I'll be able to keep it together.
    I know in my mind that she is doing the right thing as she would have a very difficult life as a young, disabled single mother but it is so hard for her and it is soul destroying for the heart to have to witness it.
  7. yasimum

    yasimum New commenter

    Horrible for the little man too to have to spend the first month of his life in a hospital, then somewhere else until he is placed permanently.
  8. Ok, here it goes.... Compasses. Yes, that's right: compasses!
    I am not a native English speaker and although I was already fluent and spoke English correctly from a gramatical point of view and with only a very slight hint of an accent, I was certainly not familiar with slang words when I took up my first post in a private English school in the UK.
    I had the top set in Year 7 and we were approachng a chapter on circles, so I proceeded to explain to them that the compasses they buy have to have certain characteristics in order to be of any use. "When you open it and fix one of the legs, you have to be able to draw a circle which is not going to happen if it's loose and wobbly. The legs have to be pretty stiff and fairly hard to prise apart and if they are not, ask your mum or dad to take a screwdriver and squeeze the k n o b at the top untill the compasses are stiff!" Those kids were so nice that they were trying their best not to laugh even though they were red as lobsters and in tears. They then started "dropping"things on the floor in order to be able to crawl under the table and have a bit of a laugh.
    I had NO clue but I had a very distinct feeling that something was not quite right. They eventually explained everything to me. I don't talk about compasses anymore now.
  9. yasimum

    yasimum New commenter

    Funny original ***! When I was at the same school as the disastrous sex ed lesson, we had a librarian who was very religious and very innocent. This school was commonly known as the blood bath ofthe inner city. The kids were gorgeous and I loved it there but they had very difficult lives and were very streetwise.
    The librarian was reading my 3/4 class the story of Henny Penny. There is a character in the book, very unfortunately named *** Lock. When she got the book out to read, I was willing her not to go there but she did!
    My boys were almost rolling out of the library they were laughing so much. I was sitting there stealing myself for the next time she said it and the next wave of mirth. She had absolutely no clue why they were being so naughty. I hate to say it but as I have a terrible habit of inapproriate laughter, I was also starting to laugh as well. It was horrible back then but I still have a giggle every time I think about it.

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