I’ve been experimenting with Prezi for my assemblies. Here’s one on “Difference”.
It starts with “D” for DNA – what makes us different from one another? How the chromosomes give us our unique features, including our eye colour.
“I” is for eye colour (sort of!). Some have brown, some have blue. This leads into the famous (“F”) Brown Eyes Blue Eyes experiment by Jane Elliott. She told a class of primary aged children that research had shown that brown-eyed children were cognitively superior and that they would have extra free time, self-directed learning etc. Blue-eyed children were inferior and would have no play-time; they would have intensive tuition to catch them up. This powerful simulation of prejudice saw the children react in a variety of ways. You can watch the experiment below (too long for an assembly!) and read more about it on Wikipedia here.
I then connect this to the struggle against real oppression of black Americans in the Civil Rights movement, and to the oppression of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Being told that, because someone was different, they were somehow less than you, led to extreme prejudice, hatred and violence which took generations to overcome.
“E” is for equality. I talk about the equals sign – both the bars are the same shape and length, but they are not identical. One is higher than the other. The are similar, but different – they are equal. Equality is not about being the same as everyone else, it is about having the same opportunities and being treated fairly by others.
Here’s the best bit – the Metronomes.
In this Physics experiment, the scientist sets off five metronomes at different tempos and at different times. They tick along in cacophonous chaos, independent of one another. But, when he lifts the plank onto two drinks cans, their momentum is transferred through the base and they synchronise. This shows that we don’t all have to be the same. We can tick along in our own rhythms but, if the circumstances and conditions are right, we can all beat as one. I even used the phrase “if we can balance the plank of our school on the coke cans of equality, we can all tick along together”. That may have been overdoing it but it got a good laugh from the Head of English.
To finish, a beautifully touching letter from Sophia Bailey-Klugh to President Barack Obama from November 2012 as he stood for re-election. As the daughter of a gay couple, she thanked him for supporting same-sex marriage. She then asked for advice on how to respond to those who saw such a thing as “gross and weird.” I read out her letter, and Obama’s tear-jerkingly brilliant reply. I had to steel myself here not to weep openly in front of nearly 400 teenagers! You can get the text of both letters from the fabulous Letters of Note blog.
I finish on Obama’s wonderful phrase: even though we are all different, we all have the right to be treated equally. Far from separating us, our differences unite us.