The concepts of prejudices and stereotypes are explored in this secondary SEAL assembly, linking to the recent success of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent[NB Given the nature of this assembly’s exploration of prejudices, schools should show awareness of any groups in the school or community who may be the subject of prejudices, and amend the engagement materials accordingly.]
- Background music for entry to the hall could be Avril Lavigne’s ‘Sk8er Boi’, which is about a girl who passes up on a relationship with a skater boy because he’s ‘not good enough for her’. But the boy later becomes a famous rock star leaving her regretful of the inaccurate judgements she made about him.
- Two readers and two non-speaking parts
- YouTube video of Susan Boyle
Engagement[Two pupils are at the front of the assembly hall looking out at an imaginary playground. They could be snacking while they do so to add a touch of realism. Ideally, the two pupils should be dressed in a set of clothing which itself might invite judgements by those watching – schools would judge this according to their own context.]
Reader 1: Oi…[points at an imaginary figure walking past] check this one out then.
Reader 2: Oh no… look at ‘Goth Kid’
Reader 1: Yeah…Long dark hair, black t-shirt…depressed look…all says, ’I’m miserable, pay me some attention!’
Reader 2: Yeah, definitely. Sad ain’t it. Do you think he has a look in the mirror before he leaves the house in the morning?
Reader 2: Nah…mirrors are probably banned in his house [both laugh].
Reader 1: There’s another one…guess who this time?
Reader 2: Too easy…it’s ‘Science Boy’! Here to save the world with a calculator and a photo of Einstein pinned up in his locker.
Reader 2: Yup, prob’ly watches Dr Who and Star Trek and The Big Bang
Reader 1: I’ll bet. Locked up in his room hiding away until the day he gets his Nobel Prize for scientific discovery.
Reader 2: He’d be lucky if he manages to discover any friends… Wait, wait… Yes, that’s it, we’ve hit the jackpot now…it’s ‘Skater Dude’…all low-slung baggy trousers and way too much hair…
Reader 1: [mockingly] ‘Yeah dude… Time to catch some waves and hang loose.’
Reader 2: ’Yeah, far out, happenin’ man.’ [Both laugh again then freeze as leader speaks.]
Leader: Let’s interrupt these two just for a minute. What are you thinking right now? Are you laughing along? Are you keeping quiet but inwardly enjoying the comments? Are you annoyed but don’t really want to say so? Or are you making your own judgements about these two… judgements which are perhaps equally harsh? So how about this then? [Click fingers or make some kind of ‘magical’ wave of the arms which reanimates the two readers.]
Reader 1: We’re being a bit harsh eh? I keep forgetting that ‘Goth Kid’ is supposed to be amazing on his guitar − he’s definitely going to make it big time. We’ll be buying his albums soon enough and I’ll bet he ends up being one of these megastars who does great charity work.
Reader 2: I think that’s prob’ly about right, and as for ‘Science Boy’ – I bet he does make some big scientific discovery or other – prob’ly one which makes the world a much better place or cures some terrible disease or something.
Reader 1: Yeah, and ‘Skater Dude’… He’s a really good listener when you’ve got a problem, I hear. Some of my mates say he’s really good at dishing out advice and he’s a cool guy as well.
Reader 2: Yeah, who are we to talk? What do we do? We just stand around slagging off other people.
Reader 1: People we don’t even know.[Two other people should now walk past the two readers and look sideways at them then put their heads down and laugh as they pass by…]
Leader: Well there’s a funny thing. You probably started off listening to our two readers with some mixed feelings. You might have strongly condemned what they were saying. Or maybe you recognised their behaviour in yourself at times. You might have judged them for how they looked, or for the judgements they appeared to be making. Then you might have changed some of your ideas about them once you heard them rethink the comments they’d made. Who knows, you might even have had a little sympathy for them at the end as the other two seemed to be making their own judgements about the Readers.
The TV show Britain’s Got Talent recently showcased the singing of Susan Boyle, a forty-seven year old woman from West Lothian. She’s become quite a phenomenon.[Show YouTube clip here if using it.]
Susan appeared on stage and nervously spoke about her desire to be a singer like West End musical star Elaine Page. The trouble is, she didn’t look glamorous or like many people woulc expect a ‘musical star’ to look like. The audience shifted uncomfortably in their seats; some sniggered. The formidable Simon Cowell looked as if he was preparing to sit through yet another excruciatingly bad performance. As Susan prepared to sing, audience members quite literally hid their faces behind their hands, anticipating an ordeal.
And then she sang. Simon raised his eyebrow and his fellow judges became were utterly transformed. Simon beamed and his fellow judges sat back with looks of sheer delight. The audience rose to its feet and cheered her on.
Susan’s appearance on Britain’s Got Talent was then put on YouTube and has now been watched by millions of people around the world. She has since appeared on a well-known US chat show and there’s now talk of making a movie of her life.
Quite something isn’t it. Now we’re not all going to be discovered like this and head towards a life-changing career of fame and fortune − and maybe many of us wouldn’t want such a thing. Perhaps Susan will achieve the success she wants, perhaps not − only time will tell. But it’s not the success or failure that’s important here. No: Susan’s story is more interesting for a different reason.
She herself said that she had ‘never been given the chance’; we can read between the lines here and assume that she may be the kind of person who has always been judged before anyone knows anything about her. At the start of her audition it looked very much as if that was going to happen here [pause] – but it didn’t. The judgements which looked as if they were made about her were proved completely wrong.
It is said that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and yet it still happens every day. How many times recently have you judged someone for how they look, or how they speak, or what kind of a person you think they are? How often is that based on any actual evidence about that person? How often have you been proved wrong? How often might you be wrong over and over again? Prejudice means that you pre-judge before you know the facts. Do you have prejudices?
In the world’s great religions there are constant reminders that we should look beneath the surface of a person, and not judge them based simply on what we see. What might seem weak or bad or negative on the outside might be the opposite on the inside. Of course, similarly, what seems good on the outside might be rotten on the inside. The thing is, no-one really knows until they have looked beneath the exterior of a person. But do we take the time to do this? It’s easy to make a judgement about someone without finding out the facts. Finding out what someone’s really like takes time…and effort…and perhaps a little personal courage. Are you prepared to do that?
Take a look around you todaySee the people you see every dayFellow pupils, teachers, everyone who is part of our school communityHave you judged them without knowing them?What are their secret talents; their hopes and dreams; their fears and worries?Who are they?Do you know them…. do they know you?Let us take time to find out about each other and Treat people for who they areNot who we think they are.
For all our sakes[Amen]
This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2009
About the author: Joe Walker