This week’s assembly challenges listeners not to lose sight of the important issues, even when only certain ones seem to be in the public eye
4 readers, a leader and a narrator
A pupil is walking around the school trying to engage other pupils in important conversation…..[NB Any of the opening lines can be amended to reflect any locally important news events or world events which have just taken centre stage]
Reader 1: Hey, what about this oil spill then – it’s a disaster isn’t it. Such a beautiful part of the world and all the wildlife that’s getting harmed by it…
Reader 2: (Dismissively.) Yeah. (Animated now and speaks excitedly.) Anyway, what about the game last night – wasn’t it amazing?! Talk about top-class football! And so many goals! That last header in the final moments of the game – pure joy to watch. That’ll be a happy manager anyway and no wonder, it doesn’t come much better than that….
Reader 1: But what about…
Reader 2: Yeah, it was odd wasn’t it. I know he shouldn’t have been booked , cos the other guy just took a dive – but it was a pretty reckless tackle. I mean, he did go in with both feet even if the other guy deserves an Oscar for his reaction.
Reader 1: But I…
Reader 2: They’re well on the road to winning now though I think – I can just see them lifting that brilliant golden cup and the roar of the crowd and all these South African trumpets being blown – I don’t care what they say, I think they’re great for the atmosphere at the games…[Relevant up to date World Cup news can be inserted into this dialogue as appropriate]
Narrator: Next day…
Reader 1: Did you hear about this stuff going on in Kyrgyzstan. It’s not good – sounds like the situation’s getting well out of control.
Reader 3: (Dismissively.) Yeah. (Animated now and speaks excitedly.) But Wimbledon’s here at last! Two whole weeks of brilliant tennis. It’s great how the big stars all turn out for this event. They really seem to like it. I think it’s got to be the most popular tennis event in the whole world don’t you…?
Reader 1: But in Kyrgyzstan…
Reader 3: I wonder if any of the Brits have got a chance this year. Andy Murray’s got so close before… maybe this is his year after all [amend if not playing or out, obviously]. Though he’s got some tough competition in there – the ones who have been winning all over the place all year…They’re just unstoppable aren’t they.
Reader 1: But…
Reader 3: And it really makes me feel like summer’s here at last – you know strawberries and cream and all that stuff – elderly guys in panama hats and lazy sunny evenings. And this year, the rain’s not even so much of a problem now that they’ve got a roof over centre court – have you seen it – pretty cool.
Narrator: The next day…
Reader 1: Do you think this conflict in Afghanistan is ever going to end…?
Reader 4: (Dismissively.) Maybe. (Animated now and speaks excitedly.) Have you been watching Big Brother? I think this is the best one yet – but it’s the last one too – so they say anyway. I wonder what they’ll replace it with? I think some of them are just actors though – not ordinary people. I mean you surely wouldn’t argue that much would you – especially with people you’ve only just met. Mind you, they are cooped up in a house together all day and they’re in a competition after all, so they do want to beat each other and they do know that having a good storyline means that you’re more likely to win. [Can add any relevant Big Brother news.]
Reader 1: But in…
Reader 4: They probably know they’re going to become well famous afterwards no matter what. I mean some of them who got kicked out right at the start of previous shows made it big-time on TV and are still never out of magazines…
Reader 1: But I…
Reader 4: Would you go on it? I would. I bet they get paid loads even if they don’t win – and you’re getting famous just by being in there aren’t you – it’s not like you have to have a talent or anything – not like X Factor – Hey, come to think of it, when’s that back on again? I can’t wait…
Leader: Picking up a newspaper in Britain today and looking at the headlines – or watching the TV news – you might be forgiven for thinking that the only things happening in the world which anyone should be paying attention to are the World Cup, other sporting fixtures and the latest reality TV offerings. Not to mention celebrity gossip, movie news and, almost certainly by now, endless predictions about the kind of weather we’re likely to have this summer.
Of course, the usual diet of political arguments is likely to still be there – along with the other kinds of things which seem to fill our news items all year round and seem to be the ‘meat and potatoes’ of news reporting – most of which are rarely positive.
Now there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some escapism – whether it’s a TV reality show or sporting events. There’s certainly enough gloom and misery in the news year round to make us enjoy a little time taking things less seriously and focusing more on the ways in which life can entertain us rather than make us feel glum.
But we do have to get the balance right don’t we? There are all sorts of things going on in the world today about which we should be concerned and to which we should be giving some attention. Oil spills in the American gulf, civil unrest in Kyrgyzstan, the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan [add any topical issues] – not to mention the problems in our own country which haven’t gone away while the World Cup, Wimbledon and Big Brother seem to relentlessly fill our screens. While we focus on who might win the cup, the tennis final or Big Brother, people around the world, in our communities and perhaps even in our own school, are still facing the same difficulties and problems which they were before these things filled our heads – taking our attention away from the possibility of ever noticing anything else which might need our thoughts, concern or action.
Leader: By all means enjoy yourself today. Watch the football if you like. Settle in front of the TV for a five-set tennis match or just watch how events unfold on Big Brother. But don’t forget that other things are happening in the world around you – perhaps very close to you indeed. Perhaps these are things that demand your attention just as much – and maybe more – than the sports or the reality TV shows. In fact, perhaps someone very close to you needs you to pay some attention to their needs just now. Perhaps when you’re so wrapped up in other things, you’re not noticing what is happening in the meantime.
Reader 2: What were you saying….? Something about oil spills or something was it? Was that up the high street [use local street name]?
Reader 3: I didn’t quite catch that…was it Kyrgyzstan or something like that. Where is it exactly? Is it somewhere near [local place name].
Reader 4: Sorry, you were saying something about Afghanistan… is that still going on? I thought it had finished…
Leader: Listen to this prayer.
The World Cup trumpets soundMeanwhileA massive oil spill in the American gulf destroys wildlife and harms livelihoodsIt’s game set and matchMeanwhileIn far off lands neighbours fight each other in violent conflictsAnother one’s been voted outMeanwhile
Battle rages on in Afghanistan
Let us pay attention to and be concerned about all the news.[Amen]
This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2010
About the author: Joe Walker is Head of RE & Psychology at Liberton High School in Edinburgh. As well as being a well-known author he was winner of Secondary Teacher of the Year at the Scottish Education awards 2005.