Sugar Tax in the UK: Good or Bad?

 

The UK government has announced it will introduce a new tax on the sugary drinks industry. The idea is to tackle child obesity. Conservative governments don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth for raising taxes on anything, so they must have a pretty good reason for flirting with this sugar tax, right? That’s for you to decide, once you’ve got the facts inside you.

Why schools need to think hard about what they tell their kids after terror attacks

 

School teaches you all kinds of things besides how to spell photosynthesis. The recent terror attacks in Turkey and Belgium instantly became a global event. As kids across the globe return to their classrooms, teachers are no doubt biting their nails thinking of the difficult conversations that are bound to come up.

 

#1 Teachers are in a position of power.

Contrary to popular belief, kids do listen to their teachers. OK we can’t back that up, but the point is that many kids will have questions about why all their parents suddenly got very quiet on Friday night, what they’re supposed to be thinking during this minute of silence, and why terror attacks happen.

This will weigh heavily on a lot of teachers, some of whom spend more time with students than their parents do, and who know that the way they handle this situation may have have a lasting impact. Judith A. Myers-Walls, professor emerita at Purdue University USA who has studied the impact of political violence on children, told the Independent: “The quality of the response depends a lot on the person who is responding. A teacher can do this very sensitively or very insensitively and some pretend it’s not happening at all.” What the kid actually takes away from a classroom conversation on terror attacks all depends on how the teacher handles it, no pressure.

 

#2 There is no easy explanation for terror attacks.

You’d have to be both a wizard and a scholar to really understand what led to the recent terror attacks and what they mean for the future. The situation is hard enough for adults to understand, let alone children.

Source: The Sun. Terror Attacks. Mourners lay candles at sites of attacks in Paris

Source: The Sun

It’s important to get the facts right, and there are lots of good resources for this: like this response to questions about whether Islam is to blame for the violence of a group like ISIS, or a back to basics explainer on what ISIS is. One middle school teacher in the US got in an expert to give a lesson to teachers on ISIS and the Middle East. What not to say: “Our religion Christianity teaches love, their religion teaches hate”. Don’t say that. This is what our friend’s cousin’s headmaster told the school assembly.

It’s also important to know how to communicate ideas to children of any age. Helpfully, there is a whole bunch of advice on this, like talking about bad actions as opposed to bad people, and ensuring kids have the space to talk through what they know and how they’re feeling before the adults jump in. You could see it as a problem that these methods aren’t rolled out across the whole country.

 

#3 Some kids already have the answers, sort of…

Classrooms are filled with kids with all sorts of views about the world. This is very often picked up at home or from other friends, and is normally what makes going to school so valuable. It can also lead to upset, and sometimes painful and lasting upset if students feel directly targeted for who they are by what other kids have to say.  

Kids need to feel safe and heard in school. This pamphlet from National Union of Teachers gives some pointers on how to teach controversial issues like terror attacks in an inclusive way:

– organise classroom discussion in ways which enable every pupil to participate in that discussion;

– ensure that the views of everyone in the class are properly heard;

– moderate negative opinions and strong emotions;

– focus on evidence and valid information;

– represent the different points of view as accurately and fairly as possible;

– where possible, use a variety of outside and community sources; and

– demonstrate respect for different opinions.

All we’ll say is it’s a damned fine skill to have.

 

#4 Discrimination is totally wrong, and also illegal.

It is illegal for an educational body to discriminate against children on grounds of their race or religion (or disability, sexuality, nationality, gender… just don’t). Things get a little more blurred when it comes to faith schools, and the fact that according to the Citizens’ Advice for England “In a community or foundation school, acts of collective worship, such as assemblies, must be of a general Christian nature.” For the most part, however, UK schools are attended by people of varied or no faith.

Islamophobic and anti-Semitic hate crime has increased in the last year, meaning teaching around this topic can be particularly important. The National Association of Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education has a resource dedicated to teaching Islam following Islamist extremist terror attacks.

 

#5 Feeling marginalised can have serious long term consequences.

Recent research from Connect Justice suggests that feeling discriminated against at a young age can play a big role in encouraging people to join groups advocating violent political goals and terror attacks, whether these are far-right groups or Islamist extremist groups. Being told your religion teaches hate might be the very thing that makes you feel disaffected. The majority of people would probably agree that discrimination on grounds of race or religion is a bad thing in itself, but it turns out that there might be a very practical argument against it.

However, some would argue that this sits uncomfortably alongside the UK government’s current policy of tackling homegrown extremism. As of 2015, places of education from nurseries to universities are bound by law to actively counter extremism and radicalisation, though the Home Office have had a tough job explaining what exactly they mean by these words.

Theresa May terror attacks

Home Secretary Theresa May

The government’s suggested strategy for tackling extremism is to keep a close eye on anyone who appears to be being radicalised and to promote what are being called “British values.” The problem is, if someone feels unfairly singled out for their beliefs, this might be counterproductive to say the least. This legislation was created to counter violence and terror attacks, but some say it gets tricky as teachers are in a legal bind to fight a poorly-defined concept of extremism, meaning you could end up targeting people’s beliefs rather than their actions. What would be a better way?

That all just got very real very fast, if you enjoy impartial realness, subscribe to our newsletter and Like and Follow for regular decoded news.

The Consent Class Debate Explained

A Warwick Uni student has divided opinion by standing up against sexual consent workshops in universities, describing his invitation to attend the NUS-led classes as “a massive, painful, bitchy slap in the face.” He posted a picture of himself in his article in The Tab holding a sign which read “This Is Not What A Rapist Looks Like”. The consent class organiser then posted a response, also in The Tab, saying that she’s not sorry her workshop made this writer feel uncomfortable because in truth, that is what a rapist looks like.

 

George Lawlor and Josie Throup holding signs

Faintly Written Sign Wars

 

Some reckon this guy is awesome for standing up and saying what a lot of people were thinking. Others are properly pissed off, saying that he clearly does not get how rape culture and consent actually work.

 

Sure, a lot of people think they know how rape culture and consent work – but researching for this story we found it’s a crazy twisty debate. This student-tabloid-faintly-written-signs-frenzy has shown how worried and confused we are about these issues. We knew people were worried about “rape culture”, but now it’s emerging that some people are worried about “consent culture” too.   

 

Scenes of Reason like things simple. So that’s what we did.

 

Consent and Rape Culture? Explain It to Me Like I’m Seven

 

Nothing explains consent better than this video about tea. The making them drink tea bit is the rape bit. Rape is sex without consent.

 

 

The idea of rape culture is simple. This Buzzfeed article does a great job. This video gives it to you straight.

 

 

In a nutshell, rape culture is everything from the images we see and the songs we hear to the media portrayal of rape which all combine to make us think that rape is only something that happens at knife point in a dark alley, and that all other forms of unwanted sex are the fault of the victim by ‘asking for it’, being drunk or being overtly sexually attractive.  

 

It means accepting violent sexualised images of women as the norm. Rape culture makes it seem like having sex with someone who hasn’t given you a resounding, enthusiastic ‘yes’ is not doing anything wrong.

 

The Consent Class Debate: One idea at a time

 

A lot of sticky issues have been brought up in this debate. We’ve broken down what was said by each side to take you through it one idea at a time.

 

#1 There seems to be confusion over what a rapist looks like

 

Let’s start with the picture George Lawlor posted alongside his article opposing the NUS consent classes. It reads “This Is Not What A Rapist Looks Like”. That’s nowhere near the whole point he was making, but let’s stick to this one sentence for now.

 

George Lawlor holding a sign saying "This Is Not What A Rapist Looks Like"

This was the picture accompanying his article

#2 There’s no single profile for a ‘rapist’ – it’s often someone known to the victim

 

Josie Throup, the consent class organiser, responded to this picture saying “the truth is, it is” what a rapist looks like.

She told the BBC: “Obviously, I’m not suggesting for one minute this guy is a rapist. But 80% of rape survivors know their attacker.

“So when you post a picture and say ‘this is not what a rapist looks like’ you’re wrong.

“A rapist looks like someone on your course, someone you work with, a friend, a neighbour, a date.

“Suggesting a rapist does not look like an ordinary man or woman – that’s perpetuating the myth that rapists are strangers lurking in dark alleys.”

What is often forgotten (like we forgot until a reader kindly pointed it out to us!) is that men can also be victims of rape. There’s really no single profile of what a rapist looks like.

 

#3 It’s insulting to assume people don’t understand consent

 

George Lawlor now sees the wording on his sign as “probably a faux pas on my part”, recognising that of course someone who looks like him could be a rapist – anyone could be a rapist.

He explains what he really wanted to say: “It’s not about gender, class or ethnicity. It’s was about me, personally, being offended, as a human being and an individual.”

Why was he offended? In his article, he explained: “I already know what is and what isn’t consent. I also know about those more nuanced situations where consent isn’t immediately obvious as any decent, empathetic human being does. Yes means yes, no means no. It’s really that simple. You’d think Russell Group university students would get that much, but apparently the consent teachers don’t have as high a regard for their peers as I do.”

Russell Group means a specific bunch of universities, btw. So his point is that it’s an insult to assume that people with brains enough to get into uni need to be taught about consent. It’s just not good manners to point at someone and say you probably need to know more about consent.

 

#4 The numbers of women being assaulted suggest not enough people do understand consent

 

Josie Throup responded: “If, as this writer claims “Russell group students” understand the nuances of consent, how do we explain the fact that one in seven women students will be raped or sexually assaulted during their time at university? This epidemic is going unseen and un-talked about.”

That 1 in 7 statistic is taken from an NUS report based on a survey of over 2,000 woman university students. We so rarely get to bust out our stats knowledge at Scenes of Reason that we don’t mind telling you now that a survey involving upwards of 1,000 participants, so long as those participants were selected fairly, is likely to produce pretty valid results.

It seems fair enough that George Lawlor feels he doesn’t need to be taught not to rape. Most of us probably feel that way about ourselves and our friends.

This is partly down to the “dark alley myth” we talked about in #2 – we don’t tend to think about rape as something that happens between people who know each other, even though that is the case most of the time.

It’s also because different kinds of unwanted sexual behaviour, including women forcing men to have sex with them, are often not associated with the word “rape”. The law isn’t even clear on this front! Sometimes both people involved are unsure whether what happened was consensual or ‘counts’ as rape. Some are calling this grey rape, and is what we should be worried about more than stranger danger.

 

 

You wouldn’t think there was a problem from talking to your friends. Often you can’t tell there’s a problem until you look at the bigger picture. That’s why statistics can be so important.

It’s natural to feel offended by the implication that you personally need to understand more about consent. But what this 1 in 7 statistic tells us is that more people – both men and women – clearly do need to understand more about consent, and the way rape is talked about today means that we may understand even less than we think.

 

#5 It’s NOT actually as simple as “yes means yes” and “no means no”

 

Lawlor reckoned he had this “no means no” version of consent down, and that’s why he was offended by the suggestion that he couldn’t get his head around something so simple.

People who run the I Heart Consent workshop, like Josie Throup, reckon this understanding isn’t good enough though: “…many people think it’s as simple as “Yes means yes” and “No means no” when our workshops teach there’s a spectrum of misunderstandings in between, and consent can only be an enthusiastic yes.”

 

 

consent

 

Consent workshops aren’t about teaching men not to rape. They also look at rape culture, and how things we might think of as normal or harmless jokes may do serious harm. They also discuss slut shaming and prude shaming. This means respecting people’s choices whatever they are, so long as they’re their choices.  

 

#6 Do rape consent classes even work?

 

Here’s something Lawlor said that made us stop and think for a second: “…do you really think the kind of people who lacks [sic] empathy, respect and human decency to the point where they’d violate someone’s body is really going to turn up to a consent lesson on a university campus? They won’t. The only people who’ll turn up will be people who (surprise, surprise) already know when it’s okay to shag someone. No new information will be taught or learned. It will just be an echo chamber of people pointing out the obvious and others nodding along, thinking the whole time thinking that they’ve saved the world.”

Hhhhmmmm… does teaching consent in this way do much towards solving the problem?

 

#7 Consent classes empower people to actively counter rape culture

 

Josie Throup had a good example to show that consent classes are small first step towards making a difference.

It is possibly true that someone likely to commit a rape won’t fancy going to a consent class. BUT, someone who that person respects might attend a class!

Throup explains: “On this campus, Warwick sports teams chant songs about rape. A friend of mine from a club here at Warwick told me about a pre-drinks in which members of his club raised their voices as one in the chant. An exec member who had attended an I Heart Consent workshop last year told them to stop, mindful of survivors in the room who would be traumatised, and perpetrators who would be empowered.”

So teaching consent in workshops begins to create a culture on campus, one which empowers people to actively counter rape culture – embodied by chants about rape.

 

#8 Some people apparently feel uncomfortable about this new “consent culture”

 

This less evenly put copycat article by fellow Warwick student Jack Hadfield proclaimed:

I am not a rapist. But I’m in my second week as a university student, and already modern feminism and “consent culture” is trying to pin that label on me.

“I think we all know what goes down at these [consent classes] anyway, don’t we? The male students will be bombarded with stats about “1 in 4 women,” bogus and offensive conspiracy theories about “toxic masculinity,” and suggestions that yes, all men are potential rapists.

Hadfield was being very smart there and parodying the #yesallwomen hashtag. Here’s what that hashtag was meant to mean.

 

web image saying "the point is not that all men harass women [we realize they dont] the point is that all women have been harassed by men"

 

The consent class debate explained: Consent classes are not about assuming that all men are rapists. It’s fair enough to feel offended if someone doubts your personal ability to understand consent, but the number of women being sexually assaulted during their time at uni show us that there is a big problem to solve. Everyone – men and women – need to make sure they are down with all the ins and outs of consent.

 

Fancy digging deeper?

 

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Schools: did yours define your life chances?

Does the school you go to determine your future prospects? If so, is it fair that some have fees and entrance exams and others don’t? Katie Hopkins reckons that without grammar schools the clever kids are being held back. Others say grammar schools mean only the well-off get the opportunity. What about all these private schools and academies?

Someone explain! That’s what Scenes of Reason is here for.

What types of school are there in the UK?

 

Most people go to State School a.k.a a comprehensive. They are state funded and run by the local authority (council) and stick to the national curriculum. The curriculum is a set of subjects and standards created by the government. It’s all the things students should leave school knowing. Useful stuff like Pythagoras Theorem and don’t put your hand over a Bunsen burner.

 

This graphic tells you everything you need to know about UK schools.

Infographic explaining differences between UK school types

 

There are just under 25,000 schools in the UK (including nurseries, special schools and pupil referral units).

 

Around 80% of these are state funded. Only 10% of schools are private schools which charge fees.

 

There are only about 250 grammar schools across England and Ireland, and they flat out don’t exist in Scotland. There used to be a lot more but in 1998 Labour banned the creation of new grammar schools.

 

Social Mobility???

 

Social mobility ain't easy

Social mobility ain’t easy

The UK schools system is supposed to enable social mobility. This is a person’s movement over time from one class to another. When you hear “social mobility” in the news it’s probably about upwards social mobility. For example, the ability of an individual from the underprivileged classes to move up to the middle classes.

 

Private schools offer scholarships so smart kids without wealthy parents can attend for free. Grammar schools don’t charge fees but only let the smart kids in – so smart kids of all backgrounds can mix with other smart kids and not be held back by kid who don’t do as well in school.

 

That’s the theory of how it’s supposed to work.

 

Thing is, only 7% of the UK population have a private education – but a massive 71% of senior judges have private education (they earn massive dollar).

 

If everyone had equal opportunities regardless of what school they went to, then less than ten times as many private school kids would end up judges. Just saying.

The majority of the UK don't have private education, but the majority of the cabinet DO.

The majority of the UK don’t have private education, but the half of the cabinet DO.

 

The same goes for 44% of people on the Sunday Times Rich List, 54% of the top 100 media professionals and 50% of the current Cabinet (prime minister David Cameron’s top team).

 

Soooo… can we blame the UK school system for these inequalities in later life? This is a debate that has been going on for ages. People seem to get very pissy about it.

 

The Grammar School Debate

 

Just to remind you – grammar schools don’t charge you a penny, but they will only take you in if you pass the 11+ which you sit, umm, when you’re 11.

 

A lot of people reckon it’s totes not fair to sort the smart kids from the dumb ones at such a young age. It’s especially unfair, these people say, because this kind of testing doesn’t actually select the smart kids, it selects the kids whose richer parents were able to afford private tuition. A kid who is just as smart but whose parents lack the time, money or inclination to make sure they pass the 11+ is much less likely to get into a grammar school. Ring a bell anyone?

 

 

Then again, seeing as grammar schools tend to have way better academic results than state schools, a bunch of other people reckon that providing bright underprivileged kids with opportunity to go to these schools is worth it, because they will leave with much better prospects for getting a job they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

 

As columnist Katie Hopkins puts it:

 

Heavy angry stuff. And we were all caught in the middle of it just a few years ago when we were school age. Does where you are today prove that it’s the wealthy smart kids who get in over the less wealthy and non-tutored bright sparks? Or does it prove that selective schools like grammars offer better opportunities for smart kids, regardless of their backgrounds?

 

 

School Findings; there is massive angry debate over what is best for the kids.

There are many individuals who prove that our education does not have to define us. Yet, there would seem to be a more systematic problem with elitism in the UK. Are schools to blame? Or would these people have ended up in the top jobs regardless of the school they went to, because of other things like family wealth and connections?

 

 

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10 things that help you have an opinion on Hillary Clinton

 

1. When she was 12 years old, young Hillary wrote to NASA asking for information about becoming an astronaut.

She was told the job was for men only.

2. When asked what attracted her to Bill Clinton (who proposed marriage many times before she finally accepted), she is reported to have said, “He wasn’t afraid of me.”

3. As First Lady of the United States, her major initiative, the Clinton health care plan of 1993, failed to gain approval from the U.S. Congress.

4. After the evidence of President Clinton’s affair with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky became incontrovertible, she issued a public statement reaffirming her commitment to their marriage. The public’s response was mixed.

 

5. On January 26, 1996, Clinton became the first First Lady to be subpoenaed to testify before a Federal grand jury. The Clintons had been accused of partaking in a failed business venture that also included fraud and conspiracy charges. After several Independent Counsels had investigated, a final report was issued in 2000 that stated there was insufficient evidence that either Clinton had engaged in criminal wrongdoing.

6. Clinton strongly supported the 2001 U.S. Military Action in Afghanistan, saying it was a chance to combat terrorism while improving the lives of Afghan women who suffered under the Taliban government.

7. She is the first woman ever to have run for public office, and also the first woman to run not just once (2008) but twice for a Presidential bid.

8. Hillary deals with defeat well, being the only political figure to lose a campaign and then work under their opposition. Hillary was Obama’s Secretary of State between 2009-2013.

9. If Hillary Clinton wins the initial Democratic Presidential bid and indeed wins the 2016 Presidential campaign, she will be the first female President of the United States of America.

10. What do others think? “Polarizing” is a word often associated with Hillary Clinton.
Decoded: Almost all of her views reflect her identification, in this instance it would be that of a Democratic outlook. Well we should hope so given that she is a Democrat.

So here’s to knowing a little bit more than you did five minutes ago, and being fully prepared to learn a lot more over the next year.

We decoded how the Presidential system works in the U.S. with a bright and beautiful infographic, see here.