To mark the 10 year anniversary of 7/7 I have taught a lesson about the day linking it to the RS OCR GCSE units on Religion Peace and Justice and Equality.
I started by reading the class the opening of my blog about my experience of 7/7 which was published by the Huffington Post.
We watched the @TrueTube film – https://www.truetube.co.uk/film/77 and afterwards I asked if any of the class had any questions. A few wanted to know why the front page of the Evening Standard had the Olympic Logo on it. Others wanted to know more about the geography of London and how the attacks affected the city.
The question I then posed was a potentially risky one: What causes terrorism? The change in the law last week requires schools to identify students who might be at risk of radicalisation. The definition of extremism decided upon by the DfE (and why it might prove problematic) is quoted in this tweet below:
— Daniel Hugill (@DanielHugill) July 2, 2015
Andy Lewis has summarised many of the issues here while some commentators (see Owen Jones’ blog here) have raised concerns that this definition and law will limit discussion in the classroom. I fear it may but my students have yet to censor their responses. When answering the question about the causes of terrorism they were extremely forthcoming and not afraid to refer to religion, government policy etc. in their answers (see below)
The outcome of the lesson was difficult to judge. We’d had a challenging discussion as to the extent that religion might be a cause of terrorism. We had learnt more about a key historical event. We discussed as a class what would make a comment in a lesson be judged as extremist and therefore worthy of being reported. Students time and again referred to freedom of speech being a key democratic value.
I want to end with this (unedited) response from one of my students who emailed me after the lesson:
‘The 7/7 video and lesson we have been through today, the 10th anniversary of these devastating bombings, has taught me much on this sensitive event in history, which I had little knowledge of prior to this lesson. However, we also learnt about why terrorism occurs, and the reaction from society. The society we live in tends to single out a group of race, culture or religion and blame evil and inhumane acts of terrorism on this group. Very quickly, stereotypes begin to form through the influence of the media and children, like myself, are taught subliminally to feel the same way about these groups. The current generation of youth have grown up to believe the word ‘terrorist’ is specific to Islamic extremists. However, my dad (who has an Irish surname) said to me that he told his dad when he was a kid that he wanted to change his surname when he grew up, as people in England degraded anyone with Irish origins due to the IRA in the 1970s. This shows that the word ‘terrorism’ doesn’t belong to a single group or country, but to any individual who causes acts of terror, and therefore society needs to change.’