Every year we have a series of whole school discussion for our students to air their views on. Some of the previous ones are included in our external blog back categories-
These include general topics such as British Values and ‘if you were Prime Minister’ along with the more familiar questions on learning and teaching including GM, marking and feedback and literacy. Our learning walks which interview students rather than staff will begin in January and will focus on learning and teaching-blog to follow-but before Xmas our forms have been involved in a discussion based on issues surrounding the PREVENT agenda. Terrorist activity is sadly a part of our everyday news now and I firmly believe that our students should be able to openly discuss current affairs, be sceptical and critical of policies, beliefs and ideas [if they wish to be] and offer their own views in serious debate. Informed young people have a key role to play in the future of our country and although some of the issues are difficult for the younger students to fully understand, we shouldn’t shirk our responsibility in helping to prepare for a future with increasingly complex political, economic and social issues.
It would be tempted to think that some students may well be bored with the issues or as Xmas approaches, be more interested in asking us to give them a break from deep thinking! The truth is that many love to be challenged and made to justify, debate and prioritise their thoughts. Learning tutors did report back that some struggled but others were more animated and opinionated than the loudest Question Times! The questions were these, and do please borrow them, if you like the idea. I have included a whole range of answers from the different year groups to engender further discussion.
For those of you reading this and wondering what sort of town Southport [and our school] is in terms of possible terrorist threat, ethnicity, potential radicalisation etc. and thus the interest/concerns our students may have picked up at home or on the streets with friends; the reality is that it is a predominantly white town with many people probably not knowing any Muslim friends or worrying too much about possible radicalisation or attack. The closest big city Liverpool isn’t as ethnically diverse as London, Birmingham or the nearest other big NW cities of Manchester or Preston. Immigrant presence would be East European to work in the care industry, hotels or agriculture and I suppose that over the years terrorist potential may be more related to Irish politics and animal affairs than ISIS. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we shouldn’t raise these questions and encourage tolerance of other religions and beliefs. We do have a small number of non-Christian faith people in school [and many of no religious beliefs] and 1 teacher found the Ali poster useful in ensuring anti-Muslim sentiments weren’t aired.
I did send out some resources and ideas when the Paris atrocities had happened-https://t.co/FiNAfirLrg from Russell Tarr and these explained clearly that it wasn’t just Western Europe that was under attack, the Russian plane disaster, of course happened more recently and there were other pertinent questions to be raised that might directly impact on our students such as our own trip to Paris and our responsibilities as young citizens of the UK.
Two other really helpful posts for teachers and parents are here.
https://taitcoles.wordpress.com/ Offers good advice regarding possible Islamophobia and teaches in a more multi-cultural area than Southport is. Amjad Ali writing as Tait did just after the Paris attacks https://newtothepost.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/how-can-i-be-a/ also teaches in a multi –cultural school and you can see his response and advice to teachers in schools who have few Muslim students. Students do have the right to their freedom of speech and opinions and as the oldest teacher still here, I know that opinions change a great deal over the years. However, I do believe that rather than forcing our opinions, we should always try to develop tolerance of others by discussion and debate. I hope that the questions are fair and promoted honest and open debate. This poster hopefully resonates with our school view.
Who was responsible for the attacks on Paris?
Most forms said ISIS or Islamic State immediately as you would expect given the news coverage. Other variations included terrorists, Muslim terrorists, extremists, militants and 10HH emphasised ‘not Muslims’ 8HF added a slightly different view. “Most said ISIS, they shouldn’t have retaliated, it’s not fair, and they are sacrificing their lives to kill others. Some thought that France and other western countries were responsible saying that we started it.”
Who else, apart from Western Europeans has been attacked?
Again most form groups were able to give a wide geographical spread of attacks across the continents including North America, Africa and Asia. I wasn’t sure if they would only focus on Paris and the USA but specific countries and incidents were provided as evidence.
Who are ISIS and why are they attacking others?
An interesting set of differing opinions emerged and of course many adults aren’t quite sure why the attacks and fighting is taking place. Comments included;
- Because others don’t believe in what they believe in.
- Trying to take over the world.
- It is what they believe in.
- Believe that Allah is telling them to do this [we believe that this is a lie and an excuse]
- Attacking well known countries to make a name for themselves.
- Because we were bombing Iran and now Syria.
- They want others to become Muslims.
- Because they are against other religions.
- They are extremists who want to force their views on others.
- Islamic extremists who believe everyone should follow their religion.
- They are attacking others as they follow Sharia Law-they would like to force others to believe the same thing that they do.
- We don’t actually know why they are doing this as there are so many rumours about why rather than 1 definite reason.
- Extremist Muslims-it’s their belief that they are doing it for Allah.
- Extremist who believe that what they are doing is getting them closer to Allah?
- Terrorists-they think they are better than others, they want everyone to follow their rules.
- Due to extremist religious views.
- Jihadi John, ISIS, people who aren’t part of their religion deserve to die, disagree with the way people in the western world live their lives.
- Extremists because they want power and revenge as they think we attacked them first.
- Can be ISIS, can be other terrorist groups too. They are attacking people because they think that if they die doing it they will go to ‘heaven’. They believe their religion/God is telling them to sacrifice their lives to kill others.
- ISIS claim to be Muslims and claim to acting due to their faith but in fact they are not Muslims and are not instructed to carry out these actions by the Koran. True Muslims are horrified by their actions.
I did wonder throughout my reading of all of the comments where young people get their information from these days to be able to form opinions. Perhaps I should have included a question on sources of knowledge and can only surmise. TV news, one would hope, is factual and reasonably non-biased in providing pretty accurate facts should they watch it. I wouldn’t imagine that not too many read newspapers and can’t be sure how many families discuss current affairs at home. Nor can I be sure how big a part social media plays in contributing to the information they were putting forward. Interesting views though and worth raising the follow up question after Xmas of which has the greater influence – politics or religion in the mentality of ISIS and other terrorists. Or is there something else that drives them?
Why do some people get radicalised into joining these groups?
Taking the lives of others in the name of a cause is something most human beings could never contemplate. The notion of a ‘just war’ is discussed in RE and recently again in parliament and students may be able to understand that war and the inevitable killing involved, can sometimes be justified. For them to understand why anyone would join ISIS and kill people, is harder to grasp but it happens, they do and they choose to kill. Why?
- Lack of positive role models, lack of education, extreme views.
- Forced to.
- Social media.
- How they are brought up.
- Because they are stupid.
- They sometimes say yes, then can’t change their minds and they’re stuck.
- Because of poverty and a lack of education.
- For greed/money.
- Get taught from an impressionable young age/easier to manipulate their thoughts.
- Vulnerable people-easily led.
- People may do it for money.
- Some are scared and have no choice as they are forced into it. Other believe they are doing it for the right reason as they believe this will please God.
- People may be vulnerable or forced/born into it.
- People who are vulnerable could be persuaded to join for the promises made to them when they reach heaven after an attack.
- Some people may feel that they have nowhere else to turn e.g. if their local area experienced islamophobia due to these attacks.
- Because they believe in life after death, retaliation, scared
- Make a name for themselves.
- On drugs so easier to radicalise.
- Because it is the way they are brought up.
- Following other Muslims with this belief.
- They just want to do it.
- They look up to older people doing this.
- They see Muslims being persecuted and are angry because of this.
- It creates a feeling of acceptance as they may have no friends or spend a lot of time online
- They may know friends or family involved in terrorist activities or that hold terrorist beliefs.
- They are seen as disposable pawns.
- Shy, lonely people who are easily persuaded, criminals.
- Because they agree with their opinions and what the extremists are doing/ share same views.
- Blackmail (“might know something embarrassing or bad about them”) Bribery through gifts or monetary rewards. Terrorists use Islam as an excuse. Some of them live in the UK, they don’t follow any religion and so decide through pressure to follow Islam but they are told the wrong beliefs.
- They are tempted in by lies, they target poor and vulnerable people who may be more receptive.
Bombing of Syria. Why? Do you agree? Are there other possible strategies? What would you do?
As in parliament and across the country, there were a range of opposing views and eminently sensible suggestions. Only the youngest students were more prone to some fanciful ideas on the next few questions!
- No – send ground troops to avoid civilian deaths.
- Yes – because we need to stand up to them.
- We are bombing Syria because we want to destroy ISIS
- America and France are involved
- Stop migration into other countries
- I would wait and close all the borders
- We are very split on this, half of our form think it is a good idea to get involved the other half disagree. The people who agree believe we need to do this in order to protect ourselves and we should act now to prevent an attack. The other half believe this will make us as bad as them as by getting involved we too could end up killing innocent people. We all agree that something needs done but we don’t know how they can be stopped.
- The class was split on this questions, some believed it was the right thing to do to protect our country, however they also believed that air strikes may not be enough and ground troops may be more effective in targeting ISIS and less dangerous to civilians. Others believed this is the wrong thing to do as it is affecting innocent civilians that ISIS hide within and behind and will only promote the ISIS cause, and causing more people to join when they have nothing else.
- Some say yes others no – No – because they are bombing innocent people, start looking after the NHS as we don’t have enough money in our country but we are bombing others
- Yes – if we don’t bomb them they will bomb us, before we were not a target but now after bombing we are targets for ISIS.
- The students were split 50/50 on this issue 50% were in favour of the bombing. The other 50% thought bombing would merely create more problems
- Yes – Not going to stop them any other way.
- No – Inhumane to bomb people, shouldn’t stoop to their level. Could show them videos to show the impact of their actions.
- If we bomb them, they could then retaliate and bomb us.
- 14 members of form agree. 2 members of form disagree- we need people on the ground to target the culprits so that innocent people are not killed. Others do not want to say either way.
- Attacks on Paris instigated us wanting to bomb Syria. USA, Russia, France are also involved in bombing Syria.
- Get other countries (Russia) to help out, not bomb them as they will retaliate.
- Majority of the form said NO, they don’t agree with the bombing in Syria.
- 6 voted yes to bombs, 12 voted no.
- Why did we do it? “trying to get rid of ISIS’ resources so they can’t fight back”
- Who else is involved? “Russia, France, America, Turkey, loads of forces fighting”
- People won’t be hurt if it’s dropping bombs, “they bombed us”
- Other solutions? “full out war – nuclear warfare” (but you’d get rid of innocent people, yeah that’s the bad thing)
- Don’t know what else to do (“should build a Death Star!”)
- Yes, because if they are attacking countries in Europe then why shouldn’t we attack them back. No because if we do it they’ll retaliate and it’ll never end. We shouldn’t be bombing innocent people. Some think it was the right thing to do but we have made it more dangerous for ourselves.
- About a third agree with the bombings, go into Syria and find ISIS, try and reason with them, send the cavalry in, kill their leader. Two thirds do not agree and think that too many innocent people will get killed using this tactic.
- Some disagree as innocent people will die and this is the same as what ISIS did, others feel that this is the right action to eliminate terrorists and stop the problem. Russia, USA, France are involved in bombing. Solutions are to just use the tornado bombers which can target specific areas rather than bombing the entire country. Get rid of the Assad regime. Take in more civilian refugees. Some people disagree that we should take refugees as it may cause more attacks.
- We don’t think we should have done that e.g. in the playground if someone hits you, you should not hit them back. We should have better secure defences in the country so less effected. Hypocritical!
- We are only doing it because; they are going to bomb us, to show we’re not scared of them. We shouldn’t have done it – we’re only doing it to get involved and be like everyone else to show off that we can take part. One pupil said “I would make a WW3 with nuclear weapons, that’s what they want anyway!” Another pointed out that it is a vicious circle (bomb us-bomb them) and it won’t ever end.
- Arrest rather than kill, bomb but try to avoid civilians, don’t use violence because it just causes more violence, stop migrants in case they are ISIS, more security, something has to be done and diplomacy has failed.
How worried are you about visiting major cities? What precautions should you take or do you expect to be taken? Should we go to Paris?
- About half would still go to Paris or other places. Bring a weapon with you. [discussion of carrying a gun occurred in a couple of classes] Full body guards around you. Soldiers will protect you.
- Some are concerned about another terrorist attack while going abroad. Others trust the security in the country to protect us against attacks.
- Initial response: “just don’t go” “their whole goal is to stop people doing stuff, but the security has gone up massively so chance of an attack is unlikely”
- Some of the class are worried about major cities as ‘they’ could be there (“but why would they bomb Southport?”)
- Not sure how to protect us.
- Close the borders
- Some students worried about going to places that could be seen as a target. Other people believe these places now have heightened security. Other don’t want to be scared of going places as that’s what the terrorists want.
- Not worried because family members have been to France recently – shouldn’t be worrying because they’ve just been bombed and could be the safest place. No worried because such attacks are rare.
- Some worried about visiting train stations – lots of crowds of people, not secure. Worried because never experienced attacks before and wouldn’t know how to react to them.
- The students thought that the trip should go ahead.
- 11 – no
- Very worried because we are not sure where ISIS are. You must be careful and vigilant
- Nobody is really nervous now and believe that security should be responsible for keeping the public safe. They think there should be heightened security at public places. Something we could do is watch out for bags left unattended etc.
- Some of us would still be worried to go to Paris however the majority agree they would still go. We think that if they have already hit Paris they are not very likely to go back, also as there is now so many police around it actually could be safer than other countries. We all agreed with Josh’s comment that by not going to Paris the terrorists have gotten their way and won and so we should continue to support the country. If we were still to go we would be a lot more aware and alert to what is going on.
- The majority of the class thinks it shouldn’t go ahead.
- Everywhere is dangerous so I wouldn’t be put off.
- If you didn’t do anything it would be very boring.
- It is like not travelling in a car because you might have a crash. Everything carries risks.
- People are scared of sharks, but cows kill more people than sharks do.
- I am worried of going on a plane in case it gets shot down.
- If you don’t do anything and you are scared, then the terrorists have won.
- Shouldn’t be scared of potential terrorist attacks as if that was the case the whole country would be in locked down. Also the security will now be much tighter. If we didn’t travel it would mean the terrorists had been successful. However it is a worry that the police system is stretched as it is and lacking funding so they don’t have the materials available to defend the general public
- We don’t think we should have done that e.g. in the playground if someone hits you, you should not hit them back. We should have better secure defences in the country so less effected.
- We expect tight security so we are not at that much of a risk- you can’t live your life living in fear.
- Split decision here. Some said to go because they are just trying to make us live in fear and we’ve got to show them that we’re having fun and that we’re not afraid. Some said they wouldn’t go in case something happens or that they wouldn’t go until it was all sorted properly, until all of the terrorism has been stopped.
- Places will be safer when security is heightened after an attack. Also if nothing happens between now and Feb I would feel safe. Watch the news so you are aware of current events/threats. Learn some French so you can communicate effectively in an emergency. More vigilant about others are doing or how they are acting. Stay in groups.
What do you think that individual young people can do to PREVENT terrorism? Having discussed terrorism-what do you think ‘terrorism’ means and can you think of other forms of terrorism that you have heard of-some perhaps more local than the large scale bomb attacks?
- Terrorism means violent extremism, frequently using religion as an excuse.
- We should just carry on with our normal daily lives and not blame a community as a whole for causing terrorism.
- Niamh and India know about the bombs planted in Warrington and Manchester Arndale centre – IRA
- Not to talk to strangers. People killing or harming for no reason because of their beliefs.
- Terrorism to us is unprovoked acts of violence carried out by extremists. We have never heard of any acts of terrorism in Southport.
- We think terrorism means forcing people to believe the same as you do using terror, e.g. attacks. Gang culture can be a form of terrorism and terrorism can be found everywhere in all religions. [Interesting view-is it true?]
- Educate all young people.
- They hacked into our computers and phones- there is nothing we can do to stop them but we can educate people to teach them not to do it.
- The students thought that any suspicious signs should be reported to the police.
- Staying alert of suspicious people.
- Terrorism: Different forms e.g. bombing, taking revenge, terrorising innocent people, making people feel worried/scared. Attacking people for no reason.
- Look for extreme behaviour. If friends are talking about things you think are worrying or wrong tell someone you trust. When someone behaves in anti-social and violent manner. People with extreme views. London underground bombings. 9/11 bombing. Beheadings filmed and put on internet.
- This opened a discussion about us all carrying guns to protect ourselves.
- Be taught more about it, be aware of what can go on, and talk to each other if we notice signs of someone showing radical behaviour.
- Kids could defend and don’t discriminate against Muslims. Be vigilant on Facebook. Protest to government to not let them in. Support each other.
- Spot signs of radicalisation early to prevent people being converted to ISIS. Terrorism means people who have extreme views which an intent to kill. Stabbings in London was a local form of terrorism, IRA attacks.
- Instagram/Facebook/Twitter. Je suis Paris, changing your profile picture to the French flag etc. to show support. We could make a video about not being scared and showing ways we’re having fun and enjoying ourselves and then put that video on the internet (something like that).
- Preaching hate and trying to influence people is local terrorism. Keep an eye on vulnerable people and don’t let them become isolated. Terrorism = hurting people based on an extreme personal view.
The final question raises the major aspects of the PREVENT training that has been brought back into schools. Have our students been listening? I could have gone on to ask further questions about civil liberties and so on but perhaps the answers reflect the fears and expected societal responsibilities of the age that we live in.
Threats to your individual safety can come from a range of different people both inside and outside of school. We look after each other as a school community but what signs should we look for if our friends are in any danger and what should we do about it?
- Secretive behaviour, uncomfortable, edgy, visiting websites about extremism and discussing it regularly.
- Make sure they’re not being bribed. Tell a teacher to pass to the police. Tell parents what’s happening. Look out for them not being themselves. Check if they’re armed. [Thanks a lot!]
- Be taught more about it, be aware of what can go on, and talk to each other if we notice signs of someone showing radical behaviour.
- Becoming isolated from friends, having signs / logos of groups, acting strange, threatening behaviour, start agreeing with ISIS’ logic.
- Wearing different clothes, racist views towards others, where they go, the way they act, what they do in their free time. Report it to police, teachers and any adult you trust.
- Look out for friends not being themselves or acting different to normal, friends might become more secretive, people being absent from school for longer periods of time or repeatedly being absent from school.
- The students said that they would tell staff at school if they spotted any issues
- If friends start talking about attacks a lot more then it will raise a few alarms. We should tell someone you trust e.g. mum. [This was reassuringly old fashioned and touching!]
- Tell someone if you think someone is in danger, help people if you can, keep an eye on friends but don’t get involved for your own safety
- We should look out for any changes in behaviour, appearance, mood and language. If we were to suspect anything we would tell our parents or teachers, if we felt there was immediate danger we would inform the police.
- We would look out for people looking or acting differently and tell someone about it. Change in behaviour, different people they hang around with, personality changing. We would tell someone we trust.
- People having sudden and radical changes in appearance, personality and views.
- Look out for people who show signs of sadness, who don’t want to speak to anyone, who are constantly alone and don’t want to be with anyone. Look out for people who aren’t acting like they usually would, people who seem agitated or distracted because it might mean they are thinking about something bad/wrong. Talk to those people and find out what is going on and if they need any help. Tell someone about it. (When I asked them to be more specific than “someone” they suggested Police, Parents and Teachers).
- To be honest my form were a bit stumped by this question and couldn’t really relate to it. I don’t think they grasped it and I wonder if it is because we live in a less racially mixed town than others.
I’m sure that Miss is correct with her comment but it was a discussion that needed to happen and I hope that parents and friends found the answers interesting and thought provoking. Perhaps we will discuss Europe next or how about Tyson Fury!
Have a wonderful Xmas holiday and very happy New Year.