Ethos Education

Man of Steel: What difference does ethnicity make to what career someone should follow in life?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Recognition of the UK as a multi-ethnic society.
  • Understanding of Christian teaching that promotes racial harmony.
  • Awareness of modern Christians who have worked to oppose racial prejudice.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the ways that parents influence the future lives of their children.
  • Analyse film clips to consider attitudes towards racial prejudice.
  • Reflect on comments by the Archbishop of York and the teaching of Jesus from the Bible to determine a Christian perspective of racial prejudice and discrimination.
  • Reflect on less obvious expressions of racial prejudice in society today.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a discussion about racial prejudice, featuring characters from Man of Steel and a representative of modern-day Christianity.

STARTER:

Write up the question, ‘Does it matter who your parents are?’ on the board. Ask the students to think about the difference that your parents make to different areas of your life. How much influence do the students think parents have in the following aspects of life:

  • What career you can pursue.
  • Sporting prowess.
  • Academic ability.
  • Popularity.
  • Opportunities in life.

It might be helpful to ask the students about the nature of parents’ influence. For example, if a child follows a similar career path to one or both of their parents, is this always a sign of genetic suitability for that job, or because of the parent’s contacts opening doors for the child? How much of a parents’ influence is a matter of nature, and how much a matter of nurture?

Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about ways in which people can be prejudiced about racial issues, treating people differently because of their genetic and ethnic background.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from the film Man of Steel (Warner Bros, 2013, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain to the students that this clip comes from the beginning of the Superman film Man of Steel. It shows the last days of Superman’s home planet, Krypton, where an ancient and advanced civilisation is coming to an end. Ask them to look out for what General Zod says about the people responsible for their demise.

  • Start time:       0.02.05 (in chapter 1 of the DVD)
  • End time:         0.04.07
  • Clip length:      2 minutes and 2 seconds

The clip starts with Jor-El (Russell Crowe) saying, ‘Do you not understand? Krypton’s core is collapsing?’ It ends with General Zod (Michael Shannon) ordering, ‘Take him away.’

Ask the students who Zod blamed and why. Draw out that Zod felt that certain bloodlines were faulty (‘degenerative’ was his word) and that the future of Krypton depended on weeding those bloodlines out of the gene pool. Ask the students what Jor-El’s thought about Zod’s approach – why was he unwilling to join with Zod? Draw out that he didn’t feel Zod – or, by implication, anyone – had the right to determine which bloodlines were better or worse than the others.

Introduce a second clip from Man of Steel. Explain that Jor-El managed to send his infant son to Earth as Krypton collapsed. This clip features the now fully-grown Clark (Henry Cavill) discovering the truth about his origins. Ask the students to pay particular attention to what Jor-El has to say about people and their potential.

  • Start time:       0.42.29 (in chapter 5 of the DVD)
  • End time:         0.46.57
  • Clip length:      5 minutes and 28 seconds

The clip starts with a polar bear frolicking in the snow and ice. The first line is a computerised voice telling Clark that the diagnostics are complete. It end with Jor-El saying, ‘…the potential of every person to be a force for good. That’s what you can bring them.’

Do the students think Jor-El is right to say that Krypton lost something when it decided to pre-determine the role each child would play in society? Are there any ways in which there are parallels between Kryptonian attitudes towards genetics and modern day attitudes towards race and ethnicity? Why do some people regard different ethnic groups differently in terms of the roles they can and should play in society? Is there any justification for such attitudes?

Ask the students how they would expect a modern-day Christian to respond to issues of racial equality. What would they expect a specifically Christian perspective on racism to be like?

Give out copies of the following article, where John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York added his contribution to a media debate about racism in 2007, after Jade Goody was made to leave the Celebrity Big Brother house after making comments that were deemed to be racially abusive.

Read through the article with the students and ask them what Archbishop Sentamu suggests is the root of prejudice, and therefore the reason for racist attitudes. Draw their attention to his reference to Martin Luther King’s remarks that ‘ignorance is the root of all prejudice’.

While it is true that opposing racism is not unique to Christians, both Archbishop Sentamu and Martin Luther King were motivated by the values and principles they derived from their Christian faith.

Explain that Jesus lived in a culture where racial prejudice was commonplace. Jesus challenged people to reject prejudice and to show love to others regardless of their race or religion. If you want to give some examples, you could refer to passages such as Mark 12:28-34 (Jesus tells his followers to love their neighbour) and Luke 10:25-37 (the parable of the Good Samaritan). Ask the students to read through either or both of these passages and to write brief notes suggesting how a Christian might interpret them to support the views expressed by Archbishop Sentamu.

Ask the students to think of ways in which racial prejudice affects some people in the United Kingdom. Encourage them to think widely, and to identify subtle effects of prejudice as well as the more obvious ones. By way of an example, you could point out that some black footballers have claimed that they do not get the same opportunities to forge careers in football management as their white counterparts. As the students identify examples of racial prejudice, write them up on the board. During the discussion, ask the students what ordinary people like them can do to oppose these examples of prejudice.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to write a script for a day-time talk show, where General Zod, Jor-El and a representative of a modern Christian church discuss attitudes towards race, genetics and prejudice.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • A copy of Man of Steel and the means to play it.
  • Bibles.
  • Copies of Archbishop of York article.

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