Ethos Education

Learning from History

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Assembly Objective:

  • Are human beings capable of reaching agreement without resorting to conflict? Using a film clip, the assembly examines the importance of good communication in situations of conflict and stress, and explores the Bible’s teaching on conflict and peace. Students will consider whether world peace is ever achievable, and reflect on the individual’s role in contributing to peace.

Film:

  • Arrival (Sony, 2016, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Bible:

Supporting Values Education:

  • The value of Individual Liberty affirms each person’s right to self-determination, but the values of Democracy, Respect and Tolerance call us to live as part of a community. This assembly encourages pupils to consider what they can choose to do with their lives that will make a difference for the common good. The value of Respect derives from an underlying belief that everyone is valuable. But this raises the difficult question of how we show that we value people and respect them when we disagree with them.

OPENING ACTIVITY

Armed Conflict (illustration)

  • Set up a table at the front of the assembly and invite three pairs of volunteers to come to the front of the group. With a smaller group, you could get everyone to take the challenge. Carefully introduce the activity without ever using the phrase ‘Arm wrestle’.
  • Explain that you want the pairs to assume the position that you will demonstrate and that the game will last for twenty seconds.
  • Show them that you want them to rest their elbows on the table and link hands (as in an arm wrestling match). Explain the following rules:
  • 1. Each player scores a point if the back of their partner’s hand touches the table.
  • 2. The aim of the exercise is to get as many points for yourself as possible.
  • Time the twenty seconds then ask the pairs to total up their scores. If you are feeling generous you may want to award them a small prize for each point they scored.
  • Ask if anyone considered not locking arms, but working with their partner to score as many points as possible (either by flipflopping with no resistance or by releasing hands and tapping each other’s hands on the table).
  • You may find that there is a bit of an uproar when players realise that they didn’t have to lock arms in a traditional arm wrestle!
  • Make the point that in the game, it was easy to make assumptions because everyone is familiar with arm wrestling, and we know how it is played. With some communication between partners and a level of trust, it was possible to win more points through cooperation rather than competition.

FILM CLIP

  • Play the clip from Arrival (Sony, 2016, certificate 12).
    • Start time: 01:00:37 ‘The voice you are about to hear belongs to China’s military chief, General Shang.’
    • End time: 01:06:37 ‘You want to talk to them? Find out what this means.’
    • Clip length: Six minutes
  • Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguistics professor called in by the US army to try and communicate with an alien race (Heptapods) whose twelve spacecrafts have landed across the world. The clip begins with Banks being asked to translate the words of a Chinese military chief. She says that he says that the alien race is offering advanced technology, then realises that the Chinese government is using the game Mahjong to communicate with the Heptapods. She explains to Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) that this means the conversation is oppositional. We then see her in the spacecraft asking the Heptapods their purpose. Through a series of ink blots she establishes that they are saying ‘Offer weapon’. We then cut to a discussion where it becomes clear that the humans are not sure whether the Heptapods mean ‘weapons’ or ‘tools’, or whether they are offering or asking for them. Meanwhile, the suggestion is made that the aliens may be trying to make the humans fight amongst themselves in order to colonise them. The clip ends with all the various interpreters from the twelve landing sites switching to radio silence while Louise protests that they need to talk to the Heptapods.

TALK

Download the Learning From History PowerPoint for use with this talk.

Scripted Talk

  • [PowerPoint slide 1]
    • Header slide.
  • [PowerPoint slide 2]
    • We live in violent times. The 20th century was the most violent of any previous time, and the 21st century has seen numerous [click] wars and [click] violent incidents break out across the world. We are aware of violence in [click] terrorist acts and we see the impact of war in [click] the large numbers of refugees who are fleeing conflict across the world.
    • [click] I don’t think that many people want to be at war. Many people would say that world peace is something they long for, but often we forget that as individual human beings we often get into fights with one another.
  • [PowerPoint slide 3]
    • If we were to take a moment and think about what we could do to make the world a more peaceful place, I wonder what ideas we would come up with? [click] Perhaps we would want to introduce laws to stop people fighting. [click] Perhaps we’d decide to just start being nice to others and [click] stop any discrimination or hatred. [click] Perhaps we’d ban weapons. The problem is that no matter what weapons we ban or what laws we introduce, [click] human beings can be selfish and hurtful to one another and it’s impossible to imagine stopping that.
  • [PowerPoint slide 4]
    • In today’s assembly we are going to watch a clip from Arrival, a film about what happens when twelve alien spacecraft appear on Earth.
  • [PowerPoint slide 5]
    • Louise Banks is tasked with trying to work out how to communicate with the Heptapods (seven-legged aliens) and she has begun to make progress in understanding their strange, inky writing. However, as we are about to see, she is under pressure from the army to find out whether the aliens have good or evil intentions.
    • Play the clip from Arrival (Sony, 2016, certificate 12).
      • Start time: 01:00:37 ‘The voice you are about to hear belongs to China’s military chief, General Shang.’
      • End time: 01:06:37 ‘You want to talk to them? Find out what this means.’
      • Clip length: six minutes
    • Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguistics professor called in by the US army to try and communicate with an alien race (Heptapods) whose twelve spacecrafts have landed across the world. The clip begins with Banks being asked to translate the words of a Chinese military chief. She says that he says that the alien race is offering advanced technology, then realises that the Chinese government is using the game Mahjong to communicate with the Heptapods. She explains to Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) that this means the conversation is oppositional. We then see her in the spacecraft asking the Heptapods their purpose. Through a series of ink blots she establishes that they are saying ‘Offer weapon’. We then cut to a discussion where it becomes clear that the humans are not sure whether the Heptapods mean ‘weapons’ or ‘tools’, or whether they are offering or asking for them. Meanwhile, the suggestion is made that the aliens may be trying to make the humans fight amongst themselves in order to colonise them. The clip ends with all the various interpreters from the twelve landing sites switching to radio silence while Louise protests that they need to talk to the Heptapods.
    • As you can see from the clip, not only was the US army uncertain of whether the aliens were good, but they were also worried that the other nations would turn against them. This lack of trust led to everyone choosing not to communicate with one another.
  • [PowerPoint slide 6]
    • At the beginning of the section we watched, Louise pointed out that by choosing to communicate by using a game (Mahjong), the Chinese interpreter was setting the aliens up as an enemy. Meanwhile, when she returned to the ship and spoke with the aliens, she realised that without a clear definition of the word ‘weapon’ and the word ‘offer’, nobody could be sure what the aliens wanted.
  • [PowerPoint slide 7]
    • Once back on Earth again, Louise is told by Agent Halpern in the briefing room that she only needs to look at history to understand that nations colonise or conquer others by dividing people into groups. He is saying that the aliens may be deliberately making the different nations of humans fight amongst themselves so they can invade. He makes the observation that, ‘We are a world with no single leader. It’s impossible to deal with just one of us.’
  • [PowerPoint slide 8]
    • The film is obviously showing a completely made up scenario, but there are some points made in the clip we watched that help us think about human conflict.
    • If you used the Armed Conflict opening activity, then the following italicised points can also be included.
    • [click] First of all, good communication is vital in any conflict. Whether it’s an argument with someone in your family, or a stand-off between two countries, mistakes and misunderstandings are often caused by people’s words or actions being misinterpreted or misunderstood.
    • In the game we played at the beginning, players would have scored more points if they had known that the rules were not the same as those of an arm wrestling match. If the players spoke to one another they were probably able to help each other gain more points.
    • [click] Secondly, trust is important in resolving conflict. If you don’t know whether or not to believe what another person or country says, then you will not want to give any help. We often assume that someone different from us will mean to cause us harm, even though we don’t know this to be true.
    • In the game, both players had to trust one another in order to believe that the other person would help them win points. Likewise, the players who didn’t score highly assumed that they understood the rules of the game.
    • [click] Thirdly, when people stand together and cooperate with one another they are stronger. In the film, Halpern points out that throughout history, countries have defeated one another by stirring up division.
    • In the game, players had to overcome their natural tendency to want to defeat the person opposite them in order for both people to win more points.
    • There are lots of techniques that can help people resolve conflict, whether that’s in families, relationships, amongst different racial or religious groups or between countries, and these are good, but somehow we still find ourselves at war with one another.
    • Perhaps Halpern is right when he says that the problem is that the world does not have a single leader so we find it impossible to live at peace.
    • There are some verses in the Old Testament part of the Bible that talk about war and peace. Let’s read them.
  • [PowerPoint slides 9-10] 
    • Isaiah 2:3-5:
    • ‘Many peoples will come and say, ‘‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.’
    • The man who wrote those verses, a man called Isaiah, understood that human beings would always find themselves at war with one another. He recognised that the best techniques and exercises in the world could not stop people’s selfishness. However, for Isaiah, there was hope that one day peace would come to the world. He believed that God was the only single leader that the world needed, and that when people walk in his ways, they are able to live at peace with one another.
    • You may be someone who has a religious faith. You may be someone who has no faith in God. You may be unsure of what you believe. But these words, written thousands of years ago, are comforting in a world that is full of tension and conflict. They are often read at memorial services to remind people that peace is not an impossible dream.
    • Perhaps today, world peace will not be achieved, but perhaps peace begins with each one of us. Perhaps if we decided to communicate clearly with one another, to trust each other more and to work together to help each other, we would discover that our lives were more peaceful and fair. And if you are someone who believes in God, perhaps these words are a reminder to you to pray for peace in the world.

Headings and Bullets

Download the Learning From History PowerPoint for use with this talk.

  • [PowerPoint slide 1]
    • Header slide.
  • [PowerPoint slide 2]
    • We live in violent times.
    • [click] Wars.
    • [click] Violent incidents.
    • [click] Terrorist acts.
    • [click] Refugee crisis.
    • [click] Many people would say that world peace is something they long for, but often we forget that human beings fight with one another.
  • [PowerPoint slide 3]
    • What we could do to make the world a more peaceful place:
    • [click] Perhaps we would want to introduce laws to stop people fighting.
    • [click] Perhaps we’d decide to just start being nice to others.
    • [click] Stop any discrimination or hatred.
    • [click] Perhaps we’d ban weapons.
    • The problem is that no matter what weapons we ban or what laws we introduce, [click] human beings can be selfish and hurtful to one another and it’s impossible to imagine stopping that.
  • [PowerPoint slide 4]
    • Introduce film clip.
    • Twelve alien spacecraft have landed on earth.
  • [PowerPoint slide 5]
    • Louise Banks is tasked with trying to work out how to communicate with the Heptapods.
    • Under pressure from the army to find out whether the aliens have good or evil intentions.
    • Play the clip from Arrival (Sony, 2016, certificate 12).
      • Start time: 01:00:37 ‘The voice you are about to hear belongs to China’s military chief, General Shang.’
      • End time: 01:06:37 ‘You want to talk to them? Find out what this means.’
      • Clip length: six minutes
    • Lack of trust led to everyone choosing not to communicate with one another.
  • [PowerPoint slide 6]
    • Louise pointed out that by choosing to communicate by using a game (Mahjong), the Chinese interpreter was setting the aliens up as an enemy.
    • She realised that without a clear definition of the word ‘weapon’ and the word ‘offer’, nobody could be sure what the aliens wanted.
  • [PowerPoint slide 7]
    • Agent Halpern tells Louise she only needs to look at history to understand that nations colonise or conquer others by dividing people into groups.
    • The aliens may be deliberately making the different nations of humans fight amongst themselves so they can invade.
    • ‘We are a world with no single leader. It’s impossible to deal with just one of us.’
  • [PowerPoint slide 8]
    • Human conflict.
    • If you used the Armed Conflict opening activity, then the following italicised points can also be included.
    • [click] Good communication is vital in any conflict.
    • In the game we played at the beginning, players would have scored more points if they had known that the rules were not the same as those of an arm wrestling match. If the players spoke to one another they were probably able to help each other gain more points.
    • [click] Trust is important in resolving conflict.
    • In the game, both players had to trust one another in order to believe that the other person would help them win points. Likewise, the players who didn’t score highly assumed that they understood the rules of the game.
    • [click] When people stand together and cooperate with one another they are stronger.
    • In the game, players had to overcome their natural tendency to want to defeat the person opposite them in order for both people to win more points.
    • Techniques can help people resolve conflict:
    • In families, relationships, amongst different racial or religious groups or between countries.
    • These are good, but somehow we still find ourselves at war with one another.
    • Perhaps Halpern is right when he says that the problem is that the world does not have a single leader so we find it impossible to live at peace.
    • Introduce Bible passage:
    • Isaiah 2:3-5 (NIV).
  • [PowerPoint slides 9-10] 
    • Discuss the Bible passage:
    • The man who wrote those verses, Isaiah, understood that human beings would always find themselves at war with one another.
    • Recognised that the best techniques and exercises in the world could not stop people’s selfishness.
    • For Isaiah, there was hope that one day peace would come to the world.
    • He believed that God was the only single leader that the world needed.
    • When people walk in his ways, they are able to live at peace with one another.
    • What does this mean?
    • You may be someone who has a religious faith.
    • You may be someone who has no faith in God.
    • You may be unsure of what you believe.
    • Isaiah’s words are comforting in a world that is full of tension and conflict.
    • Often read at memorial services to remind people that peace is not an impossible dream.
    • World peace may not be achieved, but perhaps peace begins with us.
    • If we decided to communicate clearly with one another, to trust each other more and to work together to help each other, we would discover that our lives were more peaceful and fair.
    • And a reminder for people who believe in God to pray for peace in the world.

Photo copyright for Learning from History PowerPoint: Slide 1 Paramount Pictures / Slide 2 tank Freeimages.com, violence Koldo, gunman Freeimages.com, refugees Malachy Browne, angry man iStockphoto.com / Slide 3 no war sign Freeimages.com, heart iStockphoto.com, discrimination Pixabay.com, ban weapons sign Pixabay.com, selfish sign Pixabay.com / Slide 4 Paramount / Slide 5 Paramount / Slide 6 Paramount / Slide 7 Jan Thijs Paramount, Slide 8 Paramount, / Slide 9 Pixabay.com / Slide 10 Pixabay.com


RESPOND

Prayer

It might be appropriate to use the prayer of St Francis, or a shortened version of it:

  • Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is offence, let me bring pardon. Where there is discord, let me bring union. Where there is error, let me bring truth. Where there is doubt, let me bring faith. Where there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, let me bring your light. Where there is sadness, let me bring joy. O Master, let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that one receives, it is in self-forgetting that one finds, it is in pardoning that one is pardoned, it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life. Amen.

Reflection

  • Invite the students to listen as you read the words from the Bible again:
  • He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

YOU WILL NEED:

  1. A copy of Arrival (Sony, 2016, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.
  2. Learning From History PowerPoint.
  3. A stopwatch, a table and small prizes (sweets?) for Armed Conflict opening activity.

 

 

 

 

 

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