Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Up Series Part 1

How much of our future is determined by the time we are 7?

Yesterday in class we watched a very interesting video. The video, which took place in Britain, followed a number of children around the age of seven. The children were from a wide range of social classes from a lower class orphan to upper class prep school children. They were asked various questions about their thoughts and beliefs, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. It was so interesting to hear how the answers varied between the social classes.

First, it is important to reiterate how our formal system of education differs from that in the UK. Schools in North America are open to everyone, whereas in the UK schools are open to everyone … as long as you have money. Those who are wealthy in the UK attend the best schools and will go on to the best universities. In addition, in North America, it seems that the material taught is relevant for the most part. On the other hand, in the UK, topics and literature studied are more traditional and based on high culture. For example, Latin is often learned in the UK because it shows high class. In North America, there is a lot more opportunity to change classes and it is unlikely to know what lies in store for your future when you are seven. In the UK, class and level of future occupation are predetermined.

It seems as though all of the children in the video knew what class they were from and what it meant for their future. Those upper class boys who attended the prep school already knew what universities they would attend and what house they would belong to. Their language was much more advanced than the lower class children and I would imagine that they will become very successful. Those children who were from a lower class did not set high standards for themselves and understood that it would be difficult to be successful. It was often difficult to understand what these children were saying. Another noticeable difference was that the upper class children were more disciplined both at school and in the way they spent their free time while the lower class children had more freedom in this regard. The upper class children looked down upon lower class people, including minority races.

Thinking back to when I was seven years old, I had no idea what I would be when I grew up and I did not consider any limitations that I may face. I did not consider that it would be too difficult for me to become what I wanted to be. It was sad when the boy, Paul, said he wanted to become a policeman but that it would be very hard for him to get the education to fulfill this dream. In addition, when I was seven, I changed what I wanted to be every 5 minutes (actually I probably did that until I was 20). In our society, it seems we get to experience more before we decide what we want to be and there are not as many limitations.

After watching this video, we were asked to make predictions about where we thought these children would end up in life. Next class, we will be shown what actually happened to these individuals. I am very interested to find out if their futures are as predetermined as they seem.

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