Principal's assembly 26th Feb 2019


Our brains are wired incredibly cleverly to allow us to solve complex problems. It allows us to make snap judgements. Take this puzzle, for example, that was put before students at Harvard University:
A bat and ball cost £1.10.
The bat costs £1 more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?
The answer is obvious and intuitive. 10p. Over 50% of Harvard students would have agreed with you. And you would be wrong!
If the ball cost 10p, the bat would cost £1.10 and the total would therefore be £1.20. The answer then is really 5p. The brain, then, can also be over-confident and lazy.
Yet, with more conscious effort, it helps us to think through controversial moral issues. Here is another set of questions – you will need to rate the action as Completely fair, Acceptable, Unfair or Very Unfair:
A shop has been selling snow shovels for £10. The morning after a large snowstorm, the store raises the price to £15.
A national survey found that 82% of people thought this was Unfair or Very Unfair. The shop seems to be exploiting us.
Here’s another one:
A small convenience shop has one employee who has been there for six months and earns £10 per hour. A factory in the area closes and causes unemployment. Other convenience shops start to hire workers doing very similar jobs but at £8 per hour. The owner of the original shop decides to reduce the employee’s wage to £8 per hour.
Forgetting UK employment law and minimum wage restrictions for a moment, how do you rate that on our scale?
In the national survey, 83% declared this Unfair or Very Unfair.
Lastly, the current employee decides to leave. The owner advertises the post at £8 per hour. How do we rate this? Nationally, 73% decided it was fair. No-one is in a worse position than the one in which they started.
We do have an acute sense of justice, of what is right and what is simply wrong. Today’s story, the first in our series of people who have inspired us, is about standing up for what you believe to be right.
At this point, Head of English Ms James, read Maya Angelou’s poem Equality.
Maya Angelou was born in St Louis, Missouri in the United States in 1928. Between the ages of 8 and 13, following a traumatic childhood experience, she didn’t speak a word. People questioned her sanity. In retrospect, perhaps she was just saving up her words. Maya Angelou became one of the most celebrated poets, writers, lyricists and actresses of her generation. Perhaps her most famous book is called I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, a beautiful memoire of her early years.
She wrote most famously about growing up as an African-American in a town where people were treated badly just because of the colour of their skin. She reminded us that everyone is equal regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality or class. If Martin Luther King became the voice of the civil rights movement, Maya Angelou provided the words that ultimately led to the passage of equal rights laws in America. She was a voice for justice.
I would like to finish with one of her most famous quotes:
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.
How would it feel if one day someone said that about your life?

Go to the blog & news homepage

"In essentials UNITY, in non-essentials LIBERTY, in all things CHARITY"
© Fulneck School