Dr Nadine Rossol, Everyday Life under Nazis.

Once again Williams Project did not fail to impress when on Thursday 17th of January; Dr Nadine Rossol came in to speak to Chigwellians about everyday life in Nazi Germany. Dr Rossol spoke with passion and enthusiasm and provided a view on life in Nazi Germany differing from one which is learned within the classroom. Dr Rossol began her talk by speaking about her grandparents; two people who had lived through Nazi Germany, and one could certainly feel the connections Dr Rossol had with the topic she was speaking on. Dr Rossol talked about the involvement of ordinary people within the Nazi regime and used a photo of her grandfather to demonstrate how far down Nazism had penetrated into Germany. Dr Rossol spoke on a seeming ordinary photo of her grandfather on a football pitch, yet one could notice the young German players doing the Nazi salute. Dr Rossol explained that this was not a sign of Nazi appreciation as such, but more of an obligation that had to be fulfilled by these Germans simply because if not done these players would not have been allowed on the pitch. When learning about Nazi Germany, one must be wary of pinning the blame on the entire German population for what happened in World War 2 because as Dr Rossol explained there was indeed opposition to the Nazi regime, but also measures in place, such as the Gestapo, to keep Nazi opposition in the public at bay resulting in less open public opposition to the Nazi atrocities. Dr Rossol finished by referring to the Ringleblum archives; a collection of entries by people who desperately tried to reserve information about life in Germany pre-Nazi for future generations to learn about.

by Zain Raja

Robert Blakey – “Will criminal behaviour be treated one day like a brain-based cancer, rather than punished like evil?”

Monday the 4th of December marked the last Williams Project of 2018, as well as the last Williams Project with Mr Lord at the helm. With this in mind and with so many wonderful and insightful talks preceding him, Mr Robert Blakey, criminology doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, had a hard task ahead of him. I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that he did so with pure charisma and flawless knowledge with regard to his subject. Mr Blakey began his presentation by outlining the big question he would be attempting to answer: ‘Will criminal behaviour be one day treated like a brain-based cancer, rather than punished like evil?’ He began by giving us four concepts that contribute to a person’s offending: genes, social environment, brain activity and free will, and asked us to decide in what order they run in when contributing to a criminal committing a crime. We then proceeded to have an interactive discussion as a group in an attempt to order these notions, culminating in our successful ordering of the ideas. Mr Blakey then read us two scenarios about free will: one where, from a psychological point of view, our decisions were all caused by factors outside our control, and another similar but described in terms of chemical activity in our brains. He then invited us to stand on the left side of the room if we still believed the person in the example had free will or the right side if we believed they didn’t. It was interesting to see how many people moved to the side of no free will, particularly in the chemical scenario. This activity was thoroughly engaging and gave us a real opportunity to think things through for ourselves. Mr Blakey continued his fascinating talk by presenting the idea of rehabilitating criminals, especially young offenders, in good social environments instead of prisons as he noted that prisons are poor repairing facilities, as well as being detrimental to the mind of a youth offender. We spent the final minutes of the presentation trying to decide how to rehabilitate offenders, and whether there would ever be a perfect way to help lawbreakers. It was a captivating and highly perceptive talk that challenged us to think laterally with regards to many issues. Many thanks must go to Mr Blakey who we are sure would be very welcome to return to Chigwell in the near future.

Rory Hankins and Julie Vytrisalova

robert blakey at the williams project

robert blakey at the williams project

robert blakey at the williams project

robert blakey at the williams project

Richard Barham – “Ever wondered how football clubs make money or how a football transfer works? The business of football”

Richard Barham (OC and partner of Denton’s) returned to the WP and spoke from his experience as a corporate lawyer working partly in the world of football. From selling whole clubs (Richard once sold Manchester City) and player transfers, to how FIFA and the FA are financed and try to regulate the market to prevent clubs from disappearing from our towns, Richard’s account was fascinating, detailed and illustrated by insider anecdotes.

Ray Monk – “Wittgenstein: who he was and why he is important today”

On the 9th of October, the Williams Project was visited by another great speaker. This time, it was Ray Monk – professor of philosophy at the University of Southampton, acclaimed writer and expert in analytical philosophy of the 20th Century. He gave a lecture on Ludwig Wittgenstein – his life, works and why he is relevant up to this day.

Even though the philosophical aspect was prominent, the lecture was also a biography of Wittgenstein. Prof. Monk described his family and his time growing up in Vienna. Then he focused on Ludwig’s school years and his inspirations. The story of Wittgenstein was very engaging and it was easier to look at his ideas through his biography. You could really feel that Prof. Monk is an experienced biographer and lecturer. Later on, he introduced us to some philosophical problems while talking about the philosophical part of Wittgenstein’s life. For example, he mentioned Russell’s paradox, which still doesn’t have a clear solution. The lecture finished with a Q&A section, although it was possible to ask several other questions to Prof. Monk during dinner. I, among others, found the lecture very interesting. It was a comprehensive, yet comprehensible introduction to Wittgenstein and a great encouragement for further reading.

Jacek Podlaski

Priscilla Alderson – “Can children have international inalienable human rights?”

Priscilla Alderson (Professor Emerita of Childhood Studies, UCL) led the Williams Project in a thoughtful discussion of the philosophical basis for children’s rights, taking as starting points issues and questions raised by the young people there present. Her style was refreshingly different, and mirrored in itself her emphasis on the importance of listening to young people themselves.

Mr Wright – “Yes! Yes! Yes! How professional wrestling teaches us about life”

In this Williams Project, which was run by Mr Wright, we took a look at how professional wrestling teaches us about life and how every good wrestling match is like telling a story. The Williams Project was interesting, and Mr Wright showed us some of his favourite wrestlers of all time, including people like Hulk Hogan and Brock Lesnar. He even showed us some of the interviews he had with some professional wrestlers and he told us a story about him being a kid and wanting to get this action figure and it was out of stock. But in the end he had managed to meet the real wrestler and have an interview with him. I personally found this Williams Project quite different to the others and it was fun.

Hamza Choudhry

Mr Maynes – ‘You are all stardust: How the stars died so you could live’

Mr Maynes returned to the Williams Project for a pop-up event on Wednesday 13th June. I thought the Williams Project was very interesting. It was nice how we got to ask Mr Maynes our own questions about the topic, and I also liked Mr Maynes’ funny jokes. He explained how the chemical elements which make up every one of us were made in supernovas – a huge explosion at the end of a star’s life.

Thomas Punt

Mr Ennis – The Wisdom of Crowds: are the many really smarter than the few?

On Tuesday 5th June, the Williams project welcomed Chigwell School’s very own Mr Ennis. Mr Ennis spoke to us on the subject of ‘The Wisdom of Crowds- are the many really smarter than the few?’. The audience was captivated by the mélange of statistics and psychology that was on offer.

The talk started off with Mr Ennis educating us about various economic crises such as the Sub-Prime crisis which affected the mortgage industry due to borrowers being approved for loans they could not afford and as a result leading to the collapse of leading institutions and big hedge funds globally.

Then, we were shown various quotes on the subject of crowds which were very interesting to read such as “Madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups” (Nietzsche) and “I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance” (Carlyle).

Mr Ennis organised an intriguing experiment which allowed us to understand whether the many really were smarter than the few. First, we individually filled out a question sheet of a selection of random questions, then, we were put into groups to come up with an answer to the same questions. Some very interesting discussions arose whilst we were trying to figure out suitable answers for questions such as ‘What age are you most likely to die?’.

Whilst we were in our groups, Mr Ennis was working very hard in order to calculate various statistics from our individual questionnaires to then compare with our group questionnaires. And so, after some very quick calculations, on this occasion, it seemed as though the few were smarter than the many!

On behalf of all who attended, we would like to thank Mr Ennis for all of his great efforts. The talk was enthralling and certainly brought our attention to the wisdom of crowds- a key principle underlying modern day democracy and economics. Thank you Mr Ennis!

Amarah Udat

Matthew Slocombe – ‘Telepathic Animals: How we use language to programme each other’s minds’

On 15th May, Matthew Slocombe, who once taught Design and Technology at the school, returned to participate in the Williams Project, talking about his current PhD research in the field of psychology. The talk was extremely interesting and eye-opening, with its details as to how easily the mind can be tricked and what the human brain is truly capable of.

Mr Slocombe began by explaining how there are two types of language: the language that we are taught as we grow and develop from birth; and the language that we are born with, almost as a reflex. One example he gave was that babies do not know how to form the sentence “I find this funny”, or how to communicate that feeling in words whatsoever; however, they are able to laugh in order to convey this. Laughter is a natural reaction to stimuli that we find humorous, and therefore no one needs to teach us to laugh when we find something funny.

Interestingly, this use of language can also occur in some mammals – one video of a gorilla in a zoo illustrated his ability to communicate with a human outside his enclosure through the use of gestures – for example, pointing – to convey what he wanted.

He further went on to explain that, as we develop our stores of language and words, we generalise thoughts instinctively. For example, we may learn that a colourful creature with wings in our garden is a ‘bird’. However, the next creature we see in our garden with wings may be black and significantly larger – we still understand that this is a bird. This is because we develop what is known as ‘schemas’ within our brain, in order to sort information into categories in terms of their relation to something else.

Finally, Mr Slocombe explained how the brain can be tricked to see what is not really there or generalise a piece of information to something that is not entirely linked to it. He demonstrated this through various optical illusions and explained how our brains expect for an image to look one way, and yet it can end up looking entirely different; for example, he showed a video of a rotating statue of Albert Einstein. Everyone expected the statue to be 3D and yet, as the statue continued its rotation, it turned out that it was actually hollow and we were seeing the face from the back, despite the fact that our brains made the image look normal.

In all, Matthew Slocombe’s talk on “How we use language to programme each other’s minds” was hugely intriguing and thought-provoking, proved by the amount of questions his audience had for him afterwards, which were equally as stimulating as the talk itself.

Charlie Laderman – ‘American power: why the world needs it’

Dr Charlie Laderman (OC) is a lecturer in International History at the department of War Studies in King’s College London. He has studied across the country and also the United States where he attended both the University of Texas and Yale University.

Dr Laderman’s research focuses on the relations between the United States and nations around the world. During the afternoon we were introduced to Dr Laderman’s book ‘Donald Trump: The making of a worldview’, which led into a fascinating lecture on Trump’s foreign policy. The talk gave us an insight into why Trump is the way he is on the topic of international relations, and also revealed to us how his views and methods of berating other countries haven’t changed since 1987. Dr Laderman also discussed the necessity of American involvement in various regions in relation to defence, such as in the Middle East. Later, he went on to answer a number of ‘what if’ questions, with many answers putting us on edge. Overall, this lecture was both compelling and educational which really left us thinking about what could happen in the future with such an unexpected figure directing the foreign policy of arguably the most powerful nation in the world.

Radia Ar-Rumi

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