Category Archives: Education

Dr. Katya Rogatchevskaia: Propaganda and life in Russia.

Dr. Katya Rogatchevskaia from the British Library made a fantastic presentation on the dangers and intentions of the propaganda in general and using specific examples from Russia, ranging from the first time used it by the last Romanovs in 1900s to the current leaders of the Russian Federation. Various issues were raised by her critical approach, which was illustrating potential power of propaganda used by any regime or system to pass a message to targeted and receptive audience. She focused on Noam Chomsky’s “The 5 Filters of the Mass Media Machine” to explore factors behind the Propaganda; its authority, message (which is difficult to disagree with), and intentions, particularly with the usage of selected aesthetics.

Can something stop being a propaganda? What influences these changes in “unloading” the objects, buildings, piece of art from the intention to indoctrinate? How much do we need to know to understand the context of the time to read the message and to be bothered by it?

We are very grateful to Katya for the thought-provoking lecture, where we need to reassess our own critical and therefore independent thinking, which we apply or not to assess the credibility and intent of the messages and news selected and presented  in current media.

Teresa Kwiecinska

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Dr Clarinda Calma, Poland Yesterday and Today: The Heritage of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and its implications today’

It is difficult in the space of 1 hour to present hugely rich and complicated history of a country currently standing nearly 40 mln citizens. Dr Calma, from Polish Embassy has used several interesting maps to effectively show the ever-changing borders of Poland. Today almost mono-ethnic and predominantly Catholic, Poland was once a multi-cultural polity, inhabited by Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Jews, Tatars, Armenians and Germans. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as it was called from the 16th to the late 18th century, was one of the earliest confederate countries in early modern Europe. As Dr Calma pointed out, for a long time, it also boasted a tolerant policy towards different ethnicities and faiths. It was fascinating for students to see many cultural and political links between Poland and Britain. Dr Calma talked with passion. Her presentation was followed by long discussion with some of our international boarders.

Rosemarie Swinfield: The world of William Shakespeare

On Tuesday the 5th of February Rosemarie Swinfield, lecturer, make-up designer and author with an international reputation and a series of lectures about Europe in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries,  covered the world of William Shakespeare without presenting simple facts about him that can be found with a simple Google search and instead detailing all we do and don’t know about Shakespeare as a person and the tales surrounding the legendary poet and playwright. Her lecture also included details on the world he lived in. This included the Elizabethan attitudes towards theatre, their methods of makeup, housing, certain rules everyone had to follow to keep pedestrians safe and even their attitudes towards milk! Rosemarie also went on to discuss Elizabethan portraits and the Mask of Venus, a template of sorts that artists had to use in order to replicate the way Elizabeth I wanted to be portrayed, and the singular painting where this format was not followed. Rosemarie also presented different rumoured paintings of Shakespeare speaking about the likelihood of them all being true representations of the playwright and her opinions on each one. In the question and answer section of this Williams project Rosemarie was questioned about the stories she told and further opinions on aspects of her lecture of which she all answered with confidence and a deep understanding of the topic. She was finally asked about the question of Shakespeare being the true writer of his plays where she expressed that she does not truly know the answer to the question nor does she believes it matters as it does not change the content of the plays themselves.

Sebastian Armstrong

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.

Edward Cearns: “A Rainbow of Opinion: Politics and Equality”

Edward Cearns

Edward Cearns

One of the last talks for this term was made by Edward Cearns, an Old Chigwellian who represents the city centre of Cambridge on Cambridgeshire County Council. He made a moving speech uniting politics and equality. The fact that he spoke from his own experience and shared his own ideas and understandings made his talk interesting, easy to understand, and at the same time made everyone in the room think about the world we live in. Mr Cearns spoke of Equality and explained to us what a politician could do about it. He focused mainly on the topic of equality of sexuality, as it was a topic very important to him and also something he has been working on in his council. He was very proud to announce that his council has supported his proposal to fly the rainbow flag every February starting next year.

Mr Cearns also brought to our attention two charities he has been working with, both of which support homosexual, bisexual or transgender people. “sexYOUality” has been involved in telling the story of homosexuals who had to deal with the prejudice of the last century, Section 28, and were treated as “ill”. It also supports young people to come to terms with their sexuality. The second one was “Stonewall”. They had recently produced a film called “Free” also presenting the life of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people nowadays.

I think everyone enjoyed the talk and the “Williams Project” would be happy to welcome back Mr Cearns.

Pavlina

Dr David Pepper: ‘Under the influence: The leaning tower of PISA’

What was so interesting about Dr. Pepper’s talk was the similarity of his presentation to his topic: useful, statistical and logical. He remained engaging, clear and formal throughout.
Beginning with the establishment of himself as a speaker from King’s College London certainly aided this; it built up a level of respect and contextualised his discussion of the education system PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment) and its pros and cons. What could also be noted about his presentation style was his relaxed introduction of PISA firstly by reference to the Italian location, then by a very concise and factual recollection of its aims.
We learnt it is a means of analysing the education systems of different countries by assessing 15-year-old students in the areas of mathematics, science, reading and financial literacy, and we were given some sense of attainment within the system when he presented us with statistics relating to the positions of the United Kingdom and other states over the years. Dr. Pepper presented to us this system as flawed in that it only measured those countries willing to compete, but that it enabled those countries to improve the education system.
With a percentage of those present being unfamiliar with PISA, it was both interesting and developing of our understanding to to learn about its global importance.  What also helped in this was his handling of our questions, as it established, basically and physically, exactly what we were discussing.
It was precisely for this reason that Dr. Pepper’s talk was a memorable and constructive session of the Williams Project, and one to look back on fondly.
Angus

Dr Tony Pruss: ‘Remembrances of things past: life as a police coroner’

Old Chigwellian and School Governor Dr Tony Pruss gave two talks, each focusing on two aspects of his life. The first aspect was his time as a boy at Chigwell in the 1950s and 1960s, a time of young boarders, corporal punishment, cold showers and some quite extreme masters and praefects. Tony’s stories of scrapes and escapes, especially the Grand Boycott of the CCF Parade, were very funny, and rather enlightening to the students of today. Let’s hope they don’t get any ideas.

The second part of both talks was about Tony’s career as a GP and Police Surgeon. This time more amazing horror stories, but these were set in a grown-up world: being “GP” to drunks and drug addicts, and visiting the sites of accidental deaths, murders and suicides; he had seen it all.

I don’t remember a more intense listening at a Williams Project meeting: Tony had experienced a life that was close enough to us in location and time, but different in so many ways. He had direct experience of life’s underbelly, and we all realised that here was that rare thing: someone talking to the young and telling the truth.

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