Unpacking the Big Conversations

I often get the feeling that there are several internets, all being used and watched at the exact same time. My internet is different to my sisters’ internets and my friend’s internet. I’m reminded of this every time I have to explain a meme I’ve seen 100 times on my internet, or when I hear about a podcast for the first time and realise everyone I know has been listening to it for years on their internets.

A great example of this came in 2016, when the election of Donald Trump showed how social media sites like Facebook had been so effective in siloing information that people were exposed to such distinctly different versions of the same events; the people who saw positive news stories about him never saw similar stories about his adversaries, and those further to the left were taken by surprise at his victory because their news and media had represented him so adversely.

Being in a classroom together is kind of a way to blur the lines between everyone’s different internets. We read and watch and hear such different things at home and online, that there aren’t many places where we’re on the same page.

This makes it really tricky to discuss topics that affect people really personally in their private lives. We all have such different experiences with issues like mental health and respect in interpersonal or romantic relationships. Which makes coming together at school and equipping ourselves with the same language, tools and resources so important. With topics like these, we don’t want anyone to be left behind, feeling like they don’t know how to catch up to where everyone else is.

When I was in years 10, 11 and 12, I had this really great teacher called Mr Humphreys. He taught us English and Ancient History, wrote the school musical every year, filled in when our art teacher was sick, and traded mix CDs with me when he realised we liked some of the same bands. He ruled.

One of the best things about him was the way he spoke to us like we were his equals; he didn’t dumb things down or skip over tricky topics because that was easier than having serious conversations with us. It was in his year 10 English class that I first learned about things like abortion rights, euthanasia and feminism. In year 11 he prescribed each student a different book to read for an assignment. Mine was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. After writing our essays on wildly different books, we all shared them with one another so that everyone was exposed to the same stories and ideas. In year 12 Ancient History, he spent an entire lesson talking to us about theology and the way people’s relationships to religions had evolved over time, just as the religions themselves had. We didn’t write or read anything that day; we all just had a big conversation that he occasionally chimed in to moderate. Every student he taught came into his classrooms from different homes and levels of experience, but when we left we felt like we’d all caught up to one another.

Classroom settings are really safe and important places to thoughtfully tackle difficult issues, like sexting, equality and violence. Using the Rosie in the Classroom resources and videos, we can unpack these really big conversations and manage them together to make sure that, no matter where your friends or classmates are coming from, you’re all leaving together knowing what to look for, how to behave and what you should accept. We’re never going to be on the same internet, but at least now we can all be on the same page about really important ideas.

Brodie Lancaster

Brodie is a writer, editor and occasional DJ based in Melbourne, Australia. She is also the founding editor of Filmme Fatales, a semi-regular print zine about the intersection of film and feminism, and a senior editor at The Good Copy, a writing studio in Collingwood. Her first book was released in 2017 – a pop culture memoir titled No Way! Okay, Fine.

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