This is the last of my catch-up blogs and it’s on a topic that I’ve been meandering around for a few months now. I was first prompted to think about judgment in September’s special episode of The Archers, when we heard a jury reaching a decision about Helen Titchener’s trial for attempted murder and wounding with intent. In an hour, we learnt a surprising amount about eight new characters (four members of the jury were silent characters). Although the jurors were reminded to base their verdict only on the evidence presented in court, their interpretations of that evidence and the assumptions that they made about the people involved in the case were clearly influenced by their own personal experiences. I don’t know the extent to which the jurors’ deliberations and personal references were realistic, but they certainly highlighted the social divides amongst the British population. Thinking about these jurors, can we ever truly NOT bring our previous experiences to the table? And what about situations where we are unaware of the experiences of others? Do we judge them based on our own histories, rather than trying to understand theirs?
This reminded me of a conversation earlier in the year, where a friend observed that our choices, although personal, often involve rejecting other options – and that this can be perceived as judgment of the people who do choose that which we have rejected. Whether it’s ordering steak in the company of a vegetarian or choosing not to return to work after having a child, our personal choices frequently prompt comparison. And comparison can easily become judgment, intentionally or otherwise.
I’ve also been thinking about judgment in our consumption of media. A yoga buddy observed that YouTube allows us to watch television clips over and over again – generally those things that we judge as being either incredibly good or incredibly bad. With such repetition often comes adoration or shaming. How do we use repetition like this in our classrooms? Whilst most teachers would be horrified to realize that they may create an atmosphere of shaming, is it equally damaging to create an atmosphere of adoration?
Indeed, how do we make judgments as teachers, and how do we encourage our pupils to make judgments? Along with being “too quick to judge”, are there times when we are too slow to judge, or to make decisions or choices? Maybe it would help if we acknowledge our own personal stories more, and take time to become aware of the stories our pupils have experienced – and also consider whether situations are actually judgments, or decisions, or choices.
PS. I didn’t have an obviously relevant photo to use, so here is a picture of some bottles in a shop window in Detroit.