Ted's teaching tips

8th June 2001 at 01:00
Is this striking picture of Amish people helping their neighbours just a historical relic, or does it have implications for modern society? It raises all kinds of questions about citizenship past, present and future, and relationships with others in our communities.

Amish Who are the Amish people in this picture (a Protestant sect, fled to North America in the 18th century to escape persecution in Europe)? What are the features of their lifestyle (have preserved 17th- century rural European culture, such as dress, farming methods, language)? What features of modern life do they reject (electricity, cars, farm machinery, secondary education)? How is their dress different from today (wear identical clothing, men in hats, beards, no moustaches, women in shawls, no jewellery, hooks and eyes instead of buttons)?

Society What do you understand by the word "society"? What kind of communities do we live in today? What do you like and dislike about society and what would you change? There is often a political argument about taxes, in Britain, the United States and elsewhere: what kind of taxes exist (income tax, VAT, car licence, sales taxes in the US, council tax)? Do you think people should be taxed to pay for health, education, and so on, or should they keep more of their income and have to buy these services when they need them? Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher said there was no such thing as "society", just individuals and families; do you agree?

Safety Helping each other is laudable, but a modern building site would need to folow certain safety procedures. Can you see any sources of danger in the picture and what safety procedures might be necessary (no scaffolding, hard hats, ladders instead of ropes, safety harnesses)? Do you think safety procedures are overdone nowadays (for example, wearing helmets while riding motorbikes and hard hats on building sites; school rules for laboratories, workshops and playgrounds), or are they necessary?

Writingpainting (a) Imagine the year is 2020. Describe what kind of a citizen you are, how people live, what you do; (b) make up a story of how you and your friends come to the rescue of a neighbour; (c) look at a painting by artists such as Lowry or Breughel and paint a "busy" picture with lots of active people in it, as in the photograph.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University


The commandment says "Love thy neighbour", but are we "neighbourly"?


People help each other in numerous ways: neighbours pitch in when someone is old or sick, children run errands. Modern communities still depend on volunteering, with schemes such as Meals on Wheels and Neighbourhood Watch. Churches, charities, scouts and guides are proof of our neighbourliness.


Modern wealth and state services make us less interdependent. Religion has gone out of fashion, selfish crime is a growth industry and many children expect to be paid for helping out. Stuck in high-rise flats or cut off by dangerous roads, we are more likely to watch television than talk to our neighbours.

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