Ted's teaching tips

28th September 2001 at 01:00
Whales are magnificent, intelligent creatures whose existence is threatened by human predators. This thought-provoking picture raises questions about whether we would risk our lives to protect them, or indeed, for any other cause.

Whales

What is wrong with this statement: "Whales are the biggest fish in the ocean" (they are actually marine mammals evolved from four-legged land creatures, bearing and suckling their young)? Why do ships hunt them (for meat, blubber and ambergris, the waxy substance found in their intestines, used for making perfume)? Why do they spout water (expel air as they come to the surface to breathe through one or more blowholes on top of their head, closed when they are under water)? How do we know they are intelligent (have an elaborate underwater singing communication system; killer whales even have dialects)?

Greenpeace

What is Greenpeace (a 30-year-old international environmental pressure group)? What does it do (collect and present scientific and moral arguments about environmental pollution; passive resistance and non-violent "direct action" against whaling, nuclear tests, dumping of toxic waste)? Is what it does dangerous (Greenpeace members take risks, as in the picture; in 1985 one was killed when the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was blown up in Auckland harbour by French intelligence agents)? Do you agree or disagree with (a) their arguments, (b) their style of campaign and protest? Is there any cause or belief that you would take risks to support?

Protest

As a citizen in a democratic society, how could you protest non-violently if there was something you did not like (see councillor or MP, if it was a local or national issue; write to people making decisions or to the press; go on a march; walk around with a placard; launch a petition, leaflet; set up or join a pressure group)? Which forms of protest are illegal (damage to people and property, riot, trespass, violent or threatening behaviour)? Imagine that a toxic waste dump (or other feature of which you disapprove) is to be set up near where you live; find the key decision makers and processes and draw up a legal protest strategy.

Writing

(a) Describe the belief, cause, group or movement about which you believe most passionately, saying what you would or would not do to support it; (b) tell of a dangerous adventure in which you and a friend go along to help someone in difficulty.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

TALKING POINTS

Should whale hunting be allowed at all?

For

We should not inflict our own views on others. In some countries vital food, oil and other products are needed from whales. A certain amount of culling is acceptable, especially if agreed quotas are assigned and controlled. If whaling is prohibited, other forms of hunting fish and animals could be banned too, so where does the control end?

Against

Some 90 per cent of whales have been wiped out by man. Countries such as Japan could easily find alternatives to whale meat and many substitutes for the oil and cosmetics derived from the creatures. Whales are highly intelligent, unaggressive creatures and some species are threatened with extinction, so it is criminal to hunt them down.

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