What was your favourite subject at school? Mine was Sociology and I went on to do a degree in Social Policy before teaching Sociology for the past 12 years. I was therefore delighted when Chloe picked Sociology for one of her GCSE options. I think the subject is valuable for many reasons but more than any other I think it is important to understand society and also what makes us the way we are. It raises so many issues around fairness and how we see and treat others. It also encourages us to question what influences us in society. One of the first lessons in Sociology is always about how we learn how to behave. For most of us we learn this from our parents through the use of sanctions and rewards. We learn the norms of our society as children and these are then reinforced by the other agencies of socialisation like Education, the media and our peer groups.
The norms we teach are based on the values of society and what we class as important. Being fair is one such norm and that is why we have norms like queuing up and taking turns. Some norms are easier to teach than others and some very much depend on the age of the child.
For the purpose of this post I asked Erin what ‘being fair’ means and she replied ‘sharing’. This is true from her point of view and largely refers to playing games and sharing equipment at school.
Dylan who is 10 suggested that being fair is ‘if there are two people wanting to do a job you need to treat people equally’ This is a more grown up response I guess and incorporates the idea of equality and treaing people fairly. He then went on to consider treating people equally regardless of gender and ethnicity.
Chloe who has started studying Sociology and therefore used to now discussing these themes said that fairness is ‘respecting people’
As a parent we teach this often subconsciously at the moment Erin is struggling with playing board games as she always wants to win and we are having conversations about this. We make sure we take turns and when she gets frustrated explain why this is fair. NatWest are also working harder to be fair and also rewarding loyalty from their customers with the Hello / Goodbye campaign. NatWest have set out to waving goodbye to best offers aimed only at new customers while excluding existing customers, goodbye to 0% teaser rates that cost more in the long run and goodbye to the practice of hiding the best deals online. (Check out this funny fairness experiment video from NatWest)
What do you consider the most important value to teach children? For me fairness is certainly up there among the top few. I also think children need to learn honesty and justice. Again as parents we are role models for this and when Erin was late for school by half an hour because I was waiting for a package that had a before nine o’clock delivery time I so very nearly said we were late due to a GP appointment (of which Erin does have many) but I knew that Erin would soon tell her teacher we were late because of the post! Therefore I stuck to being honest as it is a value I really expect the children to follow although they are all still work in progress on this one too from the time Dylan spent over £80 on Itunes charges to Erin still telling the most blatant of lies like she didn’t draw on her toys in the felt tip she was caught red handed still holding!
Disclosure: I’m working with BritMums and NatWest on this project and have been compensated. All opinions are my own.