What do you think of someone who pretends to help someone in need, but actually robs them? Public opinion has been highly judgemental of the two men captured on camera as they apparently stole from Ashraf Rossli, a student badly injured in the riots in August 2011.
Selecting from these four classroom activities, go beyond expressions of disgust and condemnation and explore humanity, honesty and helping.
1. Crime on camera
Explain to students that they are about to watch a video clip. They may have already seen it. The incident happened during the August 2011 disturbances in London and has been watched nearly six million times on YouTube.
Show the video.
The video can be broken into three phases:
- One man encourages an injured man, a student, to stand and to walk a few steps.
- Another man approaches, unzips the student's rucksack and takes something from it.
- Everyone else moves on, leaving the injured student on his own.
Ask students, working in pairs or groups, to summarise their reaction to what they see. The phase breakdown above may help them sort out different responses.
Share the contributions. Discuss why we react in this way.
Ask students what they know of the background to the incident and what has happened since. Use the following summary to fill in gaps in what they know. Promote discussion using the questions in italics following each item.
- The student sitting on the pavement was bleeding after being knocked to the ground, hit and robbed of his bike. His jaw was broken. What kind of help did he need?
- The two men who look into the student's bag have been prosecuted. They were found guilty of robbery and violent disorder and are awaiting a lengthy prison sentence. What part did the video play in the conviction? If there had been no footage, what might have happened?
- The media have condemned the offenders' actions, calling them thugs who pretended to help. Is this revulsion widely felt? Why?
- The student, Ashraf Rossli, has said he is not angry about what happened. His jaw is healed now and he just wants to get on with his life. Is this response unusual or expected? Would you personally feel the same?
Finish by quoting Ashraf's comments in a recent press conference: "People make mistakes, so forgive them."
A fuller version of what he said is:
"When you make some mistakes it is best to be punished but I want people to forgive them because when you put yourself in that situation you don't want to be judged by the same mistake your whole life. People make mistakes, so forgive them."
Does this incident give students any insight into what is meant by humanity, and what isn't? Can they express what they feel?
Imagine you were on the pavement watching that incident captured on video. What would you have done? Explore the options for intervention, and assess the risks.
Take a vote among the group. Who would:
- Do nothing, stay out of trouble.
- Wait until the group had moved off, then try to help the injured student.
- Step in straightaway to safeguard the student's property and tell the group to disperse.
After a brief discussion, split into pairs or small groups and discuss each option. The task is to agree:
- What is the best outcome from each option and what is the worst that is likely to happen?
- How likely is it that the best or worst outcome will happen?
Pool the ideas, identify agreements and points of disagreement. Can students find reasons for any disagreement? Is it because of different personal experiences, different assessments of risk, or different attitudes to helping others?
At the end of the session, have another vote. Who changed their minds after discussion and why? Point out that changing your mind is no bad thing.
3. Trickery and treachery
The media widely criticised the men for appearing to help the injured Ashraf Rossli, then stealing from him.
Discuss the breach of trust involved in pretending to do good but actually doing harm. What happens if you believe someone is trying to help you but is actually tricking you? Talk about how you may lower your defences and become an easier target or victim.
For instance, discuss:
- A thief who seems to help you, perhaps by pointing out money you have dropped, but who is actually pinching your wallet or purse.
- A distraction burglar who seems to befriend an elderly person in their home, but steals from them.
- An armed group that uses an ambulance during a conflict supposedly to help the injured, but actually to move weapons.
- An armed group during a conflict that persuades civilians and surrendered fighters to group together to be taken to a place of safety, but then kills them.
For an out-of-class activity, ask students to sample views of friends and family. Do people believe that abusing a position of trust makes certain crimes worse? Think of other examples of treachery and share them.
4. First aid that helps
Think again about the beginning of the video clip. How much use was the help given to Ashraf as he sat on the ground?
Ask students to think about what they would like if they had suffered a violent assault, been knocked to the ground, had a broken jaw, and were dazed and bleeding.
Would it be good to be helped to your feet and encouraged to walk? Is there anything else you would prefer?
- Draw up a list of what you would like to happen.
- Use a trained first aider, libraries or the internet to check the list against recommended actions. Then refine the list.
How many of the things on the list can students do? Would they do them if they came across someone injured in that way? For anything on the list that they would like to be able to do, but are not sure of, identify the barrier – a shortage of skill, knowledge or confidence for example. Then discuss how to remove that barrier.
The "Injured student" teaching resource was written by PJ White and produced in March 2012. Original YouTube video by ReaderDriver.
Unrest in the UK
Unrest and disorder in English cities dominated news coverage during August 2011. Choose from three approaches exploring different aspects. The first has a picture trigger, available to download in a powerpoint.
1. Emergency safety
©InfoLook at this picture for 30 seconds. Then spend a minute writing down what you remember seeing. Is it a blur, or are there details you can recall accurately?
Look again at the photograph to check your memories. Did you see the burning vehicles, and the police in riot gear arrayed across the road between them? Did you recognise the building as a shop?
Where and when do you think the photograph was taken?
The scene is a main road in Tottenham, north London on August 6, 2011. Police were trying to contain a large group of people. Add your own information to that outline. Distinguish between fact and interpretation.
Why are the building and the cars burning? Yes, because someone set fire to them. But why doesn't the fire brigade put the fires out?
Discuss two possible answers:
- because the fire service was overstretched, responding to other fires
- because of the need to protect crews.
It wasn't just buildings and cars that came under attack during the unrest. Fire crews were also targeted as they tried to respond to call-outs.
The leader of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority issued a statement saying it was "absolutely outrageous" that three fire engines came under attack and had to be taken off the road, making them unavailable for emergencies. "There is simply no excuse for this abhorrent behaviour which endangers the lives of firefighters and also the people they are trying to protect.”
Discuss. The London Fire Brigade invites messages of support on its Facebook page. What would you write?
2. Crowd behaviour
Are crowds just a collection of individuals? Do people behave the same way in a crowd as they would if they were on their own? Psychologists' reply is an emphatic no. People are swayed by what they see others doing. Do you agree?
Discuss, in pairs or small groups, times when:
- you did something in a crowd that surprised you
- you felt pressured in a crowd to do something you didn't want to
- you felt thrilled in a crowd
- you felt scared in a crowd.
If people are swayed by what they see others doing, what responsibility do the media have when they are reporting unrest?
3. Calm down and go home
One of the most memorable scenes of the unrest in Birmingham was the dignity and eloquence of a bereaved father who urged calm. Do you recall seeing or hearing the speech? What struck you about it? What details can you remember?
Tariq Jahan was speaking about the loss of his son, Haroon Jahan, 21, who died alongside two brothers, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir. They were hit by a car in the Winson Green area of Birmingham.
Here is what Tariq Jahan said:
- Basically, I lost my son. Blacks, Asians, whites – we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill each other? What's started these riots, and what's escalated them? Why are we doing this? I lost my son. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home.
The clip of Tariq Jahan can be viewed online from BBC News
Look at why the speech was so powerful. Tariq Jahan is non-judgmental. He is not seeking revenge. His concern is to avoid further injury or suffering. He speaks of people as one, irrespective of race or ethnicity. Do you think this is unusual? Are you aware of other examples? Do Tariq's words have greater power and authority because of his devastating personal loss?
Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy wrote a poem, Birmingham, for Tariq Jahan. Explore different levels of tone and the meaning of "nobody's children" in the last line.
All activities were written by PJ White. "Unrest in the UK" was produced in August 2011 and "injured student" was written in March 2012.