How Classical Western Architecture has inspired the world

Agnes P. in Year 9 takes us on a lively whistle-stop tour of key features and sights in the history of Classical Western Architecture, looking at the three main styles – Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine – that underpin the architecture we see around us today

Architecture governs our lives. We live in a metropolis and everywhere we turn there is a new street with buildings from a variety of eras that give us the ability to eat, sleep and to live. In the Palaeolithic period, roughly 2.5 million years ago, when humans lived in huts and hunted wildlife for food, the key purpose of architecture was to provide shelter, but now, we have many uses for it, due to the wealth, wisdom and resources amassed by humanity over 2.5 million years. But we can still trace the roots of much modern architecture back to ancient times.

Archaic architecture from as early as the 6th century BC has influenced many architects over the past two millennia. If you have ever been to the British Museum, a building designed to mimic the Greek style, and looked up at the columns just before the entrance, you will have noticed the ornate capitals, decorated with scrolls and Acanthus leaves. They are derived from the two principal orders in Archaic architecture: Doric and Ionic. The Doric order occurred more often on the Greek mainland where Greek colonies were founded. The Ionic order was more common among Greeks in Asia Minor and the Islands of Greece. These orders were crucial if you were an architect living in 600 BC. Temples were buildings that defined Greek architecture. They were oblong with rows of columns along all sides. The pediment (the triangular bit at the top) often showed friezes of famous scenes in the bible or victories achieved by the Greeks. The wealth that was accumulated by Athens after the Persian Wars enabled extensive building programs. The Parthenon in Athens shows the balance of symmetry, harmony, and culture within Greek architecture; it was the centre of religious life and was built especially for the Gods to show the strength in their beliefs. Greek architecture is very logical and organised. Many basic theories were founded by Greeks and they were able to develop interesting supportive structures. They also had a good grasp of the importance of foundation and were able to use physics to build stable housing.

Image from Pexels

The Romans were innovators. They developed new construction techniques and materials with complex and creative designs. They were skilled mathematicians, designers and rulers who continued the legacy left by Greek architects. Or as the Greeks might put it: pretentious copycats who stole their ideas and claimed them as their own. We sometimes forget that the origins of Roman Architecture lay within Greek history. Nonetheless, brand new architectural structures were produced, such as the triumphal arch, the aqueduct, and the amphitheatre. The Pantheon is the best-preserved building from Ancient Rome, with a magnificent concrete dome. The purpose of the pantheon is unclear but the decoration on the pediment shows that it must have been a temple. Like many monuments, it has a chequered past. In 1207 a bell tower was added to the porch roof and then removed. In the Middle Ages, the left side of the porch was damaged and three columns were replaced. But despite further changes, the Pantheon still remains one of the most famous buildings and the best preserved ancient monument in the world. It even contains the tombs of the Italian monarchy and the tomb of Raphael, an Italian renaissance painter. Roman architecture is known for being flamboyant, and many features reflect the great pride of this culture, such as the great pediments, columns, and statues of Romans doing impressive things. These all show off their understanding of mathematics, physics, art, and architecture. Many American designs have been inspired by this legacy, including the White House and the Jefferson Memorial, which couldn’t look more Roman if it tried.

Byzantine architecture was the style that emerged in Constantinople. Buildings included soaring spaces, marble columns and inlay, mosaics, and gold-coffered ceilings. The architecture spread from Constantinople throughout the Christian East and in Russia. Hagia Sophia is a basilica with a 32-metre main dome, dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God. The original church was built during the reign of Constantine I in 325 AD. His son then consecrated it in 360 AD and it was damaged by a fire during a riot in 404 AD. In 558 AD an earthquake nearly destroyed the entire dome and so it was rebuilt on a smaller scale. It was looted in 1204 by the Venetians and the Crusaders until after the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Mehmed II converted it into a mosque but in 1935 it was made a museum. But then it was converted back into a mosque in 2020. The history of the Pantheon looks paltry compared to the history of Hagia Sophia!

Byzantine architecture remains as a reminder of the spiritual and cultural life of people who lived in the Byzantine era. The use of mosaic during the Byzantine era has inspired modern architects to create themed works using gold mosaic to evoke beauty, religiosity, and purity.


Sources:
Encyclopædia Britannica
The London Library
MetMuseum – The Metropolitan Museum of Art Website

Why WHS students value the Model United Nations

Wimbledon High School’s six Haileybury delegates reflect on their experiences of taking part in Model United Nations (MUN), and what they learned from the weekend-long conference in March 2022.

I have been doing MUN for a year now and have thoroughly enjoyed it. We get to debate and discuss multilateral issues from different perspectives. I have learnt so many valuable skills, such as how to formulate arguments on the spot and how to address controversial ideas diplomatically. The highlight of the year for me was the national Haileybury MUN conference. Not only was the debating really fun, it was also great to meet so many students from over a hundred different schools, including US schools. In my committee, Special Political (SPECPOL), we debated numerous issues such as the question of foreign aid to war torn countries, which is especially relevant given the ongoing Ukraine crisis. A favourite debate of mine was the question of offsetting the legacy of colonisation and slavery, a subject which I am already very passionate about. I enjoyed working as a team in the General Assembly, and the fact that our WHS delegation won one of only three ‘Distinguished Delegation’ awards was amazing!

Sharanya (Year 10)

It was my sister who initially piqued my interest in MUN by persuading me to attend my first session at the club when I was in Year 10. Once I had learnt the formalities of MUN debates, I became increasingly engrossed and ended up signing up for my first conference at Alleyn’s School. Fast forward a few years and I was lucky enough to be attending one of the biggest MUN conferences in the UK, held at Haileybury. I was representing South Sudan in the Human Rights Council, which for those of you familiar with their political situation, will recognise this to be quite a challenge! In MUN you are required to uphold the values and policies of the country you are representing which meant I was tasked with preventing members of the LGBTQ+ community from being allowed to serve in the military, denying sex workers protective rights, ensuring whistle-blowers were not granted protection by international law and encouraging other countries to absorb around 2.3 million displaced South Sudanese people (whilst conveniently leaving out that they were fleeing genocide). The weekend did not come without its challenges but it was an invaluable experience that not only gave me greater insight into the inner workings of the UN but also encouraged me to see things through an opposing lens – although I must clarify that I do not and will not hold any of the views I had to represent over the weekend.

Chloe (Year 13)

Although the real UN can seem somewhat powerless with its inefficiencies and bureaucracy, the values it promotes – of peace, development, and human rights – are indispensable. Through the medium of MUN, we learn hands-on about these values and the actions needed to achieve them. Of course, MUN is great fun as well (I volunteered to give up my weekend for a conference). Memorable moments from the Haileybury conference included: everyone referring to themselves as “the delegate” – even when not in debate; disputes over the etymology of “cryptocurrency”; and my desperate attempts to argue that South Sudan, often deemed the most corrupt country in the world, is in fact, not at all corrupt. Additionally, my committee’s topics, including terrorism and outer space, were fascinating to debate. I was lucky enough to have my illicit arms resolution debated and passed in the General Assembly – a moment I will never forget!

Lara (Year 10)

I applied for this Model United Nations conference because I enjoy a challenge, although in the moment, when I feel under pressure, I do regret embarking on such an adventure. But afterwards, unscathed and evolved, I thank myself for it. This conference taught me that my trait of searching for intellectual stimulation is a gift. I now fervently recommend Jordan Peterson’s advice that “If you are not willing to be a fool, you cannot become a master”. Putting myself in the hot seat to be grilled by delegates who were more experienced than me developed my public-speaking skills and, most interestingly, taught me about myself. I was in the Special Committee which had the theme of ‘Health & Youth’. The four topics we discussed were: the right to healthcare for migrants, addressing mental health disorders in young people, equitable vaccine distribution and sexual education for all teenagers in school. These topics are all extremely complex and relevant to our lives today. Responding to points of order was exhilarating because I was encouraged to think quickly whilst remaining eloquent about the arguments I had. It is also something I value greatly because, when you listen to points of order, you are putting yourself in a new position by trying to understand other delegates’ perspectives to help you present your own.

Tawana (Year 13)

Having only done one MUN conference before, I was surprised to be invited to Haileybury – a very prestigious event. Despite being worried initially, I was very glad I went; it was the most incredible experience. My committee was Environment and Ecology and we discussed many topics including multinational corporations, desertification, sustainable fishing and GMOs. After COP26, these subjects felt particularly important to discuss and we had lots of fruitful debate as a committee. I feel like I learnt so much over the weekend – about the inner workings of the UN, resolutions, and procedure. Fun fact: resolutions from the UN are not legally binding. Overall, I had a wonderful time and made lots of friends!

Elspie (Year 10)

I developed an interest MUN when I was in Year 7, as the idea of discussing world issues and learning more about diplomacy appealed to me. At Haileybury MUN, my council touched on the issues of world hunger and discrimination against marginalised groups. Speaking from the perspective of South Sudan, reaching a compromise on these issues proved difficult as more developed countries failed to recognise the complexity of the problems faced by developing countries, or the religious barriers causing discrimination. Such experiences in Model UN always remind me of the great challenges faced by diplomats: MUN only really begins to skim the surface of the difficulties and complexities of compromise between countries. The experience imbued me with greater appreciation of the workings of the UN and has encouraged me to consider taking on the challenge of different careers within the field of international relations.

Nooriya (Year 12)

Visit to the Francis Crick Institute

Grace S, Year 13 Student, writes about the recent Biology trip to visit the Francis Crick Institute.

WARNING This article will include mentions in a biomedical sense to some topics which some readers may find disturbing, including death, cancer and animal testing.

Last Friday some of the Biology A-level students were privileged enough to go on a trip to the Francis Crick Institute. All sorts of biomedical research goes on inside the Institute, but we went with a focus on looking at the studies into cancer. During our day, we visited the ‘Outwitting Cancer’ exhibition to find out more about the research projects and clinical trials that the Crick Institute is running; we had a backstage tour of the Swanton Laboratory to learn about the genetic codes of tumours and find out more about immunotherapy and I attended a discussion on the impact pollution can have on the lungs.

We started our trip by visiting the public exhibition ‘Outwitting Cancer’, with Dr Swanton as our tour guide. We first walked through a film showing how tumours divide and spread using representations from the natural and man-made world. This film also showed that tumours are made up of cancer cells and T-cells (cells involved in the immune response) trying to regulate the growth of the cancer cells. We then moved through to an area where several clips were playing outlining the different projects underway at the Crick Institute in regards to cancer. There were many different projects on display about different clinical trials and research projects looking into understanding and fighting cancer, but the one which fascinated me the most involved growing organoids (otherwise known as mini-organs) from stem cells. The stem cells would be extracted from the patient and used to grow these organoids, which would then be used to see how they respond to different drugs. This would allow each treatment to be highly specified to the patient, and so perhaps lead to higher survival rates among these patients. In this same section of the exhibition there was a rainbow semi-circle of ribbons with stories clipped to these ribbons written by visitors to the exhibit of their experiences with cancer, ranging from those who have a lived experience, to those who are simply curious to learn more. It was a fantastic exhibit and I recommend you give it a visit yourself, it’s free!

As interesting as this exhibit was, for us the highlight was a backstage tour of the Swanton Laboratory followed by talks from members of the team working there. We learnt that they have found that there is homogeneity within tumours, a fact that was not known just a few years ago. What this means is that different sections of tumours have completely different genetic codes. This could significantly change the way which tumours are analysed and treatments are prescribed. Previously, one tumour sample was thought to be representative of the whole tumour, it is now known that this is not the case and multiple samples from different sections of the tumour should be taken to get a comprehensive view of its structure and how best it could be treated. Linked to this, one member of the team, a final year PhD student, showed us graphics which they had been able to take and colour of the different cells present in a tumour. One of the main reasons cancer develops to the point where treatment is needed is because the body’s immune system has failed to neutralise the cancer cells, they were working to find out why this may be. In one of the graphics shown to us, a different type of immune cell had actually formed a wall around the T-cells, preventing them from reaching the cancer cells in order to eliminate them.  This would be important knowledge when considering immunotherapy treatments, which encourage the body’s own immune system to fight back against the cancer. In this case there would be little benefit to injecting or strengthening T-cells, as they would not be able to reach the cancer cells. Immunotherapy itself is still a relatively recent invention, and it is still considered only after treatments such as chemotherapy have not been effective. By this stage the cancer is more advanced and much harder to treat with immunotherapy, so it is hoped that in the future immunotherapy will be considered before more generalised treatments such as chemotherapy.

Work is also being done to understand late-stage cancer. We were allowed into one of the stations where practical work is done (wearing red lab coats to indicate that we were visitors) and shown a series of slides showing where biopsies (a biopsy is the removal of a tissue sample) might be taken from a tumour. It was explained to us that TRACERx (the name of the project being undertaken in the Swanton Laboratory) had set up a programme where people living with late-stage cancer can consent to their tumours being used for post-mortem research. Often these individuals had also signed up for earlier programmes, so information on their cancer at earlier stages was available and it was possible to see how the cancer had progressed. It was also explained to us several of the methods used to store samples, including the use of dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) and liquid nitrogen.

The final presentation I attended (we were on a carousel in small groups) discussed the influence of pollution on lung cancer. It had previously been found that as we age, the number of mutations we have grows, so clearly mutations are not the sole cause of cancer as not everyone develops cancer. It has now been theorised that carcinogens, such as particle matter found in air pollution, activate these pre-existing mutations. Currently non-smokers comprise 14% of all lung cancer cases in the UK, as the number of smokers drops as people become more aware of the dangers of smoking, the proportion of people with lung cancer who are non-smokers will increase, making research as to what may cause this lung cancer even more important. Lung cancer in non-smokers is currently the 8th largest cause of death to cancer in the UK. Two on-going experiments are studying the effect of exposure to pollution on mutations in the lungs. One is being run within the Institute, exposing mice to pollution, and another in Canada, where human volunteers are exposed to the level of pollution average in Beijing for two hours. Whilst it is unlikely that this exposure will lead to new mutations, it may cause changes in those already present. All of the research projects presented to us are ongoing, and it really was a privilege to see what sort of work is going on behind the scenes.

All of us were incredibly lucky to be able to go on this trip and meet some of the scientists working on such fascinating projects within the Francis Crick Institute. Most of us were biologically-minded anyway, but were we not, this trip certainly would have swayed us.

How does mapping help to create a fictional world?

Ruby L, Deputy Head Girl, explores the significance of maps within literature, and how they help imaginatively guide both readers and writers.

Many famous literary works started off as a blank piece of paper and an idea for a fictional world. J.R.R. Tolkien produced three maps [1] and six hundred place names for his ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, which became one of the bestselling series in history with over 150 million copies sold worldwide [2]. He is one of many successful authors to utilise the practice of cartography in the establishment of a fantasy land, along with Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote ‘Treasure Island’ with the inspiration of a hand-drawn map; and C.S. Lewis, who invented Narnia. But why is this technique so popular and why does it make for more developed novels and fruitful book sales?

As Holly Lisle reveals, the process of literary map-making is an extensive and varied one. Authors generally depict a country or full land map instead of a city or street to generate a full view of the world they are creating and its geography. Once borders have been established, the addition of features such as mountain ranges, forests and cities fill the world with purpose and start to create a realistic-looking artefact. Mistakes made can also be of benefit to the plot and narrative. For example, if extra lines are drawn accidentally or a town has been placed far from any others, there is space for artistic license to make these into a story. If there is an abandoned trail it could have been deserted after a guerrilla warfare group used it in an ambush, and the isolated town could be used to excommunicate criminals as punishment in the country’s justice system [3].

But why wouldn’t the author simply write and skip this sketching? The answer is simple: this physical expression of the world inside the author’s head is invaluable when delving deeper into the story’s background. The writer can use their map to discover more about the land they have pictured, which is the main luxury of using cartography to compliment literature. Even a simple structure like the borders of the land probes into why that line was laid in that precise place. Was there dispute or war over territory? How are foreign relations between this country and its neighbour, and how does this impact the everyday lives of the citizens? Does a potential lack of security give rise to a totalitarian state in which inhabitants cannot cross the threshold to leave? Questions like these help the author to contextualise the history of the world that they are creating, which makes for a more three-dimensional setting. It helps us to understand their message in relation to their world’s history and landscape (political and social as well as physical) and in this respect, cartography is undoubtably important for the production of a fantasy world from an author’s perspective.

A hand-drawn ‘Annotated map of Middle-earth’ by British author J. R. R. Tolkien (Photo Daniel Leal-Olivias/AFP/Getty Images)

With the market for novels becoming more competitive, readers gravitate towards stories with an easily visualisable world and deeply considered, nuanced characters. Although there are many techniques which can achieve this, mapping is a simple way to produce ‘evidence’ for the fictional land to exist as they imply the realism of the author’s creation [4]. It adds another layer of credibility to the novel as we want to believe in what has been put in front of us. By human nature we are inclined to wish to read for escapism and suspension of disbelief is a huge part of what draws us into the narrative, so producing artefacts becomes very useful. This fact is what makes book sales soar for fantasy novels as they carry us away from the sometimes mundane real world. The illusion of reliability from a seemingly genuine source encourages us to engage with the text more deeply.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s work is a clear example of how mapmaking benefits both the author and reader in a fictional tale. He wrote in a letter to the novelist Naomi Mitchinson in 1954 that: ‘I wisely started with a map and made the story fit (generally with meticulous care for distances). The other way about lands one in confusions and impossibilities, and in any case, it is weary work to compose a map from a story.’ [1] Tolkien decided to come up with detailed maps depicting what would become ‘middle-earth’ and even chose to invent detailed languages and names before creating a plot. Based on his remarks, we can see that having a map before a narrative is not a defect but a delight, as successful exploration of possible characters and storylines can only come from detailed research and prior thought as to the setting. Not only was Tolkien’s cartography useful for him to devise a plot, it was widely appreciated by readers of his books worldwide. Literary critic Shippey writes that his maps are “extraordinarily useful to fantasy, weighing it down as they do with repeated implicit assurances of the existence of the things they label, and of course of their nature and history too” [1].

It is no wonder that fantasy books containing careful cartography are so popular and successful, then. They are sure to thrive as long as humans continue to need exploration and escapism.

Bibliography

[1] Tolkien’s maps. (2020, October 21). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolkien’s_maps

[2] The Lord of the Rings. (2020, November 05). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lord_of_the_Rings

[3] Maps Workshop – Developing the Fictional World through Mapping. (2019, April 16). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://hollylisle.com/maps-workshop-developing-the-fictional-world-through-mapping/

[4] Grossman, L. (2019, October 02). Why We Feel So Compelled to Make Maps of Fictional Worlds. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://lithub.com/why-we-feel-so-compelled-to-make-maps-of-fictional-worlds/

Does money actually grow on trees?

Alexia P. Head Girl, analyses the historic and future impact of trees on the economy.

‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’. A cliché I’m sure most people will have heard when they were younger; when they had no understanding of the true value of money.  However, is this cliché wrong – are there economic benefits to trees?

As of 2020, there are approximately 3.04 trillion trees on the planet, made up of 60,065 different species. Their uses vary, from being produced into something tangible, such as paper or furniture, or providing intangible services, such as the carbon cycle or retaining nutrients in biomass to aid farmers in growing crops. Over time, although their uses may have changed, trees have always been a vital part of our economy, in ways that at first, may not be apparent.

Photo by zhang kaiyv from Pexels

Let’s jump back in time. The year is 1690, and the global dominance of the British Empire is growing. In Britain, most of the population are in the primary sector of employment, particularly in agriculture, growing trees to help build houses, or to trade for an animal to increase income for the household. As timber and fruits were traded amongst farmers, incomes increased. However, as more villages were established, space that was previously forestland was cleared of trees, and the supply started to diminish. The navy – at the time, the biggest in the world – relied on the timber for their ships; to continue to expand their fleet, they had to travel further abroad. Ships then travelled to America, India, and Europe to gain resources, power, and valuable influence to create trading alliances that are still in place today. This extra money and resources gave Britain an advantage when The Industrial Revolution hit in 1760. This allowed for a quick and smooth integration of the new, more efficient way of life that asserted Britain further as a global power and further boosted its economy. And all of this stemmed from the reliance and resources of trees, without which, the roots of our economy would not stand today.

However, as countries developed, their reliance on single resources and tangible products have decreased, particularly in ‘advanced’ countries in favour of services and jobs in tertiary and quaternary sectors. As a result, agriculture – such as timber production – has steadily decreased.

But trees still play a vital part in the growth of our economy today. In LIDCs and EDCs, such as Brazil, logging and mass production of wood has become part of the economy. Although the industry is environmentally frowned upon, it has an estimated worth of $200 billion annually, allowing many developing countries who produce this material to place money into developing infrastructure and technology further. There are not only economic benefits. In some societies, such as in parts of Indonesia, trees and wood have been used as currency on a local scale, allowing people to trade wood for farming animals, or clothes, encouraging economic movement in smaller villages, that may not have reliable national trading routes. Paper, furniture and fuel are just some other ways that trees have become so heavily relied on in people’s lives, with few other ways to substitute the valuable resources they produce.

Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

However, the rate at which tree resources are exploited is becoming too high. In the quest to become economically developed, forest sustainability has been forgotten. Increasing tropical deforestation rates account for loss of biodiversity and reduction in carbon intakes,affecting further tree growth in surrounding areas as nutrients are removed.

There have been recent attempts, however, to preserve the trees and rainforests. In a recent study by Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, it was determined that rainforests store around 25% of carbon dioxide, with the Amazon alone strong 127 billion tons. To release these gases would heavily increase the enhanced greenhouse effect, changing the balance of the Earth’s ecosystems.

Sustainable income from trees is becoming more apparent, particularly in countries where deforestation rates are highest. In Bangladesh, where fuel industry relies on 81% wood, the logging industry has been encouraged to collect dead trees, wood waste and pruning rather than felling increased sections of forest. This still allows for an income, whilst ensuring trees remain part of the ecosystem. Furthermore, there has been a global effort to move away from the use of wood entirely. Reusable energy, such as solar power, makes up 26% of the global energy used and is expected to rise to 45% by 2045. Although this means the usage of trees in the economy will decline, it allows for new income sources, such as eco-tourism that encourages more environmentally aware holidays; for example, Samasati lodge, Costa Rica. The lodge uses rainwater instead of transporting water through pipes; is built on stilts rather than the ground as not to disrupt run-off water to rivers; and blends in with surroundings to ensure not to disturb local wildlife in attempts to make holidays more environmentally sustainable, whilst still taking economic advantages of trees.

‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’. Well, since 2016 in the UK, it hasn’t. Our bank note system changed from paper to plastic, showing the progression from a society that once relied on a single produce, to a new, man-made source. This well represents our economy today and our declining reliance on trees: what was once the roots of our economy will soon become a thing of the past.

How did the 2016 EU Referendum come about?

Cara H, Editor of Unconquered Peaks, looks at the key reasons that led David Cameron to hold the 2016 EU referendum.

In this essay I focus on the factors which led to the 2016 Referendum being held, rather than the result. David Cameron called the 2016 EU Referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) in 2015, giving the British public the right to decide whether their future would be in or out of the EU. They chose to leave the EU by a margin of 51.9% leave, versus 48.1% remain. The UK-EU relationship has always been complicated and fraught, ever since joining in 1973. Factors analysed are ‘important’ as they led to Euroscepticism in British politics or the British public, and/or led to political pressure on Cameron to hold a referendum on EU membership.

I argue that the UK’s historic relationship with the EU contrasts sharply with their current aims. As for immigration, general anti-immigration sentiment, and the rise of UKIP (which are very much linked) strongly contributed to Euroscepticism and political pressure on Cameron. I also touch on Cameron himself, and his decision making around quelling his backbenchers.

A transactional vs political relationship

Britain has always viewed the EU differently to our European friends. Whilst most of Europe see themselves as European, Britons are the least likely to have Europe form part of their identity (see graph below), and do not have the same allegiance to Europe in comparisons to the German or French. Instead, we view our relationship with the EU as transactional, through a cost-benefit, economic analysis. This can be clearly traced back to our original reasons for joining.


(Eurobarometer, 2015)

In the late 1950s, Britain was experiencing a post-war economic rut, while Germany and France were experiencing strong growth. Britain’s spheres of influence were declining, and trade with the USA and Commonwealth had decreased. This led to the belief that joining the bloc might remedy the UK’s economic problems. Macmillan, the UK Prime Minister at the time, “saw the European Community as an economic panacea… here was a way in which the British economy could overcome so many of its problems without resorting to a radical and painful domestic economic overhaul” (Holmes, n.d.) This analysis of Britain’s reasons for joining contrasts sharply with the EU’s increasingly political aims. Though Britain arguably shares the aims of the European Project, it does not share the same desire to become one with Europe and is interested in the EU only economically. Having joined the EU for economic reasons, and later being faced with political integration, increased tensions.

These tensions between an economic, free trade-based union and a political integratory one, have been the backdrop of the UK’s interactions with the EU. For example, the Eurozone Crisis in the UK especially damaged views towards Europe, not simply because of what happened, but because the ‘cost’ of remaining a member became highlighted. The heightened tensions within the political establishments of the UK and the EU have seeped into the general public psyche. Therefore, the dual nature of the EU as a trade-bloc and a political union had a negative impact on the UK’s relationship with the EU, by increasing Euroscepticism, and in turn increasing political pressure on Cameron to hold a referendum in 2016.

Immigration concerns conflated with EU

Freedom of movement is enshrined in the EU’s ‘DNA’. As stated in 1957 in the Treaty of Rome, it can be defined as ‘EU nationals having the right to move freely within the European Union and to enter and reside in any EU member state’ (Bundesministeriums des Innern, 2015). Non-EU immigration levels have always been higher than EU immigration levels. Meaning that the argument around freedom of movement as a cause of unsustainable immigration has been greatly exaggerated. It is the perception of EU immigration that has stuck; the EU became synonymous with immigration of any kind, whether this is misguided or not.

The increased level of non-EU and EU immigration put pressure on aspects of British culture which are not so open to those perceived as ‘non-British’. Integration is often difficult for those of a different culture. For example, differences in language, traditions and skills, can lead to those with a strong sense of British national identity perceiving immigrants negatively, as they threaten what some see as British culture. And yet this immigration concern is incorrectly conflated with the EU, as the majority of immigration to the UK has little to do with the European Union (though one could also argue that all British anti-immigration sentiment is largely unfounded, regardless of the place of origin). An excellent paper by Chatham House presents a cross analysis of people’s voting choices (leave vs remain), compared to their attitudes towards immigration (both non-EU and EU). The trait that most divided the ‘leavers’ from the ‘remainers’ was their attitudes towards immigration and British culture: nearly ¾ of ‘outers’ agreed that ‘Immigration undermines British culture”.


Social background of ‘inners’, ‘outers’ and undecided voters. (Chatham House, 2015)

Therefore, this cultural negativity towards immigration manifests itself in many ways, one of which is opposition to the EU, through the conflation of (any) immigration with EU membership. One of the EU’s most sacred principles is freedom of movement, and the growing number of immigrants since the UK’s membership of the EU has only increased this Euroscepticism, which increased the likelihood of EU-UK referendum.

UKIP’s sudden rise

UKIP was founded in 1991 and can be categorised as a single-issue party, with the sole aim of bringing the UK out of the EU, via a referendum. Once Nigel Farage became leader of UKIP in 2006, it grew in popularity, with gains in the 2013 local elections (22% of the vote), two Conservative Party defections to UKIP in 2013, and impressive results in both the 2014 European Parliament elections (largest number of seats with 24) and the 2015 General Election (12.5% of the popular vote). They were most certainly on the up.


Table to show distribution of seats in the European Parliament in 2014.

UKIP’s rise led to Cameron’s electoral position becoming increasingly threatened: UKIP is a right-wing party, whose voters were more likely to be white and older than that of Labour’s electorate. Therefore, UKIP was able to split the Conservative vote (Martill, 2018). In 2014, UKIP managed to gain over a quarter of votes in European Parliament elections, outnumbering the Conservatives. Understandably, this was a clear threat to the Conservative Party at the time. Though support for UKIP was clearly influenced by other factors, (i.e factors that pushed voters towards UKIP), UKIP managed to harness Euroscepticism in the general public, and transform this into meaningful political pressure on David Cameron to hold a referendum. The nature of UKIP’s rise – sudden, large, and at a time when the Conservatives did not have a majority (pre-2015 General Election), was a very important factor in leading to the referendum. Arguably, UKIP’s pressure on Cameron led him to hold an election, lest he lose public and potentially party support, and inevitably, a general election. Therefore, due to the rise of UKIP, a party based on support for a referendum on the EU, Cameron was incentivised to put a referendum promise in his party’s manifesto in 2015 and hold one in 2016, in order to keep his Conservative Government in office.

Cameron’s desire for a quick fix

The Prime Minister is by far the main source of authority over whether to hold a referendum or not, so analysing Cameron is important in answering this essay’s question. Cameron’s decision around party management was an impactful factor in leading to the 2016 EU Referendum.

The promise of a referendum can be seen as a ‘quick fix’ method of appeasement to the Eurosceptic backbenchers. As is clear from the rise of the Conservative Eurosceptic faction, heightened tensions were forming in the Conservative Party from 2013 onwards, and this threatened the Party’s ability to govern. Hence, Cameron felt compelled to manage his party over Europe, by delegating the decision to the public. When the referendum was initially promised in June 2013, Cameron was concerned with stopping the backbenchers rebelling in the coalition. He wanted to silence the Eurosceptic wing of the party that had caused so much trouble for the party over the years; an ‘easy fix’ to a longstanding problem (Martill, 2018). A comment that encapsulates this, is from Donald Tusk (former President of the European Council), recounting his meeting with Cameron after the referendum was announced in 2013:

“Why did you decide on this referendum, [Tusk recounts asking Cameron this] – it’s so dangerous, even stupid, you know, and he told me – and I was really amazed and even shocked – that the only reason was his own party… [He told me] he felt really safe, because he thought at the same time that there’s no risk of a referendum, because his coalition partner, the Liberals, would block this idea of a referendum” (BBC, 2019).

Clearly, party management was very influential in Cameron’s decision-making. Therefore, the decision desire to repair the divide in his party, was hugely impactful in leading to the 2016 EU Referendum.

In conclusion, the nature of our relationship with the EU, immigration sentiment, UKIP and Cameron’s decision making were the most important factors in leading to the EU Referendum. Especially impactful was UKIP’s ability to harness Euroscepticism into political pressure. But arguably, the end of our EU membership was spelt out from the beginning.


Works Cited

BBC, 2019. Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0c1rjj7
[Accessed 29 06 2021].

Bundesministeriums des Innern, f. B. u. H. B., 2015. Freedom of movement. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bmi.bund.de/EN/topics/migration/law-on-foreigners/freedom-of-movement/freedom-of-movement-node.html
[Accessed 29 06 2021].

Chatham House, 2015. Britain, the European Union and the Referendum: What Drives Euroscepticism?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/publications/research/20151209EuroscepticismGoodwinMilazzo.pdf
[Accessed 9 20 2021].

Eurobarometer, 2015. National versus European identification, s.l.: s.n.

Holmes, M., n.d. The Conservative Party and Europe. [Online]
Available at: https://www.brugesgroup.com/media-centre/papers/8-papers/807-the-conservative-party-and-europe
[Accessed 9 20 2021].

Martill, B., 2018. Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe. London: UCL Press.

Is globalisation a new phenomenon?

Andrea T, Academic Rep, looks at the nature of globalisation and whether with the context of our history we can consider it a ‘new phenomenon’

Globalisation is an ever-present force in today’s society. Scholars at all levels debate the extent of its benefits and attempt to discern what life in a truly globalised world would entail. But where did it all begin? A comparison of the nature of colonialisation and globalisation aid our understanding of this phenomenon’s true beginning, yet no clear conclusion has been reached. This leads us to the matter of this essay, an attempt at answering the age-old question: “Is globalisation a new phenomenon?” Though there are striking similarities between both colonialisation and globalisation, I do not believe we can see them as them one and the same. Due to the force and coercion that characterised colonisation’s forging of global cultural connectivity, and the limitations of colonial infrastructure, we cannot consider it true globalisation. Therefore, though imperfect, the globalisation of the modern world is its own new phenomenon.

Before I can delve into the comparisons of colonisation and globalisation, we must first gain a common understanding of the characteristics of both. There is no set definition for globalisation, though most definitions portray it as an agglomeration of global culture, economics and ideals. Some also allude to an ‘interdependence’ on various cultures and an end goal of homogeneity. (One could certainly debate whether this reduction of national individuality is truly a desirable goal, but that is sadly not the purpose of this essay.) Furthermore, for the purpose of this argument, homogenisation is taken on the basis of equality; equal combination of culture forming a unique global identity. And the focus of this essay will be the sociological aspects of globalisation, as opposed to the nitty gritty of the economics.

Though we are far from a truly homogeneous world, we certainly see aspects of it in the modern day. With an increase in international travel and trade, catalysed by the rise of technology and international organisations, we have seen the emergence of mixed cultures and economies. Take for example the familiar ‘business suit’. Though it is seen as more of a western dress code, all around the globe officials and businesspeople alike don a suit to work, making them distinctly recognisable. One might however consider how truly universal this article of clothing is. Its first origins are found in the 17th Century French court, with a recognisable form of the ‘lounge suit’ being seen in mid 19th Century Britain, establishing it firmly as a form of western dress. We then later see, with its rise to popularity in the 20th century (as international wars brought nations closer), the suit and many other western trends adopted across the globe (see picture below). Considering the political atmosphere of the time, and the seeming dominance of the West, we may doubt that the adaptation of the suit was an act of mutual shared culture. And yet we see the ways in which the suit has been altered as it passed to different cultures. Take the zoot suit, associated with black jazz culture, or the incorporation of the Nehru jacket’s mandarin collar (Indian origin) into the suits popularised by the Beatles. Though it still remains largely western, with the small cultural adaptations we can see how something can be universalised and slowly evolve towards homogenisation. In this way, a symbol as simple as the suit can be representative of a globalising world.

This is also where we start to see the link between colonisation and globalisation form. Trade formed an essential part of each colonial empire – most notably, the trade of textiles. Through the takeover of existing Indian trade (India in fact formed 24% of world trade prior to its colonisation), British-governed India exported everything from Gingham to tweed, and had a heavy influence on the style of the society’s elite, taking inspiration from the traditional Indian methods of clothes-making. Furthermore, this notion of the business suit can be seen as early as when Gandhi arrived in Britain (seeking education on law), dressed in the latest western trends. However, though the two do certainly share characteristics, we must consider the intent behind this blend of culture. The ideal of globalisation suggests an equality that is not echoed in colonisation. Gandhi did not wear western styles because of his appreciation of British fashion trends, but instead knew that it was far easier to assimilate if you looked and acted the same. Similarly, influence of Indian dress on British dress was not from a place of appreciation either, but from one of exploitation. Therefore, though the sharing of culture is present in both globalisation and colonisation, one cannot consider them to be the same due to the underlying intent. Furthermore, as the intent in modern day globalisation is in some ways similarly exploitative, one cannot consider the world truly globalised, but rather globalising, through a process one could still consider a new phenomenon.

Another aspect of globalisation we can consider is the role of the media. McLuhan, a 20th century Canadian professor, capitalised on this by proposing the idea of a ‘global village’ that would be formed with the spread of television. His theories went hand-in-hand with the ideas surrounding ‘time-space compression’ that have come about due to travel and media. And McLuhan was right, with a newly instantaneously connected world we have become more globalised. With the presence of international celebrities, world-wide news and instant messaging we have the ability to share culture and creed, and though far from homogenous we can certainly see small aspects of global culture beginning to form. Due to this dependence of globalisation on technology it is therefore hard to view colonisation as early-stage globalisation. But one can make one distinguishing link. One could argue: the infrastructure implemented for trade routes served as the advancements in technology of the imperial time. Similar to air travel, with the creation of the Suez Canal and implementation of railways, it was easier to traverse the globe. This is what further catalysed open trade and contact between different nation states, one of the most recognisable traits of globalisation. However, despite this, the trade routes did not improve communication anywhere near to the level we see today, and the impact technology has had on the connectivity of our globe is too alien to colonisation for the two to be considered the same. In terms of interconnectivity, the form of globalisation we see today is entirely novel, and though they have the same underlying features, the difference between the two remains like that of cake and bread.

Another aspect of globalisation we can consider is the spread of religion. Religion is an incredibly important aspect of a country’s culture, defining law and leadership for hundreds of years. The American political scientist Huntington explored religion and globalisation in his work: ‘The Clash of Civilisations’ (1996) in which he put forward the following thesis: due to the religio-political barriers, globalisation will always be limited.

But events have challenged this. There has been a rapid spread of religion around the world due to the newfound (relative) ease of migration and the access to faith related information through the internet. From London (often dubbed a cultural ‘melting-pot’) to Reykjavik (rather the opposite), we see Mosques and other religious institutions cropping up. With the lack of religious geographical dependence, we see the homogenising effect of globalisation. This is also to some extent echoed in colonisation. During the years of the British Empire, colonisation followed a common narrative of the white saviour. Missionaries preached a new and better way of life, supposing that the application of Christian morals and values would help develop the ‘savage’ indigenous tribes. This attempt at integrating western Christian culture into the cultures present across Africa and Asia shows an early attempt at a homogenised culture. However, though there was certainly some success in the actions of the missionaries (as seen with the establishment of many churches across South Africa), the aggressive nature of this once again contradicts the fairness implied in the concept of a homogenous culture, and globalisation remains a new phenomenon.

One cannot dispute that colonisation does share a number of characteristics with globalisation. From free trade to new infrastructure to the mixing of culture through religion and fashion, we can certainly see aspects of a globalising world. And yet the forceful intent of the homogenisation of cultures seen in the colonial era, removes it from being the true interconnectivity of nations. This is not to say that the world today is free of this intent, but the way in which our world today is globalising is approaching the ideal of globalisation more closely than colonisation ever did, and there is a distinct enough difference between the two that one cannot consider colonisation to truly be an early-stage globalisation. Furthermore, the world today relies so heavily on technology as a facilitator of globalisation that any notion of globalisation in the 19th century cannot be considered one and the same. Therefore, the globalisation of our day and age can be considered its own new phenomenon.


Bibliography

“Cultural Globalization.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/science/cultural-globalization. 

“Globalization Is a Form of Colonialism.” GRIN, www.grin.com/document/287753. 

“Globalization versus Imperialism.” Hoover Institution, www.hoover.org/research/globalization-versus-imperialism. 

Steger, Manfred. “2. Globalization and HISTORY: Is Globalization a New Phenomenon?” Very Short Introductions Online, Oxford University Press, www.veryshortintroductions.com/view/10.1093/actrade/9780199662661.001.0001/actrade-9780199662661-chapter-2. 

“What Is Globalization?” PIIE, 26 Aug. 2021, www.piie.com/microsites/globalization/what-is-globalization. 

Maddison, Angus “Development Centre Studies The World Economy Historical Statistics: Historical Statistics” OECD Publishing, 25Sep. 2003,

Chertoff, Emily. “Where Did Business Suits Come from?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 23 July 2012, www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/07/where-did-business-suits-come-from/260182/. 

Our coding Journey with Bit and Byte (our school robots)

Isabelle, Lauren, Olivia and Homare (the WHS Social Robots team) describe how they are working on using the school’s social robots Bit and Byte as reading buddies in the Junior School, and update us on the progress made so far. 

We are the Social Robots team, and we would love to present our project, which is robot reading buddies, to you. This club started in 2018 and we work with the 2 robots which we have at school. Since then, we have taken part in competitions (such as the Institut de Francais’ Night of Ideas competition[1] – which we won!) and other projects and challenges within the school. Currently, we have been working on how we could use these robots in the Junior School to help encourage reading practise.

What we want to achieve and how

At Wimbledon High School we are lucky enough to have two Miro-E robots. They are social robots meaning they can react to touch, noise and other actions due to the sensors and cameras that they have. We can then code the robots into changing colours, wagging its tail, pricking up its ears and many other possibilities! The Miro-E robots are designed to mimic a pet.  But we are not the only one’s coding Miro-E robots for a social cause: they are also used for the elderly to combat loneliness.[2] We hope they will have a similar calming effect on children.

We all know how important it is to learn how to read since it broadens knowledge and vocabulary, as well as opening doors for future learning; therefore, we want to include the Miro-E robots in the Junior School as reading buddies. In addition, reading improves presentation skills and develops confidence and independence. Enjoying reading from an early age will help to support these skills.

To encourage this crucial development in the child’s life, we believe that it is vital to make those learning to read feel comfortable and stimulated. As a social robotics team, we realised that one way to achieve this was by creating a robot reading buddy that helps young children at school to practise reading whilst also being motivated by a cute robot dog (cat, kangaroo, cow, bunny, or whatever animals you think the robots resemble)! If we can compel children to read with our social robots, as well as to teachers or parents, this might change the amount they read or the difficulty of the books they attempt; therefore increasing the speed of reading development, as it is encouraging in a non-judgmental environment.

Our research about reading buddies

Research has shown that it is beneficial for children who are learning to read to have a companion who just listens, rather than correcting them, as we know that reading can be a challenging and sometimes daunting experience for some students. Of course, it is equally important for a teacher to help the child when reading and correcting them so that they can learn and improve. But we also think it is crucial for children to enjoy the reading experience, so that they have the motivation to keep learning.

Therefore, Miro-E robots are perfect for this job as they can help find the balance between learning to read, and practising to read. Also, we can code the robot to adapt to the situation and make the reading experience the best it can be. As we have 2 of these robots at the school, it will also enable the Junior Staff to have multiple reading sessions at once. Finally, as we mentioned, the robots can react with sounds, movement, and lights which we are hoping will engage the students and keep the experience enjoyable. 

While researching, we did also find many studies and papers regarding the effects of animals such as dogs on learning. However, we found little about robotics and coding to achieve the task we set out to complete, making it no mean feat. As school-aged children ourselves, what we are trying to do is pioneering and exciting but also has its challenges. We look forward to introducing Bit and Byte to the Junior pupils and inspiring them to get involved, not only with reading but also to get them excited about robotics and coding! 

Our progress so far

We have been working on this project since the start of 2021, and we have been focussing on research, as well as some coding. At first, we had a discussion with some Junior School pupils, and we sent a survey to parents to see what their top priorities would be for the reading buddy and what their opinions were. We find it really important that the users of the robot reading buddy can contribute their ideas and opinions so that the reading buddies are as beneficial for them as possible. 

An example of these results is that both the students and the parents wanted the robot to guide the child through nodding. Because of this, we set up 5 key stages of the reading process, with different coding programs (and therefore different emotions and actions shown in the robot) for each. We have coded these 5 key stages separately already. These stages are: 

  1. Starting to read, so when the students have just started their reading session or when they continue after a break. We have coded this to have an excited emotion, through tilting the head up towards the child, for example.
  2. While reading, so while the robot can detect someone speaking through the microphone. We have coded this to have a motivational emotion, through slow nods and opening the angle of the ears.
  3. A pause in reading, so when the robot is unable to detect someone reading for a fixed amount of time (for example, 10 seconds). We have coded this to have a questioning emotion, such as with a tilting head position. 
  4. Session finish, which is when the teacher says that the reading session is over. This could be a fixed time (for example, after exactly 10 minutes) or a different action which the robot could sense. We have coded this to have a celebrating emotion, such as moving in a circle.
  5. Early finish, which is when the student decides to stop their reading session before the finishing time. We are still thinking about how the robot could sense this: either if no sound has been heard for over a minute, for example, or if the student does a specific action, such as clapping three times. We have coded this to have a sad emotion, with the robot looking down and the tail not wagging any more. Here is the example code of this:

Social Robots as Reading Buddies sample code

Throughout all these stages, we have also made use of the lights on the robots to portray what stage the students are on.  This will allow the teachers to see the same.

We have learnt a lot in the project so far. For example, through the opportunity to talk with the younger students, we practised gathering data interactively, and how we can use this information. We also learnt a lot of new skills through our research, such as how we can receive papers from the writers and how we can use these effectively. Finally, we have experimented lots through coding by finding out how we can use the new functions in the miro2 library, as well as how we could use different libraries to overcome challenges such as not having a function to sense consistent sound, such as someone reading.

Our next steps

Our next steps for next year and beyond are to successfully complete the coding of this project and run a test with students in the Junior School, before finalising the code to make the robot reading buddy as effective as it can be. There are still a lot of problems that we need to solve for us to code the program successfully.

A key problem that we are facing now is that our robot currently cannot distinguish between a human voice (which can be constant) and a machine whirring away in the background. This is because the robot can only “hear” the difference between fluctuating noises and constant noises. There are many factors that contribute to this problem that we still need to test. Is it because the microphone is not good enough? Is it simply that the communication between the laptop, robot and lights is too slow for the robot to reflect what it is hearing? And how could we adapt our code to work with this? 

It is problems like these which slow down the coding process. For example, there were times where the program would not send to the robot, which we struggled to fix for weeks. Or smaller problems, such as when I thought the program was not running but it was simply that the movements on the simulator that I had coded were not big enough for me to notice the impact of my code.

When all our coding works for each of the 5 stages, we are going to link this all into one bigger program, which will decide which stage the reader is at. For example, if no reading has been detected for x seconds, then the robot may go into the “pause” phase. We will need to experiment to see what timings suit these decisions best. While we continue to develop the coding, we will also need to constantly test and receive more feedback to improve. For example, how could we find the balance between distractions and interactions? 

As you can tell, we have made progress, but we also have lots to do. We will continue to try to find effective solutions to the problems that we may encounter.

Reflection

We have all thoroughly enjoyed this project, and we also think that it has, and will continue to, help us build up several skills. For example, we have learnt to collaborate well as a team, being able to work both independently and with others. However, as previously mentioned we have encountered many challenges, and in these cases perseverance is key. Finally, we appreciate the project because it has been really rewarding and lots of fun to work with the robot and see our progress visually. 


However, we cannot do this project alone. As mentioned, we know it is vital that we receive feedback and act on it. This is why we would also really appreciate any feedback or suggestions that you may have for us! Feel free to complete this form with any comments: https://forms.office.com/r/3yNJZEHBfy. Thank you so much!


[1] Our video entry for Night of Ideas 2020: https://youtu.be/RlbzqTKAOTc

[2] Details about using Miro-E robots to combat loneliness for the elderly: https://www.miro-e.com/blog/2020/4/14/the-isolation-pandemic

Is technology advancement really eating away at your future job?

Charlotte, Year 10, looks into the impact advancements in technology will have on future job opportunities.

Will technology only aggravate inequality, or provide healthier societies?

The technology driven globe that we live in is one full of thrilling and stimulating possibilities for our future. However, it is sure to pose countless challenges whilst advancing in this adventure.

Space tourism, people reincarnation through AI, edible water blobs (the most exciting of them all!) and self-driving cars are some of the many developments aiming to be produced in the future. But with all these startling products being created there are inevitably some challenges posed.

A major concern is jobs. Our jobs. The thing we will be relying on for income and a more comfortable lifestyle, the thing our whole education is aimed around, the thing the economy relies on from the collection of taxes. Careers play a huge role in everyone’s lives and the economy, but how on earth could this amazing technology that is advancing us so much, have a negative impact on the economy and your future?

I’m sure you have heard this many times before, and the biggest answer is simply: automation. Here are some figures to demonstrate how much will change – 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills, in 10 years’ time 50% of jobs will be changed by automation, and in 2025, humans will account for only 58% of total task hours, meaning the machines’ share will rise to 42% from the current 29%[1]. These staggering figures could be perceived as a negative attribute to the technology advancement, with it consuming all of our jobs and picking away at our futures. However you have perceived those numbers, let me assure you that all of the foreboding figures can easily be overridden with the fascinating possibilities of what is to come.

Examples include the following:

  • Unexpected industries will boom, not just the predicted boom of the IT industry; these include healthcare, veterinary science, social assistance, engineering, geology and history;
  • The share of women in the workforce is projected to reach 47.2% in 2024, and the number of men in the workforce is expected to slightly decrease to 52.8% in 2024;[2]
  • 85& of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.[3]

Personally, the last opinion excites me the most with the possibilities that are to come and will impact us. What jobs will be invented? How will they be invented? Who will invent them?

So, no matter how many articles and reports you see in the future about this topic, there are many positives that willoverride things reported as potential negatives. Change might be coming, as we have seen with the development of the internet over the last 40 years, but that does not mean that people will lose the ability to train, learn and adapt to use these new technologies in their day-to-day work. Creativity, critical thinking and complex problem solving – all things that automation currently finds challenging – have been identified as the top soft skills required by companies in 2020, and it is these areas which we need to promote in our learning.[4]

If you take one thing out of this brief article, let it be that creativity and your limitless imagination are the passport to the future.


[1] See https://www.weforum.org/press/2018/09/machines-will-do-more-tasks-than-humans-by-2025-but-robot-revolution-will-still-create-58-million-net-new-jobs-in-next-five-years/

[2] See https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/85140562.pdf

[3] See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/85-jobs-exist-2030-havent-been-invented-yet-leo-salemi#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20report%20published,t%20even%20been%20invented%20yet.

[4] See https://www.prca.org.uk/Creativity-is-the-number-one-skill-2020#:~:text=Creativity%20was%20identified%20by%20LinkedIn,’Future%20of%20Jobs’%20study.

Should prisoners on Death Row be accepted as Organ Donors?

Isobel, a Year 10 pupil at WHS, assesses the ethics and logistics of accepting death row prisoners as organ donors.

Disclaimer: This piece is based on the US death row and does not highlight my own views on capital punishment.

From a Utilitarian standpoint, there may appear to be a simple answer to this question: organ donation should be permitted because there is a global shortage of transplantable organs and those in dire health condition are unable to receive the medical care they need. However, as more research is done numerable practical and ethical barriers arise. One country that already utilises organs from death row inmates is China. Reports state that more than 5,000 prisoners are executed in China annually, and organs are harvested for transplantation from suitable prisoners. These prisoners are executed via a temporal gun shot wound and are declared dead secondary to execution. They are not declared brain dead which causes many ethical headaches because the physicians removing the organs are then put in the position of executioner. This brief case study begins to highlight some of the major opposing arguments to organ donation from death row prisoners.

Picture from showing surgery https://pixabay.com

The numerous practical barriers surrounding organ procurement from death row prisoners begin to pile up after closer inspection. The first issue is the low yield of transplantable donor organs from these prisoners due to the potential high likelihood of alcohol or drug abuse. Whilst this is a potential stereotype, these factors can drastically impact the quality of the organs being donated.

For example, alcoholism is the leading cause of liver disease in the US because heavy drinking can cause irreversible cirrhosis. Approximately 10-20% of heavy drinkers develop this disease and it is the ninth leading cause of death in the US, killing around 35,000 people a year. Prisoners in long term facilities will not live on nutrition rich diets, will most likely be malnourished because of the (often) poor-quality food they have consumed and will not get the adequate exercise to build up strong organs such as hearts and lungs. These reasons could also impact the quality of their organs for transplantation.

The second practical barrier preventing condemmed prisoners from being organ donors is the logistics on the day of execution. The surgeon performing the operation cannot kill the patient by removing their organs as it breaches the Hippocratic oath of ‘do no harm’. The patient must already be dead or pronounced brain dead before they are put under general anaesthesia because when the transplant team cross clamps the aorta, resulting in a cardiectomy and takes the patient of the ventilator, they are then declared dead. Many physicians’ groups, including the American Medical Association, have prohibited physician participation in state executions on ethical grounds.

Looking through a utilitarian lense the death of an organ donor means dozens of lives saved and the donation is there simply to help those suffering from end stage organ disease, not for any other ulterior motives. The two documents that set out the rules around organ donation in the US are the National Transplant Act of 1984 and the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. Neither of these documents explicitly prohibits organ donation by death row inmates which means there is no law preventing it from happening. The National Transplant Act states that organ donation cannot be made for ‘valuable considerations’, including exchange of money, material benefit, or a shortened sentence.  This would not be an issue for death row inmates as they have already been condemmed until the end of their life and they have little access to the wider society.

Christian Longo went public with his idea to donate organs as a condemmed prisoner and joined the organisation G.A.V.E (Gifts of Anatomical Value from Everyone). He came up with the idea himself so there is no fear of coercion and he approached the New York times with his story on a voluntary basis. There have been 14 other publicised instances of death row inmates and their lawyers attempting to seek their respective opportunities to donate their organs. They were denied on the grounds of current knowledge on the matter. As popularity surrounding capital punishment begins to dim the public’s sympathy for those stationed on death row is increasing. The conversation surrounding a prisoner’s ability to choose to have one good action in the world before their execution is becoming ever louder.

When a person in incarcerated many of their free rights no longer apply. This can make the ethical arguments considered in organ donation heightened or just too confusing to comprehend.  Two seemingly opposite arguments: fear of coercion, (insinuates the death row inmates are not being adequately protected) and the intention to preserve the morality of capital punishment (death row inmates rights are given too much protection) begin to represent this.

There is a fine line between coercion and free choice when it is made in a heavily pressurised situation like a prison. The emotional stress on the donor can be intense because of the need to make right. Also, the patient who is accepting the donor should be notified that the organs they are receiving came a person on death row. Those who oppose capital punishment are then forced to choose between their life or their personal morals. Many say that the idea of capital punishment is to achieve retribution and deterrence in society. The action of donation is not consistent with either of these aims. Making a hero of the person at the end of their life could have detrimental impact on the family and friends of the victim to the prisoner’s crime. For many, the death of the perpetrator of their pain can bring closure and end to the cycles of grief. To see them be glorified in their last days could have the opposite effect.

https://pixabay.com

It is important to consider the impact that organ donation from death row prisoners will have on the overall practice. The number of potential organs recovered from condemned prisoners would be small. The conceivable stigma that would be attached to organ donation from its coupling with execution could lead to decreases in donation rates. This may especially be true within certain minority groups.

Any notion that groups of people were receiving increased numbers of death sentences to provide organs for the rest of society would clearly make it difficult to attempt to obtain consent for altruistic donation from these groups.

Overall, the bad outweighs the good so although it may seem like an easy solution to a difficult problem, donation from death row inmates would cause more problems than it could hope to solve.