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Global Studies Conference - December 2020
Sam Dobson / 11 January 2021 / Categories: News

Global Studies Conference - December 2020

by Miss De Miranda

As school was breaking up for the Christmas break six AKS pupils embarked on attending an online Global Conference. I would like to send our thanks to Daniel Emmerson and the staff at Felsted School who organised such a thought-provoking conference for our and other pupils from around the World to attend. Having listened in on many of the sessions it was truly inspiring to hear the thoughts and opinions of our youth of today on all these highly important and currently relevant topics. Felsted put together resources on each of the topics so all the students attending could gain a more in-depth knowledge of each of the topics. This then enabled all participants to be able to engage in break-out discussion groups and gain so much more from this experience. Each day a set of questions was set around the topic for the day and the resources given.  

All the topics and questions asked for each session will be below to give you all a more informed view of what the pupils engaged in throughout the 5 day conference. You will then have the opportunity to read some of our students experiences of being involved in such a conference. How it offered our pupils the opportunity to learn about different perspectives on each of the topics from pupils from all around the World. This increased their awareness that issues can be seen in very different ways depending on where you live which allowed them to develop deeper understandings of the topics by listening to other points of view. The Global Studies course has helped our students understand these cultures and their different ways of life as we no longer live in an isolated area and are part of a Global World.    

Narcotics and Pharmaceuticals

  • How might online conspiracy theories impact the distribution of pharmaceuticals in the future?  
  • How might governments impose a better policy when it comes to ‘designer drugs’?  
  • Discuss some of the complexities that future generations might face when it comes to distinguishing between narcotics and pharmaceuticals and what are the implications there on addiction?  
  • What are the global implications for production and usage of both narcotics and pharmaceuticals around the world?  
  • How do you think Covid-19 has impacted our perceptions of drugs and pharmaceuticals around the world?  
  • Deep Dive: How might the use of both narcotics and pharmaceuticals be considered a ‘crisis of the underclass’? Consider the article from Faye Harrison and discuss how this might have changed.   

Modern Day Slavery 

  • “Huge profits can be made quickly and over a long period of time from [human trafficking]” If this remains the case, is there any chance that slavery can be eradicated in the future?  
  • “Another cause for sexual exploitation is the phenomenal growth in the 'sex industry'. Economic growth in many countries has led to the rise of a large middle class. Men with disposable income have a greater capacity and apparently a greater incentive to buy sexual services”. If this is the case, what role might interdependent global partnerships play in curbing the growth of sexual exploitation?  
  • How might this generation of young people in western societies reconcile their state’s historical involvement in the slave trade?  
  • “Edward Colston was a slave trader in the 17th century (1600s) and part of a group called the Royal African Company, which transported about 80,000 men, women and children as slaves from Africa to the Americas. It made him very rich and when he died in 1721, he left a lot of money to charities and good causes.” Should his statue have been taken down? If so, how should this have happened?  
  • “The heritage sector can choose to help the public understand what happened in the past and what continues to happen because of it – but sites may nervously hide from this.” How might facing up to these issues help the case for eradicating slavery today?  
  • What can you do in your home country to make a difference?  

Systemic Racism 

  • “We see this all the time at school; white kids play with other white kids, black kids play with other black kids, Asian kids play with other Asian kids, it’s natural.” What are the implications of this comment and what can schools do better to change this?  
  • What do conversations concerning equality, diversity and inclusion look like at your school? Has that changed over the last twelve months?  
  • Are there suitable alternatives to expulsion for schools that could prevent trajectories from expulsion to prison sentences?  
  • “Mass media in my country always has and always will put emphasis on race when it comes to negative attributes (such as serious youth violence) so there is very little I can do to change public perception.” Share and discuss your views on this statement.  
  • Discuss the implications (both positive and negative) of the BLM protests around the world during the global pandemic.  

Art, Social Media and the Revolution 

  • Have you attended a protest before? If so, discuss how you became involved, what you saw, the impact of the protest and whether or not art played a role in your experience.  
  • “Scrappy and subversive, net art has often been written out of conventional art history, relegated to outsider status. The people who practiced it weren’t regarded as “serious,” still less worth collecting: Who wants to put a beige PC on display in your gallery?” - NYT.  
  • Has our experience of art been impeded by Covid, and if so, how will that change the way we experience art in the future?  
  • “After 18 days of protest; people power won” - Report on the Egyptian revolution. Do you agree with this statement? What role did Social Media play here?  
  • “In art, you have to transform your feelings into something that has clear language so that a story can be clearly told to another person. You can’t force anyone to think in a certain way, but you have a responsibility to make sure your language is clear” - Ai WeiWei.  
  • In what ways might you challenge Ai WeiWei’s thinking here? Could there be an alternative approach that has more political impact?  
  • “Reproduction of the work of art does no justice to the actual experience” “Any reproduction of that image is less than the experience itself” - JiaJia Fei. How do these quotes translate into protest experiences for the issues that we care about?  

Artificial intelligence 

  • “We need automation in order to have a better understanding of the world we live in. AI development is absolutely crucial to this and the short-term negative implications are minor in comparison to what we could achieve” - How should we manage the short-term impacts of AI against the potential of long-term benefits?  
  • What impact do you think AI will have on government elections and broader democracy in the future?  
  • How has AI already changed sectors and industries in your home country?  
  • What role, if any, does AI have in educating the next generation?  
  • P.P. Mathieu discusses the issue of trust in AI. He refers to it as a ‘black box’ in terms of understanding its capabilities once it is programmed to ‘learn’ and to use what it ‘learns’ to create its own future objectives. Why might this be a future concern for humanity?  
  • Here are some student insights into the conference:

Pippa - Yr 10

Being involved in the Global Studies conference was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed being able to hear so many different thoughts and opinions from the range of people present. Daniel Emmerson, who led the course, was very open to hearing what we had to say and encouraged our independence when it came to personal views. I found the topics to be interesting and the course engaging. 

I found I learned a lot from the pre-lesson resources, but to me, the most important, valuable section was the discussion time. Hearing people contribute and put forward potential solutions to such huge problems inspired both hope and determination in many of us. 

A strong point that made you open your eyes more to what was taking place was the lesson on Modern Slavery in the Year 2020. It certainly combated ideas I had and broadened my idea of what 'slavery' entails. The link to the Deep Dive on the link between Capitalism and Narcotics was extremely interesting and explored some concepts I had not previously considered. 

If they would like to learn more about global issues, expand their thoughts and discover more about important topics, then I would encourage others to do such a course. I think it could be very beneficial and adds a level of reality to the idea of us all working together to build a better future. 

I would do another course like this, especially if it covered a different range of topics, or the same topics to a greater depth.  

The Topics we covered: 

Narcotics and Pharmaceuticals: "Today we discussed Narcotics and Pharmaceuticals. We covered their impact, how the pandemic influenced their usage, and the socio-economic links associated with their import, export and overall revenue. I found it interesting to hear different people’s opinions and enjoyed the breakout room immensely as a result of this — it was a wonderful space to discuss topics in more depth. In our smaller group, we focused on price impacts, escapism and the increased desire for narcotics during lockdown." --My thoughts about the lesson. 

Modern Day Slavery in the Year 2020: "I found the video on Modern Day Slavery, 'Can You See Me?' poignant as it challenged stereotypes and provided points to consider, as well as raising awareness. The idea of slavery not occurring in more developed countries is harmful, as it prevents global movements; change is necessary, and requires an international movement. I found the perspectives of different people around removing the statues of past slave owners interesting and the discussion it raised was thought provoking." --My thoughts about the lesson. 

Other topics included: Systemic Racism; Art, Social Media and The Revolution; and Artificial Intelligence. 

Mollie - Yr 11

Narcotics and Pharmaceutical

Starting the first day, I was extremely nervous and didn’t know what to expect. I had already watched the pre-recorded video and read the numerous resources we were provided with the night before to help with our live discussions. When I first logged on, I was greeted by Daniel (the organiser of the event from Felsted School) who gave everyone on the call a brief summary of what the week would look like and the topics we were going to cover.  

Daniel started the conversation with the dictionary definition of narcotics and pharmaceuticals. We then started to dive into the negative and positive aspects of them which then led to a discussion about the affect both of them have on the economy. We also considered how society views each of them separately and collectively as well as the connotations we have when we hear ‘narcotics and pharmaceuticals’.  

During the break-out session (when we were randomly divided into smaller groups), I found it easier to express my views in the chat box and loved hearing other people's view on the topics we decided to discuss. We were able to talk about as many of the questions/statement given or only one if we wanted to.  

My group and I discussed the first question. From this, we were able to link it to the fourth question and relate it to conspiracy theories relating to the coronavirus vaccine. The break-out session allowed me to fully express my opinions in the chat box and allowed mass collaboration. From our discussion, we concluded that we are very likely to believe what we read online and that could cloud our judgement in the future when using narcotics or pharmaceuticals.  

Modern Day Slavery

This was the topic I was most looking forward to because I believe it is extremely relevant today in every country. We looked over statistics relating to slavery and thought about places in society that slavery is present. We discussed slavery in prisons across the world as well as sex trafficking and why these unfortunate affairs occur. We also reviewed slavery in fast fashion, why do we buy clothes that could possibly be made from slaves? We thought about society selfishly having slavery out of sight and therefore out of mind. The cycle is co-dependent. Awareness is the first step to change. Need help off government and non-government to make a change. In our break-out group we were given the following questions:  

My group and I discussed Edward Colston and if his statue should be present. This caused a lot of controversy, as a few believed that the money he gave once he died to build hospitals and create so much money for the economy at the time in which civilisation didn’t view slavery badly deemed him worthy of having a statue. Whilst others thought that what he did whilst alive was absolutely awful and the connotations that having the statue could have still being present today. A student from Argentina stated that he did not believe that statues are a vehicle of education. Rather than tearing down the statue, why not append a plaque providing information regarding the heinous actions of the person? The removal of statues constitutes a manner in which people purport to combat systemic racism without truly endeavouring to rectify it. My group and I concluded that there should be a plebiscite in the Bristol community since it is them who are being affected.  

Systemic Racism  

In this lesson I learnt a lot about racism around the world. I found out how different cultures view racism and what each country is doing individually to put an end to it. We also discussed how racism is prevalent in education. In textbooks, there is never an account of what racism was like for slaves at the time but stories of those such as Sir Walter Raleigh who founded the colonies. From the group session, I have learnt to look at the phrase “knife crime” differently because it has a certain racial buzz to it. Instead, the phrase “serious youth violence” should be used.  

My group and I discussed whether the BLM protests were better online or a peaceful protest in person, as well as the advantages that come with both of them plus disadvantages. We concluded that an online protest may be safer as it immediately stops violence from occurring as it is able to be seen and joined by anyone across the world. I also learnt that a lot of schools did very little after the BLM protests and turned a blind eye to it compared to AKS where we had assemblies and read poems in English literature.  

Art, Social Media and the Revolution  

In this session, Daniel started the conversation with how prevalent social media and art is in politics. We spoke about funny memes and videos of well-known politicians and the impact they have on us. Do they make us look at politicians differently? Therefore, do we lose trust in our government? We spoke about the fact art has no language barriers. It is open to everyone’s interpretation and can allow us to form our own opinions. Although when being told to think a certain way and believe in a certain thing, we often want to think the opposite.  

My group and I considered the last statement. We spoke about how being there in person generates a more emotional response. We spoke about how being there can generate a connection to the event and to the art. This is the same as being in a protest. No matter how many pictures you see, it will never compare to being there in person.  

Artificial Intelligence  

As one big group, we spoke about how artificial intelligence is present in the food industry and how it benefits the owner. Robots cooking mean less space so less money on rent and in an ageing population with people having more qualifications, paying a wage is expensive. However, many people may not be comfortable with robots making their food and see robots taking away their jobs and their role as a person. This had a lot of relevance in my breakout room.  

My group and I spoke about what artificial intelligence would look like in educating us. We all decided that schools and universities would be boring without our teachers. Having a teacher allows us to have the same topic explained in different ways if we don’t understand and allows us to ask questions which are a little bit of topic. However, having artificial intelligence present in huge libraries may be extremely helpful; we tell them what we are looking for and they then recommend books for us. Many people shared stories of us using language apps and how they were useless compared to lessons in person.  


Overall, I loved the experience and if I was offered the chance to do it again I would definitely do it. The fact that many people around the world were involved allowed me to hear stories of their own and what their country is doing with each topic rather than potential lies reported in the media. The diversity in the lessons and the number of different views obtained was indescribable and incomparable to if I were to have had the same conversation 

Eisa - Yr 10

In our first session we discussed narcotics and pharmaceuticals. I think it is great to be involved in this online conference and I found it really interesting how people’s viewpoints on drugs were different from each other due to where they live around the world. We were also put in ‘breakout rooms’, which consisted of smaller groups of students, where we discussed relevant questions about drugs in 2020. Overall, I thought that this session was very engaging and I really enjoyed it.  

The next day of the conference, we learnt about slavery in the year 2020. We discussed interesting topics such as ‘What is slavery?’ and ‘How can we work together to put an end to slavery?’ Before this conference, I never really thought that slavery happened in the UK, and it only happened in other parts of the world, so I was fascinated to hear that slavery happened in the UK and it could potentially be near me. I found it really interesting hearing different viewpoints on how to combat slavery and I feel that my perception of where slavery happens around the world has changed.  

On the third day of the conference, we discussed systemic racism. I was interested to learn about systemic racism because I had very little knowledge on what it was before this conference. It was interesting hearing people’s views on systemic racism, and there were a wide variety of opinions. One of the most controversial questions asked was ‘What area does systemic racism have the most impact’. There was a very split vote between law enforcement and education and I was intrigued to hear why people thought that each one was more impacted by systemic racism.  

On the fourth day of the conference we discussed Art, Social Media and the Revolution. We discussed how art and social media is very impactful on society and how it can change people’s opinions on different matters. We talked about the Black Lives Matter movement and how social media played a big part in the Global movement. In our breakout rooms my group talked about how art can influence everyone’s opinions and how it can let people express their opinions about global matters. In my opinion, this day of the conference was quite interesting and I enjoyed hearing different opinions on the matter.  

On the final day of the conference we talked about Artificial Intelligence. We talked about how artificial intelligence can affect people’s jobs and how it can open up opportunities for new jobs. We also discussed if the government is using artificial intelligence in the right way. Everyone’s opinions were quite mixed on the matter and it was very interesting hearing different responses to some controversial questions. One of the most interesting questions said in this conference was ‘Is the gap closing between humans and AI?’ and it was great hearing the variety of views on this.  

Overall I thought this conference was thoroughly enjoyable and it was very interesting. It changed my views on some topics and it opened my eyes to some serious problems in the world and how we can create solutions to fix them. 

Yusuf - Year 11  

The Global Studies conference involves students from around the world, between the ages of 12-16, who met up online and discussed opinions on current global issues. We, as the next generation, talked about how we could stop/prevent certain global issues and also gained more information about them. The course was hosted by a school called Felsted and the course was split between five days and on each day we discussed a topic. Some of the topics discussed were ‘slavery in the year 2020 ‘ and ‘Narcotics and Pharmaceuticals’ amongst others. During our discussion time in the ‘breakout rooms’, many people spoke about their own personal experiences on certain topics, which had a huge influence on people listing including myself.  

Narcotics and Pharmaceuticals as Global Industries: I learnt that even though ‘drug trafficking’ may not happen in Lytham St Annes, it happens in a lot of other places in the world. This online discussion gave me a better insight in to what , other countries had to deal with and I heard stories from places across the globe.  

Due to me joining the early call, I was fortunate to hear the stories of students from India and Argentina expressing their own opinions on how this is a very big problem in their countries. They talked about having seen in first-hand people smuggling drugs into the country. Overall I found it very interesting and it gave me a better insight to the world outside of the UK.  

Slavery in the Year 2020:  Many people don’t know this, but slavery still happens in the UK which shocked me completely. A few other students(from other countries )also talked about them seeing people on the streets being taken by the mob or drug gangs and never to be seen again. This startled a lot of people in our breakout room, however it was important for us to discuss this, as it is a major thing to tackle and abolish for the future. I personally found it very interesting and important to listen to everyone’s ideas as to how we can overcome slavery in 2020, and I believe that a lot of these strategies could work.  

Systemic Racism: Why what we do next matters most. One of the biggest movements of 2020 was the Black Lives Matter Movement, which not only had an impact in America but the whole world. Everyone in the conference had heard of this massive movement which generated many interesting conversations towards the movement. We all agreed that the movement was a good thing and this was because racism is still a huge problem in the world and even in this country. However some of us felt that the looting and the burning of shops were uncalled for. Many people discussed how in every language there is a slur for someone of a different race, but not one for white people. This was one of the most interesting classes out of the five.  

Art, Social Media and The Revolution: On this call we discussed how influencers on apps such as Tiktok, Instagram and YouTube have a huge influence in global politics as well as movements, as they have the power to tell their ‘fans’ what to do. We also learnt how artists present hidden messages in art, which I found very clever and unique. We also talked about how Social Media had a huge influence towards the BLM movement and if social media didn’t exist chances are people wouldn’t have heard about what was going on in America. This was also an exciting and interesting topic to cover as many people had a lot to say. I feel at the end of this session I had changed some of my opinions on Art and expression and could see how some forms of art were an importance form of expression.  

Artificial Intelligence: Closing the biological gap between Humans and Machines  This was the final day of the conference and it was nice to finish it with a very relevant topic. We discussed the use of artificial intelligence and how with more robots being used it can put humans out of jobs. We also talked about Artificial Intelligence and the Government and how robots could affect politics, that was very interesting.  

Overall I think this conference was very useful as it has given me an insight in to the bigger picture and the world outside of the UK. I would totally recommend people to do this course in the future, as you learn about different people living in different places around the whole world. I was fascinated by the various stories and personal experiences that the other students discussed and shared. Sometimes the world is not as we see it and this conference helped me understand that better. 


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