11 December 2019
Woldingham’s Thinking Big Lectures are designed to stimulate minds and provoke discussion. Speakers can talk on any subject they choose, meaning that students – and staff – have the opportunity to spend 20 minutes of their lunch break learning something about a topic about which they know little, or perhaps hearing a different point of view of about a familiar subject.
This term, we’ve enjoyed hearing from six speakers – three Sixth Formers and three members of staff – on topics ranging from ‘Why sleep?’ to ‘Extravagance: vice or virtue?’ The latter was the title of the first talk of this academic year. Sixth Former Tracy, inspired by her interest in political philosophy, delivered a talk on how policies affect economic development. This very impressive lecture, which referenced the work of, among others, Marx and Mandeville, drew out some equally impressive questions from the audience.
By coincidence, politics was the focus of the next Thinking Big lecture. Some weeks before the December general election was announced, Head of Politics Mrs Payne gave an update on recent events in parliament and speculated on what might happen next, in a lecture entitled ‘Political Pandemonium’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was followed by an animated Q&A session.
Sixth Former Lily gave the last lecture of the first half of term. Her passionate talk on ‘The perceptions of Africa through Western eyes’ was based on research she’s recently conducted into why western perceptions of Africa are more negative than reality, inspired by her experience of visiting Uganda this summer. Lily challenged the audience’s own perceptions with a set of probing questions and offered a stimulating and wide-ranging exploration of a complex issue.
Head of Psychology Miss Collinson opened proceedings after half term with ‘Why sleep?’ This was a fascinating look at the amazing processes at work in the human body and brain during sleep – and the issues that can arise from too little, or poor quality, sleep, including higher rates of obesity, diabetes and depression. Before taking questions from the audience, Miss Collinson provided answers to queries she is regularly asked, among them that cheese doesn’t cause nightmares and that dreams can last anywhere between 10 seconds and 45 minutes.
Mr Kellaway, teacher of theology and Head of Year 9, took the next slot and tackled ‘Thinking Big’ itself! He looked at what it means to be a big thinker; what makes someone a big thinker; and whether it’s possible to learn to think bigger. His answer to the latter was positive and he also reminded everyone how may opportunities exist at Woldingham to help us think big.
Last, but by no means least, was a talk by Lower Sixth Former Milan. Her lecture was entitled ‘Déjà Vu’ and, unsurprisingly, it was on this subject that she began. Fairly quickly, however, Milan moved on to the sub-theme of her lecture, ‘An insight into common misconceptions’. The misconceptions she addressed were: that goldfish have a memory span of three seconds; that all of the women convicted in the Salem Witch Trials were burned at the stake; that Africa is a country not a continent; and that victims of sexual harassment have ‘brought it on themselves’. During this, Milan read her audience’s thoughts, and said she knew everyone would be wondering what all of this had to do with déjà vu. Her answer? That all these questions provoke a ‘here we go again’ moment. It was a clever twist and a great way to bring the term’s Thinking Big lecture series to its conclusion.