Thinking Big - capital punishment and the teenage brain

Thinking Big - capital punishment and the teenage brain

11 February 2020

We enjoyed two Thinking Big lectures in the first half of the spring term. Lower Sixth Former Sofia, presented a reassessment of capital punishment in the USA, posing the question ‘Should capital punishment be sent to death row?’ The second lecture, from Theology Teacher Miss Pendlebery, explored ‘The Teenage Brain.’

Sofia gave a well-structured and passionate lecture on a topic which she became interested in last summer after reading the book The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Hinton. Hinton spent 28 years on death row in Alabama for a murder he didn’t commit and, as well as a story of injustice, racial prejudice and poverty, Sofia found it to be a story of faith, humanity and forgiveness.

Sofia eloquently shared her research findings that have brought her to the conclusion that the death penalty should be abolished. She also said the reason she had wanted to do the talk was to raise awareness of the issue and get a conversation started. The subsequent question and answer session indicated she had done just that.

On Friday 7 February, Miss Pendlebery shared her fascination with the teenage brain. Students and staff learnt that pivotal in teenage years is the remodeling process that is happening to the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for organization, decision making, short term memory, self-control and sleep. Her analogy of the adult brain as an integrated, well operating entertainment system vs. the teenage brain as a piece of equipment with dodgy wiring and a missing remote control was very illuminating. Miss Pendlebery explained the key priorities of teenagers, talked about how teenage years can be made a very positive experience, and made it clear that this is a passing phase. Another memorable nugget offered is the fact that studies have shown that when someone is embarrassed or upset socially, the part of the brain that reacts is that same part that responds to physical pain.

It was a fascinating talk and, for those interested in finding out more, Miss Pendlebery recommended ‘The Incredible Teenage Brain’, written by Bettina Hohnen, Jane Gilmour & Tara Murphy.

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