The august forum of BBC Radio 4 was the setting as a group of Loreto students, under the guidance of Ms Tattersall, engaged in philosophical debate with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. The series of programmes, entitled ‘Morality in the 21st century; is society a myth?’ was recorded in April and formed the core of the 9.00 am output for Radio 4 in early September. Rabbi Sacks attempted to explore what morality means in the 21st century, with some of the world’s leading thinkers, together with voices from the next generation: groups of British sixth form students. Amongst the conclusions Rabbi Sacks drew from the discussions was the feeling that Britain and America have moved from a ‘We’ society – ‘we’re all in this together’ – to an ‘I’ society: ‘I’m free to be whatever I choose.’ Rabbi Sacks suggested that this leaves people vulnerable and alone, but is a shift that can be reversed. Encouragingly, Rabbi Sacks struck a note of optimism with his observation that ‘….the stars of the series are the students. They enriched every episode. They are the face of our future, and they have the energy, intelligence and passion to make society a more moral place, one to which we will feel proud to belong.’
Loreto students Jake Britner, Ola Kozlowska, Aneesa Malik, Muhammad Suhail, Curtis Wilson and Kamille Kansci had the unique opportunity to attend the recordings at the BBC in Salford, and join Rabbi Sacks in considering such issues as collective social responsibility, identity politics and tribalism. Each of our students acquitted him or herself admirably, being not at all distracted by the technical paraphernalia of the recording studio, or the complexity of the issues under discussion. They even managed to include a flattering reference to Loreto’s Debate Club. When asked to nominate ‘moral heroes’ our students chose a diverse group, including the prophet Muhammad, Winston Churchill and Jeremy Corbyn. As a bonus, they were all invited to a launch event for the series, held at the BBC in West London.
Reflecting on the whole experience, student Aneesa Malik observed:
‘In the beginning, it was quite intimidating to discuss morality on such a wide reaching platform. However, I enjoyed sharing the role my religious upbringing has had in shaping my view of morality, whilst being challenged by those who didn’t necessarily agree with my beliefs.’