"Politics have no relation to morals’ - (Machiavelli)
As a subject we teach the boys about the UK political system, its functions and features and how effective it actually is. However as a school and department we do not agree with the above quote and we also teach our boys the consequences of power and the impact decisions made by the powerful have on the wider world.
Democracy and Political Participation
How do we actually function as a democracy? If at all? In what ways can we improve the democratic process? Are we aware of what are rights and responsibilities are as citizens in the United Kingdom?
Party Policies and Ideas
We have a multi-party system in the UK is that represented in Parliament? What do the three main parties believe in? Do they maintain those beliefs or have they strayed from them? What of the ‘smaller parties’? Will they remain so or will they be contending for power in the years to come?
Voting is simple right? NO! There are many ways in which a government can be voted for. We look at the different systems used in the UK and we decide on their advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately should we be using ‘First Past the Post’ to elect our government when it is so unrepresentative?
Voting is not the only way we can participate in politics another excellent way is by joining a pressure group. What are pressure groups? What do they do? Are they successful or not? Why are some more successful than others? Is it better to work with the government or not?
Then we look at how the UK is actually governed. Do the systems we have work and are they democratic or do the politicians need to start really considering reforming elements of our system?
The UK Constitution
Do we even have one? How is it made up? Does it effectively protect us from government power? What alternatives are there? Is our system better than other liberal democracies? Is our system fit for the 21st century?
She is known as the mother of all Parliaments but how does she work? Who is involved in the real decision making within parliament? Does she hold the government to account or is she merely a tool of the government? Does the House of Lords really belong in the 21st century?
Prime Minister and Cabinet
Do we even have a cabinet system anymore? Is the PM to powerful? Do cabinet ministers take responsibility for their departments anymore? Is the cabinet really united in public or are there obvious divisions. Does this system of government work or should we look towards a more presidential system?
The judiciary and civil liberties
Are the courts fair? Are they free from political interference? Are judges truly neutral? What protects our civil liberties from a government that would abuse its power? Is the Human Rights Act a good thing? Should judges really have the power they have without being held accountable to the electorate?
The above are just some of the questions that are asked throughout the course. It is thought provoking and enables the boys to be well informed political ‘creatures’ at the end of the course. The boys develop essential questioning skills that will enable them to meet the challenges of life head.
We study eight ideologies at this level. The detailed study of ideologies gives a thorough understanding of the thinking behind policies debated in Parliament and places world politics into context. We deal with diverse concepts and issues such as freedom, globalisation, democracy, culture, welfare, fundamentalism, minority rights, etc. We encourage debate on key questions such as What is Nationalism? How far can the free market drive society? Are humans naturally altruistic? What is the role and function of the state? Is tradition a "good thing"? Is Anarchism utopian? This is far more theory based than AS and it builds on much of what the boys have learned. However the scope for debate is considerable and most contact time is spent in discussion. This section of the course is an n excellent introduction to university life and puts the boys in good stead for both professional and academic life. The ideologies studied are:
Socialism: Do we work better together?
Liberalism: Is our individualism our greatest attribute?
Anarchism: Should we have government?
Conservatism: Without our traditions what are we?
Nationalism: Is there such a thing as a nation state?
Feminism: Is gender equality desirable? Do women actually want to be like men?
Multi-Culturalism: Does it even exist?
Ecologism: Should we really regards ourselves, humans as the most important species on the planet?
Every year we aim to take the AS boys to Parliament to meet with the school’s local MP and have a tour of the two houses. Whilst in Westminster we visit the Supreme Court which gives them insight into the higher workings of the judiciary. Finally we try and visit speaker’s corner in Hyde Park to see democracy in action.
In 2013 we welcomed the whole sixth form to the ‘Question Time @ JFS’ event. It followed much the same mould as the well known contemporary affairs programme. The panel last year included Tom Brake MP, Gavin Barwell MP a member of the Labour party running for Parliament, a member of UKIP and a member of the British Communist Party. Hosted by our very own Head of Sixth Form it was an excellent occasion and the boys got a great deal out of it.
Further Education and Internship Opportunities
Since 2009 every year a student from the department has gone to Oxford or Cambridge. The course is highly regarded and seen as very academic and useful if you are following a career in academia, government, journalism and many more fields.
Every year students from the politics class approach local MP’s to see if they can do internships with them over the holidays. None have been refused. We are lucky to have MP’s that are willing to do this regardless of one’s own political beliefs.
Edexcel Government and Politics for AS Fourth Edition, Hodder Education (for AS)
Political Ideologies, An introduction, 5th Edition, Palgrave Macmillan (for A2)
Edexcel Government and Politics for A2, Ideologies, 2nd Edition Hodder Education (for A2)
www.theyworkforyou.com This is an excellent website for finding out what a particular MP is up to in Parliament. How did they vote on the ‘big issues’? Did they follow the party line or rebel?
www.politics.co.uk This is seen as the definitive website for all the political news of the moment.
www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/politics/ Although this is an American journal it has an incredible amount of UK political issues (just make sure you get the UK one!).
www.bbc.co.uk The good old BBC. It is becoming a little unbalanced and veering to the left but still very good at producing political news and analysis.
There are many other websites including the websites of the major political parties that should be looked at. Equally follow politicians on twitter especially Boris Johnson who has made some very funny tweets over the years. However most importantly you must read the newspapers and watch at least one news programme a day to ensure you are kept up to date with what is going on. Please also consult the course booklet for more resources.