Politics & Philosophy

Politics

Provides an “exciting & stimulating approach” that allows you to acquire a wealth of knowledge, and understanding, of all things political in world where people, forces, issues are inter-connected. 

Politics an immensely stimulating subject that is going to broaden your horizon considerably and be of “assured benefit for other A-level subjects” - that’s according to former students. It has also an almost unparalleled reputation for being rigorous, analytical, evaluative and personally enriching. The subject has “prestige” and status and is very well regarded by universities. In addition to the above skills, it enhances your ability to think for yourself, to take a critical and informed perspective on a raft of real-life issues from whether a better world is possible (or desirable), who makes the decisions and why, to issues of global concerns ranging from terrorism, nuclear proliferation and global poverty (and its possible solutions); closer to home, you will be discovering and debating how healthy UK democracy is, how government works and in whose name as opposed to whose benefit, and whether or not democracy could be improved. 
 
Your appreciation and understanding of Politics in every way will be facilitated by your study of different levels of government, national, local and supranational. Year 12 is mostly about UK Politics in every facet - this will lay the ground for Year 13 Politics which is about no less than: Global Political Issues.
 
A Level Politics is therefore quite an “academic”, but also highly “practical” and relates to our daily lives, including current affairs, and our existence as life-long learners and fellow human beings in a globalizing and complex world. Be equipped for the future: take Politics. At its basic level, politics is about power, conflict and decision-making, summarised by this brief sentence: “Politics is about who gets what, why, when, how and to what extent”. 
 
You will be comparing the practices of systems of government, including of some other European states. The emphasis is on contemporary affairs and current areas of political concern, putting the UK in the context of external forces and developments, not least the EU and broader international relations’ issues. Needless to say that any prospective student must be interested in the news, recent political developments and recent history (how did we get to where we are at!!) and is excited to explore and discuss big ideas such as justice, power, freedom, rights and progress, democracy. 
 
You want to study Politics because you are an inquisitive, engaged, interested and curious person who is fascinated by the world, by societies, by people and by the ability of humans to change their lives, individually and collectively. You often ask “why”, “how”, “to what extent”, and are interested in other places, cultures, viewpoints and perspectives and also - by humans around you. You like to argue a point; discuss ideas with people; are eager to broaden your horizon; question assumptions. You are committed to facts, evidence and logical reasoning. You like to be challenged including in your beliefs. If that is you, you should be doing well in this course.
 
This course is especially useful for students, or future students, of Economics, History, Sociology, Psychology, Business Studies, Law, International Relations, Media Studies, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Media Studies to name the main ones. Students of English, Modern Language, Philosophy and other social sciences will also benefit from the essential interdisciplinary outlook of this subject. In short, after a two-year course in Politics, a student will be well-versed in factual, analytical and conceptual tools and critical application to make sense of a range of contemporary affairs both domestic and global – including the ability to give possible predictions for the future of our species on this planet. In this way, the subject will contribute significantly to no less than an understanding of the world, past, present and the parameters of the future challenges to humankind. Past students have been particularly positive about the range and scope of the course content and the way it is delivered. You will never look back to a time when you didn’t “do” Politics. Further: you can’t un-do what you know. Two student quotes herewith: Nick Kent: “Absolutely amazing course: interesting, eye-opening and life-changing. If you are really into knowing about how things work in society and in the world, how things relate and inter-act, and what the future might hold for all of us, then this is a must-do course”. Jessica Hubbard: “This course really helped me with Sociology and Economics. It gave me the necessary overview and wide range of topics to make sense of how it all connects. I’ve also decided to study Politics and International Relations at Sussex Uni because of the enjoyment of A-level Politics.” 
 
 
Broad aims: 
Develop a rigorous approach, both critical and constructive, to the study of Politics:

Develop a set of transferable intellectual skills – including comprehension, interpretation, analysis and evaluation – which will facilitate the development of independent thinking, based on critical examination of evidence and rational argumentation. These will be applicable in the study of other academic subjects and in reflection on other important aspects of human experience, i.e. in the social sciences and Humanities’ subjects;

A deepening awareness and critical understanding of the contemporary affairs, political ideas, institutions, processes and belief systems;

An appreciation and deepening understanding of how and why political issues and political conflicts: a) have changed over time; b) have been address in different ways over time; c) are closely related to matters pertaining related fields of study such as Modern History, International Relations, Economics and Sociology; 

A love of the subject and its relevance to contemporary affairs, debates and its presence in law, film & media, literature, culture, natural, religion and society in the broadest sense; and how politics shapes the world we live in;

An enhanced ability to recognize the provenance of arguments, including their value or ideological bases, potential criticisms and hidden assumptions;

A deep love and passion for the subject matter; discern its relevance for “big” questions (say: future of humankind!); grasp the depth and range of the issues the subject raises, and the answers it can provide; assessing the relevance of the subject for all of human endeavour; its bearing on contemporary society; its significance for understanding the history of ideas; its significance for the globalizing world; 

An appreciation of one’s own personal development and progress, including moral progress. 
 
Topics studied: 
For the full A-level, there are three units over two years, counting for ⅓ each. 
Year 12: 
Unit 1 – 
Part A: People & Power: British Political history since 1945; the theory and practice of democracy; political concepts such as power, authority, freedom and rights; democratic participation, elections and electoral reform; political ideologies, beliefs and parties; pressure groups; voting behaviour in elections; the role of the media; how democratic actually is Britain? 
Part B: Core political ideologies: you will study the assumptions, core ideas and policy approaches of these belief systems: socialism, Conservatism and Liberalism. 
 
Unit 2 – 
Part A: Government and constitution of the UK: how does government and the state function – executive, legislative, judiciary functions of government; the EU; devolution and local democracy; relationship between the branches of government
Part B: Core political ideologies: you will study the assumptions, core ideas and policy approaches of Nationalism. 
 
Year 13: 
Unit 3 – Structures & Issues of Global Politics: It gets almost too exciting in year 13! International relations & diplomacy; world history since 1945. Globalization; the state & foreign policy; international institutions such as the United Nations; the role of multinational co-operations and pressure groups in global politics; the effects of global capitalism; conflict studies (including Iraq, Afghanistan; terrorism and global jihadism). Global political issues covered include poverty, inequality and hunger; environmental pressure points, including climate change and attempts to resolve or contain it; nuclear proliferation (North Korea, Iran); international law, human rights and humanitarian intervention, whether or not the EU has a future. 
 
Activities include: 
Debating & discussing in groups and pairs 
Reading, understanding and summarizing political information, processes, and institutions 
Watch TV news regularly & reading on-line or paper newspapers regularly 
Comprehension tasks in class: as groups, pairs
Discussing and evaluating the relative strengths and weaknesses of arguments and different perspectives
Watching & discussing clips, and relevant programs and films
Going to one or more Politics student conferences
Visiting the Houses of Parliament, and meeting the MP 
Help organize our annual UCTC 6th form mock election debate  
Preparing student-led seminar presentations
Quiz, games such as political pictionary and gap-fills
Extension materials including for other areas of Politics. 
 
For more information about Politics, please contact D Buschle via office@uckfield.college


Philosophy

Philosophy is for those interested in exploring deep and exciting issues about the nature and limits of knowledge, philosophical enquiries about morality, global society, religion and the mind, including artificial intelligence.

If you are an inquisitive person, have an open mind, like debating and discovering a totally new way to think about and approach topics, then this course could be for you. Philosophy translates as “lover of knowledge or wisdom”. 
 
Philosophy is an immensely stimulating subject that is going to broaden your horizon considerably and be of “assured benefit for other A-level subjects” - that’s according to former students. It has also an almost unparalleled reputation for being rigorous, analytical, evaluative and personally enriching. The subject has “prestige” and status and is very well regarded by universities. In addition to the above skills, it enhances your ability to think for yourself, to take a critical and informed perspective on a raft of real-life issues from genetic engineering to fundamental enquiries about human knowledge and scientific enquiry, but also deeply relevant areas of enquiries such as morality and religion. A Level Philosophy is therefore both quite “academic”, but also highly “practical” and relates to our daily lives, including current affairs, and our existence as life-long learners and fellow human beings in a globalizing and complex world. Be equipped for the future: take Philosophy. 
 
You want to study Philosophy because you are an inquisitive, engaged, interested and curious person who finds it difficult to accept simple or “conventional” answers. You often ask “why”, “how”, “to what extent”, and are interested in the world and humans around you. You like to argue a point; discuss ideas with people; are eager to broaden your horizon; question assumptions. You like to be challenged. If that is you, you should be doing well in this course.


Consider this quote by the 20th century British philosopher Bertrand Russell for a first idea of this subject. For Russell philosophy is about critical thinking and logical enquiry as a method, showing “unsuspected possibilities” to one’s mind:
 
“Philosophy, like all other studies, aims primarily at knowledge. The knowledge it aims at is the kind of knowledge which gives unity and system to the body of sciences, and the kind which results from a critical examination of the grounds of our convictions, prejudices, and beliefs.” (“The problems of philosophy”, OUP Oxford 1980 (9th edt), p. 90).
 
According to Russell, the value of engaging in philosophical enquiry lies in freeing oneself from “prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual belief of [one’s] age or nation, and from convictions, which have grown up in [one’s] mind without the co-operation or consent of deliberate reason”. In other words, whereas an uncritical human being who does not engage in critical analysis of the world around him or her remains trapped in finite, obvious and definite assertions and opinions, rather than proper knowledge and critical understanding and appreciation of all issues concerning humanity. A philosopher’s task is to rouse interest in unfamiliar possibilities, but also in “common objects”. Philosophy, according to Russell, stands as a most valuable ‘subject’ due to “the greatness of objects which it contemplates” (p. 91, op. cit.).
 
Can you cope with uncertainty? This should suffice for now: Philosophy is not the subject for “definitive” or final answers. Its strength is its “uncertainty” and its searching for possible, likely, probable, but also improbable or unlikely answers, shedding light on fundamental questions of matter and life, complex issues concerning humanity as a whole as well as the individual. Even better, many films you know have a philosophical dimension, “hidden” to the “un-initiated”, for instance “Ex Machina”, “The Matrix”, “Minority Report”, “Gattaca”, “Sliding Doors”, “Donnie Darko”, “ExistenZ” to name just a few. 
 
Furthermore, your understanding of quite literally everything else is likely to be much enhanced: from the basis of science, the origins of conflict, cultural differences, the power of words , and of course, of ideas and so on. Here two quotes to get a first hand testimony of former students:
 
First, Lucy Wallingford who took the subject some years ago: “The first unit of year 12 was extremely challenging, but once I had grasped the key notions and ideas within the theories, the learning curve was steep and the learning experience very enjoyable, certainly very stimulating”. Another student professes to “have found great intellectual benefit in being able to apply philosophy to everyday situations”. Lucy concludes: “I firmly believe that the study of Philosophy has matured my mind and in a sense changed my outlook on the world. I can see4 situations in a whole new light and could actually feel, especially during the last year, my immature, sheltered views developing into informed, critical and realistic conceptions. On a more academic level, taking philosophy has taught me a lot about modern as well as ‘ancient’ history, has developed my personal skills, and […] both the subject and the teachers are simply inspirational.”
 
Ex-student Emily McLean-Inglis esteems the subject “very relevant as philosophy relates to so much more than meets the eye at first: you can recognize its subtlety all around us, in world politics, art, film, culture, including popular culture, comedy, drama, literature.” One final quote from Isabella Wilson: “Philosophy is the most challenging and difficult, but at the same time, the most worthwhile and meaningful subject I have had the pleasure of studying”. 
 
 
Broad aims: 

  • Develop a rigorous approach, both critical and constructive, to the study of philosophy and the nature of argument
  • Develop a set of transferable intellectual skills – including comprehension, interpretation, analysis and evaluation – which will facilitate the development of independent thinking, based on critical examination of evidence and rational argumentation. These will be applicable in the study of other academic subjects and in reflection on other important aspects of human experience.
  • A deepening awareness and critical understanding of the history of ideas, in relation to the following broad areas of expertise: 
  1.       Moral Philosophy/Ethics
  2.       Epistemology
  3.       Philosophy of Science, and by proxy also of: 
  4.       Metaphysics
  5.       Philosophy of Religion 
  • An appreciation and textual understanding of how and why philosophical enquiries: a) have changed over time; b) address “last” or “deep” question about the nature of the universe, human existence, perception, social and political organization and ethical dilemmas
  • A love of the subject and its relevance to contemporary affairs, debates and its presence in films, literature, natural sciences, religion and politics that have helped shape the world. 
  • An enhanced ability to recognize the provenance of arguments, including their value bases, potential criticisms and hidden assumptions.
  • A deep love and passion for the subject matter; discern its relevance for “big” questions; grasp the depth and range of the questions the subject asks, and the answers it can provide; assessing the relevance of the subject for all of human endeavour; its bearing on contemporary society; its significance for understanding the history of ideas; its significance for the globalizing world; 
  • An appreciation of one’s own personal development and progress, including moral progress; 

 
Topics studied: 
Year 12: 
Theory of Knowledge: what is Knowledge, Perception, Reason & Experience, Types and justification of/for knowledge; Knowledge and Science: what is the limit of human knowledge & what can we not know?  
 
Moral Philosophy: what is morally right? Normative theories of ethics: is morality the greatest happiness for the greatest number? Is morality doing one’s duty? Is the virtuous human a moral being? What are the virtues? Can it ever be justified to lie; declare war; kill? 
 
 
Year 13: 
Philosophy of Religion: What are the attributes of the classical conception of God? Why is religion appealing? Should it be? What proofs for the existence of God have been attempted? Are any of them successful? Can the existence of Evil be compatible with the existence of a benevolent God? Is God just an “idea”? Is religious talk actually meaningful? 
 
Philosophy of Mind: Can machines “think”? What is consciousness? Do we have Free will, if so, how much of it? Conversely, are we determined? What theories of mind are there? How does the mind relate to the body? What of the minds of other creatures - do we need to think differently about how we treat animals?  
 
Activities include: 
Debating & discussing in groups and pairs 
Reading, understanding and summarizing philosophical arguments
Criticizing, or finding flaws in these arguments
Discussing and evaluating the relative strengths and weaknesses of arguments and perspectives
Watching & discussing clips, and relevant programs and films
Going on a Philosophy student conference 
Preparing student-led seminar presentations
Quiz, games such as philosophical pictionary
AMA opportunities for Philosophy at Sussex Downs (evening lecture) 
Extension materials including for other areas of Philosophy 
 
For more information about Philosophy, please contact D Buschle at uccdbuschle@uctc.org.uk