A Tory politician of the eighteenth century once remarked that, “All that is required for evil to triumph is that good men stay silent”. Studying politics is all about making sure the good men don’t stay silent.
It is about understanding the system that governs us; about being able to challenge that system when we need to; about how we might be involved; about speaking up for those who can’t. In any society, but especially a democracy, no-one should be willing to simply stay silent. Knowing and understanding the political system is the essential first step to undertaking our democratic responsibilities.
The A-level course is aimed at increasing our understanding of first British politics (AS) and then the broader studies of global politics (international relations) and US politics (A2)
The basic form of the lessons takes place around discussions and debate – the best way of generating your own ideas, responding to arguments and generally thinking independently. The core information is contained in recommended books and hand-outs, but you will also be expected to regularly access current news sources – newspapers, current affairs magazines, television news programmes and the relevant websites.
We use visits outside school to help – usually at least one conference in the Lower Sixth to hear politicians like George Galloway, Nick Clegg, Tony Benn, John Bercow, William Hague and Kenneth Clarke, as well as media commentators. We also visit the Houses of Parliament at Westminster (usually in the second term), and have a question and answer session with Sutton’s MP. We have been making increasing use of lectures and events held by organizations such as the Hansard Society (usually in Parliament’s Portcullis house) and the LSE. We run a biannual trip to Washington with the History department. Recent visits saw students look round the White House, tour Congress with the aides of New York Senator Kate Gillibrand, and visit the Supreme Court.
Students don’t need a great amount of existing political knowledge – that’s the purpose of the course! What you do need is a strong general interest in current events, and a willingness to comment on them. An idea of the sort of stories that you should be reading, and a range of links to good political sites, can be found at the politics blog – www.sgspolitics.blogspot.com.