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Monday, January 4, 2016

Breakdown of the Humanities Curriculum in Britain

Technically, my practicum was for the subjects comprising humanities, rather than just focusing on history. History is a part of the humanities at the Rokeby but it also includes geography (which is the English term for social studies) and religious studies. Even though the Rokeby School is what Americans would call a public school, it still must devote an entire subject to religious studies, as it is part of the national curriculum. Religious studies is essentially an ethics class. The best way to describe it in terms of BC is perspectives without the philosophy aspect of it. Students learn about several different religions prominent in the United Kingdom as well as each religions beliefs and attitudes toward controversial topics. Instead of focusing on one religion at a time, students focus on one controversial topic at a time and then learn what each religion believes about it. For example, students have an entire unit dedicated to punishment and the concept of life. Much of the class is dedicated to discussion among the students as a class, in which they try to see the issue through the eyes of followers of different religions and explain how one would react and feel.
            The only geography classes that I worked with were for middle school age students, which is about the age that I learned social studies, so I am unsure if this subject is only meant for younger students or if it continues to be taught until students leave the school in year 11. Although some of the subject of geography is what we would think of it, being comprised of learning countries and capitals, there are also other aspects of the material that could be considered both biology and social studies. For example, one of the lessons that I participated in had students learning about the type of vegetation unique to coastal areas throughout the world. This lesson required the knowledge of knowing the locations of specific countries as well as the skills for interacting with a blank map.
            A majority of my classes however were spent working with history classes. The two units that I worked with were Year 10 students’ study of Weimar and Nazi Germany and Year 7’s study of English history, focusing particularly on King Henry VIII to the end of the Tudor dynasty.

            Once a week, every student participated in a short activity called P4C, philosophy for children. Although this was not tied to any subject, it gave the students a forum to discuss topics posed by the teacher, usually based on their feelings on current events. This activity is just an extension of the school placing such a priority on students working with one another and learning how to hold a scholarly discussion. Because of the school’s diversity, many of the students had different answers, considering their backgrounds. This reason is why it is so important that the students learn how to hold an intellectual conversation because although what a student inputs is important, listening to another student’s perspective is valued just as highly.

1 comment:

  1. Dave, that is really interesting to me the way they group together the subjects in your school and the UK in general. I think it is great that there is so much exposure to current events and controversial topics. It sounds like the students are really engaged during these types of things. I wonder how different the conversations on religion in this public school are from those in Catholic schools. If their class on religious studies is similar to Perspectives at BC, I can imagine it might have more room for discussion and openness to other ideas than a typical Catholic middle or high school in the US. I'm glad that in addition to the typical history classes, you were able to see the religious studies classes as well as the P4C activity.


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