Our weekly Blog has been wonderfully written by Mr Davies, Head of History and Politics & Orchard Housemaster, he talks of how it can be a joy to write, but within that there is also freedom of expression and the chance to open up with our glorious English language and entertain.
I was gently snoozing in my classroom when Mrs Cooper’s email arrived to say that it was my turn to do the weekly blog. As she’ll tell you, my reply was instantaneous: ‘Oh good.’ Whilst I’d been snoozing, 9L had been taking advantage of the lull, gently defenestrating themselves and daubing inappropriate slogans on the Science Block wall (‘come back in, Smithers Major, you’re supposed to be in my lesson – and please note for future reference that there’s only one ‘f’ at the start of that word’).
After I’d ushered 9L out of my room (‘But sir, it’s twenty minutes early.’ ‘Splendid. You’ll be on time for your next lesson then’), I sat down and pondered what to write about this time, and, should I manage to decide, what tenuous link I could make between that topic and academic excellence in my department, which is what the thing’s supposed to be about.
After a couple of hours of careful consideration, punctuated by twenty minutes of erudite and stimulating conversation in the staff room and an injection of caffeine, I was none the wiser.
I came back to it the following morning, and came up with the magnificently original idea of tweaking something I’ve already written about; in this case, writing. Two blogs ago I wrote about historical fiction, and this blog will focus on the enjoyment of writing. History and Politics are both about argument; recognising but overruling one side, and illuminating and supporting the other. This in itself can be a joy to write, but within that there is also freedom of expression, the chance to open up with our glorious English language and entertain, whether that be for an audience or just yourself.
I tend to use my missives, emails and even from time to time pupil reports as an opportunity to entertain myself, and whilst that’s not exclusive to my department – I have even known mathematicians who could string a sentence together – I think that, as one goes further and further in the subjects, Politics and History lend themselves to that freedom of expression which goes beyond the basic skills required for a series of arguments and a substantiated judgment.
Taking a complex and – let’s be honest – sometimes rather dry historical or political question and answering it effectively – writing a logical and easy to follow argument, evidencing and explaining it, linking it to other factors, building to a fully substantiated and clear conclusion – is not easy. It requires talent, but also excellent subject knowledge, planning and hard work. It takes patience and revision – it’s practically impossible to write something perfectly the first time round – and sometimes ruthlessness (when you need to cut everything you’ve written because you realise it’s rubbish; some of you may be wondering why I haven’t shown such ruthlessness here…). These are all key skills that we need throughout life, and it’s why History especially remains such a sought after A Level among universities and employers.
To give you an example (and to finally shut me up), here is an excerpt from an essay by Ethan Hill (Year 13), the title of which isn’t exactly guaranteed to get the pulse racing: To what extent did the legal and local government reforms of Alexander II allow greater participation in politics by the Russian people in the period 1855-1870? Ethan has taken a most certainly complex and dry question and constructed a clear and erudite argument which is easy to read and will leave an examiner purring (if the examiner happened to be a cat):
It could also be argued that the local government reforms introduced by Alexander II allowed for a greater participation in politics for the Russian people. Before the reforms, the Tsar’s autocracy ruled across the country. The local government was split into three levels which found it hard to work together, leading to a lack of communication and therefore less development. However, Alexander II’s introduction of Volosts, soon after the emancipation of the serfs, began several reforms which would further the participation in politics by the Russian people. Volosts were introduced, covering around 25 square miles of land each, and within them they created the mir to control day-to-day life. Each group of ten households sent a representative to the mir, ensuring everyone was fairly represented, whether that be nobility, townsmen, or peasant. This led to positive change in villages such as improvements to sanitation and education. These developments exemplified the increasing influence of a range of social classes in Russia’s politics. However, despite the improvements, there were multiple events which proved that there were still many flaws with the Russian political system.
Clear point, excellent evidence, focused explanation and then leading on to his counter-point. Happy days. Top drawer A Level History writing. That’s something worth celebrating. So’s half term; I hope that you and your children have a great break.
Oh, and by the way, just in case you were wondering, before I called him back in, Smithers Major was daubing the words ‘History is my favourite subject’ on the wall. Don’t know what you were thinking of.
Head of History and Politics