Philosophy and Theology
The subjects of Philosophy and Theology are, we believe, a vital under-pinning to any education. As thought-provoking and academically rigorous subjects in their own right they offer both a breadth and a depth of learning that is unparalleled, but in addition to that they challenge pupils to consider the very nature of their existence, its origins and its possible meanings. As a school with a great Christian tradition we concentrate on Christian Theology in our studies, but it is certainly not taught in a catechetical way and the emphasis is very much on pupils being able to form a coherent and substantiated argument rather than encouraging them to accept a particular point of view. This is supported by teaching staff who have a genuine love and great knowledge of the subjects and who continue to learn and to develop their own ideas at every opportunity. We are Philosophers and Theologians who teach, not teachers who happen to have fallen into this subject.
We offer a variety of courses which cover a broad range of topics. At GCSE we offer Religious Studies (known here as Theology), which encourages pupils to develop their discursive skills through analysis and debate of some of the biggest questions of life, such as how might we prove whether God exists and whether there is really one ethical theory which is convincing over all of the others. At A Level we offer both Theology and Philosophy as separate courses (AQA Philosophy and EDEXCEL Religious Studies). Though the skills that they develop are in many ways very similar, the subject matter differs so that pupils can chose a subject that more closely matches their own interests. By doing this we aim to help them to develop personally as well as academically.
SOCIETIES AND TRIPS
The Sidgwick Society meets weekly on Thursday evenings (alternating between the senior and junior sections) to discuss a huge variety of philosophical and theological topics, chosen so as to be equally approachable by those who are not studying the subject as by those who are. These meetings are informal, popular and usually involve a lot of cheese. Termly external speakers also allow members to debate and engage with some of the most respected and formidable minds of the present day, thereby further honing their own skills and gaining a greater insight into often highly contentious issues.
The department aims to offer a wide variety of trips, the flagship of which is the biennial trip to Dharamsala, in northern India. This eye-opening opportunity allows members of D Block and the LXX to teach English to exiled Tibetan Buddhist monks in the home of the Dalai Lama himself and to help a community whose way of life is under constant threat. It is a privilege to be able to experience a culture that is often so alien to those living in the UK and, more importantly, to help with its preservation.
D. J. McLean, BA (Head of Department)
Mrs A. L. Parker-Jones, M.A.