To Berlin for a change in perspective

In the very recent publication by the Russell group Universities on entrance requirements (read that here – http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk/uploads/Informed-Choices-final.pdf) it is so obvious that the majority of great A level subjects such as English and History are deemed ‘door-openers’ or ‘facilitators’. The point here is that some subjects extend beyond the obvious, requiring pupils to analyse, synthesise and evaluate the evidence in front of them, be that literature or primary sources, and force a judgement in writing.

In my time, I have taught both arts and science disciplines, and I have become comfortable with the change in focus different subjects require. Almost irrespective of subject, any is enhanced by hands-on learning, and for Historians of any hue, a trip to Berlin is a trip well worth making. As I pack my bags ready for the Y11 trip to Berlin this half-term, I know I am to visit a cradle of fascism, a centre of communist rule, a monument to extermination, an Olympic Stadium, and above all a testament to the survival of the human spirit in spite of extraordinary repression.

For young men and women, who it must be said, live in a pretty perfect world, the journey back in time to review the rise and fall of the Nazis, the role of the communist state and its suppression of freedom, and those events that led from perestroika to liberation for the 16 million citizens of East Germany. The nation was one of the few in the last century that shrank during the period of ‘occupation’ by the Russians, and there seems little to admire about that period. As a modern Berlin takes its place as one of the world’s most influential capital cities, any young man or women can’t help but reflect upon how lucky we have been in England to have been born free.

As the nations of the Arab world begin to be torn asunder by the same extraordinary pressure exerted by their people tired of subjugation, our students will do well to remember that the violence we are witnessing is nothing new. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Those of us who live in the free world always need to study the lessons of the past; that’s the beauty of both Literature and History, in which the human condition is so eloquently laid out for our review. And that’s what I hope to learn with our Historians as we visit Berlin; there are no UCAS points for the trip, but do you know what, I suspect when our boys and girls are asked, they’ll agree with me that their eyes have been opened all the way by the sights and sounds that greet us.

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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