Hello! Aloha! Hola! Bonjour! Welcome! I thought that I'd put my coffee overdose to good use by writing a quick informal update letting those interested know what the ruddy hell has been going on these past few weeks. If you're only reading this for a given reason, I've included two cute little subheadings to help you skip the subjectively irrelevant stuff...
Overall in summary; teach A-level Philosophy, subscribe to The Panpsycast, live long and prosper!
The short version: no AQA GCSE Philosophy this year, don't lose hope, why aren't you teaching A-Level Philosophy?
Our GCSE Philosophy 'It's Time' campaign gained great momentum at the beginning of 2016. After some initial interest from AQA we decided to run a two week long petition gathering over 500 signatures. Following our formal letter of request (you can click here to read it if you like) we were rejected by AQA's admin staff. We were essentially told that AQA don't have the funds to move forward with a GCSE in philosophy. After a lot of back and forth, we were able to set up a meeting between myself and AQA's qualifications developer. Due to current reforms to the majority of GCSEs, the government only approved qualifications in phase 2 of reform at the start of the year. If a GCSE in philosophy was to be developed; it should be been requested by an exam board the previous September. At the time there wasn't a formal appeal from the philosophy community and exam boards were already biting off more than they could chew with the 2016 reforms. So is the campaign for a GCSE in philosophy dead? No. AQA in particular are not turning down the idea and are keen to develop innovative qualifications for the future, claiming there is no reason why GCSE Philosophy won't be offered in the future. In the meantime, it's up to us to continue waving the flag... so... are you waving the flag for philosophy?
Statistically speaking, the likelihood that you are is remarkably slim. Unfortunately there are hundreds of RE/RS departments nationwide that tag themselves as 'Philosophy and Ethics' or simply 'Philosophy' departments; yet they offer no qualifications in philosophy. Given the changes to the new GCSE and A-levels, if you call yourself a Philosophy department and you don't offer a formal qualification in philosophy, you're simply false advertising - you'll be leaving students disappointed; unethically selling RE under a sexier name.
So, why aren't departments offering A-level Philosophy? AQA have been through a tremendous amount of trouble trying to process and maintain the qualification. In fact, before the 2015 reform, the qualification was nearly dropped entirely given a lack of numbers. The exam isn't perfect, but the content is fantastic; metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of religion and ethical theory. People remain unhappy that philosophy of religion is mandatory, but marking was an issue and we'll certainly see more reliability in the new, more structured exam style and compulsory topics. If we want a GCSE in philosophy, we need to be offering young people the A-level in philosophy. With a huge amount of schools 'going optional' at GCSE next year, humanities departments will be losing huge numbers in RE enrolment. Why not become top heavy? Offer an extra A-level subject, an A-level in philosophy. It's painful to see teachers fear philosophy in groups such as 'Save RE'. Offering A-level philosophy will boost teachers timetables; giving a boost to enrolment and interest in the humanities as a whole.
If your department already has the word 'philosophy' in it - you already have your answer. Offer your students AQA's A-level in Philosophy from 2017. The link is down below.
The Panpsycast and the future
An official version of The Panpsycast is now available on iTunes! We're aiming to cover as much content as possible, getting a variety of friends, teachers, students and professional philosophers involved in the show. This is going to be a long-term project and we hope to build up a rich library of podcasts that can support students in the future. Click here and check it out for yourself. We're into triple digit listeners already and we've had some amazing feedback from the community. Thank you for all of your support. If you want to pass on a message tweet us at @thepanpsychist; you might even get a shout out!
As for myself I'll be returning to the University of Liverpool to read philosophy from September 2016. Without the support of Culham St Gabriel's and Hockerill Educational Foundation this would not be possible. I am overwhelmingly grateful for their support. As well as flying the flag for philosophy in a house of commons debate in September, I will be speaking at a number of funky conferences across 2016-17, which I will keep you updated with via Twitter. I have added MA, QTS papers to the Pubs & Papers section as I'm hoping to write a big piece arguing for the reformulation of RE's fundamental pedagogical principles (a meta-pedagogy-esque argument against radical-subjectivism, the about/from distinction; a pupil-centred foundation for the subject that seeks to avoid indoctrination) in the future, so I'll be provoking some academics and teachers into reading and discussing these papers against their will. If you're interested please hit this link!
Thank you for sticking around, I suppose that will do for now... I need more coffee. Overall in summary; teach A-level Philosophy, subscribe to The Panpsycast, live long and prosper!