‘He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.’ John Stuart Mill
Government and politics is a discipline which is not simply about current affairs; it is a means by which students can develop balanced views about important issues and learn how to evaluate information gleaned from a variety of sources. Students gain the chance to debate key issues from an informed standpoint in the classroom, whilst studying a subject in ‘real time’. There are always new situations to interpret and opportunities to challenge existing political ideas and orthodoxies, developing presentational, analytical and research abilities along the way.
The study of government and politics is especially beneficial for those who wish to pursue a career in law, the civil service, journalism, business management, consultancy, education, finance, market research, as well as in the field of politics itself.
Voicing an opinion is essential in government and politics, because the subject cannot exist without discussion and argument – students should therefore be willing and able to make verbal contributions during lessons.
For the first year of the course, we investigate voting behaviour/systems and different forms of political participation in the UK, as well as how the Westminster system works in theory and in practice. In addition, students will learn about the ideologies of anarchism, conservatism, ecologism, feminism, liberalism, multiculturalism and socialism.
In the second year, students will study global politics, including international relations theory. We live in a complex world with significant challenges, including global terrorism, poverty, economic instability, conventional and nuclear weapons proliferation, failing states and environmental degradation. Global politics gives students an opportunity to develop an understanding of the local, national, international and global dimensions of political activity. Students will gain understanding of abstract political concepts by grounding them in contemporary real-world examples and case studies that will develop an international awareness and knowledge of multiple perspectives.
Many government and politics students choose to participate in a student simulation known as the Model United Nations, and we have attended international school conferences in and around London as well as Edinburgh and Paris. Individual research and decision-making, together with discussion and evaluation of a variety of possible solutions requires consensus-building and the ability to adapt arguments according to competing diplomatic circumstances. The capacity to draw conclusions from having investigated certain issues, together with thinking critically and arguing points convincingly are central to the Model UN programme.
The R.A. Butler Prize for essays in Politics and International Studies is a competition that can be entered by students in the Lower Sixth. The Prize is jointly organised by Trinity College Cambridge and Cambridge University’s Department of Politics and International Studies. The Prize was established in memory of the former Master of Trinity College, Lord Butler, who most famously served as Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who was responsible for the introduction of free secondary education for all students in the UK.
The objectives of the R.A. Butler Prize are twofold. Firstly, it aims to encourage students with an interest in modern politics and world affairs to think about undertaking university studies in Politics, International Studies or a related discipline; it is not limited to those already studying these subjects or indeed other social sciences. Secondly, its intention is to recognise the achievements both of high-calibre students and their wider appreciation of political affairs.
There are regular talks and events in school assemblies, including the 2017 UK general election and a six-way TV-style student debate for the 2016 EU referendum. In addition, whenever a general election is called in the UK, the department holds a mock campaign and ballot with students standing as candidates from the different political parties.