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Introducing Politics: Gay Marriage and UK Democracy

Sunday, September 18, 2011

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Gay marriage is always a great classroom topic. Here we can consider pressure group success, rights and liberties, and the role of the judiciary. In a comparative sense it also brings into view the extent to which rights are better advanced in the UK or the USA.

Recent stories emanating from Whitehall put this issue firmly back on the agenda.

According to the BBC:

“The government has indicated it is committed to changing the law to allow gay marriage by 2015.

Ministers are to launch a consultation next spring on how to open up civil marriage to same-sex couples ahead of the next general election.”

Below I put this debate in the context of a study note on the extent to which Britain can be considered democratic.

read more...»

US federalism

Thursday, June 16, 2011

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A good example here of how the US Constitution allows for the defence of rights and liberties.

OK, many states in the US have passed amendments or penned legislation banning same sex marriage, but it remains the case as Andrew Sullivan once pointed out in a column comparing the UK and US, that in certain states gays can do things that those in the UK can’t, i.e. tie the knot.

New York state may soon join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia in allowing same sex marriage. Mass was first off the mark, allowing same sex unions in 2004.

Thus states act as laboratories of democracy (Justice Brandeis) experimenting by pioneering different laws in a way that a unitary state such as the UK cannot.

You can see video coverage of the issue from the NYT here.

The Euro courts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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If you are doing OCR’s comparative paper, answers on the role of judges in different political systems can be developed impressively with reference to the ECJ and ECHR. These are frequently confused and assessment of their role can lack depth.

The Charlemagne column in the Economist provides a handy overview of their place in Europe, with excellent examples and analysis.

Here is the link

Global Issues: Sudan as a case study - several topics covered in one resource

Sunday, January 30, 2011

This BBC graphic kills a whole multitude of birds with one stone. The split in Sudan as shown by the interactive map can be viewed in several ways: by geography, ethnicity, education, food security and others. All this means that it could come in useful when teaching about culture as a cause of conflict, the clash of civilisations, the difficulty of making seeping assumptions about poverty & development and a whole load more.

Should murderers have the right to vote?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

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Students often state that one of the reasons Britain is not a true democracy is because prisoners don’t have the right to vote. This is true in the majority of cases, though convicts imprisoned for non-payment of fines do retain their voting rights.

The question of giving prisoners voting rights is an old debating chestnut. See here.

Yesterday the DPM, Nick Ckegg, went to the high court to lift the ban on prisoners, but as the Guardian reported he was looking for a way to avoid giving murderers, rapists, and other serious offenders voting rights. This has all come about as a result of a ruling by the ECHR in Strasbourg in 2005 which stated that Britain’s blanket ban was unlawful. So I guess this also serves as a good example of judges protecting civil liberties also.

This is a far cry from the USA of course, where a large number of states ban ex-felons for a period following their release. And in the state of Virginia, those convicted of a felony are banned for life! Many in the US see these types of policies as racist given the disproportionately large number of black prisoners, a significant number of whom are incarcerated as a result of the ramping up of drugs laws from the 1970s onwards. There’s a good webiste on the American debate called procon.org if readers want to pursue their interest in the debate further.

And in no way am I endorsing this, but Melanie Phillips has let go on the issue too.

Judges and rights exam update - contains link to excellent revision source

Thursday, April 22, 2010

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As if recent cases by judges on civil liberties weren’t enough to convince students that the judiciary is far from the most boring topic on the AS syllabus (see my earlier posting on this), the Supreme Court yesterday did us a big favour in making one of the most controversial rulings by UK judges in recent history.

Indeed, were it not for the perfect storm that Nick Clegg seems to have found himself in I am sure this would have been much higher up the news agenda.

read more...»

Getting students to introduce Global Issues (4D) to themselves

Monday, February 08, 2010

It is always good to start a new module with an overview of topics that are going to be studied. Even better to get students to introduce themselves to the subject matter and work out what key issues they’ll be tackling. Using a simple map of Afghanistan and Pakistan (along with some carefully placed questions) allowed a group to essentially extract from their own knowledge the nature of the course.

The conversation started with the war (‘New wars’, insurgency, the clash of cultures and the role of religion, differing views of human rights), navigated its way to terrorism (both in the region and domestically), managed to venture into WMDs (the starting point being the situation in Pakistan) and looked at possible solutions to the problem (poverty & development, nation building, international financial mechanisms etc). We didn’t quite manage to work environmental issues into the mix but three out of four wasn’t bad.

The Decade of Terror - Reuters Pictures of the Decade

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A stunning online slideshow here from Reuters tells the story of a decade of global terror and violence.  Many of the images are hard-hitting.  All are thought-provoking. An amazing resource to use as stimulus material for Politics units covering global issues.

Launch Reuters Images of the Decade

Politics Categories

Friday, February 01, 2008

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