The course I was teaching for Reach Cambridge in 2016 covered the introduction to politics and political thought. In order to give students an idea of why we need to study past thinkers to understand politics today, we were reading primary texts by major figures that are at the core of the politics curricula at university. The thinkers covered included Thomas Hobbes on the emergence of the state, John Rawls on justice, Jürgen Habermas on politics and religion and Edward Said on orientalism.
Each session was based on a general introduction about how the topics have been discussed over the centuries and how they matter in different media outlets around the globe today. Moreover, students had to react to the theories we discussed and presented their critical assessment of how to best think about politics today in interactive presentations. It was particularly impressive to see the deep knowledge of the politics and the history of the students' home countries. Moreover, all students were very keen to learn more about the subjects at hand and were very open to study politics from a variety of viewpoints.
There was a very strong sense of comradship in the group as every member was trying to support the learning process of the others. I had the impression that through working in groups the different intellectual and geographical origins of the students played out very fruitfully towards a steep learning curve for every member of the group. In addition to that, many students were eager to dig deeper into the thinkers and topics discussed which is why I am confident that the course will serve as an inspiration for their future intellectual and political development.
I enjoyed teaching the course mainly because of the passion the students had for trying to accustom themselves with studying at university and to seriously get involved with the materials presented to them. It was interesting for me to confront the students with their own preconceptions, for example by presenting them with a hoax charity video that was designed to uncover the essentialising and racist stereotyping most Western people are used to. I enjoyed going every step of the learning process with them, in particular where this involved questioning prior assumptions and problematising common-sense understandings of politics.
Written by Tobias, Politics & International Relations Teacher 2016