For those who don't know, I love Westerns. I really don't know why anyone makes any other kind of film to be honest. As my Twitter bio states, if I wasn't a teacher, I'd be a cowboy. However, I am pretty rubbish at horse riding and have fallen off a few times, so I don't think I am really all that cut out for it...
I decided that actually, instead of just watching Westerns, that I should actually try to learn something about the period so I understood the context of the films a little better... as well as working out fact from fiction. I put out a tweet:
History colleagues -what is/are the best book(s) on the American West? Looking to back up my love of Westerns with background knowledge.— Andy Lewis (@AndyLewis_RE) May 2, 2017
There were a few responses, but I learnt that Alex Ford had written a GCSE textbook for the OCR specification. I thought this was an ideal place to start - surely if a 16 year old can master this content, I could!?
I was going to skip all the blurb at the start as I felt I didn't really need any of the exam info stuff. However something caught my eye, this book represented 20% of the GCSE course. Now, it is worth noting that the book is 108 pages long, of this, page 8 to 95 are filled with content. There are some pictures and images, but there is a lot of text - I would estimate at least 800 words per double page spread. To cut a long story short, there is a lot to learn here for just 20% of your grade.
It got me thinking about some of the criticism made about the new GCSE in Religious Studies:
- "There is too much content." - History seems to have as much, if not more.
- "It is not relevant enough." - This is relevant to me, as a Western lover, but this unit only takes the student as far as 1900 - not far enough to fully embrace modern American culture. A 6th former the other day asked me, "Did cowboys even actually exist?"
- "The interesting bits are no longer there [abortion/euthanasia]" - This is certainly not all gunfights and shootouts!
I know the aim of OFQUAL was to try and make GCSEs, as close as possible, comparatively hard. RS GCSE has had a steep, step up. I believe History has got harder, and to ensure RS matched up, it has perhaps had to get much harder. There is much more content. there are far more tougher theological concepts, there are Sources of Wisdom and Authority (SoWA) to learn. We can certainly not teach it in an hour a week any more.
I guess we need to think smart, preempt difficulties and take action with the new spec (like Blondie). Otherwise we will be left running around after a lost cause (like Tuco) or completely out of the [GCSE] equation (like Angel Eyes). No-one wants to lose the shootout...