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History of Ideas

History of Ideas at KS3

The History of Ideas course is unique to the Langton. We devised the concept of History of Ideas with the goal of providing an additional element to our curriculum, which aims to broaden the cultural and intellectual horizons of our students, encouraging them to understand how different ideas and disciplines have connected together over time, and to become conversant with a range of key thinkers and cultural figures from the past. The Key Stage 3 course flows into more advanced, lecture-based courses in the Upper School which prepare students for university learning and advanced research projects.

In Year 7, the course gives students a broad overview of the whole of human history, and a framework for understanding other subjects including literature, philosophy, art, geography, and science. It is based on a close reading of the book A Little History of the World by E.H.Gombrich, supported by work which ranges from the building of knowledge and a sophisticated vocabulary, to more advanced questions of interpretation that give opportunities for boys to formulate and debate their own ideas. There is a rich programme of optional follow-up tasks which boys are encouraged to undertake to build their own personal engagement with the course. A copy of the Gombrich book will be given to each boy as a gift from the school.

In each of Years 8 and 9, the History of Ideas comprises six mini-courses which are studied in turn, and taught by different teachers, for five weeks each. Each mini-course introduces an area of study that is important, interesting, and exciting, but does not feature in the standard curriculum:

Year 8
An intro to Chinese History and Culture
An intro to Indian History and Culture
The Ideas that Revolutionised Navigation
An Introduction to Islam
Climate Change and the Environment
Year 9
An intro to Feminism
Critical Thinking 101
History of Art
Ancient History – Greece and Rome
Codes and Codebreaking
An Introduction to Psychology

Boys produce one assignment for each of the mini-courses, completing a portfolio of five pieces of work at the end of each year, and being examined viva voce by a senior member of staff at the end of Year 9.

History of Ideas at KS4

The History of Ideas grew out of our frustration with the poor knowledge content of the National Curriculum. It came from a desire to set the history of the past six hundred years in Europe into an understandable narrative and to show the consequences of key events as well as introducing students to axis ages and paradigm shifts that still have repercussions for us today.

Year 10 study vital and relevant philosophical debates in half hour lectures and “break-out” study groups. Questions debated and discussed are:

  • The major arguments for the existence of God
  • Aesthetics – what makes art?
  • Ethical theories – Deontology and Utilitarianism
  • Various applied ethical debates, including war, abortion and meat eating
  • Life After Death and whether humans have souls.
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Existentialism

The Year 11 programme is delivered  via a series of lectures focused on understanding the world today, starting with the Renaissance, moving forward through the Enlightenment to consider key Scientific Revolutions and fundamental ideas in politics and economics.

History of Ideas at KS5

The History of Ideas course is unique to the Langton and offers students to chance to go way beyond the confines of any syllabus. The course runs from September to January of Year 12, with one lecture scheduled every week.

The course has four central purposes:

  • to address a body of central cultural knowledge that, in our judgement, should be part of the intellectual furniture of all educated and thoughtful people
  • to introduce students to a range of central ideas and concepts that they are likely to encounter at university
  • to encourage students to develop the skills of university learning, including the experience of formal lectures, note-taking, further reading and reflection
  • to serve as a stimulus for choosing an area of in-depth research for each student’s individual EPQ

The Lecture programme for 2017/18

Core content
(all students attend these lectures)
The Greeks
The Romans
The Bible
How to read a painting
The magic of music
Futures thinking
Specialist content
(students attend one lecture from a choice of two each week)
Democracy, ancient and modern
Medieval philosophy
Quantum Hamlet
The French Revolution
Nietzsche and the death of God
Freud, sex and death
An introduction to Jung
Ancient mathematics
Medieval cosmology
Neuroscience & consciousness
Drug development
Are we alone in the universe?
Medical ethics
The MBP Project
The evolution of sex
Mathematics: the Millennium Problems