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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 important expansion to our curriculum. It 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 rotating carousel of short courses develops as they grow into more advanced, lecture-based courses in the Upper School. These prepare students for the advanced critical thinking required in university learning and for advanced research projects both in the Langton and beyond.

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 study of the book and Radio 4 series by Neil MacGregor, a History of the World in 100 Objects, to which the students have full access to the written and spoken material. This is 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. It is essential that they gain a sense of the world beyond their immediate environment, and the book allows them to access questions of culture from across the world and throughout time. The students are encouraged to ask difficult questions, let their imaginations leap beyond the boundaries that traditional subjects might entail, and to make connections across their learning in and out of 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 and therefore stretches their cultural engagement.

Year 8 Year 9
Introduction to Film Making Critical Thinking 101
Climate Change and the Environment History of Art
Hinduism Codes and Codebreaking
Anti-Social Media? Introduction to Script Writing
Islam and Islamic culture Ancient History
The Ideas that Revolutionised Navigation Psychology

Students 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.

For Years 10 and 12, a programme of lectures is arranged which aim to cover a wide variety of subjects, and allow us to use the expertise, enthusiasm and specialisms of staff beyond their usual subject areas. In year 10 they are encouraged to make notes using the Cornell method, and to use their learning to support their curriculum work. It is also expected that they will further develop their cultural literacy through the programme. It is arranged into sections which group the lectures into thematic areas: The Self, Building for the Future, Revolutions, Truth and Beauty, and Cultural Encounters. For year 12, the programme further intensifies, and offers choices between lectures as students specialise between sciences and humanities. They are, however, also encouraged to attend outside of their school subject interests. Interspersed with the programme are sessions which support eh EPQ research, and towards the end of the year, UCAS briefings and careers advice are also included.

It is our intention that History of Ideas means no student is restricted by the necessary boundaries of examination subjects, and that their minds can begin to reach beyond into the world of connected knowledge, benefitting their whole lives from enhanced cultural literacy.

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