Scintillating, innovative and educational ... Year 12s Freya & Izzy on UG Scholar's Society
Scholar's Society is an extra-curricular club which was launched for students in Year 10 and upwards at the start of this academic year by English teacher Mr Connell.
Through the layout of Scholars Society, we have learnt how to critically analyse, a skill needed not only in academic fields, but the wider world. Every week we learn to hone this faculty by questioning things such as: Is school even necessary? How is power gained and maintained? Can we ever be free? All this discussion is done in relation to the text and thinker that we are studying, which prompts us to understand, confront and question alternative viewpoints.
Additionally, it has helped us to hone skills in how to defend an argument and how to speak up whilst staying respectful and open-minded. There can be plenty of zealous participants at this club, creating an engaging and discursive atmosphere where anyone who has things to contribute can do so.
We have learnt things spanning from trivia to entire theories and ideologies that we simply would not have encountered within the school curriculum, such as the name of Foucault’s cat and the basis of Marxism as explained in the Communist Manifesto.
And in order to explore our own passions and to develop our public speaking skills, we have learnt how to explain concepts to people with different background knowledge to us: to teach something you must really understand it, so we have had to delve into the depths of the internet in order to gain a deeper understanding of our chosen topics.
Finally, we have engaged with how to apply sometimes ancient ideas to our modern world, mobilising them to help us discern truths in the complex 21st century world. For example, ripped bod in six months? No, just Freud’s illusion of progress. Want to learn how to escape the Matrix? Plato’s cave analogy could help you.
Overall, Scholars Society is a scintillating, innovative and educational club which we look forward to every week. Not only is it fun, but it also looks great on your personal statement and can help demonstrate a keen interest in intellectual pursuits, helpful for anyone taking the post-18 path to university. If you want to see passionate people discuss current and old issues and ideologies with a side of chocolate every fortnight, come along to E5.
We will see you there!
Report by Freya & Izzy; image by created Caitlin Year 12
Mr Connell explains the ethos behind the provision of Scholar's Society:
Working at a school like Urmston Grammar, where students demonstrate an exemplary thirst for knowledge, always setting the highest academic standards for themselves, teachers are often challenged to adequately support and match the scholarly desires of their students. What can they do to improve, and where can they go next? With some students, the answer is an extracurricular one: wider reading, texts and films outside of or adjacent to curriculum content, or even content more suited to university undergraduate courses. Indeed, as an English teacher I have been taken aback by the genuine thoughtfulness with which some students have applied themselves to extracurricular academic study in topics such as history, philosophy and literary theory, demonstrating to me that Urmston is clearly a place where thought and learning is valued. So, providing a (somewhat) formal environment where students could encounter and engage with these ideas seemed like a logical next step.
Starting with Plato’s Cave in September, a group of students have met every fortnight to learn about and discuss a short extract of philosophy or critical theory. Since then, the students have had the chance to explore many new ideas, from Rousseau’s conception of freedom and the ‘Noble Savage’ to Frantz Fanon’s incendiary The Wretched of the Earth, as well as the work of Freud, Foucault and Charles Darwin. Mr Ahern even tagged in during one week to deliver a session on his area of expertise, the philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein. However, the most edifying and insightful sessions have always come at the hands of the students themselves: Freya’s seminar on Simone De Beauvoir’s Le Deuxième Sexe, Theo’s on Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto, Izzy’s on Confucius’s Analects and Zion’s on bell hooks’s Aint’ I a Woman. Not only have these Sixth Formers granted themselves a head-start on the type of learning expected of them at university, they have also demonstrated an exemplary attitude towards education and their community, one that I hope they will take with them when they leave school.
If any of this has interested you, be you a student or a teacher looking to lead a session, or simply someone looking to listen in for one lunchtime (students from year 10 and 11 often attend as well as sixth formers), then you will find them well-advertised around the school, with the reading materials for each always located in the LRC and on Satchel One.