In 2005, my General Studies A-Level Essay (under exam conditions) was about abortion!!

(107 Posts)
HoveringKestrel Sat 11-May-13 01:15:07

I couldn't believe it. I'm a male but even I was a bit.....wow thats a bit close.....

I ended up getting an A because, thankfully, I will never have that horrible distressing decision to make, and imagined every thought I could think of, both A and B, and explained them, in turn, like it was an internal debate. But I know I will never have such a burdon.

Now I'm 25, I'm suddenly thinking... What right does the education board have to give that to 18 year olds and judge them????

I'm horrified because there could have been girls in that exam room who may have had to make that decision

jacks365 Mon 13-May-13 21:40:08

I suppose its what's the greater good. Is it right to make allowances for some women and lets be honest we are talking a small proportion in this instance if it has a detrimental effect on the majority.

No in an ideal world all prejudice would be wiped out but unfortunately we are human with faults.

LynetteScavo Mon 13-May-13 21:34:54

The examiner isn't judging their morals, but their ability to rationalise, discuss and persuade.

Exactly this.

But if you were 18, and had just experienced an abortion, I imagine it could either really go in your favour, or against you....depending more on your personality, rather than your academic ability.

BergholtStuttleyJohnson Mon 13-May-13 21:32:27

Can't be arsed to read the whole thread. I sat that exam too (and got 98% grin). It was the "conflict" paper and was on abortion and euthanasia if I remember correctly. The purpose of it was to test persuasive/discursive writing. There was no right or wrong answers. It could have been upsetting for some students but that could actually have made them perform better if they had a very strong view. The whole point of that paper was that it was emotive topics. What made you think of an exam paper from 2005?

Chunderella Mon 13-May-13 21:30:34

The thing is jacks that some of this isn't a matter of opinion, so I would be totally incorrect to consider that anyone else might have a valid but different viewpoint. Your view that the negatives of ensuring women aren't discriminated against in this way would outweigh the positives is a legitimate one- after all, none of us can ever be sure what the future consequences of doing something will be. Could be that you're right and I'm wrong about that one, yes. And nobody can tell you how to feel. But the suggestion that correcting the discriminatory status quo is in itself positive discrimination flies in the face of logic. Anyone who says that is incorrect, and if I were to suggest otherwise I would be unequivocally wrong.

Additionally, this isn't all about you. The fact that you wouldn't be triggered and disadvantaged by an abortion question is of no help to the people, disproportionately women, who would. Obviously it's up to you to decide whether this is more or less important to you than being perceived as a person who wouldn't find an abortion discussion triggering.

jacks365 Mon 13-May-13 20:57:18

Chunderella my point is that trying to protect a section of society from real life is discriminatory. We can not wrap people up in cotton wool to avoid topics. Abortion is talked about on the news, some jobs have to deal with it these are real life situations that have to be faced. As long as an alternative is given then i don't see an issue, i find the assumption that i need protecting from something that may potentially affect me as an adult insulting. I can make my own choices in life.

i am not stating i am right and you are wrong but that you are coming across as not considering that anyone else could have a valid but differing view.

I truly believe that trying to put things in place to protect people from a perceived issue such as this has a negative overall effect. What it creates is an atmosphere of poor women need protection and can't deal with real life that has a knock on effect of preventing women from being taken as seriously.

Chunderella Mon 13-May-13 19:52:12

I'm afraid jacks that as you have only said that I am 'I'm right and you're wrong' and not any of the other people on the thread who have refused to change their minds, it looks rather like it's my stance rather than my disinclination to change it that you object to. And yes, women certainly do need protecting from sexism in education. I make no bones about insisting on that. The idea that this amounts to positive discrimination assumes that the status quo is not in itself discriminatory. And you can't get round the fact that it is, because more women than men will find abortion triggering. Anything that leaves more women disadvantaged, by virtue of being women, is no level playing field. The issues, then, are whether you think this matters and whether you think anything ought to be done to remedy said discrimination.

jacks365 Mon 13-May-13 12:39:04

I'm afraid chunderella that you come across as an I'm right and you are wrong and these poor women need protecting person. I find that insulting. I have to live in the real world and in the real world abortion is an issue and as such should not be hidden away and ignored. If it has to be faced in real life then it can be faced in an exam, trying to pretend something doesn't exist to protect a small minority of people is positive discrimination.

Chunderella Mon 13-May-13 12:29:58

If I have left you thinking that being triggered is in any way the same as being offended or that it can be described simply as emotional upset lottie, then I come away from the thread truly sorry. Both at how wrong you are to think that, and at how I might have contributed to you forming that view.

cory Mon 13-May-13 12:19:43

Other questions might disproportionately affect other groups. Women/men aren't the only group humanity can be divided in.

My dd's GCSEs in RS and biology both had a section on genetic disorders, new research into genetics and the ethical questions arising from this. DD has a genetic disorder which will affect the whole rest of her life. She has to be prepared to discuss subjects like the testing and selection of foetus with the awareness that one side of the argument will be that people like her should not have been born. This will be similar for a great number of disabled students. Of course it could be traumatic. But genetics is a big part of these subjects: I think it would be wrong not to teach it.

lottiegarbanzo Mon 13-May-13 12:19:42

You see that's the thing. I don't believe I am wrong. That I am (and most posters here too of course) is merely your opinion.

The new thought I will walk away from this thread with and ponder further is this, (nothing about institutional and structural sexism, which I knew about already) but this; that there is potential for the idea of protecting other people from emotional upset to be used in the same way that protecting others from potential offence is, sometimes. That is, by a vocal minority, convinced that their view of the world is THE view and that they have a responsibility to act on others' behalves, thus patronising everyone else and wasting a lot of their own energy. The potential for 'offence' to be used to shut down discussion has long made me queasy, this is an interesting new variation.

Also, the more I think about it, reflecting on the thread, the more I think covering the ethical issues associated with abortion on an A-level general studies syllabus (so potentially resulting in an exam question) is a really good idea, for a range of reasons.

Students' potential upset about anything, at any age and educational level, is certainly something that should be addressed sympathetically but I believe that restricting the syllabus is not the way to do it.

Thanks for your contribution to my coming away from this thread with food for thought Chunderella. I didn't expect that when I first posted.

Chunderella Mon 13-May-13 12:03:06

First of all jack, levelling the playing field is not positive discrimination. Preventing active discrimination is not the same thing as negative discrimination. They are two very different things. Positive discrimination would be setting questions that disadvantage one sex over the other, for example- so actually it is men who are being positively discriminated in favour of in OPs example.

As for your contention that women might be advantaged by an abortion question, no. I assume we all agree that some women who have abortions suffer trauma, and that there will be more women than men who feel traumatised due to personal experience of abortion. There's just no getting round this- it will be triggering for some women, it's inevitable. I do not accept, however, that having been through an abortion will mean that some women will be better at writing essays about it. It may well be that women are more likely than men to be more familiar with both sides of the argument, though not necessarily as there are some women who will have simply grown up with a particular position and not interrogated it. But for the sake of argument, we'll stick to the essay point. Having undergone an abortion makes it more likely that a woman will find the topic triggering, it does not make her better at writing essays about it. So again, not the same.

jacks365 Mon 13-May-13 11:50:27

Just as its easy to claim that the question disadvantages some women due to being personally affected as it is to claim that it gives women an advantage as they are more likely to have a bit more knowledge as it is more likely to personally affect them.

A question on abortion could be claimed to be detrimental to boys as they would have no personal involvement so not be as fully aware of the arguments for both sides.

While i can understand the argument that some girls could find it a trauma there are also other valid views to take into account too. I personally believe that positive discrimination is harmful to the overall cause of equality.

Chunderella Mon 13-May-13 11:25:07

Nobody said it wasn't lottie and I can't imagine why you would think I'm suggesting it isn't. How bizarre. Also allowed is for people to explain why other people are wrong, even when said people mean well.

In 1985, for my English Language O Level, we had to do a series of essays under exam conditions, each lasting an hour.

7 essays of which the best 4 were put forward by the teachers (cross marked by two teachers) to count for 50% of the marks. They were different types of essays and we had titles in advance so we could prepare notes (1 side of A5 paper, to be handed in with the essay). Types of essays were descriptive, story, etc, and the most contentious was discursive.

The discursive essays were described to us as being a discussion on a subject, where we gave both sides of an argument but had to make clear our own position and reasons why.

From what I can remember we had 5 titles to choose from (and nothing more than the title, you wrote about it however you wanted).

Of those 5 I recall one was about the "woman's place is in the home. Discuss" and one about abortion being a woman's right to choose.

I wrote about abortion, but I wouldn't be surprised if none of the boys did.

Of course, in order to have a decent discursive essay, you need a subject that's going to arouse strong opinions anyway, so looking back I can see why those ideas were chosen for titles. A lot of the things that we might find contentious as adults are things that a 16 yr old will simply not be aware of. But there were 5 different options for each essay, so if abortion was triggering for someone they could avoid it.

We weren't given any preparation in respect of the titles, only prep relating to how to construct a discursive essay.

lottiegarbanzo Mon 13-May-13 09:01:55

As I said Chunderella, I understood your point but I don't agree with you. Neither did the vast majority of posters on the thread. It is allowed.

rabbitlady Sun 12-May-13 18:08:46

teaching to religion to children

wrong again. we don't 'teach religion'. that's for families and faith organisations, perhaps faith schools.

we teach about religion. its different.

Chunderella Sun 12-May-13 12:17:53

If you think that the examples you offered are in any way comparable to this situation lottie then yes, you absolutely are missing the point.

So let's consider the point you're making. I'm very familiar with the idea that anything other than ensuring women compete on the same level as men is patronising. Probably any of us who attended universities that use the tutorial system and are interested in women and education will be. It's a common enough argument, it's got a logic to it until you interrogate it.

The problem is that when we are talking about education, or really any field where it was male centred for a long time and women have only recently been allowed to enter on anything like a level playing field, that argument effectively assumes that the status quo, the one that was designed around and advantages men, is somehow correct, desirable. Women must adapt to what was created for and by men, anything else is special treatment. Of course, nobody considers that the men are getting special treatment by virtue of the status quo. Well meaning but flawed arguments from people like you, who no doubt identify as feminists and believe they are putting forward pro-woman points, actually feed into this and end up disadvantaging women more. You mean well. But when it comes down to it, yours is an argument couched in privilege. You are able to and indeed want to compete with men on their terms, so the women who can't do so because of their gender are just going to have to miss out. It is not anti-woman or patronising to identify that women don't always do as well as men on an unequal playing field. No doubt men wouldn't do so well if things were reversed. To deny this is to help prevent the playing field from being levelled.

Good for you tapping but that doesn't really tell us anything on a group level.

tappingonahottinroof Sat 11-May-13 23:25:47

I had to write a balanced debate RE abortion as part of one of my A levels, while pregnant with a baby I had been advised to abort. I was 18 at the time. I managed.

lottiegarbanzo Sat 11-May-13 22:53:48

Chunderella, I haven't missed your point, I just don't agree with you.

I don't think one can avoid topics that may have personal or emotional resonance in some way, in life or in one's studies. Part of learning to tackle an academic question is learning to adopt an element of intellectual detachment. So, if I don't think 'triggering' is something examiners can or should be too concerned about, that applies to all students. Even if twice as many women might experience an unfortunate reaction to a particular question than men, twice as many times zero concern is still zero.

For those who do think potentially emotive issues should be treated more carefully, I find it very odd that numbers affected would not be a concern, as with cancer, only those issues that have a differential effect on the sexes. That might make sense if you were conducting some box-ticking diversity audit but, if you have a real concern for fairness and for the impact of 'triggering' on students' exam chances, that must surely extend to every student disadvantaged and to seeking to implement measures to avoid all such disadvantage.

Essentially we have been talking at cross-purposes. You've been talking about triggering and differential perspectives on issues affecting women's bodies. I was explaining a view that the OP's comments could be construed as patronising and old-fashioned.

There is a very strong historical basis for that view. Until very recently in this country, women were excluded from rigorous eduction of all kinds, then from higher education, then from being awarded degrees even if they'd passed the exams. At every stage paternalistic arguments were employed about what was best for them and what they could cope with. It was believed women's brains were weaker as smaller, that their reproductive organs would shrivel if their energy was redirected to their brains, they'd become social pariahs unable to marry, distracted from reproduction and their natural mode of fulfillment, it was indecent and morally corrupting for them to study certain topics and they would would be irrationally hormonal and emotional so unable to engage with other subjects.

Of course we can see that those were self-serving arguments made by men who found it convenient to keep women 'in their place' but, many of those beliefs and concerns were genuinely held and implemented with the perceived best interests of women at heart. That is why a man saying something that could be construed as 'of course I was all right but I do worry for the poor darlings who might feel all upset facing such an emotive topic, maybe they should only tackle topics someone else has decided are safe for them', however well-meant, can be perceived as patronising and as damning of the ability of women to tackle academic questions in a rigourous way - not necessarily in exactly the same way as an average man (whoever that is) but in a way that uses the knowledge they have to meet the examiners' requirements - as well as seeming to advocate a reduced 'women's syllabus' that puts certain subjects off limits (again). In this a case a topic that's it's particularly relevant for each women to have her own view on and be able to make this heard.

I don't really believe I can possibly have needed to explain that to anyone here but, hey, it's one way of winding the brain down for the night.

FreyaSnow Sat 11-May-13 21:55:12

I doubt many people believe those with religious belief are likely to act and people who follow other philosophical systems of thought do not. If you do, I can see why you would have an interest in teaching to religion to children.

b4bunnies Sat 11-May-13 21:44:44

RE also covers humanism and secular viewpoints. you might wish to re-name the subject 'belief systems' or 'worldviews'. religion matters because it motivates people to accept/not accept the world as it is. philosophy does not do that. i believe, therefore i act; i think too much, therefore i do nothing. grin

FreyaSnow Sat 11-May-13 20:44:40

B4b, why do we need to know more about the basis of the beliefs of other people more than our own? Why is it preferable for RE to be compulsory rather than philosophy and human rights? Or do you think that secular pupils will somehow pick up secular modes of analysis in ethics without being taught them? That doesn't happen in any other subject.

And if the purpose is to teach perspectives other than the Western Liberal worldview, wouldn't that be better accomplished by teaching anthropology, of which religion is one part? Or do you believe religious beliefs are more important than other kinds of beliefs each culture holds?

Maggie111 Sat 11-May-13 20:07:26

There was no right answer. It's an easy question really, I'd have been very grateful - very easy to see lots of pros and cons. Lots of different avenues to take the essay down, turn it into a religious debate if you want to, or a debate of women's rights and so on.

Obviously the people at a real disadvantage are those who hold such firm views on the topic they wouldn't be able to write both sides coherently and then they could choose the other topic.

b4bunnies Sat 11-May-13 20:00:38

absolutely not. that would be teaching philosophy, not religious studies. i've taught both, to A level, and they are significantly different. both are useful. RS is essential today as in the u k we cannot assume everyone has a western liberal worldview, and we need to know about beliefs that are a strong motivators in people's lives and behaviour.

FreyaSnow Sat 11-May-13 19:12:53

B4b, my children attend different schools and both of them have equal time on RE as they do on Geography or History. One is in KS3 and the other KS4. Fortunately the one in KS4 is doing religion and expressive art module which is at least culturally useful, so doesn't have to deal with religious ethics anymore.

Some pupils may do a lot of ethics at GCSE, but over the entire time together from 5-16, very little of RE is about ethics. When it is about ethics it is either a. primarily about religious ethics or b. secular ethics discussed without any tools of analysis. How useful are religious ethics in a society where most pupils will not grow up to be religious. Wouldn't it be more useful to focus on secular ethics and reasoning through a philosophy course?

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