Being ‘Cross-Curricular’…

When students ask me “Which subject do you prefer teaching English, History, or Pol Soc?” I always give the same answer: “English is how you feel; History is why you feel it; Pol Soc is how you change the feeling…” This is a sentiment that has seemed progressively more and more significant in my teaching as time goes on.

Almost every day that I teach Pol Soc I find myself asking one or other of the following questions of my students: “Where are my Economists?”; “Where are my Historians?”; “Where are my Theologians?”; “Where are my Geographers? Obviously, it depends on what specific aspect of the course we’re covering at the time, but I generally cover the entire spectrum of the secondary curriculum in any given month. It isn’t that I’m trying to be lazy. I’m actively encouraging the students to draw links between different parts of their Senior Cycle courses that normally feel quite pigeon-holed or atomized, to them at least. I think that one of the great opportunities of the course is that students can have this kind of “meta” experience in our Pol Soc classroom…

It isn’t only just in the Data-Based Question that I call on my Mathematicians (which in theory should be everyone). I do it when trying to explain the process of deductive reasoning where the logical steps that should be followed have an almost formulaic structure, when I’m hoping to explain the calculation of the Droop Quota in PR-STV, or when exploring the concept of the ‘Margin of Error’ formula in opinion polls to assess their reliability…

Maybe it’s the case every year, but in the last two years, one of the most fruitful points of curricular “Cross Pollination” (to borrow a phrase from the Biology students…) that I’ve noted has been in Higher Level English. (For full disclosure, I teach English and History too). Not only have the comparisons between Lear and Trump been obvious and a useful ‘short-hand’ for students, but the poetry of Paul Durcan has helped with criticisms of the Irish Constitution and the limitations of Irish identity.

But perhaps the most interesting overlap that I’ve seen in recent months has been the ideas that link Eavan Boland’s poetry to aspects of the Pol Soc course. It’s reciprocal. I can say with absolute certainty that my growing knowledge of work of Sylvia Walby and Kathleen Lynch has massively influenced how I understand Boland’s poems. I found myself in recent months beginning to apply idea from the Pol Soc course to some of Boland’s work to see what synergies I could find. I found that the “threat and use of violence” in LO 3.1 and ideas of “Patriarchy” and “Marginalization” and “2nd Wave Feminism” were particularly revealing when thinking about The War Horse and The Famine Road respectively. So what emerged was a collaboration with the new INOTE (Irish National Organization of Teachers of English) “Members’ Voices” podcast of which I’m quite proud.

I’d encourage Pol Soc students to listen to the two (very short) podcast episodes below and see not only if it helps their student of LC English, but to also consider ways in which elements of LC English could be constructively applied to their work in Pol Soc. Perhaps this has been obvious to many other teachers in the last few years, but it’s only really now that I’m able to properly articulate how much more engaging both subjects become when viewed as being “in conversation” with each other.

I hope they’re of value and interest to some at least…

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