Boris Johnson obviously didn’t do GCSE Religious Studies

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With the GCSE Religious Studies Morality exam paper next week, students will begin revising what religions say about alcohol and drugs. Today’s embarrassing ignorance by Boris Johnson at a Sikh temple in Bristol emphasises the importance of young people doing Religious Studies at secondary school. Boris Johnson the trade secretary seemed oblivious that Sikhs don’t drink alcohol when he said: “I hope I’m not embarrassing anybody here by saying that whenever we go to India – Mumbai or to Delhi – we have to bring clinking in our luggage,” he said. “We have to bring Johnnie Walker, we have to bring whisky. There is a duty of 150 per cent in India on imports of Scotch whisky. So we have to bring it in duty free for our relatives. But imagine what we could do if there was a trade deal with India, which there will be, because then the tariffs would go.”

Now that you’ve gained an insight into Sikh attitudes to alcohol perhaps you might want a refresher of some other faiths:

Christianity alcohol

Islam-+Drugs,+Alcohol+&+Tobacco

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Earth Summits

Often what we learn in Religious Studies interweaves with other school subjects.  For me that’s the best bit about Religious Studies: you can be considering evil and suffering and link it to the Holocaust which you’ve just been learning about in history, or you question how the world was created and remember about science and geography knowledge about rock formations and tectonic plates to support your arguments.

In the old AQA GCSE we have the topic of Planet Earth which is hugely influenced by science and geography learning. We have to know how the international community tries to deal with climate change and other environmental concerns. So we start with Rio…

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At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 countries of the world met to discuss how we could promote sustainable development, that is develop our industry that doesn’t ruin the environment.

Rio earth summit stage shot

An earth summit is a conference of 100 or more world leaders debating global environmental and development issues, and specifically refers to that first big summit which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Since then though the term has also been applied to similar events…
history of countries meeting to save the planet
 We don’t need to know all of these but it is useful to see that every year or so world leaders have been meeting to discuss and agree on how we should treat the environment. Now in most teenagers’ memories there should be 2015. The year that Uptown Funk, Cheerleader and Take Me To Church dominate the airwaves, and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was all anybody wanted to see at the cinema. Well 2015 was also the year of the Paris World Climate Summit.
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Whereas the common folk love a selfie, the politicians just love an official line up at the start or end of big conferences. Here most of them were in 2015:
leaders at paris
A lot of people were really excited about the Paris World Climate Summit because it gave the world the chance to agree on how they would reduce climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The world had an agreement but it was running out in 2020 so time was of the essence to agree on something new. Discussions were heated but eventually the world’s countries came up with  a “historic, durable and ambitious” plan:
  • Developed and developing countries alike are required to limit their emissions to relatively safe levels, of 2C with an aspiration of 1.5C, with regular reviews to ensure these commitments can be increased in line with scientific advice.
  • Finance will be provided to poor nations to help them cut emissions and cope with the effects of extreme weather.
  • Countries affected by climate-related disasters will gain urgent aid.

So people start shouting,”Three cheers for the world”, “Hip hip hooray”, but you should rarely celebrate when world leaders keep on changing and the new man in town isn’t a huge believer in climate change.

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Already Trump has started to tear away pollution laws put in place by the previous US president, and the big fear is that President Trump will pull out of the Paris agreement.

If world politicians aren’t saving the planet, what might religious believers be doing? Perhaps they are donating money to or supporting groups such as the Christian Operation Noah, Christian Aid, and the Global Muslim Climate Network. Or they are out protesting, writing letter to MPs, joining pressure groups like Greenpeace, voting for the Green Party, recycling more, fitting solar panels to their houses, driving electric cars, walking and cycling more often, and praying.

Or maybe they think like President Trump and don’t see climate change as being real at all.

Head Transplants one step closer in humans

The first human head transplant is planned for later this year and it looks one step closer as scientists report that they’ve successfully transplanted a smaller rat’s head onto another larger rat. The operation involved three rats in total: the donor, the recipient and a third used to maintain the blood supply to the transplanted head. After the operation, the rat whose head had been transplanted was able to see and feel pain, showing the brain was functioning despite having been detached from its original body.

Not all scientists are impressed with this path towards human head transplants: Hunt Batjer, the president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, has criticised the plans to transplant a human head. “I would not wish this on anyone,” he said. “I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death.”

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Drug Policy Alliance in US argues why US Drug Policy All Wrong

In 1997 when US actress Rachael Leigh Cook was a box-office star someone thought it clever to summarise America’s drug problem with a frying pan and an egg. It was a cringeworthy Public Service Advert which a few weeks ago was rehashed as a Public Service Advert for the Drug Policy Alliance, again with actress Rachel Leigh Cook a frying pan and eggs, but pointing out how wrong the US’s current Drug Policy is.

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“It is gratifying and promising to see the evolution in Rachael Leigh Cook and in the American public over these last 20 years,” Tony Newman, director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. “The war on drugs is a disastrous failure that has ruined millions of peoples’ lives, especially people of color. Let’s hope this ad is seen by as many people as the original and inspires folks to end this unwinnable war.”In the advert Rachel Leigh Cook holds a frying pan and eggs of two different colours to demonstrate the racial disparities in our criminal justice system when it comes to drug crimes.

“The war on drugs is ruining people’s lives,” Cook says. “It fuels mass incarceration, it targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counterparts. It cripples communities. It costs billions and it doesn’t work. Any questions?”

For any Year 11 student revising about drugs for their GCSE RS exam watching the advert is worth 5 minutes of their time. There are often questions on the exam paper about how to punish people who take illegal drugs. Obviously we know how we can refer to religious attitudes (eye for an eye, the Golden Rule, love thy neighbour, forgiveness, situation ethics, Buddhist precept of no drugs or harm, karma, affecting your ability to follow religious teachings) and the aims of punishment (reform, deter, vindication for laws being in place, reparation, protection, retribution) but how drug policy can also affect generations of people and their efforts to get educated and pull themselves out of poverty should also be considered.

What’s it like in a Youth Offender Institute?

There are often newspaper exposes of how cushy it is in prison: drugs on tap, computer games… a bit like a luxury hotel. Well a court case agains the Ministry of Justice is shedding some light on what Feltham Youth Offender Institute is like for some of guests.

  • locked in his cell for 23 and a half hours a day and denied the education to which he is legally entitled
  • let out of his cell for only half an hour a day to make phonecalls, take a shower or be given medication.
  • not allowed into the gym
  • one-third of imprisoned children spent time in isolation

Feltham youth offender

Revision Resources for Legacy AQA

At our school the topics we chose to study for the legacy AQA RS course are:

LIFE

  1. Animal Rights
  2. Environment
  3. Prejudice
  4. Early life (abortion and children)

MORALITY

  1. Medical Ethics (fertility, cloning, transplants)
  2. Elderly and Death (euthanasia)
  3. Drug Abuse
  4. Crime and Punishment

Remember we chose these to be our topics because they come in from 1st to 4th on the exam paper. There were fears that if we’d studied topics 5 or 6 then you might not have known which questions to answer in the exam.

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You can use some other school’s excellent revision resources but just take care to stick to the topics you’ll be expected to answer on the exam…

 

REquest

A very strong, user friendly website to help support your legacy GCSE RS studies for this summer is REquest. Useful pages are on Morality and Ethics; Ultimate QuestionsSocial Issues; The Natural World; and Life and Death.

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For students completing the new AQA GCSE (9-1) the whole of the website is useful with its information on how the Bible is used, Festivals, issues Christians face, Jesus, life as a Christian, and places.