Complex questions

6th June 2008 at 01:00
This was only the second year of Higher philosophy and the exam was "much better" than last year's, felt John Cassie, a teacher of philosophy and religious and moral education at The Community School of Auchterarder in Perth and Kinross
This was only the second year of Higher philosophy and the exam was "much better" than last year's, felt John Cassie, a teacher of philosophy and religious and moral education at The Community School of Auchterarder in Perth and Kinross.

"It will take a while for a new course to settle. Teachers need time to become comfortable with the kind of questions that are likely to be asked. One or two last year were a surprise; this year, we had more of a handle on what was likely to come up. Next year, we'll be in an even stronger position," he said.

Along with his colleague, David Fyfe, he felt that the critical thinking question was very fair, although it did not ask candidates about "validity" or "soundness".

The metaphysics question covered agnosticism, but contrary to expectations, did not include the teleological or cosmological arguments for God's existence.

Empiricism, rationalism and scepticism came up in the first part of the section on epistemology and were "OK", according to Mr Cassie. He teaches David Hume rather than Descartes, and he felt the wording of the question was slightly contrived and might have put off some pupils. "If the questions were more straightforward, pupils could relax into the answers instead of trying to work out what the question means," he said.

The final section was not straightforward either, he felt. Instead of asking a direct question about utilitarianism, candidates were asked what had been the contribution by Mill and Bentham to this school of thinking. All questions were fair, even if they could have been set in more straightforward language, he concluded.

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