Don't leave without it

24th March 2000 at 00:00
It might sound somewhat scandalous, but Gavin Clark is unstinting in his praise of this new political textbook which he claims breathes fresh life into a jaded subject.

LIVING IN A DEMOCRACY. By Allan Grieve and Graeme Pont. Pulse Publications, pound;7.95.

Urgent memo to modern studies teachers: pack away those outdated "representation" materials; delete "produce trade unions unit" from your department's development plan; proceed directly to your school's finance assistant; grab an order form. You want this book.

A bit over the top? Concrete evidence of an emerging "cash for reviews" (reviewgate?) scandal about to hit the front page of this esteemed journal? Not at all. You really do want a book which not only completes the trilogy of Standard grade textbooks for GeneralCredit candidates, but also covers the Intermediate 2 study themes "Local Government in Scotland" and "Power and Influence in Decision Making".

Rumours that Pulse wished to call this book "Everything you ever wanted to teach about democracy but were too busy to produce" may be only slightly exaggerated.

If the coverage is impressive, then the focus is even better. Topicality lends a real freshness to a text packed with essential material and some of the most interesting aspects of British politics are explained at an appropriate level. The voting system for the Scottish Parliament is well handled and less glamorous areas, like local government are dealt with in a way which will interest students.

This focus extends to activities which will allow students to compile thorough notes at the same time as improving their enquiry skills. Students of various ability levels will be well prepared for examination. Think of a question that you believe your students ought to be able to tackle, bullet point what you think a good response would include and then turn to page x to check.

The production values are high. Attractive graphics, clear tables, well spaced text and excellent use of colour give this book a real edge. The vitality of studying politics has never been clearer - if your school is one of the few without Standard grade modern studies (there are still one or two out there) and you want to change that, then have this book with you next time you meet the head.

Any criticisms? Some teachers may find the section on pressure groups a little thin, while others may consider certain areas over-fussy (bringing the single transferable vote into a Standard grade course seems like cruelty to me), but such minor problems are eclipsed by the book's attributes. The smiling faces of Donald, Jim and Alex (where's David?) adorn the front cover. They are thinking: "Read this book and pass Standard grade modern studies."

Gavin Clark is principal teacher of modern studieshistory at Dunbar Grammar, East Lothian, and chair of the Modern Studies Association.


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