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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

PotteringAlong Sat 11-May-13 08:07:49

As lots of posters have said, they were not judging your conclusion, but your reasoning and ability to get there.

I teach RE and my year 11's will answer questions on abortion in their GCSE exam next week. No one is judging whether they agree with it or not, they need to see that they can look at both sides of the argument, evaluate religious views and come to a conclusion. It's the ability to do that that is being looked at.

manicinsomniac Sat 11-May-13 09:17:44

Nothing wrong with discussing it academically at 18, surely?

I came across it younger than that. My GCSE RE syllabus centred around Christian, Muslim and Societal views of marriage, divorce and abortion as far as I can remember.

I don't think that was a problem either.

CloudsAndTrees Sat 11-May-13 09:18:55

At A level age, I can't see the problem. My ds has discussed the ethics of abortion in RE in Y8. From what he said it was a very tame (at a boys only school) but I think it's good to get them developing and questioning their views on these things.

ubik Sat 11-May-13 09:21:26

It's not what you say

It's how you say it

They are looking fur a well structured coherent, balanced essay. It is not looking for a right answer.

carabos Sat 11-May-13 09:35:01

Gosh haven't things changed? In 1981 my GS A level essay was about trains...

TheseFoolishThings Sat 11-May-13 09:37:37

You know when you read an OP and it just leaves you scratching your head and wondering WTF..................?
Yeah - that just happened to me.

hiddenhome Sat 11-May-13 09:39:02

I think this is a stealth boast because you got an A isn't it? grin

Fluffypinkcoat Sat 11-May-13 09:54:42

I kind of agree with you, OP. I think it could have been very difficult for a girl who had had to make that decision and weigh up the different sides of the debates making the choice for herself to then have to go and relive that debate as part of an exam. Especially when colleges don't always make students aware that it isn't a compulsory exam (our college told us the opposite!).

And its not an exam sat by adults. Plenty of us at my college were 17 when we sat ours. Summer babies.

Chunderella Sat 11-May-13 09:54:48

Actually I can see OPs point. Odds are it would have been triggering for at least someone. Thousands of students sit that paper every year, usually of an age to have been fertile for perhaps half a decade. Some of them will have had abortions. It seems more likely that a female would find this upsetting than a male, though I accept that some men might also have abortion trauma eg if a partner had a termination that they disagreed with. Its possible to come up with controversial topics to discuss that aren't so likely to be triggering. When I did mine in 2002, it was the royal family. Even raving republicans like moi don't usually find them actively traumatising.

lottiegarbanzo Sat 11-May-13 10:20:01


It's a great topic to ask teenagers to debate because they may have thought about it, many will have strong views and they should certainly be able to say something. Just what you need for a question testing your discursive writing skills.

You seem to have misunderstood what was being tested (which I find really odd for someone able to get an A at A-level). Of course there is no right answer (this isn't GCSE multiple choice FFS!), yet there is a lot to say on both sides and any student should have some awareness of the range of views and be able to consruct an argument that acknoweldges this.

I wrote an essay on abortion for GCSE English at 15. I'm not sure if I chose that topic from a list of possible discursive titles, or if we all did it. I do recall arguing passionately pro-choice, spurred in part by knowing my English teacher was a pro-life Christian, with whom I also discussed (argued) the topic in the margins of lessons. I got some argumentative comments and an A. Great practice for that type of writing (and at least I knew what I was being assessed on).

Dawndonna Sat 11-May-13 10:22:31

lottie What did you write for your Spanish? wink

Inthebeginning Sat 11-May-13 10:29:49

But that's why they set it, because there is no right or wrong answer, to see how you could debate it, and obviously you managed it well.
I think mine was about conscientious objectors. I think they put questions that students (particuarly 16 and 17 year olds who are very opinionated ) will have a passionate view on, to see if they can out their beliefs/opinions to one side and argue for both views. I teach re and citizenship and we do the same, its not what their opinion is, its if they can see it from more than one side and argue effectively.
I also think there is absolutly nothing wrong with giving students emotive subjects to talk about, it helps them to develop their opinions and be compassionate to others.

lottiegarbanzo Sat 11-May-13 10:41:50

Ha grin

Just came back to veer wildly off topic - but, a school friend did have an abortion at 15 (and could have chosen the other question in your example, if she hadn't wanted to address the topic at a broad, discursive level - quite different from writing an account of a personal experience) and what did outrage me was the poor quality of personal and social education we were offered.

We had some PSE lessons about how babies develop at exactly the time she was arranging her abortion. I asked the teacher in a slightly oblique way (probably not very then) whether she would cover anything about uwanted pregnancy and options available. She looked at me blankly, stuttered a bit and said no. The idea that this might be relevant for any pupils, or her responsibility to discuss seemed very far from her awareness.

Btw, OP, you put your point is a way that sounds as if it based in genuine concern and a spirit of discussion and I do appreciate that experience of looking back at school events a few years later and thinking 'really? how did that happen without anyone challenging it? How very odd'. A thought though is, have you considered one possible interpretation of this sort of concern, which is that girls are too wrapped up in their emotions and reproductive experiences to function intellectually in a reliable way? I know you didn't mean that at all but, if I was writing an essay on the desirability of certain exam questions, I might throw it in as an example of the sort of old-fashioned view that once denied girls equal access to high quality education.

somedayma Sat 11-May-13 11:01:42

so there were 2 questions options? What's the problem then? confused

ConfusedPixie Sat 11-May-13 11:13:28

We used a test with a similar discussion topic as practice in class (possibly the same one, I did my A Level exams in 2007), and our coursework was on teen pregnancy/parents. I thought that they were really good to discuss really, I came from an area where both were common occurrences yet they weren't really spoken about, so it gave us a chance to talk about something that we otherwise were positively encouraged to ignore (in an area with the highest teen pregnancy rate outside of a city only a few years before!)

I remember feeling very relieved at having a teacher who was encouraging us to discuss our feelings and thoughts of both teenage parenthood and abortions and then to debate it a week or so later. I was put on the team that had to debate being for parents of a teen girl being informed if she had an abortion, it was really bloody difficult but got me to focus on the debate rather than the subject, which is why they choose controversial topics!

In my school not everybody had to take it and we had a choice between General Studies or Critical Thinking to take for a term before dropping one if we wanted too.

MrsHoarder Sat 11-May-13 11:20:07

I think I can see where the OP is coming from. Some of the girls sitting that exam may well have had an abortion in less than ideal circumstances and have found that exam question triggering. Even if they didn't answer it its a bit much to throw it in front of them without warning in an exam (already a stressful situation).

I didn't do GS (my college made it compulsory but I didn't want to go and rightly judged that I was highly unlikely to be thrown out due to wider academic record) so would like to know if topics such as abortion were discussed in the class leading up to the exam?

GCSE RS included abortion and other sensitive topics, but my teacher always warned us when a new sensitive topic was coming up in the next lesson with an offer to come and talk to her beforehand (and get a library study pass) or in the lunch break straight after the lesson if you wanted to discuss the topic in confidence. At the time I thought she was a bit over-soft but now I see her point. And a topic which has been discussed in the class and is known to be likely to be one of the exam questions is a lot less "sudden" than a this is a topical subject question.

complexnumber Sat 11-May-13 11:26:21

OP, you managed to mention the fact that you got an A at an A' level 3 times in 6 posts!

I think you are being patronising to believe that an 18 y/o male is more able to 'cope' with such an issue than an 18 y/o female.

I, too, think you have missed the point of the exam entirely, and I can't help but think it's a little bit weird that you should be dwelling on it 7 years later (you remember what the other questions were about?!)

Move on.

TheBigJessie Sat 11-May-13 11:32:02

I see the OP's point, actually.

I was doing a past paper in another subject, a bit ago, and one of the questions involved a made-up problem page. One of the imaginary correspondents was a new widow. My teacher winced, and said that she was glad her colleague, then presently in a very similar position to the correspondent, hadn't had to deal with that paper.

That said, abortion is actually a topic on the specification for General Studies, so it isn't entirely out of the blue, is it?

Chunderella Sat 11-May-13 11:45:52

I really can't see how it's being patronising or old-fashioned to suggest that an emotive topic that affects women more than men is likely to be more triggering for women than men. We know that some women do find abortion a traumatic experience. To fail to recognise this may well disadvantage women, it won't disadvantage men.

Birdsgottafly Sat 11-May-13 11:47:08

I went back to collage, as a mature student. My question was on legalising prostitution. Lots of topics are triggering, I was on a "drugs awareness" course and one of the students had to leave the room when a documentary was being shown, because her parents were heroin addicts. Abortion is an excellent subject to show of your ability to rationalise your view point and compare and contrast that with the opposing view, as long as there are two choices of topic, so not to put a student at a disadvantage, then no subject matter should be taboo.

ImperialBlether Sat 11-May-13 11:50:54

This is the strangest post I've ever read! OP, you didn't have to answer that question, did you? There was a choice. Therefore, anyone who had gone through an abortion could have answered the other question.

Do you really think examiners are judging you in that way? They have a markscheme and your marks are allocated according to how you match what's on there.

lottiegarbanzo Sat 11-May-13 11:58:11

What could be construed as patronising (and I don't think the OP meant this but do think he should give it some thought), would be to suggest that young women are not able to detach emotionally, sufficiently to engage in intellectual discussion, thus some topics may be considered off-limits to them. Thus they cannot roam free in a challenging intellectual environment in a way that men can.

Of course there may be topics that are considered too 'emotionally triggering' for young men, as a class of people, to be included on an exam paper (interesting thought experiment, that).

There are of course all sorts of topics that could be upsetting for all sorts of individuals. Finding a way of dealing with that mentally, is part of developing maturity, both personally and academically. In the latter case it is a fundamental part of what it is to address a subject in an academic way, so a core academic skill.

MrsHoarder Sat 11-May-13 11:59:11

So it is discussed in class first? I'd say that's ok then. The way the op read was like they'd just picked any controversial topic at random.

Chunderella Sat 11-May-13 12:07:12

I very strongly disagree lottie. And would go so far as to say that actually, the idea that its wrong to make reasonable accommodations for women and expect them to behave like men is damaging to women. And let's be clear, in expecting women not to find abortion triggering you are expecting them to behave like men, simply because it is more likely to be triggering for women than men. Incidentally, I did think about whether there would be a topic that could be equally emotionally triggering to young men. Circumcision was the only one I could think of, though not sure that's the same thing really. Either way, I wouldn't put that one on there either.

Oh and the people who keep saying you don't have to take general studies, as though that's some kind of suitable response, need to have a good strong word with themselves. Women ought not to access the education they want if they don't want to deal with triggering? Fuck that! The problem is with posing questions that are more likely to disadvantage women than men, not women who have abortion trauma wanting to take an A level!

lottiegarbanzo Sat 11-May-13 12:16:19

There was a choice of questions, there's your accommodation.

I do expect the vast majority of 18-yo women not to find an academic disucssion of abortion 'triggering' as most haven't had one. To be denied the opportunity to tackle a question on such a juicy ethical topic, because I'm a woman, would be outrageous.

So, I'd have chosen that question, anyone uncomfortable with it would have chosen the other one.

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