Has Religious Studies A-Level saved philosophy?
I've been researching the place of philosophy in our schools and national curriculum, and I couldn't find it anywhere in the A-Level system. Either I'm reading the Joint Council for Qualifications stats wrong, or so few people took A-Level philosophy in 2011, it doesn't even show up on the list. Psychology, by contrast, seems to be doing great: 54,000 students took it at A-Level, making it the fourth most popular subject in the UK at A-Level.
Things look pretty bleak for ol' philosophy. But then I looked into religious studies A-Level, and discovered that it includes a lot of ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Aristotle and Plato), and teaches students the three main ethical approaches: Utilitarianism, Kant and virtue ethics, and trains them to see the strengths and weaknesses in these approaches, and how they might be applied to concrete ethical questions like abortion and euthanasia. The subject includes AJ Ayer, William James...it even teaches a bit of Alasdair MacIntyre in the virtue ethics module.
Religious studies A-Level is actually doing pretty well, attracting 22,000 students in 2011, and has grown steadily for the last ten years - it's grown by around 40% in student numbers during that time. So it looks like, once again, ancient philosophy is surviving the Dark Ages by being sheltered by Christianity! (and Buddhism, and Hinduism, and Judaism...etc)
I would love it if we developed a subject which combined religious studies, philosophy and well-being psychology: so you learn, for example, some of the history of Buddhism, some well-being techniques from Buddhism like meditation, and also how to reflect on and criticise the ideas of Buddhism. Wouldn't that be great?