Whatever happened to the Big Idea?

In a world where infinite information is so readily available with the click of a mouse, it is too easy to get lost in the morass of detail and lose sight of what really matters. Whatever happened to the big idea? The moment when a notion makes you stop and think?

In my own subject, History, there are ample opportunities to ponder. Teenage students relish the challenge presented by the actions of people and events in the past to pose difficult questions in their lessons. Year 7 students have faced a real moral dilemma in assessing the legacy of Saladin the Great. Despite committing acts that today are regarded as barbaric, was he a hero in the context of his time? The momentous events of the French Revolution in the eighteenth century have generated heated discussion about parallels with twentieth century history – Stalin and the Purges, Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution. Do the ends ever justify the means? Robespierre thought so. So did Stalin and Mao. Students in Year 9 would beg to differ.

This week the Stephen Perse Foundation in collaboration with the Cambridge Evening News is launching the Get Cambridge Thinking campaign. Over the next ten weeks we shall be posing questions framed with such debate in mind. This week’s question is:

“As long as you get there, does it matter how?”

If you want to engage in lively discussion, go online with the Cambridge News, http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk, and post your opinion. The Internet gives us information, discussion gives us insight.

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