Leaving Cert politics: Trump and nationalism appear but no sign of Brexit

Students asked to evaluate whether Taoiseach’s plan for a new social contract is needed

Donald Trump appeared in the first ever Leaving Cert politics exam. Photo: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Donald Trump appeared in the first ever Leaving Cert politics exam. Photo: Tom Brenner/The New York Times


The first-ever Leaving Cert politics paper took on US President Donald Trump and his role in the rise of nationalism and division worldwide, but two much-anticipated questions on Brexit and media analysis did not appear.

Bairbre Kennedy, a teacher at Malahide Community School, said that the aim of the course – to develop the learner’s capacity to engage in reflective and active citizenship – was realised in the exam questions.

“The short answer questions were nice, and students seemed confident about them.

“A question on whether the Seanad election process is democratic or really requires a lot of critical thinking, but there was also a nice one on explaining human rights which they could have learned off.”

Ms Kennedy was surprised to see so few infographics on the second part of the paper and said that it was very text-heavy.

“This would have been very time-consuming for students but the questions themselves were fine. There was a question on the threat posed by climate change to human rights and students will have been concerned about getting all the information in there.”

Students will have been well-placed to answer the question on Trump and nationalism and may have been able to refer to the role of nationalism in Brexit, said Ms Kennedy.

Among the topics which appeared in the essay section was a question based on a tweet by Leo Varadkar during the party’s leadership campaign, which stated: “I am proposing a new social contract for Ireland #fgle17” .

Students were asked to evaluate whether a new social contract was needed and to support their response with examples and evidence from at least two political theorists.

The ordinary level paper focused on active citizenship. One question asked students to focus on their own impact on global waste. “Overall, it was broad and topical with some similarities to the higher level papers,” she said.

Almost 900 students in just over 40 schools sat the politics paper. The State Examinations Commission has been criticised for scheduling three exams in one day due to a timetable clash. Dozens of students began their exams at 9.30am and were not expected to finish before 8pm.

Try this at home: Leaving Cert politics, higher level

“As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always - and should always - put your countries first.”

President Trump gave this message to other world leaders at the United Nations Assembly, on September 19th 2017.

Does President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy and the rise of nationalism in other countries show that the world is becoming increasingly divided into ‘us and them’? Discuss.

Your answer should include contemporary examples and evidence to support your argument. You should also refer to the views of two named theorists you have studied.