[Update: 25 Oct 2011]
See 2002 question on police power below
When encountering “should” questions, it helps to consider the status quo. You should then provide a value judgement based on a consideration of the key issues behind the debate.
Of course, it’s possible that you’ll produce a perfectly good essay without consciously doing this – this typically means that you’re doing it subconsciously. However, I’ve noticed that some students give your typical dull-but-sensible answer when they don’t make a conscious effort to do so.
Based on an analysis of all “should” questions that Cambridge has asked from 2002-2010, this approach helps to prevent very average, dull-but-sensible answers, and move your essays towards considering the meatier issues. So if you see a “should” question and have no idea what the status quo is, have little idea of the big issues that are being debated in society, or cannot think of any big examples that would be particularly applicable to such questions, you might want to consider choosing a different question.
On the status quo: Sometimes, the status quo is embedded in the question (refer to previous posts on “embedded context” that are also “should” questions). More often, you need to figure out what the status quo is yourself.
On considering key issues and providing a value judgement: See, “should” questions call for a value judgement. A good response to a “should” questions will pause to consider why the question is being asked – there are bound to be key issues or big, current examples that have triggered off this debate. And what the question needs you to do is consider these big issues and provide a value judgement, on whether to change the status quo.
Therefore, your response to “should” questions should show an understanding of the following:
- Why is the question being asked? What is the status quo*?
- What change in the status quo is the question asking you to consider?
- What are some of the key issues or tensions in the status quo (reasons why you should/should not change it)?
What is the ongoing debate on this issue? Are there key examples that have triggered off a debate on this?
Ultimately, based on a consideration of the above questions, do you think the proposed change to the status quo (point 2) is desirable?
e.g. Should play have more of a place in modern society?SQ: Some may see the status quo as play having sufficient place, while others may see it as having too little place. These differing views of the status quo itself would, naturally, influence the argument and stand presented.
- SQ: There are types of work that could, but currently aren’t done from home
- Proposed change: Should most work be done from home?
- Key issues: e.g. Working mothers being able to look after their children and work at the same time (should work from home), inability to ensure that workers are working if they’re not in the office (should not), environmental impact of travelling to the office and even having a physical office (should), etc.
- Everyone (over a certain age limit) currently has the right to vote in elections
- Should we only allow educated people to vote?
- Likelihood of the electorate coming to informed, well-considered decisions (should), equality and fairness (should not), etc.
- Most countries encourage a love for one’s country
- Should a love for one’s country still be encouraged?
- Globalisation, global citizens, increasing irrelevance of the concept of a national identity (should not), despite globalisation, some reasons for encouraging patriotism endure (should)
Note: The above thinking technique might not work so well for this question.
- Police power is currently limited
- Should all current limits be removed, such that police have unlimited power in dealing with crime?
- Should not because: Prison abuses (Guantanamo Bay) might only get worse; detention without trail might become more common, raising concerns of human rights abuses; police brutality might become common; torture might become an accepted practice rather than being used as a last resort (or banned completely); unnecessary invasion of privacy in the name of crime fighting, as police no longer need warrants to search houses, etc. / Should because: Unlimited power = unlimited potential of crime fighting; current context of transnational crime, police need more power (ideal: unlimited) to keep up with criminals, etc.