Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Making Civics Real Workshop 7: Controversial Public Policy Issues  
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Workshop 7

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Student Perspectives: Discussing controversial topics

Becky: I think it’s very good to be discussing [controversial topics] because it shows how different people in the world think and it allows us to understand other people’s points of view better. For some of those questions (Ed. Note: The teacher had students complete an opinion poll), I was like, “How could anyone agree with this?” and then some of the agree people would [make their case], and I was like, “Oh, that makes sense.” It helps for us to get our opinions out. We’re allowed to state our opinions and it’s not in a conflicting place. It’s a safe place, and nothing’s going to happen.

I’ve found with a controversial subject, people get more excited about it because it’s happening now and people have very different views. The discussion goes very well because people have researched. If they believe in something, they’re going to research it more and they’re going to find out everything they want to know. It’s an easier discussion because people have prepared for it. If we had just [been assigned to] read the book, [some] people aren’t going to read it, and if we had just filled out the worksheet, there are people in the class that are going to copy. Because it’s a controversial issue, I know I researched a lot last night. If it had been something I didn’t care about or a worksheet, I would have just gone to bed. Because it was something that I felt strongly about, I wanted to make sure that I got my point across with facts. I am more emotionally involved and mentally.

Rayad: It’s great to hear everyone’s viewpoints in the classroom, and it’s structured so that we're not fighting with each other. We’re getting our viewpoints out and it’s a lot of expression. When you’re interacting with people more, you don’t fall asleep in class. You learn more. It sticks with you better. You are able to retain what you’re learning because it’s more memorable. It’s kind of like taking the words from the textbook and bringing them to real life. Instead of just reading it and doing mundane work, which gets boring and students lose interest, you make it interesting by taking it out, making it a discussion, a debate. Then you don’t actually look at the text as much but you bring the text to life. That’s how I think you keep students more interested in it so it works out very well. Throughout life, you have to look at controversial things. You can’t avoid them. Avoiding it just [puts] off the inevitable. By dealing with it now, we’ll have some experience with situations that will come up later in life.

Renee: I’m a very outspoken person with my peers and it’s really kind of weird to have to listen to them and respect them and put all your opinions together. It’s really hard, especially with teenagers, to be able to compromise, and everybody interprets everything differently. When we said high traffic areas, some people didn’t know what we meant by that so we had to be more specific and it was really complicated to bring all of our ideas together. We just kind of blended it all together and tried to make sense of it so that everybody agreed with everything that was written on the final page. If there’s one objection, then it’s not correct.

Robin: I always like to share my opinion and see what other people think and where I fit in with that. I feel pretty comfortable with it. Studying controversial topics is what society is made up of. None of us is ever going to completely agree on anything but when you openly discuss these things, progress is made and people can make steps towards living together in society better, and that’s what this is all about. Civics and government is designed for us to live together better. So if we didn’t discuss controversial topics, we’d be missing the point of the class.


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