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

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Teacher Perspectives: Getting started teaching controversial issues

JoEllen Ambrose: A first step might be just relaxing and allowing [yourself] to face controversial issues as a comfortable piece to work with in the classroom. To not be so afraid of it as something that’s going to be difficult. To let go of community pressures or other issues that might be there. To say, I can talk about a controversial topic because I have a framework from which to talk about it and I don’t have to make a statement that’s so controversial that I’ll get in trouble.

Whatever topic they choose to start with--there isn’t a day that you don’t look at the news and a hot topic comes up--fall back on the framework that looks at this issue in a way that’s going to give meaning to the kids. Ask a question [like], “If you were the store owner in a community that has a lot of crime, how would you look at racial profiling?” A lot of it is just thinking about the kind of questions that you want to ask. If [teachers] could take that first step and say, “We are going to discuss controversial topics with some sense of a framework,” they can let it happen and bring it back to where they’re comfortable with it.


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