This is the first in a series of articles on teaching controversial political issues to students.
Political polarization is growing, and schools are not immune. Political divisiveness, which has been simmering in schools for a while now, boiled over during the 2016 presidential election and exposed a major problem: students struggle to talk civilly about controversial political issues. Headlines chronicling this problem are everywhere. Last October, administrators cancelled a mock election at an elementary school because they feared divisive talk. This month, Middlebury College students resorted to violence to block a controversial speaker because his viewpoints differed from their own.
Teachers, facing pressure from parents and school administrators, are now questioning whether they should be teaching controversial political issues, which have long been a part of the curriculum. According to a 2016 Southern Poverty Law Center survey, more than half of K-12 teachers reported an increase in uncivil political talk among their students, and over 40 percent said they were reluctant to teach about the 2016 presidential election.
So, we are left with one question: Should teachers cover controversial political issues in the classroom?
Let’s take the long view and turn to facts grounded in research. Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy, co-winners of the 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award, published The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education in 2014. The book presents findings from their landmark four-year study on the teaching of controversial political issues in the classroom, including observations and interviews of high school teachers and their students. Hess and McAvoy found that students want to indeed learn about controversial political issues. They also found that teaching controversial political issues has real benefits for students, even—or especially—in these politically polarized times.
Here are six benefits of teaching controversial political issues to students:
- Engagement. Students participate more, especially when they are encouraged to be a part of class discussions.
- Political Literacy. Students stay more informed about controversial political issues.
- Tolerance. Students respect and understand other viewpoints.
- Confidence. Students grow more confident in holding their own viewpoints and discussing politics in general.
- Civil Discourse. Students learn to engage in civil discourse.
- Political Participation. Students vote more often later in life.
Of course, teaching controversial political issues does not come without risks. Educators face challenging ethical decisions, along with a partisan political climate. Some students may be sensitive about certain issues because they are affected in their own lives. Students need a safe environment and guidance, and teachers need to be clear about their expectations, including what is acceptable and respectful behavior. These concerns cannot be ignored.
But political divisiveness in schools doesn’t mean educators should stop teaching controversial political issues. It means educators should be teaching them more. Debating controversial political issues civilly isn’t innate. It is learned. If students are not taught to engage civilly in political debates, they cannot be expected to do so as adults. Students in Hess and McAvoy’s study demonstrated a remarkable level of maturity and intellectual growth because it was expected of them. If today’s students learn how to deliberate and discuss, they will become adults capable of civil discourse. Imagine that.
Future posts in this controversial political issues series will address other considerations, including the aims of teaching political issues, ethical issues of teaching political issues, and rules to promote civil discourse.
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The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education is available on ProQuest Ebook Central or wherever books are sold.
SIRS Issues Researcher is a pro/con database that helps students understand today’s controversial political issues with editorially selected analysis and opinions that cover the entire spectrum of viewpoints.
Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher? Free trials are available.
Every school child knows that the Spanish nobleman and explorer Juan Ponce de Léon discovered Florida in the Spring of 1513 while searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. We know this because the state of Florida commemorated the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Léon’s arrival with a year-long celebration called Viva Florida 500 in 2013. Tourists can visit Ponce de Léon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine, Ponce de Léon Springs State Park in the northwest panhandle, or various statues of the famed explorer–located in front of St. Augustine’s city hall, in Bayfront Park in Miami, at Juan Ponce de Léon Landing Park near Melbourne Beach, and another in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was the first governor.
His legacy continues today in the towns, cities, and streets all over America that are named for him, but let’s explore some of the myths surrounding Ponce de Léon’s “discovery” of Florida and his search for the “Fountain of Youth.”
Myth: Ponce de Léon Was Born in 1460
* Early historians and scholars believed that he was born in 1460, and many reference books still cite this date. One of the factors that originally supported the legend that Ponce de Léon was seeking a fountain of youth was the mistaken belief that he was a relatively old man (53) at the time of his voyage.
* In 1974, American historian and Harvard professor Samuel Eliot Morison was the first to document that Ponce de Léon was actually born in 1474, making him only 39 years old when he landed in Florida.
Myth: Ponce de Léon Was a Spanish Nobleman
* Ponce de Léon was born in San Tervás del Campo. While the names of his parents aren’t known, it is believed that he was the illegitimate son of a powerful Andalusian nobleman.
* As a young boy, he became the page of a Spanish knight of Calatrava named Pedro Núñez de Guzmán. Even though he was poor and illegitimate, he was educated and received some military training. He participated in military campaigns, including the war to conquer the Kingdom of Granada.
* In 1493, he volunteered to serve on one of the 17 ships that were part of Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the new World.
Myth: Ponce de Léon Discovered Florida
* When he first arrived on Florida’s shores, there were an estimated 100,000 to as many as 350,000 native Americans already living there. Among the known tribes were Timucuans, Apalachee, Pensacola, Tocobaga, Calusa, Tequesta, Jeaga, Jobe, Ais, and others.
* Archeological evidence indicates that their earliest ancestors arrived there some 12,000 years ago. By the end of the 17th century, nearly all of these indigenous peoples were gone–due to a combination of European aggression, enslavement and the introduction of diseases like smallpox, influenza, typhus and measles.
* He was probably not even the first European to visit Florida, though he was the first to land under the authority of the King of Spain, so it was recorded and recognized. He called the land La Florida, the Spanish term for “place of flowers,” or because the Spanish religious festival Pascua Florida (Easter) was occurring at the time.
* The Spanish had already been sending expeditions to the Bahamas for years to capture slaves, and there is evidence that some made it to the east coast of Florida. By 1513, when Ponce de Léon first arrived, so many Europeans had visited Florida that some Indians greeted him in Spanish.
* The English explorers John Cabot and his son Sebastian explored the east coast of North America in 1497-1498—from present-day Canada to possibly even as far as Florida. Others say that Saint Brendan of Ireland may have traveled to Florida’s shores sometime between 512 and 530 AD, or perhaps the Viking explorer Leif Eriksson landed there in 1000 AD.
* As many as six different maps dated from 1500-1511 have been discovered that appear to show the peninsula of Florida.
Myth: He Was Searching for the Fountain of Youth
* Ponce de León received a contract from King Ferdinand of Spain in 1512 to explore and settle an island called Bimini. He was in search of riches in the form of gold and land, as well as a possible governorship for himself.
* “No mention of a Fountain of Youth occurs in any known documents from Ponce’s lifetime, including contracts and other official correspondence with the Crown,” according to University of South Florida historian J. Michael Francis.
* It wasn’t until fourteen years after his death that the Fountain of Youth legend came about. In 1535, Spanish historian and writer Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, who was a political adversary of Ponce de Léon, wrote about the Fountain of Youth in an account of the Spanish presence in the Americas entitled Historia general y natural de las Indias. It’s widely viewed as an attempt to discredit his achievements and make the explorer appear foolish.
* Ponce de Léon most certainly never found the Fountain of Youth. While he and his men were attempting to establish a colony on Florida’s west coast, they were ambushed by a group of Calusa Indians. He was wounded by a poison arrow in the attack and died in Cuba in 1521, at the age of 47.
* The Fountain of Youth Archeological park in St. Augustine is a not the legitimate site of the legendary fountain, but a tourist attraction that first opened in 1904–dreamed up by a woman named Louella Day McConnell. The current park was developed by Walter B. Fraser after he purchased it in 1927. His family still runs the park, which is one of Florida’s oldest continuous tourist attractions, with 100,000 annual visitors.
To find out more about Ponce de Léon, the exploration of Florida, and the Fountain of Youth, direct your students to these ProQuest Research Topic pages available on eLibrary:
ProQuest Guided Research products support information literacy, writing, and research skills instruction by providing educator resources and curriculum-aligned content. Not a ProQuest customer? Free trials are available.
One of the biggest challenges for teachers is helping students overcome the fear of writing the research paper. Students will invariably ask: “What should I write about? How do I get started? Where do I find the information for my subject? It’s due when?!” Not only is it a challenge for students to get started and take the time to research their subject thoroughly, but also be under pressure with a deadline to finish it. It’s up to the teacher to help students navigate these obstacles and be successful with their research papers. ProQuest may be able to help you in this endeavor.
ProQuest’s eLibrary can help you guide your students through the research process from beginning to end with its Research Topic on Writing a Research Paper. There is a section on the elements and processes of writing with articles on critical thinking skills, note-taking, evaluating sources, and revising and editing their papers, along with other helpful articles.
One aspect of writing a research paper is using and citing reliable information sources. In the past several months fake news has become a topic of interest in national politics, but it can be a great teaching tool as part of your research instruction by showing students the difference of what is and is not reliable information. eLibrary also has a Research Topic on Fake News, with articles about the characteristics of fake news, evaluating sources, and how to recognize fake news when it is presented.
Another source for helping you guide your students through the research process is the ProQuest Research Companion, a self-guided tool that assists them in doing more effective research and helps you teach the fundamentals of finding and evaluating useful, reliable information. Research Companion can help your students wade through what is often an overwhelming amount of information by guiding their research effort. It is comprised of ten Learning Modules and five interactive tools arranged to automate the stages of the research process.
Research can be hard for for first-time researchers, and even seasoned students can find it difficult wading through the process of gathering information, drafting, revising, editing, and finalizing their research papers. But maybe it can be less painful with a little help from ProQuest.
One of the highlights of my recent trip to Italy—in addition to the daily, ahem, twice-daily gelato runs—was actually not part of Italy at all. It was the sovereign state of Vatican City (or the Holy See). I have been interested in the world’s smallest independent nation since helping to create the World Edition CultureGrams report on it (we have a Kids report too!).
It did not disappoint. Located in the heart of bustling Rome, The Vatican feels like a different country once you’re inside its walls. It’s still very busy, of course, as one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but the presence of Swiss Guards (a small security force comprised of Catholic Swiss men), the magnitude of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the concentration of masterpieces in such a small area make the Vatican a truly unique place.
The culmination of any tourist’s visit to the Vatican is, of course, the Sistine Chapel. And though you’re allowed to take all the photos you want in the huge complex of museums you must (get to) pass through on the way to Michelangelo’s crowning work, once you enter the chapel you are greeted with several Italian guards booming out the words “No foto! No foto!” I have to admit I didn’t fully comply with the rule, though no one yelled at me for looking down in a sea of people looking up.
As cool as it was to see in person, you can actually get a much better view of it on an official virtual tour. In addition to being able to see the chapel completely empty (in person it’s shoulder-to-shoulder), you can zoom in on different pieces of the artwork or just contemplate it in silence, without anyone yelling at you.
And in case you thought I was kidding about the gelato . . .
Debating Job Automation
What does the future of work look like? As technology increases, it has become evident that our world is changing. Robots are being used in place of workers in factories, service industries, the military, the medical field, and more. Is there a way for robots and humans to work alongside each other in harmony? The debate continues. Some say the automation of jobs will lead to the creation of better job opportunities. Others say automation is just the start of a worldwide unemployment crisis. Should the government provide a basic income if robots replace workers? These are just some of the pro/con viewpoints students can debate and analyze with SIRS Issues Researcher’s Leading Issues.
Our new Job Automation Leading Issue highlights the key points surrounding the automation of work and the industries impacted, offers pro/con arguments, a timeline of events, critical thinking questions, helpful websites, and editorially-selected articles and media to kick-start students’ research.
Resources in our Job Automation Leading Issue include:
- Public Predictions for the Future of Workforce Automation: This Pew Research Center report outlines the future of automation and work.
- 2025 AD The Year of Automated Driving: An interactive timeline depicting key events regarding autonomous vehicles.
- Humans vs. Robots: This National Public Radio podcast explores how humans and robots will coexist in the future.
- Timeline of Computer History: A computer history timeline that touches on automation, robots and artificial intelligence.
Want to know more about Leading Issues? Contact us for complete access to SIRS Issues Researcher today!
Is your classroom studying the future of automation? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.
SIRS Issues Researcher’s new Leading Issue: Private Space Sector is out of this world!
The future of space travel is taking off with private companies. This action-packed Leading Issue will help students explore how the private sector is launching reusable rockets, hauling cargo to the International Space Station, and providing useful services to NASA. The private sector also wants to make space tourism happen by 2020.
Students don’t have to wait until college and career to gain experience with space science! Besides delving into the Private Space Sector Leading Issue, students can also learn about the space industry through hands-on experience. Explore the links below for opportunities for students to gain knowledge and experience with NASA and private sector programs.
- Aerospace Activities and Lessons from the Glenn Research Center allows students to gain experience in school with projects and activities created by educators and NASA engineers. Each activity includes resources for students and objectives for teachers.
- NASA Education’s page includes a wealth of knowledge for students and teachers through STEM education. Guidance for education includes an A-Z list of projects, design challenges, and opportunities for students to interact with NASA.
- Current Opportunities for Students is also included in the NASA Education website. This page provides webcasts, contests, and lectures. It also lists scholarship and intern possibilities.
- United Launch Alliance provides cost-effective launch services for NASA. They also provide an educational page on their website dedicated to students with rocket terminology and fun facts. Students can register to compete for a CubeSat satellite launch or look into the Intern Rocket Program.
- Student Launch is a competitive rocket launching competition designed for students to learn the importance of teamwork while building a cost-effective reusable rocket. This NASA-conducted engineering design challenge provides resources and experiences for students and teachers.
- SystemsGo is a NASA-endorsed program that helps students design rockets using STEM and teamwork. The site offers everything from educational video resources, launch events, and even how to start an aerospace program at school.
Private Sector Programs:
- SpaceX‘s FIRST program awards students with scholarships as well as a chance for 10-15 high school seniors to become interns. Other programs include building and battling robotics for older students and a LEGO robot challenge for kids ages 9-14.
- Virgin Galactic offers a Global Scholarship and Mentoring Program for students interested in STEM education.
- Blue Origin offers an Astronaut Experience. Sign up for an experience on the New Shepard space vehicle.
How are your students exploring space science? Drop us a line in the comments section below or Tweet us at #ProQuest!
Today many educators, including math teachers, who are looking for ways to engage students’ minds can sweeten the learning curve by celebrating March 14 (3.14), Pi Day. Just like pi, there are infinite possibilities in motivating students in learning this mathematical constant (as long as they get to eat the examples, of course). Making pies, cookies, cakes, and other circular foods (don’t forget about pizza!) of different sizes can all play a part in motivating students in discovering the wonders of pi.
Students can double down on the learning experience because today is also the birthday of the world’s most celebrated scientist, Albert Einstein. And you can bet that Einstein was no stranger to pi. March 14 is a wonderful opportunity to enlighten your students about the endless fascination to the mathematical constant pi (3.14), and at the same time teach them about the extraordinary life of one of our greatest scientists. Be sure to click on the pi and Albert Einstein images below to open ProQuest Research Topics to learn more on both, or search eLibrary here.
Here are some facts about both Pi and Albert Einstein:
- Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter (circumference divided by diameter).
- Pi is an irrational number meaning that it cannot be written as a fraction and therefore has to be expressed as an infinite non-repeating decimal.
- The Babylonians first calculated the area of a circle around 2,000 B.C.
- Archimedes was the first to use the calculation of pi. He roughly calculated the area of a circle using the Pythagorean Theorem to find the areas of two regular polygons.
- The earliest adoption of the Greek symbol for pi (π) was by William Jones.
- The closest fraction representing pi is 22/7.
- English singer-songwriter Kate Bush has a song called “Pi” in which she sings the number’s first 100 decimal places.
- Einstein dropped out of high school and failed his first college entrance exam.
- Adolph Hitler considered Einstein enemy number one. After Hitler’s ascendancy to Chancellor of Germany, he had his house sacked while he was in California. Einstein never returned to Germany.
- Family members say Albert didn’t start to speak until the age of four.
- Einstein was a member of the NAACP. When Einstein arrived in America he was shocked by how African Americans were treated. Before he moved to America he frequently corresponded with civil rights leader and founder of the NAACP, W.E.B. Dubois.
- In less than one year in 1905, Einstein, an unknown scientist at the time, wrote and published his Annu mirabilis (The Miracle Year) papers. In these papers, he redefined the laws of physics and altered our views on space, time, mass, and energy, and laid the foundation for all modern physics we know today.
- After Einstein’s death, Princeton University pathologist Thomas Stoltz Harvey performed Einstein’s autopsy. He removed his brain for research purposes but strangely kept it at his house for over 40 years. Some time later in the 1990s, he took the brain on a strange trip across America in the trunk of a Buick Skylark.
It’s time to spring ahead! At 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 12, most of us in the United States—unless we live in Arizona or Hawaii—will move our clocks forward one hour. While many people appreciate the extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day, just as many probably dread heading to work and school in the dark before sunrise.
Daylight Saving Time was first used to conserve energy during World War I. Today, more than 70 countries use Daylight Saving Time in at least part of their country. Researchers may be surprised to learn that Daylight Saving Time has such a confusing and complicated history in the U.S. and that there are many arguments for and against its use. Those in favor of DST argue that it saves energy, encourages more physical activity, and reduces accidents and crime. Opponents of DST say that it is economically disruptive, particularly to farmers, and dangerous for children who have to walk to morning bus stops in the dark.
Here is a brief timeline of legislation regarding time zones and Daylight Saving in the U.S.:
1784: Benjamin Franklin suggests the concept of daylight saving as a way to use fewer candles.
1883: American and Canadian railroads establish national time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of different local times.
March 19, 1918: Congress enacts a law to establish standard time zones and sets summer Daylight Saving Time to begin on March 31, 1918.
1919: The Daylight Saving Time law is repealed due to its unpopularity. It remains a local option and is continued in a few states and in some cities.
1942-1943: President Franklin Roosevelt institutes year-round Daylight Saving Time, also called “War Time”, during World War II.
1945-1966: There is no federal law regarding Daylight Saving Time so states and cities are free to choose when it begins and ends. This becomes a source of confusion, especially for the broadcasting industry, railways, airlines, and bus companies.
1966: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Uniform Time Act of 1966 which calls for Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. The law allows any state that doesn’t want to use Daylight Saving Time to pass a state law exempting themselves.
Jan. 4, 1974: President Richard Nixon signs the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973 in an effort to conserve energy during the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Daylight Saving Time begins on Jan. 6, 1974 and ends on Oct. 27, 1974. Daylight Saving Time then resumes on Feb. 23, 1975, and ends on Oct. 26, 1975.
1986: Congress passes a law declaring that Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. begins at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and ends at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday of October.
2005: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extends Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. beginning in 2007.
2007: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 goes into effect with Daylight Saving Time beginning at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ending at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.
Find student resources about Daylight Saving Time with these websites, articles, and Research Topics from SIRS Issues Researcher and eLibrary:
The lives of women are very different now than they were centuries, even decades, ago. There was a time when women were not allowed to serve in the military. It was unlawful for a woman to vote or own property. Wives were once considered their husband’s property. Because of the work and dedication of strong women, those ideas have changed. Women have more rights than they had just fifty years ago, and women today strive for equality in every part of life. During Women’s History Month we salute the countless women who have furthered women’s rights by making important changes in the ways women live and work.
SIRS Discoverer’s March Spotlight of the Month focuses on Women’s History Month. We have valuable content on women who have contributed to science, government, and human rights. Your students can research about the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, meet African-American women who have changed history, read about early female politicians, follow women’s increasing role in the military, and celebrate women’s scientific achievements.
Elizabeth Blackwell–Born in England, she became the first female doctor in America.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton–An early champion of women’s rights, she became a central figure in the women’s suffrage movement.
Frances Perkins–President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed her as Secretary of Labor in 1932 making her the first woman to hold a U.S. Cabinet office.
Grace Hopper–As an admiral in the U.S. Navy and computer scientist, she pioneered “user-friendly” computer software and she also coined the computer term “bug.”
Juliette Gordon Low–She founded the Girl Guides which eventually became the Girl Scouts.
Marie Curie–She performed groundbreaking work in physics and was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
Sally Ride–Chosen by NASA to be the first American woman in space.
Sandra Day O’Connor–She is a retired judge and the first female U.S. Supreme court justice.
Shirley Chisholm–She was the first African-American woman elected to U.S. Congress.
Student Activity: To learn more about each of these women, have your students answer these questions:
- When was she born?
- What was her education?
- Where did she live most of her life?
- What is she most famous for accomplishing?
- Why is she an important part of history?
- What changes did she make in her field?
How are you celebrating Women’s History Month in your library, media center, or classroom?
Let us know in the comments or tweet us with #ProQuest.
It’s that time of year again when the grass is greening, leaves are sprouting, tornado sirens are wailing, and all are wondering who will be cutting down the nets in college hoops! In 2017, the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four will be held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, while the women’s Final Four will be decided at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. A little history: The University of Oregon defeated Ohio State University 46-33 on March 27, 1939 in the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. For the first 12 years of the tourney, only 8 teams were invited to play. Today, 65 teams participate. The 2017 men’s Final Four will begin April 1 with the championship game on Monday, April 3rd.
The most successful team in NCAA men’s history is UCLA, with a record 11 titles, 10 of those under head coach John Wooden. The University of Kentucky is 2nd with 8 banners, followed by Indiana, Duke and North Carolina, each with 5 championships. The NCAA held the first women’s basketball tourney in 1982. The Connecticut Huskies are the most dominant team in the women’s tournament with 11 titles under coach Geno Auriemma. The Tennessee Volunteers are a close second with 8 championships under legendary coach Pat Summitt.
We have Illinois basketball players to thank for the nickname “March Madness.” The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) began a boy’s tournament of 8 teams in March 1908 (Peoria High soundly beat Rock Island 48-29). The actual name “March Madness” probably comes from a 1939 article by IHSA executive secretary Henry V. Porter. In that article, entitled “March Madness,” Porter writes of the fans’ obsession with the thud of the ball on the court and the swish of the ball through the net.
Teachers can use students’ enthusiasm for March Madness in the classroom. Brian Sztabnik, an AP Literature teacher in Miller Place, New York, uses AP Lit March Madness, a method to determine the best work of literature that students have read during the year. Sztabnik has his students create brackets, form committees and vote on books they have read. Here is a link describing Brian’s neat idea: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/march-madness-meets-ap-lit-brian-sztabnik.
So, no matter which team you are rooting for (or against), don’t forget to fill out your brackets, and may the best team win!
NCAA March Madness BONUS
The best mascot in all of sports: Western Kentucky University’s Big Red. (Now you know who I am rooting for!)