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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.
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!
We’ve also added interviews to the Comoros report! Take a look at them to get a feel for life in different areas in the Comoros Islands among different age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds.Fatima, female, age 29
The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!
The new Togo report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.
Here are some interesting Did You Knows about the Togo:
- Togo is believed to have been named after a town on the shore of Lake Togo. The name comes from the Ewe words to (water) and go (shore).
- Most homes in Togo do not have running water, so fetching water is a common daily chore for children.
- Among the Ewe, babies are named after the day of the week they are born but are often given a personal first name as well.
- To show respect, young people kneel when greeting an elder.
The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!
The new U.S. Virgin Islands report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.
Here are some interesting Did You Knows about the U.S. Virgin Islands:
- The U.S. Virgin Islands is the only location in the United States where people drive on the left side of the road.
- There is an underwater national park in Trunk Bay, off the coast of Saint John. It is one of the best places to snorkel in the Caribbean and is marked by underwater signs.
- Famous impressionist painter Camille Pissarro was born in Saint Thomas.
- The islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas each have a nickname. They are known as Twin City (Saint Croix), Love City (Saint John), and Rock City (Saint Thomas).
Read about the Carnival celebration, life as a kid, and traditional foods, all in this colorful new report.
The Leading Issues pro/con framework helps students pick a topic and understand its context with overviews, essential questions, statistics, global perspectives, viewpoints, supporting arguments, and critical thinking prompts. Editors hand-select all of the content, ensuring that student researchers find the most appropriate, relevant, and valuable information available. Every Leading Issue contains a highly-relevant results list where students can gather supporting evidence through articles, statistics, images, and websites.
Keep research fresh and engaging with these new Leading Issues:
Heroin Abuse: Should cities open supervised injection sites for heroin addicts?
Job Automation: Should employees be worried about losing their jobs to machines?
Private Space Sector: Does the future of space travel lie with entrepreneurs?
And here are some Leading Issues #trending in the news:
Health Care Reform: Should there be more government involvement in health care in the U.S.?
Keystone Pipeline: Should the U.S. government approve the Keystone XL Pipeline?
Illegal Immigration: Should immigrants who are in the country illegally be allowed to remain in the U.S.?
International trade: Are free trade agreements beneficial?
Media Bias: Do the mainstream media have a liberal bias?
Social Media: Do the positive aspects of social networking sites outweigh the negatives?
Taxation: Should offshoring tax loopholes be closed?
Which Leading Issues topics are most popular with your students? Let us know in the comments or tweet us with #ProQuest.
It’s time for an annual update on what we’ve added to CultureGrams in the past year. Our editorial team is definitely not standing still. The product just keeps getting better and better as we push forward on our commitment to providing high quality cultural, historical, and geographical information.
This is just a partial list of accomplishments from 2016.
- We added 24 new Kids Edition country reports to CultureGrams and are very near to completing that edition. Only two more countries to go and we’ll have reports for every country in the World Edition. That should happen in early 2017
- We added 46 new interviews to the Faces of the World Interview collection.
- CultureGrams is now integrated with Google Drive and Google Classroom.
- We expanded our multimedia offerings by adding 430 new gallery photos, 73 new slideshows, and 102 new videos to CultureGrams.
- We updated the Average Person infographics, which depict the demographic characteristics of a hypothetical average person in each country, highlighting factors such as income level, family size, language, and religion.
- We updated all of our data tables.
- We’re continuing with our regular and ongoing process of major updates and reviews of all CultureGrams reports and other content by native and in-country experts.
And the work continues in 2017. We’re already busy adding interviews, photos, slideshows, video, etc. And we’re always working to improve our existing content. Stay tuned for what is to come!
By the way, if we haven’t said so recently or often enough, we really appreciate your interest in CultureGrams. We have fantastic customers and we are very grateful for you!
Strengthening information literacy skills is one way to fight the spread of fake news. However, according to a recent Pew Research poll, many Americans also believe that social media sites, search engines, and the government have a responsibility to stop fake news. Facebook, widely criticized for its role in spreading fake news, recently announced efforts to tackle the problem. Critics, though, argue that this approach could lead to censorship.
The “That’s Debatable!” poll, a popular polling feature in SIRS Issues Researcher, has been asking users all month whether fake news should be regulated. So far, users have overwhelmingly voted yes: fake news should indeed be regulated. What do you think? Should social media sites, search engines, and the government regulate fake news? Or is it the responsibility of news consumers to identify fake news on their own? Take our poll, and tell us what you think.
Are your students equipped with the information literacy skills to identify fake news? ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.
Fake news is a problem. Information illiteracy is an even bigger problem. A Stanford University study released last November found that most students could not identify fake news because they lacked basic information literacy skills. The good news? We are finally having a national conversation on the importance of teaching information literacy, which teachers and librarians have been talking about for years.
Unfortunately, a recent ProQuest survey found that only 25% of librarians thought their library adequately supported information literacy instruction. Thankfully, there are information literacy resources available on the web. Damon Brown’s TED-ED video “How to Choose Your News” offers a quick, student-friendly introduction to information and media literacy. ProQuest’s editable guided research worksheet “How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps” helps students become skeptical news consumers.
Want more resources? See eLibrary’s new comprehensive Research Topic on Fake News.
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