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Posts Tagged ‘Curriculum’

How to Support Inclusion When Teaching Controversial Political Issues

This is the latest in a series of posts on teaching controversial political issues to students. The previous post in this series examined U.S. teens, politics, and information literacy.


Today’s top political issues are controversial for a reason: they affect our lives. Students are no exception, which is why classroom discussions about controversial political issues risk offending or alienating students, especially those who are marginalized by society. Shielding students from discomfort is tempting, but avoidance goes against the aims of learning about controversial political issues, one of which is political literacy.

But maintaining a safe, welcoming, and accepting learning environment for every student is essential. Fortunately, there are ways to ease some of the negative aspects of teaching controversial political issues. The following strategies, which have been adapted from Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy’s The Political Classroom, will help you support inclusion in the classroom.

Know your students. At the beginning of the semester, get to know your students’ views, political ideology, and personal circumstances by conducting an anonymous survey.

Choose wisely. Based on the survey results, pick political issues that are relevant, ethical, and most likely to facilitate learning.

Time it right. Schedule the least controversial issues first, and then build up to more controversial issues as the semester progresses. Evidence suggests that students become more respectful of one another once they know their classmates. Students also develop stronger civil-discourse skills over time.

Do your research. Before teaching an issue, research it thoroughly. Being informed gives you confidence and helps you keep class discussions relevant and free of false claims.

Ensure civility. During class discussions, enact and enforce the norms of civil discourse. Most students are unfamiliar with how to engage in civil debates, especially given today’s political climate. Your guidance is essential.

Get feedback. At the end of the semester, get feedback from students by conducting another anonymous survey. Ask students about what they learned and their overall experience, including whether they felt uncomfortable, offended, or alienated. Learn from the feedback, adjust accordingly, and repeat the process next semester.

Of course, there are no perfect solutions. No matter what you do, some students may become offended or alienated during discussions involving controversial political issues. But by following the strategies outlined above, you will help make your classroom more inclusive for all students.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series on teaching controversial political issues to students.

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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.

Fact Sheet: U.S. Teens, Politics, and Information Literacy

This is the latest in a series of posts on teaching controversial political issues to students. The previous post in this series discussed how educators can choose controversial political issues ethically.

In December 2016, the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research polled 13- to 17-year-old U.S. teenagers on politics and government, civic engagement, and information literacy. Here is an overview of the results:

Politics and government. Overall, teenagers have a pessimistic view of U.S. politics and government. About 8 in 10 believe the nation is divided on important values. Many teenagers find little commonality with those who are different from them, such as people who live in other geographical areas and people in other political parties. Additionally, a majority of teenagers have negative views on the system and functioning of government, including how political leaders are chosen and the ability of government to solve problems. Despite teenagers’ pessimistic views, over half believe that the American dream still exists, and most have positive or neutral views on the future of the country.

Civic engagement. Teenagers have a high level of civic engagement. In fact, almost 9 in 10 teenagers have taken part in at least one civic activity, the most popular being volunteering and raising money for a cause. Fewer teenagers are involved politically, perhaps unsurprisingly given their age and their views on politics and government. A majority have never expressed their political beliefs online, and a whopping 88 percent have never participated in a protest, march, or demonstration (though this may have changed some given the high number of protests, marches, and demonstrations in recent months).

Information literacy. A majority of teenagers reported learning about information literacy skills in school, but a sizable number of teenagers said they have not. One-third had never discussed how to evaluate the trustworthiness of online content. Some 40 percent never discussed the value of evaluating evidence used to support opinions. And 42 percent never discussed how to find varying social and political viewpoints online.

There are some lessons to be learned from this poll. First, civic engagement is high among teenagers, but this fails to translate into political participation. Educators should focus on teaching students how they can be a part of the political system and effect change. Second, teenagers believe that they have little in common with those who are different from them. Educators can help break down barriers and close this empathy gap by exposing students to different people, ideas, and viewpoints. And third, too few students are learning the necessary information literacy skills, especially as they relate to cyberspace. With the spread of fake news, educators should prioritize strengthening information literacy skills for the digital age.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series on teaching controversial political issues to students.

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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.

How Educators Can Choose Controversial Political Issues Ethically

This is the third in a series of posts on teaching controversial political issues to students. Previous posts in this series discussed the benefits and aims of teaching controversial political issues.

How Educators Can Choose Controversial Political Issues Ethically


In 2014, school officials in Rialto, California, had to apologize after students were asked to write an argumentative essay on whether the Holocaust occurred. The assignment presented students with a false controversial issue and implied that Holocaust denial was a valid position despite empirical evidence that proves otherwise. Although extreme, this incident demonstrates the ethical perils of choosing topics when teaching controversial political issues.

How can educators choose and present controversial political issues ethically? There are no easy answers. Educators, however, can take some steps to ensure that teaching about a controversial political issue doesn’t become a controversy.

Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy, authors of The Political Classroom, argue that educators should be well prepared and use good professional judgment, which considers classroom context, evidence-based research, and educational aims. To prepare, educators should be able to identify four types of issues and consider three criteria to determine whether an issue is indeed controversial.

Identify the Type of Issue

Is the issue empirical or political?

Empirical issues can be answered through methodical inquiry. All empirical issues have a “correct” answer based on facts, although the answer may not yet be known. Political issues involve matters of public policy. Although empirical data is often used to support public-policy positions, political issues also involve considerations that are not necessarily fact-based, such as ethics and morals.

Is the issue open or settled?

Open issues are a current matter of controversy. Settled issues are no longer controversial and have widespread agreement. Both empirical and political issues can be open or settled.

Here’s an overview of the four types of issues:

1. Open Empirical: An issue that can be answered with facts, but a debate is still occurring because the evidence is conflicting or lacking. Example: Are self-driving cars safer than traditional cars?

2. Settled Empirical: An issue that has been answered with facts. Example: Are opioids addictive?

3. Open Political: A public-policy issue that has multiple, opposing viewpoints. Example: Should the United States implement single-payer health care?

4. Settled Political: A public-policy issue that is no longer considered controversial or open for debate. Example: Should women have the right to vote?

Why is identifying the type of issue important? Educators teaching controversial political issues must be sure not to present settled issues as open. Educators must also recognize the difference between issues that can be answered with facts alone (empirical issues) versus those that can be answered with opinions in addition to facts (policy issues).

Consider the Criteria for Controversy

Identifying whether an issue is empirical or political and open or settled may seem easy, but things are not always so simple. Some issues are empirically settled, but large segments of society may not agree. According to scientists, climate change is real and genetically-modified foods are safe, but sizeable numbers of Americans are skeptical of those positions. Some educators believe it is unethical to present issues as controversial when empirical evidence or their own moral code suggests otherwise. Other educators believe they are doing their students a disservice if they ignore issues that are currently being debated in the political sphere.

Here are three possible criteria to consider when choosing a controversial issue:

1. Behavioral: This criterion considers an issue controversial if sizeable numbers of people in society disagree on the issue regardless of empirical evidence.

Upside: This standard reflects what society thinks.

Downside: This standard may ignore empirical evidence. If sizable numbers of people believe in a conspiracy theory, despite the evidence, is it ethical to present this as a controversial issue?

2. Epistemic: This criterion considers an issue controversial if sizable numbers of people in society disagree on the issue, and there are multiple, logically grounded viewpoints on the issue.

Upside: This standard reflects what society thinks while also considering reasonable, evidence-based viewpoints.

Downside: People disagree on what is considered reasonable, which suggests that educators should ignore controversial political issues if viewpoints are considered unreasonable.

3. Politically Authentic: This criterion considers an issue controversial if it is being debated in the political sphere (e.g., legislation, political campaigns, and protest movements).

Upside: This criterion addresses current issues being debated in the political sphere, which prepares students for life in a democracy.

Downside: Viewpoints on politically authentic issues are not always grounded in logic.

Although The Political Classroom’s Hess and McAvoy recognize that each standard has its merits and disadvantages, they most prefer the politically authentic criterion because it directly addresses an important aim of teaching controversial political issues to students: political literacy.

As stated earlier in the post, there are no easy answers on how to choose and present controversial political issues ethically. But thinking deeply about controversial political issues and using good professional judgment will help.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series on teaching controversial political issues to students.

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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.

6 Aims of Teaching Controversial Political Issues to Students

This is the second in a series of posts on teaching controversial political issues to students. The first post in this series discussed the benefits of teaching controversial political issues.


Educational aims are the hopeful bedrock on which every curriculum is built. They transcend class objectives, which are typically measured with tests and term papers. They are ideals that give teaching a higher purpose. They are long-term.

So what are the educational aims of a political education?

Critics often cite indoctrination, but a political education is not about forcing—or even forming—political viewpoints. It is about deliberation, the process of carefully considering and discussing political issues. It is about instilling and honoring democratic values—liberty, equality, justice—and participating in the democratic process. Although Thomas Jefferson never said that “an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people,” he surely believed it. Democracy itself depends on concerned citizens who understand democratic values and the political process.

In The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education, Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy identify the aims of teaching controversial political issues to students. Six are defined here:

1.  Political Equity

Citizens are political equals, both as a birthright and as individuals with unique needs and perspectives.

2.  Political Tolerance

Citizens have unalienable rights, regardless of political viewpoints. Those in the majority rule cannot use public policy to discriminate against or persecute those who are in the minority.

3.  Political Autonomy

Citizens are free from oppression or coercion and free to form political opinions and participate in the political process.

4.  Political Fairness

Citizens think individually and collectively about finding the best solutions to promote the common good.

5.  Political Engagement

Citizens participate politically by staying informed, debating, voting, protesting, and campaigning.

6.  Political Literacy

Citizens think critically about controversial political issues and also understand the larger political context, such as historical context, the role of government, etc.

Although these aims are not always attained, they are ideals that democratic societies hope to achieve. And research suggests that some of these aims are indeed achieved, at least to some degree, when students are exposed to controversial political issues in school.

Young adults are often criticized for not voting as soon as they turn 18, yet many of them were never exposed to controversial political issues in school. This is illogical. A high school student quoted in Hess and McAvoy’s The Political Classroom explains why the aims of a political education are vital: “We are seniors. We are going out into the real world in a few months, a few weeks, actually, from now. And, you know, we have to be exposed to that stuff some time or another. Otherwise, you are going to be completely clueless.” (105) Well said.

The next post in this controversial political issues series will address how to pick topics when teaching controversial political issues to students.

Subscribe via email to Share This and never miss a post.


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.

ProQuest Joins Edmodo Community!

We have an Edmodo community page!

edmodo

For educators not yet using Edmodo in the classroom, it’s a free and secure social learning network for teachers, students, and schools. On Edmodo, teachers and students can collaborate, share content, and use educational apps to augment classroom learning with fun and engaging technology. To get started, see this great blog post from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning: All the Resources Teachers Need to Start Using Edmodo in Class.

For those of you already using Edmodo in the classroom, this community provides a seamless way for you to integrate ProQuest content directly into your classroom or library activities, saving you time searching for relevant materials. In our Edmodo collection, we are offering training resources, curriculum guides, free CultureGrams PDF reports and more directly based on your feedback.

We’re excited about our community to connect and collaborate with educators. Visit us at https://www.edmodo.com/publisher/ProQuest today and browse our collection for materials you can use in your classroom or library tomorrow!

Six ProQuest Resources for Holocaust Remembrance Day

We teach so that genocide on a mass scale, the specialty of the past century, can be circumvented in the future.”
― Bogdan Michalski, Why Should We Teach about the Holocaust?

As the quote above states, learning about genocide is more than a history lesson–it is an essential life lesson. Never forget. For this reason, the United Nations General Assembly designates each January 27–the anniversary of the liberation of concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau–as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, the United Nations encourages member states to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to develop educational programs to prevent future acts of genocide.

As many countries, including Germany, Austria and France, and several U.S. states have mandatory Holocaust education in the schools, I highlight six ProQuest products where you can find a wealth of resources designed to meet the needs of students learning about the Holocaust and genocide.

1. ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher contains a Human Rights Leading Issue, which includes sub issues on Holocaust Denial and Genocide. Here, students can find timelines with links, overviews and articles on multiple perspectives to support their research. Perfect for debates or papers analyzing more than one side to an issue, each sub issue contains an essential question with supporting pro con articles. The Holocaust Denial essential question asks students the following question:

Should Holocaust denial be a crime punishable by law?

human rights

Visual Browse of the Human Rights Leading Issue, ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

 

2. eLibrary offers more than fifty well-crafted Research Topic pages on the Holocaust, genocide and related issues. These pages are powerful visual testimonies with links to carefully selected articles, websites as well as a trove of primary source documents, videos and images.  Students can find these pages via keyword search or by clicking on the following link on the search page:

eLibrary link to list of Research Topics

Screenshot of eLibrary link to list of Research Topics

Rescue of the Danish Jews (see below) is one such Research Topic page:

Rescue of the Danish Jews

Example Research Topic Page, ProQuest eLibrary

 

3. Access CultureGrams to get concise historical overviews and maps of the countries in which the Holocaust occurred. CultureGrams is a fantastic resource full of reliable, up-to-date cultural content, including primary source interviews, videos and more. Students researching the Holocaust can use it to compare contemporary society with the ideologies, policies and governing methods of the totalitarian regimes during the time of the Holocaust.

CultureGrams: Germany

Screenshot of Germany in CultureGrams

 

4. History Study Center has in-depth study units with historical reference material on the Holocaust, Genocide in the Twentieth Century and more. Each unit includes both primary and secondary sources, including biographies, maps and video clips.

history study center

The Holocaust Study Unit, ProQuest History Study Center

 

5. Historical Newspapers (Graphical) offers a unique collection on the Holocaust with full-text newspaper articles from that time period. Students can access the collection via the timeline or the Topics tab.

historic newspaper article

Nov. 12, 1938, New York Times article via ProQuest Historical News Graphical

 

6. ProQuest Research Companion is a terrific resource that supports information literacy, writing and research skills to help students to effectively find, verify and use information. One of the valuable tools in this resource is the Source Evaluation Aid, which provides website information, such as top level domain, site owner and site description. This tool also indicates whether or not a particular site a student accesses online is a possible hate site, which is useful because sometimes it is not readily apparent whether or not a site might belong to a hate group.

Screenshot of the Source Evaluation Aid tool in ProQuest Research Companion

Screenshot of the Source Evaluation Aid tool in ProQuest Research Companion. The red flag alerts users that the website accessed is a possible hate site. The URL entered in this example belongs to the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH), which is listed in the Southern Poverty Law Center as an active Holocaust Denial group.

We are constantly adding new material to our products. If you have suggestions for new Holocaust topics for consideration for our products, feel free to let us know in the comments section below or tweet us at #ProQuest.

The First Thanksgiving Proclamation

The First Thanksgiving

“The First Thanksgiving” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving is a particularly American holiday. Tradition traces it back to sometime during the fall of 1621. Only half of the original 102 passengers who had sailed on the Mayflower and landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts the previous December had lived through that first winter. The surviving Pilgrims joined their Wampanoag Indian neighbors for a three-day feast to celebrate the autumn harvest. Contrary to common belief, the celebration was not repeated.

It was nearly 55 years later when the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks for the good fortune that had seen their community securely established. They issued what is known as the First Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring a day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on June 29, 1676. Later, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” In 1863, during the Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. For the first time, Thanksgiving became a national, annual holiday with a specific date. It was celebrated on that day until 1939, when President Franklin Roosevelt caused a national uproar by moving the date up one week to allow an extra week of Christmas shopping as the Nation’s economy was still recovering from the Great Depression. For two years, Thanksgiving was celebrated on two different days throughout the country. On October 6, 1941, Congress ended the confusion by enacting a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal federal holiday of Thanksgiving Day.

Goverment Reporter Historic Documents

Historic Documents Page in SIRS Government Reporter

The First Thanksgiving Proclamation is one of over 325 full text historic documents available on SIRS Government Reporter. Educators that need primary sources to support teaching with the Common Core State Standards or other curriculum needs can choose from speeches, treaties, legislation and other selected works of exceptional historic value that cover dates from 1215 (Magna Carta) up to the present (President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address). All documents are searchable by title, subject heading, or alphabetically, and each includes a summary explaining the background and significance of the document.

Turn to SIRS Government Reporter‘s Historic Documents feature for your primary source curriculum requirements, or learn more about the history and evolution of the Thanksgiving holiday at these websites from SIRS WebSelect:

Investigating the First Thanksgiving

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving in North America: From Local Harvests to National Holiday

The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings

STEAM Resources for the Classroom and Library

fractal-139213_1280

Fractal Art by werner22brigitte [Public Domain] via Pixabay

STEM + Art = STEAM

STEAM is a movement that integrates an A for the arts into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.  STEAM education was created in 2006 by former teacher Georgette Yakman.

The Creative Component

Advocates of STEAM contend that there should not be a dichotomy between science and art. Instead, art should be seen as a driver of creativity that can foster innovation and spark engagement and learning in science education.

“Engineers, inventors, and designers produce drawings as part of their creative process. They draw to work out and refine concepts and details. They draw to persuade. They draw to give direction. And they draw to record their ideas and to learn from others.”–Doodles, Drafts, and Designs, Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian

Pathway to Economic Growth

John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, sees STEAM as a pathway to fostering U.S. economic growth. Maeda, writing in Edutopia, has said that “[d]esign creates the innovative products and solutions that will propel our economy forward, and artists ask the deep questions about humanity that reveal which way forward actually is.” He cites Apple as well-known example of a company in which design is crucial to the success of technology.

Tried and True

The idea of integrating the arts and sciences in education is nothing new. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, was not only a famous Renaissance artist, but was also a scientist, engineer and inventor. In fact, he used his skills as an artist to draw his mechanical ideas.

“If someone had told Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, or Galileo that the study of science in the 21st century would be separated from the creativity of the arts or the social, cultural, and historical insights into human behavior offered by the humanities, they would have wondered what scientists had done to make the world disrespect them so much.  It’s an odd idea to separate out different kinds of knowledge that inspire and enrich one another in the real world and the virtual too.” – Duke Professor Cathy Davidson

Links for Teachers and Librarians

Over the past several years, more and more schools have begun integrating the arts into their STEM curricula. Below are six links you can use to incorporate STEAM into your classroom or library:

Websites for Students

Are your students working on a STEAM project and need a little inspiration? Below are five editorially-selected websites from ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher.

If you’ve implemented a STEAM curriculum in your classroom or library, let us know what you’re doing in the comments section below or tweet us at #ProQuest.

 

This Day in History–Monkey Trial Begins

John Scopes in Court with His Lawyer

The Scopes trial, dubbed the “monkey trial,” received worldwide attention. John Scopes (second from left), in court with his lawyer Clarence Darrow (far left), taught evolution in his high school biology class. (Archive Photos)

On July 10, 1925 the State v. John Scopes “Monkey” trial began in Dayton, Tennessee, touching off a national debate on creationism, evolution, and public school teaching. High school biology teacher John T. Scopes was charged with violating Tennessee’s Butler Act by illegally teaching the theory of evolution. The “trial of the century” was an epic event, attended by hundreds of reporters and others who crowded the Rhea County Courthouse. The trial was covered on the front-page of the nation’s newspapers, with live nationwide radio coverage reporting the sensational news. The legendary Clarence Darrow, a renowned criminal defense attorney and an ardent opponent of religious fundamentalism, represented Scopes. The prosecution was led by former Congressman, Secretary of State and three-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who was a leader in the anti-evolution movement. On July 21, the jury found Scopes guilty of violating the law and fined him $100, but the conviction was later overturned. The Tennessee law stood for another 42 years, until it was repealed in 1967. The verdict in the Scopes trial had a far-reaching effect on the teaching of evolution in public school classrooms. It was not until the 1960s that evolution began to reappear in school textbooks.

Today, almost 90 years later, the controversy over the teaching of evolution continues. To learn more about this topic, turn to SIRS Knowledge Source. SIRS Issues Researcher’s Teaching of Evolution Leading Issue features an overview of the subject, a selection of relevant full-text documents and multimedia resources, as well as an Essential Question with answers and viewpoints on both sides of the issue.

What do you think? Should the theory of evolution be a part of the science curriculum? We welcome your thoughts in the comment section below.

Build Academic Skills Over Summer Vacation

Skills Discoverer Feature in ProQuest SIRS Discoverer

Engage students during summer vacation through Skills Discoverer. Located within SIRS Discoverer, Skills Discoverer quickly connects students to a variety of editorially-selected educational websites. Game-like activities and challenges stimulate users as they practice skills in the curriculum-based subjects of art, health, language arts, math, science and social studies. Student can explore their academic interests and learn how to paint like Matisse, explore human anatomy, practice a foreign language, balance a personal budget, or take a scavenger hunt through history.