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Posts Tagged ‘Leading Issues’

Just in Time for Back-to-School: 9 New Leading Issues from SIRS Issues Researcher

The pro-con format of our Leading Issues helps students pick a topic and understand its context with overviews, essential questions, statistics, global perspectives, viewpoints, supporting arguments, and critical thinking prompts. The editors at ProQuest were busy this summer selecting articles and graphics, creating and updating timelines, and adding new Leading Issues to ensure your students and patrons have the most up-to-date and relevant content on current controversial issues.

Introduce your student researchers to these engaging new Leading Issues:

The Arts: New main category (Sub-issues: Art and Cultural Repatriation, Arts Censorship, Banned Books, Music Lyrics, Popular Culture, Public Funding of the Arts, Violence in Mass Media)

Abortion Funding: Are U.S. policies like the Mexico City Policy, which restrict federal funding to global health organizations that provide abortions or abortion information, a good idea?

Driverless Vehicles: Do the benefits of driverless vehicles outweigh the risks?

Net Neutrality: Are net-neutrality rules necessary?

Prescription Drug Prices: Should the government take steps to lower prescription drug prices?

Public Funding of the Arts: Should the government allocate federal funds in support of the arts and art programs?

Sharing Economy: Should the sharing economy be regulated?

Transgender Children: Should children be allowed to transition to the gender they identify with?

U.S.-Mexico Border Wall: Should the U.S. build a wall along the border with Mexico?

Driverless Vehicles Leading Issue in SIRS Issues Researcher

The following Leading Issues have also been updated, and new Essential Questions added in some cases, to reflect the current focus of the controversy:

Child Care, Digital Media, Dietary Supplements, Epidemics, Human Smuggling, Indigenous Peoples, Pipelines, Poverty, International (main issue), Privacy and the Press, Refugees, Reporters and Shield Laws, School Choice, Social Media, and Women in the Military.

 

Which Leading Issues topics are most popular with your students? Are there any topics you would like to have added? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet us with #ProQuest.

ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to think critically about current issues. Free trials are available.

SIRS Discoverer: Pro/Con Leading Issues

It is important for elementary and middle school students to develop critical thinking and research skills. Often students are tasked with a research project on a controversial or difficult topic. To fulfill this need, SIRS Discoverer offers a Pro/Con Leading Issues feature that will help young researchers navigate through 60 debated social issues. Each topic lists several viewpoint articles where students can click through to full-text content. These articles provide context that help kids understand the viewpoints on these issues. In addition to articles, editorially-selected photos and political cartoons provide a visual perspective. Since editors create and maintain the topics, educators can be confident that the content will be reliable.

SIRS Discoverer Pro/Con Leading Issues

Each issue contains:

Topic Overview
Terms to Know
Essential Question
More Viewpoints
Visual Literacy
Critical Thinking Questions

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Pro/Con Leading Issues is also one of the most popular features in the SIRS Discoverer product. We have heard from several media specialists and librarians that when a student is undecided on a subject to research, browsing through the topics often sparks an idea.

We realize the value of keeping the topics updated and so we have added 5 new topics to our Pro/Con Leading Issues feature at the start of the new school year:

Electoral College
Gender Identity
Health Care
Refugees
Vaccines

Educators, do your students use the Pro/Con Leading Issues feature?
Tweet #ProQuest #SIRSDiscoverer

Don’t have SIRS Discoverer? Request a free trial.

 

Back-to-School for Educators: ProQuest Is Here to Help

Are you ready to make or finalize lesson plans? Have you made your school year shopping trip yet? Do you know how you want to decorate your classroom? Educators have so much to do before the school year starts let alone during it. While there’s a lot to think about, having helpful tools ready to go and a checklist of what you need to do can make it easier. The ProQuest story is to curate enriching content, simplify workflows for our customers and connect with our vast community of educators, researchers, and librarians. As an editor that works on the Guided Research products, my department works hard to not just do all of the above but also to create new ideas and content that help students grow and thrive in K12 plus preparing for what comes after. Our editors do the research to come up with new Leading Issues and create them from beginning to end. We create new product features and curate the content that’s highlighted and we make sure our customers feel connected.

Simplifying an Educator’s School Year

Curating and Creating Content for All Researchers

SIRS Discoverer

Animal Facts and Pro/Con Leading Issues are two product features in SIRS Discoverer that were created in-house.

In collaboration with product management, Content Editor, Senior Jen Oms came up with the idea for Animal Facts and Content Editor, Senior Ilana Cohen came up with the idea for Pro/Con Leading Issues. Jen and Ilana both explained why they wanted these two features in SIRS Discoverer.

Before Animal Facts was created, Jen knew it was a feature SIRS Discoverer needed. She said the product had articles about animals, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to simplify the time and process kids would have to go through to learn all the key facts on their favorite animals. She also wanted such a feature to complement the product. She knew SIRS Discoverer had articles on tigers for example. She wanted there to be an Animal Fact page for tigers too. Jen collaborated with another colleague Michelle Sneiderman to create what is now totaled at over 300 Animal Facts (with more being added). They modeled the idea on a 1-page table style of animal characteristics, conservation status and additional information like fun facts. Jen also said one of the main sources used to create Animal Facts came right from the encyclopedia content in SIRS Discoverer. Jen wanted Animal Facts to be robust and it is one of the most popular features in the SIRS Discoverer product.

Bobcat Animal Fact via SIRS Discoverer

Bobcat Animal Fact via SIRS Discoverer

The creation of Pro/Con Leading Issues for SIRS Discoverer seemed a logical decision. Ilana said it was modeled as an “entry-level pro/con research product for young audiences,” something the product didn’t have but would be beneficial. She created the initial pro/con issues and added supporting content in collaboration with a few other editors. These issues are created and updated dynamically on a yearly basis. While SIRS Issues Researcher includes main and sub-issues, SIRS Discoverer Pro/Con Leading Issues only contains main issues. It currently has 60 Pro/Con Leading Issues that students can choose from, and Ilana explained her process for choosing new ones to create includes looking at existing content and search reports. This feature also includes a Visual Literacy asset which presents a cartoon and pairs it with critical thinking questions. Pro/Con Leading Issues is also one of the most popular features in the SIRS Discoverer product.

Pro/Con Leading Issues via SIRS Discoverer

Pro/Con Leading Issues via SIRS Discoverer

SIRS Issues Researcher

Visual literacy, information literacy, and critical thinking are three skills the Guided Research products help build. SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issues are created in-house. Editors curate the content to support them that students can debate and discuss in and out of the classroom.

Recently, I worked with my colleague Jeff Wyman to make it possible for our editorial team to create charts and statistics in-house. Sometimes our content providers lack this and we wanted a way for ProQuest editors to fill the gap when it happens. Knowing how to read charts is a skill that students can continue to develop as they advance in their research and go on to college.

EU Favorability Chart Created by ProQuest Staff

EU Favorability Chart Created by ProQuest Staff

SIRS Issues Researcher also includes Curriculum Guides that are helpful in building information literacy, visual literacy, critical thinking, and research skills. These guides help students understand editorial cartoons, infographics, primary sources, research, statistics and writing arguments.

Both Leading Issues and the skills they support drive the ProQuest story. We simplify educators’ workflows and not just curate, but create too. SIRS Issues Researcher delves into the heart of the issues affecting people all around the world every day. It gives students the chance to explore topics they may have never thought of before and think critically about them.

Connecting with Customers and Our Community

ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information and media literacy skills. Free trials are available.

Find us on Facebook or Tweet us @ProQuest. We love our customers to reach out and say hello!

TDIH: First “Test-Tube Baby” Born

“I’m not a wizard or a Frankenstein tampering with Nature. We are not creating life.
We have merely done what many people try to do in all kinds of medicine–to help
nature. We found nature could not put an egg and sperm together, so we did it.”
Patrick Steptoe, who with Robert Edwards, perfected in vitro fertilization
of the human egg and delivered the world’s first “test-tube baby.”

In Vitro Fertilization via Pixabay [Public Domain]

It’s hard to imagine now, but when the first baby was born as the result of in vitro fertilization (IVF) on July 25, 1978, it was highly controversial. The birth attracted opposition from scientists and religious leaders, and international media attention. Louise Brown, the world’s first so-called “test tube baby” was conceived in a laboratory and born at Oldham General Hospital in England. The term “test-tube baby” is actually a misnomer, since IVF is usually performed in shallower glass containers called Petri dishes. After the birth was announced, her parents received bags full of hate mail from across the globe, as well as fan letters. While some are still opposed to IVF for ethical and religious reasons, more than 5 million children have been born worldwide through its use. Nearly 68,000 babies were born using IVF methods in the U.S. alone in 2015.

Louise Brown Holding the 1000th Bourn Hall Baby, 1987
Courtesy Bourn Hall Clinic, via National Library of Medicine [CC BY 4.0]

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 10% to 15% of couples in the US are infertile—meaning they are unable to conceive through natural means. The IVF technique was pioneered by two doctors in Cambridge, England–gynecologist Patrick Steptoe and reproductive biologist Robert Edwards. Their research led to the successful fertilization of a human egg outside the body and the transfer of the resulting embryo to the womb of Lesley Brown. A healthy baby girl was delivered to Lesley and her husband John after they had tried unsuccessfully to conceive a child for 15 years using natural methods. Two years later Steptoe and Edwards founded the world’s first IVF clinic, Bourn Hall Clinic, near Cambridge, England. The techniques and drugs now used around the world were first developed there.

Today, despite objections to its use (for example, Catholic hospitals often prohibit doctors from performing basic reproductive services including IVF), it has become much more widely accepted. For the most part, the ethical debate going on now is not so much about IVF itself, but the on the limits or constraints that should be placed on its use. Since the first IVF baby was born only 39 years ago, the long-term risks are not known. If a couple divorces, who gets custody and control of their frozen embryos? IVF enables single women to become mothers, same-sex couples to have a child of their own, and older women who are past menopause to become mothers. (In 2016, a 70-year-old Indian woman became the world’s oldest mother by using IVF.)

The average cost for IVF in the U.S. ranges from $12,000-$15,000 and can go much higher depending on individual circumstances and variables like the mother’s age or whether a surrogate is used. Although some insurance companies cover IVF procedures, many don’t. As a result, only people with the financial means to afford costly assisted reproductive technologies are able to take advantage of them, shutting out lower-income people who also want to become parents.

Screen Cap from SIRS Issues Researcher

Educators, direct your students to the new and updated SIRS Issues Researcher to dig deeper into the topic of Human Reproductive Technology. This Leading Issue explores these issues in-depth by asking users the Essential Question, “Does the use of human reproductive technology challenge the basic ideas of conception?” Background information, a timeline, viewpoint articles, multimedia resources and questions for critical thinking and analysis and are provided. They can also explore these other related Leading Issues:

Anonymous Eggs and Sperm Donation

Genetic Testing

Human Cloning

Stem Cells

Surrogacy

SIRS Issues Researcher supports state, national and international learning standards. Don’t have it? Request a free trial.

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“Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote.”

Many young people may not realize it wasn’t until 46 years ago that teenagers gained the right to vote. The voting age started to become a controversy during World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the minimum age for the military draft to 18. Many young people felt it was unfair to be required to fight in the war without the right to have a say in the policies of the nation through voting. The youth voting rights movement began with the slogan, “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

From 1942 to 1971, Rudolph Jennings of West Virginia, as a congressman and later as a senator, brought 11 pieces of legislation to Congress to lower the voting age to 18 but was unsuccessful. Only a handful of states lowered the voting below 21 and only Georgia and Kentucky allowed voting at age 18.

The 1960s brought the issue to a head at a time when young people were at the center of civic involvement. They often participated in marches, sit-ins, and other forms of protest on civil rights issues for blacks, women, and to end the war in Vietnam. Again a war was the impetus to fuel the movement.

On June 22, 1970, Congress voted to extend the Voting Rights Act to apply to age and allow voting at age 18. After challenges to the law and a ruling at the Supreme Court in Oregon v. Mitchell that Congress could only regulate the age in federal elections not State or local, support swelled for an amendment that would set a uniform voting age of 18 in all elections.

On March 10, 1971, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted in favor of the 26th Amendment and it went to the states for ratification. On June 30, 1971, the amendment was considered officially ratified. On July 5, 2017 the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was certified and signed into law by President Richard Nixon.

The youth turnout was 55.4% in 1972 but then declined over the years reaching 36% in the 1988 election. The tide dramatically turned in the 2008 election of Barack Obama with a youth vote turnout of 49% which is the second highest in history.

The Current Debate

The current controversy with voting age is a call to reduce the age further to 16. As young people have access to more information than ever before, many teens and youth advocates are calling for lowering the voting age. Some countries, such as Austria and Nicaragua, have reduced their minimum voting age to 16.

Proponents say a lower voting age would focus attention on issues of particular interest to young adults. But some say younger teens are still learning about the democratic process and may not yet know how to be responsible citizens. These critics argue that, at 16, children are too immature to vote.

Educators, find the latest coverage of this issue in the SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issue: Voting Age and in the eLibrary Research Topic: Voting Age.

Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher or elibrary? Request a free trial.

Summer Reading: 5 YA Fiction Titles to Help Students with Controversial Issues

This summer, have your students read Young Adult (YA) fiction to help them understand controversial issues.

“Based on our own experience, we believe that emotion — for good or bad — is a key element of how many arguments are made in the world.”–Larry Ferlazzo, “Common Core Writing and ELLs”

Reviewed YA Books Featured on the Teen Librarian Toolbox blog (School Library Journal)

Students struggle to understand and write about controversial issues. This is where the power of story found in YA fiction can help. And summer is a perfect opportunity for students to read. Reading tears down walls by exposing students to the diverse perspectives and emotions of fictional characters who are dealing with controversial issues. After reading a compelling narrative over the summer, students will be better prepared for research and argumentative writing on controversial issues.

Here are five recent YA fiction titles with a narrative related to a SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issue:

1. Other Breakable Things by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood
Assisted Suicide Leading Issue

Assisted Suicide Leading Issues in SIRS Issues Researcher

Publisher’s Description: “According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing. Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her. Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again. And now it is. Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn. And she’s not giving up so easily. A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be. Right down to the thousandth paper crane.”

 

2. Internet Famous by Danika Stone
Social Media Leading Issue

Social Media Leading Issue in SIRS Issues Researcher

Publisher’s Description:“Internet sensation Madison Nakama has it all! Her pop-culture rewatch site has a massive following, and fans across the world wait on her every post and tweet. And now Laurent, a fellow geek (and unfairly HOT French exchange student!), has started flirting with her in the comments section of her blog. But Laurent’s not the only one watching for Madi’s replies…Internet fame has a price, and their online romance sparks the unwanted attention of a troll. When Madi’s ‘real life’ hits a rough patch, she feels her whole world crumbling. With Laurent’s support, can Madi rally her friends across the globe to beat the troll, or will he succeed in driving her away from everything—and everyone—she loves?”

 

3. Factory Girl by Josanne La Valley
Sweatshops Leading Issue

Sweatshops Leading Issue in SIRS Issues Researcher

Publisher’s Description: “In order to save her family’s farm, Roshen, sixteen, must leave her rural home to work in a factory in the south of China. There she finds arduous and degrading conditions and contempt for her minority (Uyghur) background. Sustained by her bond with other Uyghur girls, Roshen is resolved to endure all to help her family and ultimately her people. A workplace survival story, this gritty, poignant account focuses on a courageous teen and illuminates the value—and cost—of freedom. ”

 

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Police and Body Cameras and Racial Discrimination Leading Issues

Police and Body Cameras Leading Issue in SIRS Issues Researcher

Publisher’s Description: “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

 

5. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Illegal Immigration Leading Issue

Illegal Immigration Leading Issue in SIRS Issues Researcher

Publisher’s Description: “On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?”

All titles are linked to reviews by the Teen Librarian Toolbox blog (School Library Journal).

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.

TDIH: History and Pro/Con of Coca-Cola

Drink Coca-Cola 5 cents

Drink Coca-Cola 5 cents (1889 print)
Credit: Library of Congress [No known restrictions on publication.]

The date was March 29, 1886. Pharmacist John Pemberton was hard at work in his laboratory, brewing a concoction intended to cure various ills including headaches, indigestion, and hangovers. Instead, Pemberton created something that would go on to become one of the most popular soft drinks of all time—Coca-Cola.

Here are five facts you may not have known about Coca-Cola:

  1. The original Coca-Cola formula was made with coca leaf, which is used to make cocaine, and kola nuts, which contained caffeine. In the early 20th century, the coca leaves were removed from the formula, but the caffeine remained.
  2. In May 1886, the first glass of Coca-Cola was sold for five cents at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta.  It was not immediately popular, generating only $50 in sales through the end of the year.
  3. Pemberton sold his formula to Ada Candler, an Atlanta businessman. Candler promoted Coca-Cola as a “delicious and refreshing” soft drink and its popularity spread.
  4. In 1899, three Tennessee entrepreneurs purchased exclusive rights to bottle and sell Coca-Cola.  Their price? Just $1. They developed the distinctive contoured bottle that is still used today.
  5. “The Pause That Refreshes” was one of the first advertising slogans used to market Coca-Cola. It appeared in an advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post in 1929. Over time, Coca-Cola’s advertising attempted to connect the brand with fun and good times, whether it was singing “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” or inviting friends to “Share a Coke.”
Woman Drinking Coca Cola

Credit: Pixabay [Public Domain]

The Pro/Con of Coca-Cola

Today Coca-Cola is one of the most globally recognized brands, but that does not translate into universally loved. Health organizations have criticized Coca-Cola for containing too much sugar and contributing to rising rates of diabetes and obesity. This has led some cities and states to consider levying a “junk food tax” on sales of Coca-Cola and other soft drinks. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took it a step further and proposed banning the sales of “super-size” soft drinks at fast food restaurants.

SIRS Issues Researcher has an entire Leading Issue dedicated to Food and Nutrition that can be used to bring the invention of Coca-Cola into your classroom today. Students can read opposing viewpoints and Essential Questions on various issues, including Junk Food Taxes, School Lunches, and Obesity. For historical background, they can also access timelines with key events related to Food and Nutrition.

Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher? Free trials are available.

 

6 Benefits of Teaching Controversial Political Issues to Students

This is the first in a series of posts on teaching controversial political issues to students.

6 Benefits of 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:

  1. Engagement. Students participate more, especially when they are encouraged to be a part of class discussions.
  2. Political Literacy. Students stay more informed about controversial political issues.
  3. Tolerance. Students respect and understand other viewpoints.
  4. Confidence. Students grow more confident in holding their own viewpoints and discussing politics in general.
  5. Civil Discourse. Students learn to engage in civil discourse.
  6. 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.

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