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6 Benefits of Teaching Controversial Political Issues to Students

This is the first in a series of articles 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.

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

Crowdfunding for Schools

The need for classroom supplies never goes away. Unfortunately, funding for supplies is considered discretionary spending, so it is often the first area to get cut when school budgets tighten. It’s no secret that teachers spend a lot of their own money on supplies to fill the gaps. But in recent years, teachers have been relying on crowdfunding sites, which connect teachers with a large number of donors looking to help. In 2016, teachers raised over $100 million through DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding site that specifically caters to education projects.

Many school supplies purchased at the beginning of the school year need to be replenished as students return from the holiday break. If you are an educator in need of funds, consider crowdfunding. And if you are someone who wants to show your support for teachers and students, consider visiting crowdfunding sites to donate.

Are you conducting any crowdfunding campaigns for your school?

If so, tell us about them on Twitter @ProQuest or in the comments below.

Thank You, Teachers and Librarians

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to reflect on what and who we are grateful for, but it also reminds us that expressing our thanks should happen year-round. Gratitude, after all, has numerous health benefits, including improved physical and psychological health. Expressing gratitude also has the ability to improve someone else’s well-being. Unfortunately, teachers and librarians rarely get the recognition they deserve.

Only 29% of teachers said that they had received recognition or praise for their work within the last seven days.

According to a Gallup employee engagement poll, only 29% of teachers said that they had received recognition or praise for their work within the last seven days. When recognition does finally arrive, it usually happens during the last days of the school year, before summer recess. Teachers and librarians work hard all year long. Recognition shouldn’t be limited to the last day of school.

At ProQuest, we recognize teachers and librarians for who they truly are: heroes. From all of us at ProQuest, thank you to teachers and librarians for your service and dedication. And Happy Thanksgiving!

How do you show gratitude? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @ProQuest or in the comments below.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

This month, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is celebrated in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The festival began in 1972 and is celebrated during the first weeks of October. Here are some fun facts about the festival.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
By Eric Ward from Provo, UT, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

* When the event began in 1972, there were just 13 balloons featured in the festival. Now there are over 500 hot air balloons in the festival!

* The event is held for 9 days.

* People from over 20 different countries participate in the event.

* In recent years, over 80,000 people have attended the event.

* Besides the wonderful hot air balloons at the festival, visitors can also enjoy music, food, and other educational activities.

* If you plan in advance, you can book a ride on a hot air balloon during the festival!

Teachers, direct your students to SIRS Discoverer to learn more about this festival and about hot air balloons. Here are some resources to get you started:

Floating Festival

How Stuff Works: How Hot Air Balloons Work

Hot air balloons

Official website of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Five Reasons Why Teachers Can Benefit from Adult Coloring Books

School is out, the papers have been graded and you’re now home and settled on the couch, ready to enjoy some Netflix — why not color?

If you think coloring is just for your students — think again.

Adult coloring books come in all shapes and sizes, with an endless parade of amusing themes. Want to shade in neon pirates in a water world? Done. What about psychedelic flower gardens complete with fairies and unicorns? These books have got you covered. Kaleidoscopic space scenes to draw your eye; dizzying schools of rainbow fish; funky dinosaurs with a twist; striking mandalas and paisley prints — all of these and more.

It’s deviously simple: pick a design, grab a colored pencil, and let your imagination do the rest. If you’re not feeling creative, that’s fine — you can still fulfill your desire to create, even as you binge through that one season of House of Cards. No flashing lights, no advertisements, no deadlines, and no stress will stand in the way of you and your turquoise, tie-dye mermaid masterpiece. Give yourself a gold star.

Can’t find the yellow pencil? Who doesn’t like blue? Accidentally draw outside the lines? Look at that marvelous new piece of abstract art.

And you certainly wouldn’t be alone. In fact, plenty of people have popularized coloring books for adults, as confirmed on Amazon’s Best Sellers book list. The trending hobby began in 2015 and has only gathered steam. Since then, coloring books have become available via e-books, digital apps, as well as online.

So grab your adult coloring book, adult pencils and your favorite adult beverage … your inner child is waiting.

Here are five ways that adult coloring books can be helpful for teachers:

1. Therapeutic

Coloring alleviates stress, reduces anxiety and increases self-esteem. Focusing on pleasantly-colored designs can also boost your overall mood. Pairs nicely with a glass of wine.

2. Enhance Creativity

When you color, you condition your brain to slowly tune out other distractions. When you finish, you can use your designs as decorations. Frame your prints and hang them in your classroom. Get your students inspired.

3. The Child Within

Escape your daily classroom routine and revisit the nostalgia of your childhood art class. This is something you can do at any age. We won’t tell if you color the dog purple.

4. Tech Detox

No eye strain here. If you’ve been staring at your computer screen more than usual, give your eyes a break with a good old-fashioned paper book. Get yourself in full Zen mode and fill in some mandalas.

5. Socialize

Haven’t seen your adult friends in a while? Host a coloring session of your own with friends. Feeling adventurous? Check your local public library for classes.


**Update**

The editors at the ProQuest Boca Raton office were inspired to show off their creative side.

color1

color2

You can download this ProQuest coloring page using the link below.

http://media2.proquest.com/documents/proquest-ala-coloring-page.pdf

 

100th Anniversary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was established on August 1, 1916, so this year marks the 100th anniversary of the park! The park is located on Hawaii’s Big Island and includes the two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Halemaʻumaʻu crater

Active vent of the Kilauea Volcano (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

To celebrate the centennial, here are some facts about the park:

  • The park was called Hawaii National Park from 1916 to 1961, then its name changed to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
  • Kilauea Volcano has erupted over 60 times since the 1750s. It has been continuously erupting since Jan. 1983.
  • In Aug. 2016, lava from Kilauea dropped into the ocean creating new land. Since 1983, about 500 acres of new land has been added by lava to the island.
  • Mauna Loa Volcano has erupted over 30 times since the 1840s. Its last eruption was in 1984.
  • The top of Mauna Loa Volcano reaches 13,677 feet above sea level. Kilauea Volcano is 4,091 feet above sea level.
  • The park has about 333,000 acres of land. About half of those acres are forests.
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was the 11th park established in the United States.
  • The park receives over 2.5 million visitors each year!
Pu'u O'o

Lava erupting from Kilauea Volcano (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Teachers, for more about this national park, direct your students to SIRS Discoverer. Here are some searches to get you started:

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Volcano

Mauna Loa

An Anniversary for Zoos

Philadelphia Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo in the 1920s (Public Domain) via Flickr

This month celebrates the anniversary of the first zoo opening in the United States. On July 1, 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo, in Pennsylvania, opened its doors to the public. Over 3,000 people visited on opening day. Now, the Philadelphia Zoo gets over 1 million visitors each year.

Zoos were once just a place to see exotic animals from faraway lands. Now, zoos play an important role in housing endangered animals and breeding them in captivity. They also help bring awareness to issues affecting animals around the world, such as habitat loss.

Here are 5 fun facts about zoos:

  • There are over 400 licensed zoos in the United States, plus hundreds of nature centers.
  • There are more than 100 aquariums in the U.S.
  • There are 10,000 zoos worldwide, according to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
  • Schonbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria, which opened in 1752, is the oldest zoo in the world.
  • The word “zoo” is short for zoological garden or zoological park. The word “zoology” refers to the scientific study of animals.

Teachers, for more about zoos, direct your students to SIRS Discoverer. Here are some searches to get you started:

Zoos
Zoo animals
Aquariums
Websites about zoos

Poll: Is the Educator’s Summer Vacation a Myth?

sangria

CC0 Public Domain, via Pixabay

After they met, they sipped sangria and studied each other. He seemed to have potential.

“So, what do you do for work?” he asked.

“I’m a teacher,” she said.

“Oh, it must be so nice to have summers off!” he said.

Her sangria-spiked blood boiled. His insipid, small-talk question was forgivable; his moronic response to her answer was not.

She flung sangria into his face. Fruit and red wine ran down his head. His shirt stained. He looked wounded, bloodied. She immediately regretted her behavior: she just wasted sangria.

***

Sans the sangria, has this scenario ever happened to you?

Of course it has.

It seems like everyone thinks educators spend their summers sunning themselves and sipping sangria at the beach. Nice, right? If only it were true. Last summer, an article on the Atlantic.com declared that a teacher’s summer vacation is a myth. Many educators actually spend the majority of their summers writing lesson plans, attending conferences, taking continuing education classes, teaching summer school, or working second jobs. Does this sound familiar?

Is the educator’s summer vacation really just a myth? Take our poll.

 

May Space Milestones

Launch of Space Shuttle Columbia

Launch of Space Shuttle Columbia (Public Domain) via Flickr

There are many space accomplishments that we celebrate each year. Some are remembered more than others, but they are all an important part of exploring other planets in our solar system and the galaxy beyond. Here is a list of space milestones that land during the month of May to share with your students:

May 5, 1961: Astronaut Alan Shepard was launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 capsule, part of the Mercury mission. He became the second person (and the first U.S. astronaut) to enter outer space.

May 24, 1962: Astronaut Scott Carpenter was launched into outer space aboard the Aurora 7 space capsule, part of the Mercury mission. The capsule orbited earth three times.

May 15, 1963: Launch of the Faith 7 spacecraft, which was manned by Gordon Cooper who spent 34 hours in space.

May 18, 1969: Launch of Apollo 10 lunar module which orbited the moon. The module was manned by two astronauts.

May 19 and 28, 1971: Launch of the Mars 2 and Mars 3 Landers by Russia. Mars 2 arrived on Mars in November 1971 but crash-landed on the surface. It was the first object to reach Mars’ surface. Mars 3 arrived on Mars in December of 1971 and transmitted data back to Earth for 20 seconds.

May 30, 1971: An unmanned spacecraft, Mariner 9, was launched and began orbiting Mars in November 1971.

May 14, 1973: Launch of the Skylab station, by a Saturn 5 rocket, which became the first orbiting laboratory in space.

May 25, 1973: A group of three astronauts were launched into space to board the Skylab station orbiting laboratory for testing.

May 20, 1978: Launch of Pioneer Venus I orbiter. It began orbiting Venus in December 1978.

May 4, 1989: Launch of space shuttle Atlantis by NASA to deploy the Magellan spacecraft, which was sent to observe the planet Venus.

May 13, 1992: First time three astronauts space walked simultaneously from the Endeavour space shuttle.

May 26, 2008: Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars. It analyzed Mars soil and took photos.

May 22, 2012: The SpaceX company launches its first capsule, called Dragon, into space. The capsule delivered food and other supplies to the International Space Station.

Teachers, direct your students to SIRS Discoverer to learn more about outer space exploration.

5 Things to Know About the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

On December 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). According to the New York Times, the sweeping law “will directly affect nearly 50 million students and their 3.4 million teachers in the nation’s 100,000 public schools.” ESSA is a rewrite of the oft-criticized 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which greatly expanded the federal government’s role in public education. ESSA cedes much of the federal control gained under NCLB. Although the 1,061-page ESSA spans a wide range of education policy topics, certain issues like standardized testing and teacher evaluations have gotten the most attention. Here are five important highlights:

What do you think about the newly signed Every Student Succeeds Act?

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @ProQuest or in the comments below.

Do you and your students want to learn more about the education policy debate?

Check out SIRS Issues Researcher for more information.