3 Best Resources on Talking to Students About Controversial Issues

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Teachers play a significant role in helping students navigate this complex world that we live in. And that is why many students see their classroom as a place where they can consider alternative perspectives and get more information about controversial issues. Students need to have an opportunity to interact with their college classmates who have opposing views to understand others better and practice civil discourse skills. 

Although nowadays, in this increasingly polarized and politicized world, some teachers who want to engage their students in conversations about controversial issues have to face student resistance to Critical Thinking and are worried about losing control over the classroom or divisiveness. For example, police brutality in the United States is one of those issues, and sometimes university teachers will read a book or assign their students to write essays on this specific topic. If that is your case, you can read some of the police brutality essay samples to improve your writing. But unfortunately, even if their approach is nothing but good, they still end up with negative feedback such as: seeking to indoctrinate students or that they have politicized classes. 


However, as bad as that is, it is still important that teach ers discuss it. There are many ways and practices for managing controversial issues in the classroom that can be out of huge help. Some other common controversial issues that students can meet are gun control, Prayers in public schools or campuses, corporal punishment, content of textbooks, racial discrimination, students with special needs, etc. 

But still, many students may wonder why it is important to teach about controversial issues. Well, by teaching it, students will learn topics that are relevant to their life, explore diverse perspectives and deepen their understanding of complex issues, and at the same time, they will gain the opportunity to share ideas, practice to be open and respectful towards the viewpoints of others, listen to their classmates, etc. Basically, building this knowledge and civil discourse skills are essential for students to effectively participate in democracy. 


Three of the best authoritative resources 


One of the best strategies for teaching controversial issues is to use authoritative resources. The difficulty is just finding the best out of the many websites that attempt to do that. So, to make things easier for you, we will share the three best free websites. Each of them has concise background information on every issue and presents the issues by explaining opposing positions. 


ProCon.org: an independent non-profit website founded by Steven C. Markoff that provides resources for critical thinking. It provides student-oriented information on almost 40 current controversial issues, including political cartoons, infographics, and videos. Each of those issues contains a core question and many sub-questions that address ethical, policy, and constitutional issues. Also, each question has a list of pros and cons arguments from experts, and they even offer lesson plan ideas. They also rate every source with 1-5 stars. The only drawback of this website is that they are not offering hyperlinks to the original source. 


Debatepedia: it is known as the Wikipedia of debates. It is an encyclopedia containing con and pro quotes and arguments created by the international debate education association. They use Wikipedia technology and have unlimited guidelines for discussions that are constantly updated. Although, they also allow the students to add their own content. The drawback of this website is that they don’t offer enough background information, and they don’t get deep enough into some of the issues. 


National Discussion and Debate Series: this program contains text, videos, and links from debates from the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. They created it to encourage discussions on the national stage and give great information’s about the major current issues. They mostly share live footage of debates between well-known experts, in which they also give great examples of debate techniques and civil discourse. They also provide their users with a high-level academic background for every issue. The only drawback may be that it is designed for high-level readers who already have some knowledge about the issue. 


Conclusion: Controversy in the classrooms is nothing new. If you were a student in the 1960s, you would have to discuss topics such as “should the Unities States fight in the Vietnam war” Controversy has been a part of education since forever. However, the way that teachers use to teach and address it is constantly changing. Therefore, before using the three resources, make sure they are appropriate for you and your classroom.