Controversial Issues In The Classroom

1275 Words 6 Pages
Teaching controversial issues in the classroom through discussion is the most beneficial method for students to learn about these matters because it teaches them how to be open-minded, think critically about their own beliefs, and forces them to master their public speaking and interpersonal skills. The benefits of using discussions in classrooms to teach contentious topics are endless but the three previously mentioned have proven to be the most valuable by students, teachers, and parents everywhere. Class discussions force students to listen, embrace, and be respectful of opinions and beliefs that are divergent to their own. As mentioned by David Bridges (1979), an author who has formerly analyzed the notion of discussion, the sharing of …show more content…
The distribution of ideas within in a classroom challenges students’ prior assumptions or beliefs as a result of listening to other perspectives on the subject. Unfortunately many students grow up in environments where they are only exposed to a single opinion or distinct side of an issue therefore when they engage in a meaningful discussion with their peers, where all aspects of the issue are explored, they are then finally able to develop a well-rounded individual notion on the issue. According to Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill, “students can serve as critical mirrors for each other, reflecting the assumptions they see in each other’s positions” (p. 20, ). Not only does this experience force students to reflect about their own opinions but it makes them realize how assumptions often heavily influence beliefs. Students coming to this realization will be more likely to understand the usefulness of trying to understand why another person contains a certain belief by analyzing their prior assumptions and biases. The article “Discussing controversial issues in the classroom” by Michael Hand and Ralph Levinson, explains: “there are times when maybe we’re sharing ignorance together but I think that’s useful for students to realise” (p. 621, 2012). Hand and Levinson are emphasizing the relevance of students observing …show more content…
Many people perceive someone being uncomfortable. Another problem concerning discussions that has been voiced repeatedly is that often students are not prepared enough to participate in disputes as a result of not researching the topic adequately. Once again this obstacle can be both avoided and resolved. If a teacher thoroughly explores the controversial issue before allowing the class to discuss it, there is a much higher chance that this will not occur. What many fail to recognize is that even if students fail to participate in the discussion orally, they are still learning how to listen meticulously and how to decipher the opinions of their peers. A recent analysis done called The Grinnell College Study conducted by Carol Trosset, the Director of Institutional Research and Lecturer in Anthropology at Grinnell College, found that most college students who were asked how likely they were to listen and think about what someone else has said, the majority said that: “they would be likely to listen to someone with whom they already agreed” (1998). While this result was used to argue that discussions are not always effective, I found that this actually exemplifies why the use of classroom discussions are so important.

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