Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
Dealing with Controversial Issues
How provocative should social studies topics be?
Some educators believe that certain issues are best addressed privately -- at home, for example -- and that social studies should focus on objective facts. Others argue that public controversy is characteristic of a healthy democracy and that working with others to address multiple perspectives is a skill that students need to develop in a classroom context.
All social studies teachers must inevitably deal with controversial issues, ranging from basic ideas of fairness and equality in a democracy, to immigration, to the distribution of world resources. Controversial issues require students to conduct thorough research, master concepts on both sides of an issue, and develop a perspective of their own.
The most difficult issues often have a profound impact on students, and class discussions about these issues can leave teachers feeling like referees. However, in a democracy it is critical for students to learn how to listen to opposing viewpoints, and the teacher's role must be to create an open forum that allows opposing viewpoints to be fully expressed. The challenge for all teachers is finding the fine line between engaging students' interest and maintaining a sense of objectivity that lets students master the material and develop their own perspectives.