Week 16 – Controversial Topics

Avoiding talking about your own political stances as a teacher is something that is good for some subjects and bad for other subjects. As a future social studies teacher, it will be my job to teach students about past, and sometimes present issues that can be controversial. While it is my job to teach them, part of the job also comes with teaching students about healthy debate. When or if I teach about present day issues, there is bound to be controversy surrounding it and more than likely there is going to be multiple opinions from people in my classroom. In my opinion, I would be doing a disservice to my students if I held back my own beliefs, as it could be a good opportunity for them to learn how to hear a differing viewpoint from their own and respond to it in a healthy and respectful way. 

I think the work by Diana E. Hess does a really good job of giving both perspectives on whether or not a teacher should be disclosing their views about an issue. The four approaches that are mentioned seem to be the same ones that have been used in my time in high school. I had multiple history teachers that either would try to have us adopt their viewpoints, and I also had some teachers who would completely avoid talking about any controversial issues, presumably to avoid any arguments that might ensue. It is healthy for students that learn how to debate a subject, especially in today’s political climate where everything seems to be controversial. It can set up students for when they get out and hear other viewpoints to be able to respectfully disagree and leave it there without getting into an argument. 

Having debates is something that I really want to do in my future classes as I think it is a good way to communicate ideas once students have become fairly familiar with the subject matter. To be able to do this in a successful manner, some strict ground rules are going to have to be set. Respect is the first thing that needs to be mentioned, as it was mentioned before, debates can very easily turn into an argument if there is no respect. Another important rule that I would establish in my classroom would be letting everyone who would like to share their opinions to share it, not letting one person hold the spotlight for too long. Debate is something that in my opinion, is one of the most important things I can teach the students is seeing other viewpoints and considering them before they respond in a negative manner.