Teaching Controversial Issues in a Sharply Divided America | Discovery Education
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Teaching Controversial Issues in a Sharply Divided America

What can teachers do to address controversial issues and model the civic virtue of respectful debate?

Whether it is situations related to police use of force or debates about historical monuments in public places, Americans’ differing points of view are creating friction and sometimes boiling over. Teaching students the thinking skills associated with analyzing the arguments on multiple sides of an issue is an important reason to teach controversial issues.

Many current controversial issues relate closely to approved topics in the curriculum, and students do benefit when these issues are taught. But it is important for the teacher to be able to explain succinctly how the lesson relates to the approved curriculum and how students will benefit from the time devoted to discussing the issue.

At Discovery Education we found it’s best to address controversial issues directly, so long as instruction is conducted in a careful manner. We use the Five P’s to guide our thinking and to help students build respectful dialogue: Purpose, Preparation, Process, Practice, Perspective.


This is only an excerpt. In the full article, you can learn:

  •  Five big ideas for individual teachers or for a team of teachers to keep in mind when planning and teaching lessons on controversial issues
  • Important benefits to students from participating in lessons that include discussion of controversial issues
  • Social Studies Techbook activities – for all to experience – that provide guidance for holding structured class discussions
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Social Studies Techbook is a comprehensive, standards-aligned, core curricular resource that uses an inquiry-based approach to enhance literacy and critical thinking skills. Courses in this digital social studies textbook include U.S. History, World History, Civics and Government, and World Geography and Cultures.

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