Unit 1: Introduction to Controversial Issues



Please write down your initial thoughts on the following:

  • What you think a Controversial Issues is?
  • What do you think about an Open or Closed issue is?
  • Where would you put things like Climate Change or Holocaust Denial?
  • What category would you put Police brutality in? What about Trans-rights?
  • Do you talk about things like this inside your classroom?
  • When a school shooting happens, do you talk about it?

Please answer Here

Learning Targets

  • Students will be introduced to Controversial Issues.
  • Students will be able to tell the difference between an open/closed C.I
  • Students will analyze different scenarios about C.I to figure out why they might matter.

Lesson 1.1: What is Controversy?

Before we get to the ideas and the strategy behind talking about various controversial issues at hand, I believe first we must correct label and identify what a controversial issue is.

According to Stradling (1985) he defines controversial issues as 'those issues on which our society is clearly divided and significant groups within society advocate conflicting explanations or solutions based on alternative values'" (p.9)

Can you think of anything that you would consider a controversial issue?

Take a second and write them down.

Lesson 1.2 & 1.3 - Open/Closed Controversial Issues

Now that we have an understanding of what C.Is are, we can talk about open/closed C.I.

First to understand them, we have to understand controversy. Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of conflicting opinion or point of view.

Controversy (among the public and/or within the discipline) occurs when:

  • Individuals think an issue is closed and therefore not open for discussion.
  • Individuals think an issue is open and in need of discussion.
  • Issues are in the process of tipping—moving from closed to open or open to closed.

An open controversial issue is something that is deeply in need of discussion.

Can you think of any topics that need to be talked about?

A closed C.I is something that no longer needs to be discussed or it is something that is not open for discussion. Something like that would be something like Holocaust Denial.

We also have tipping controversial issues, which are things moving from either a closed to open. or from open-to-closed. Something like that could be making all drugs legal. That in the past would be considered nothing at all to be considered, but now it is something that should be considered inside of the classroom.

Lesson 1.4: Scenarios of Controversial Issues to show their importance

Below, dear reader, you will have to do some work. You will be tasked with reading various scenarios involving controversial topics/issues that occur around the country. You will then determine whether or not those topics are considered open C.I or closed C.I. After you will reflect on why you think these things matter inside of the classroom?

Scenario 1

Imagine you are Mr.Collins. Mr.Collins is a 10th grade English teacher. He teaches in a very diverse community in the outskirts of an major city. One morning on a brisk November afternoon, after a hard day of teaching A Long Walk to Water, you finally arrive home. You quickly turn on the television and you see Breaking News flashing across your T.V screen. Another BIPOC has been shot by police. You realize that this has been happening more and more as the years go on, with the latest invention of the body camera. You realize that the person shot looks a lot like the students that you teach. Walking into school the next day, you overhear students talking about what happened. How it was another misuse of police power, how some people believe this is an overstep of police power. You also overhear students talking about how the cop was in the right, that the person had been running away from the police as he was shot. You have heard this story before, this is not one that is new to you, or new to your students.

Is this something that you would talk about inside of your classroom? Would you consider this an open or closed Controversial topic? Why would you think that?

Scenario 2

Imagine here you are Ms.Hasting. Ms.Hasting is a 8th grade Social Studies teacher. She teaches in a very affluent neighborhood, your students are not very diverse. One afternoon you are studying the Holocaust. You hear a student mention something about the Holocaust, how there is no possible way something like this had even happened. No way that no one on the planet knew that this was going on, that Germany had no way to exterminate that many people, that it was just the lame-stream media drumming up hate for white people. That Germany was looking to deport the Jewish people, they had no 'Final Solution', that the concentration camps did not exist. That the camps they found were labor camps, but the atrocities that people claim to have happened there never really happened.

This is something to think about. Is this, Holocaust Denial, a closed or open Controversial Issue? Why would you consider it that way?

Scenario 3

Imagine you are Mr.Carter. Mr.Carter is a gym teacher for multiple grades inside of a middle school. This middle school is your average run of the mill middle school. Your population is just average. Nothing really special about them. You witness a protest rally outside one day, while you are teaching your gym class. They are protesting that the Zoo in the city is shipping in an endangered species of elephant from Africa. They are protesting based on the idea that Zoos are actually prisons and they should not be locked up. They make reference to the 1904: St. Louis World’s Fair, where one of the most famous human zoos existed. That these places are really prisons for animals and they should not be shown off, rather they should be free to exist in their habitats.

Would you consider this issue open, or closed, would it maybe considered tipping from one category into another? Why do you think it is that way?

Now that you have had time to read through the three scenarios and given these questions some thought, I want you to think.

  • Why do things like this matter?
  • Why do these ideas, these Controversial topics/issues, matter?
  • What is the purpose of talking about them?
  • How can they impact us?

Think about it.

Reflect on Unit 1

Now that we have been through four lessons, I would like you to reflect.

Reflect on why these things may matter, reflect on what you have learned.

Can you tell the difference between an open or closed C.I?

Do you know what a C.I even is?

Are you starting to gain an understanding as to why these things matter?

Do you think this is a waste of time?

Do these things have a place inside your classroom? Why or why not?

Please include your answers here, it will be good for you to reflect on your learning for later.

Unit 2

Click Here to go to Unit 2!