"If you can't intelligently argue for both sides of an issue, you don't understand the issue well enough to argue for either." This quote has never been more pertinent to our country’s political climate than it is today. In the past couple of years, things such as fake Facebook accounts and biased YouTube algorithms have slowly contributed to the political divide in our country by promoting one-sided and (in some cases) fake content to its users. It may seem hard to have an open-minded discussion in a time when free speech is being compromised on college campuses by student protesters, however, there are ways to shorten this divide, and it starts with our youth.
In this article, we’ve included 3 different class projects you can use to complement your current syllabus, and that will help your students think more objectively about current affairs. So how can you, as an educator, contribute to improving open dialogue?
1. Divergent Storylines - the goal for this project is to help your students form their own opinion of a story after reading it on two different news outlets. The objective truth tends to lie between the commonalities of each source:
a) Have your students download a news-aggregator app on their smartphones (if they don’t own a smartphone, they could access one of the following news aggregators through a web browser in your school’s computer lab: Feedly, News 360, Flipboard)
b) Select up to 5 stories for them to choose from, and have them pick one
c) Have them read the story from two opposing news outlets (ex: The New York Times & The New York Post, The Washington Post & The Arizona Republic)
d) Assign a short essay (300 words) on their views of the story and why they think that way (due on Friday)
e) Repeat at the beginning of every week
2. Debate Time - for this project, you will have your students speak alternatively for and against a contention based on a current issue. This will help your students improve their speaking skills, as well as provide your students with experience in developing a convincing argument:
a) Select a current issue, and develop 3-4 arguments for arguments for and against it (so a total of 6-8 arguments)
b) Separate your classroom into two groups and select 3 students on each group (pick different students each time) to be the spokespeople of their respective teams
c) Print out the arguments for each side and provide each team with handouts
d) Give each team 20 mins to discuss the issue amongst themselves
e) Coordinate a debate between both teams and select a winning team
f) Repeat at the end of each week
3. Presentation – for this project, you will assign a current issue to each one of your students at the beginning of the semester and have them argue for/against it (sides of argument should be assigned randomly to the student):
a) Assign a current issue to each one of your students at the beginning of the semester
b) Assign which side of the argument they should work on
c) Provide documents to help them along the way
d) Have them deliver a 10 min presentation at the end of the semester
e) The presentation should argue for or against of the issue
As you can see, there is no reason why learning to think critically can’t be fun. These projects work well in isolation of one another so depending on your time and your student’s course-load, you may wish to incorporate one or more of these projects into your lesson plan. It’s also important to remember that, in education, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. If you wish to adjust a couple of things here and there, then by all means try out what works best for you and your students. It may also be a good idea to make your students a part of the decision-making process.
Have any questions, or thoughts? Make sure to leave them on the comment section. In addition, you can ask us your questions at anytime on social media!