Three important considerations when teaching controversial issues are:
- a teacher's own bias,
- a teacher's fear of attracting unwanted and possibly
negative attention, and
- a teacher's lack of confidence in dealing
with an issue based primarily on unfamiliarity with its details.
following cautions are listed to help teachers present controversial
issues fairly and with sensitivity:
- Controversy is best taught through discussion.
- The teacher has responsibility for ensuring exploration of the issues
so that discussion promotes understanding.
- Students are expected to analyze any controversial issue by asking
the following questions:
- What is the issue about: values, information
or concepts? What is truth?
- What are the arguments? What are the positions
and/or validity of these arguments? Who is presenting the arguments?
Are they "insiders" or "outsiders"?
- What is assumed?
Are the assumptions based on prejudice, racism or ethnocentricity?
- How are the arguments manipulated? What are the politics of the issue?
What role did the media play?
Faulty Arguments to Watch For
Detecting such tactics
gives students a useful tool for assessing an argument and making a
judgment on an issue.
- Scapegoating: Assigning blame.
Thinking: Us/them, weak/strong, rich/poor, good/bad; encourages
distrust, suspicion; presents limited and false choices.
- Ad Hominem Strategy: Judgement
based on who said something rather than on the merit of the statement.
- Irrelevant Appeals: Appeals
to emotion, patriotism, tradition.
- Either/Or Tactic: Forcing a choice by
presenting only two possibilities when there may be others.
- Leading Statements, Slogans: Designed
to damage credibility, encourage hostility, create a false impression.
- False Analogies: Make an inappropriate
connection or comparison.
- Extreme Examples: Used to prove a point,
to slant an argument, to support a prejudice.
From the BCTF resource book “Teaching Human Rights”.