Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies
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Chapter 6: The Study of Controversial Issues in Social Studies. Learning Topics Global Thinking and Local Sensitivity The Ethics of Critical Thinking Understanding Community Norms and Values Gender, Sexuality, Age, Race, and Disability in Social Studies

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Chapter 6: The Study of Controversial Issues in Social Studies

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Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Chapter 6: The Study of Controversial Issues in Social Studies

Learning Topics

Global Thinking and Local Sensitivity

The Ethics of Critical Thinking

Understanding Community Norms and Values

Gender, Sexuality, Age, Race, and Disability in Social Studies

Teaching Social Justice and Social Action in the Primary and Junior Divisions

Character Education, Restorative Justice, and Values for Young Learners


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Social Studies education was designed from the outset to get at these big issues of what it means to live together in a democracy, of working together to build a respectful and responsible community, of bringing together various cultures and peoples into a common whole, of giving the young the tools and insights to help create a better world. – Wanda Cassidy, 2004


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Through the sensitive and age appropriate study of controversial issues, we can ensure that our students:

learn how to demonstrate care

understand their roles as global citizens

understand legal issues in global contexts

develop appropriate personal and social values

take appropriate and responsible action.


Teaching students to demonstrate care

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Teaching Students to Demonstrate Care

  • To create a curriculum of caring, Social Studies teachers will need to address controversial issues related to war, poverty, inequity, crimes, socio-economic disparity, racism, sexism, gender discrimination, marginalization, genocide, weapons proliferation, dissent, political participation, unfair trade, privacy, and national insensitivity.

  • Many of these topics will create concern for parents in the school community.

  • It is the role of the Social Studies teacher to ensure that the path toward the responsible treatment of controversial issues in the curriculum is paved through communication and through sensitive handling.


Citizenship education

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Citizenship Education

Citizenship education is central to creating a curriculum of caring in the discipline of Social Studies.

Case and Clark (1999) identify four purposes of citizenship education in our Social Studies programs.


Four purposes of citizenship education

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Four Purposes of Citizenship Education

Social Initiation – Teaching the understandings, abilities and values needed to fit into a productive society.

Social Reformation – Empowering students with the understandings, abilities, and values needed to improve their society.

Personal Development – Fostering personal competencies and interests in students so they develop fully as individuals and members of society.

Academic Understanding – Mastering the knowledge and processes (e.g., inquiry) of the Social Studies discipline as a form of organizer for making meaning of the world.


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

“…citizenship is a complicated idea, affected by many factors, including where a person finds his or her sense of belonging and the degree to which he or she is engaged in the civic culture.” ~ Sears, 2004


Social action for young students

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Social Action for Young Students

  • It is the responsibility of the Social Studies teacher to give careful thought to the role of action in the pursuit of the discipline of Social Studies.

  • In Chapter 1, we examined the scheme called “Topic Elaboration” and found that the potential of a thorough investigation of a topic can lead the learner to ask, “What could/should/might/will be done about this?”. Addressing this question will lead the learner to act.

  • Action that is spurred by passionate beliefs and convictions is empowering and can engage and give meaning to academic studies.

  • However, leading students to engage in action related to their studies requires thoughtful consideration by the teacher to examine the potential actions for pitfalls, and to consider the long term consequences of action.

  • Social action for the sake of being active may be misguided, despite the best intentions of the planners.


Consider these questions when you are planning a social action project

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Consider these questions when you are planning a social action project.

  • Will the project promote a sense of empowerment on the part of the students?

  • Will the project develop a range of civic competencies?

  • Will the project promote academic learning?

  • Is there a high degree of student interest and personal commitment?

  • Is the cost in teacher time worth the potential benefits?

  • Is there a high probability of success in the eyes of the students?


Following through with social action

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Following through with social action

Once a course of action is determined to culminate a study, teachers will need to:

  • Acquire support from school administrators and affected colleagues

  • Acquire support from the local community

  • Gather related information about the proposed course of action, including possible long term effects of the action

  • Provide students with a balanced perspective about the controversial issues or potentially controversial actions

  • Anticipate resource needs, including research data, related to the proposed actions

  • Anticipate consequences of the proposed actions, both short and long term

  • Evaluate alternative courses of action

  • Proceed responsibly

  • Engage students in post-action reflection to move their thinking from “Now what?” (the action) to “So what?” (the influence of their action); this step creates a sense of self-efficacy in students and the belief that their energies can make a difference.


The ethics of critical thinking

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

The Ethics of Critical Thinking

Critical thinkinginvolves habits of mind that cause a learner to systematically consider, analyze, question, investigate, and promote action in a productive, safe, and socially responsible manner.

  • The teacher who seeks to promote and support the use of critical thinking as a central approach in their Social Studies classroom will need to consider the ethics or morality issues of critical thinking.

  • A classroom where critical thinking is the norm will respect both the engagement in critical thinking and the logical action oriented results that will ensue because of that critical approach to examining issues.


Understanding community norms and values

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Understanding Community Norms and Values

Teachers can develop awareness of the norms and values of the school community by:

  • Having early and frequent conversations with parents about the curriculum

  • Holding curriculum nights so that parents can be exposed to the purposes of various parts of the curriculum

  • Providing a curriculum column in classroom newsletters

  • Posting sample strategies that relate to approaches for teaching critical thinking and ethical thinking on a classroom web site

  • Inviting parents to observe and participate in classes

  • Promoting active involvement among parents as volunteers in the classroom

  • Including parents as active participants on field trips

  • Providing parents with samples of work from a student’s portfolio on a regular basis.


Social literacy

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Social Literacy

Social literacy is an appreciation for the values, norms, and laws of the society.

“…social literacy to me involves some appreciation of the legal system” ~ Justice Bora Laskin (1977)


Law methodology

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Law Methodology

Use these strategies to expose students to legal thinking:

Case studies

Mock trials

The moot trial

Mediation


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

“Law-related education is all about issues, about competing values, about what is paramount in society, about how people should be treated, about what is meant by the common good, about the relationship between minority and majority rights, about the kind of society people want to have and the challenges they face in getting there. Law-related education in social studies (legal topics, the law-related perspective, legal methodologies) can provide a natural vehicle whereby important citizenship attributes may be addressed and cultivated in students.” (Cassidy, 2004)


Addressing gender sexuality age race and disability in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Addressing Gender, Sexuality, Age, Race, and Disability in Social Studies

Texts can present distorted images of people and their contributions in each of these contexts, can create gaps in accuracy of the representations of each group, and can overdevelop a single perspective on an event or people to the exclusion of more balanced perspectives.

To address these tendencies in textbooks, teachers in Social Studies will need to:

1.be critical and reflective about the text, graphics, data, and photographs they encounter in texts to uncover distortions and omissions

2.use a variety of other sources to support the text

3.compare perspectives on the same issue or event from a variety of texts that offer differing perspectives.

(Adapted from Clark, 1999)


Using source materials

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Using Source Materials

Instruction in the early primary grades is markedly different than the methodology for using sources that is possible during the junior grades.

Students’ ability to engage text is critical to their ability to analyze it.

In the early primary grades, teachers can model their critical questioning techniques as they examine text and provide many and frequent opportunities to have students examine primary artifacts and photographs for evidence.

Attitudes and aptitudes for tolerance, sensitivity, and inclusiveness are approaches that can be successfully modeled by teachers.


Using primary and secondary source materials

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

USING PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCE MATERIALS

  • Present an account that contradicts another text for discussion of the inherent perspectives of each one.

  • Use two or more sources.

  • Supplement secondary sources with primary sources where possible.

  • Teach students to ask “Why” questions.

  • Expand the background information offered in the text to help develop and contextualize students’ understanding.

  • Have students use text sources then construct their own historical accounts. Attempts to personalize the story elements may help students uncover previously unseen issues.

  • Create related simulations that lead students to explore deeper meaning and emotions related to the issue.

  • Have students illustrate or otherwise render the meaning of a text into another communication format (e.g., a radio broadcast, a cartoon, a slogan, a legal bill, etc.) to help them search for what is missing from the text.

  • Relate the text and graphics of a source to prevailing social trends of the time it was created.


Teaching social justice

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Teaching Social Justice

The concept of social justice springs from a global sense of fairness. When we consider the concept of social justice, this idea includes an understanding that:

the world’s population is increasing

many resources we have come to rely upon are limited

some nations use more resources per capita to support their lifestyle than is typical of other countries

poverty is a global issue.


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Embedded in the concept of social justice is the concept of world peace.

Peace education can foster a sense of social justice through awareness of the differing realities that young children face in unstable countries around the world.

In studying the political conflicts in some countries, teachers will need to use sensitivity and professional discretion to select or develop informative activities that provide deep understanding, while balancing exposure so as not to create anxiety and emotional distress among students.


Character education restorative justice and values for young learners

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Character Education, Restorative Justice, and Values for Young Learners

Teaching values through the school curriculum is:

  • part of the school’s mandate as outlined in provincial/territorial guidelines

  • a pre-condition for learning many other things (e.g., sustainability concepts)

  • a unique opportunity in a school environment because it is a common experience shared by the children in a community

  • an opportunity to create an environment that provides a microcosm of how the community operates as a whole to accommodate many differing opinions

    (Adapted from Case, 1999)


If values are so tough to teach why bother

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

If values are so tough to teach, why bother?

We engage students in the study of controversial issues to help understand both the complexities and values inherent in different perspectives.

The study of controversial issues will lead help students to:

1. Develop greater sensitivity

2.Make informed decisions and judgments after consider all options and many relevant criteria for considering each option

3.Consider, and perhaps accommodate, alternative opinions

4.Process information rather than imposing an external view

5.Explore, clarify, and perhaps justify personal values

6.Appreciate the freedom of opinion that typifies Canadian society where cultural and political pluralism are valued and protected


The social action continuum

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

The Social Action Continuum

Students can achieve a sense of empowerment if their social actions are consistent with their evolving values.

DIRECT ACTION

1.Using influence with those in power

2.Through distanced suggestions and resource supplying actions

3.Possibility that students may not see direct results of their actions

INDIRECT ACTION

1.Directly solving the problem oneself

2.Personal contact with the plans, the problems, and the results of the chosen actions

3.See specific results of personal actions


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Informed Decisions by Active Doers“…the desired role of a citizen is to know what is going on, be a part of it and do something about it.” ~ Chamberlin and Glassford, 1999

Insert we diagram here


Restorative justice

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Restorative Justice

  • Restorative justice is a process that reflects consideration of the relationship between the offenders and offended.

  • Increasingly, it is being used in schools as part of the regime of social problem-solving strategies that can help schools address personal relationships and help students take responsibility for their actions.

  • Restorative justice promotes interpersonal respect and productivity by recognizing the nature and breadth of response to inappropriate actions that impact on an individual or a group.

  • The processes of restorative justice can be used to help students interrogate their own action proposals to reflect on their potential to create consequences for others.


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Restorative justice can be a vibrant component of a values education aspect of the Social Studies program because it stresses what it means to be social. However, social justice initiatives in schools will be most effective when:

an offender accepts responsibility for his or her actions and agrees to participate in seeking a resolution

the offended party freely agrees to participate in the program, without feeling pressured to do so; and

teachers are trained in how to manage negotiation between parties


Correlation skills support the understanding of controversial issues

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Correlation Skills Support the Understanding of Controversial Issues

Another question in the Topic Elaboration inquiry scheme is “What are these changes related to?”

This question would lead students to engage in inquiry through correlation. Data about two or more events could be examined to determine trends.

This data could then be graphed to show the relationship between the events or phenomena.


Using correlations with young children

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Using Correlations with Young Children

Younger children can be taught correlation, using contexts that are based on experience and opinion rather than on researched data.

Examples:

  • What are changes in our school yard play activities related to?

  • What are changes in the size of our community related to?

  • What are changes in my book choices related to?

  • How is a person’s height related to someone’s age?


Chapter review

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Chapter Review

  • Social Studies should teach our students that the destinies of all members of the human race are connected.

  • Students need to be taught ways to demonstrate care and have opportunities to develop their capacity for caring.

  • The study of controversial issues will create the venue to teach caring and expand students’ capacity for caring.

  • Our ethical responsibilities as teachers will guide our curriculum choices when we set about including deliberate attention to caring as part of our Social Studies curriculum.

  • Developing citizenship skills is a necessary part of teaching students to be caring.

  • Social initiation, social reformation, personal development, and academic understanding are purposes of citizenship education.


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

Being a citizen is distinctly different from demonstrating the skills required for citizenship.

The context of our classrooms can provide a model venue for citizenship education in a democracy.

The ultimate goal of citizenship education is to encourage responsible social action.

Teachers should consider some guidelines when examining their Social Studies programs for the possibility of including social action. These guidelines will help to ensure the success of classroom projects geared to social action.

As teachers we need to consider the ethics that underscore the critical thinking skills we teach.


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

  • Character education, values clarification, and cognitive-developmental approaches offer strategies for examining the ethics underlying critical thinking skills.

  • Social action projects in the classroom should reflect sound ethics and resonate with the values and norms of the school community.

  • Discussions about controversial issues in the classroom can be informed by law study strategies, including case studies, mock trials, moot appeals, and mediation exercises.

  • Text materials need to be used with professional discretion and awareness of the sensitivity each one offers to promote inclusion.

  • Teachers can use a variety of principles and strategies to ensure that their Social Studies program offers inclusive perspectives.

  • Valuing social justice concepts is critical to a Social Studies program that promotes productive citizenship as a primary program goal.


Chapter 6 the study of controversial issues in social studies

Social Studies: Innovative Approaches for Teachers

  • Peace education needs to be addressed as a component of social justice.

  • Many cross-curricular strategies can be used to promote mind sets that align with peace education.

  • Character education, values education, and restorative justice practices help young students understand why actions that are ethically defensible are most desirable in a just social context.

  • Values can be taught through thoughtful exposure to, and analysis of, controversial issues.

  • Nurturing values through Social Studies includes the creation of a reinforcing classroom environment, facilitating emotive experiences, and promoting deliberation about controversial issues.

  • Effective social action experiences in the classroom will teach students to consider the potential consequences of their actions from a moral and ethical perspective.

  • Restorative justice practices have implications for social action projects; students can be taught to interrogate their own actions in consideration of the consequences they evoke.


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