January 06, 2011
Teachers today have the challenging yet rewarding task of educating a classroom filled with diverse learners who represent a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Within these students lies a multitude of opinions and viewpoints about controversial topics that are imbedded in some of the content that is taught. Two of these content areas are history and social science. While avoiding controversy may be limited, what is not is the ability to teach controversial issues in the classroom. “Addressing Current Controversial Issues through the Social Studies Curriculum: Making Social Studies Come Alive” by Obed Dube (2009) explores the various ways that teachers can address controversial issues. Although this article is written with the focus of teachers in Botswana, the author provides a variety of ways that can be useful for all teachers around the world.
The above mentioned article explores the various ways that teachers can address controversial issues within the social studies curriculum in order to make it as lively and interesting as possible (Dube, 2009). The author provides suggestions for making the instruction and learning of social science as lively, interesting and relevant to all students in order to develop their full potentials as good citizens of this world. It is interesting that Dube points out that the content of social studies instruction concerns itself with the five “W’s”, who what, when, where and why of an issue and/or event. It is the why that tends to draw out the controversy because of the varied opinions and viewpoints that are represented within the classroom.
This is where value-based and standards-based instruction is applied. Value-based instruction is implemented to teach students how to apply what they are learning to their own personal lives and environments. It is meant to guide students to gather evidence from the curriculum and apply it their goal of becoming a good citizen. Value based instruction is driven by emotion, feeling, opinion and thinking. Standards-based instruction is the opposite from value-based instruction. This type of instruction is the “what” of teaching rather than the “how” of teaching. This includes that content and standards that has been established by the Department of Education for instruction in today’s classroom.
It is inevitable that I will be confronted with a controversial topic when teaching social science and history. The methods and strategies that I choose to use are vital to the success of my instruction and classroom. I believe that a high level of mutual respect must first be established and expected between myself and my students. If and when issues arise during controversial topics in my classroom, it is important that the learning environment remain safe. This means allowing students to discuss their points of view without cause emotional harm to others students with opposing viewpoints.
As it has been pointed out previously within this paper, students need to feel that they are in a safe learning environment that allows them the opportunity to discuss controversial issues and topics. As teachers, we must give them this environment with the understanding that everyone will be treated with respect and that the main focus is becoming good citizens and responsible students.
Dube, O. (2009). Addressing Current Controversial Issues through the Social Studies Curriculum: Making Social Studies Come Alive. European Journal of Educational Studies, 1(1), pp. 25-34.