This summer, the Supreme Court made a strong statement for human rights and determined that same sex marriage is a Constitutional right. Most schools were out of session, so this historic decision may not have come up yet in your classroom discussions. Not only is this a teachable moment about the Constitution and human rights, but it is also a great time to talk about the nature of debating and making hard decisions. When something divisive comes up in the news, how do we use this as a teachable moment in our classrooms? It may be difficult to bring up a controversial topic because you stir up strong emotions that may take discusions in unpredictable directions as opinions fall to opposing views. It may open you up to criticism from parents. Although it is difficult, teaching resiliency and integrity is the best way to equip our young people for their role as participatory citizens.

While it is not easy, the classroom is the ideal place to teach students how to hold potentially divisive conversations. While the media stirs up shouting and reactivity, the classroom provides the opportunity for research and instruction on debate techniques. In the classroom, you can teach students to identify and explore reliable sources that present different points of view. You can model and teach students to make reasoned arguments and listen to opposing views without reacting with anger. The safe enviroment of the classroom is a place to explore issues and practice forming a point of view with words and presentation skills.

  • You may start by asking your students about the issue of discussing hard topics in school and how to show respect for different points of view.
  • They may have great ideas about how to share what they learned with their families, the community, and beyond. 
  • Ask students what techniques they have observed in the presidential debates for effective and non-effective communication of issues. 

We are raising justice-oriented citizens who not only contribute to discussions, but will help shape the way we talk in the future. Learning to Give provides lesson plans that guide teachers as they introduce relevant topics for student investigation and lead students to using their voice or taking action. Search Learning to Give for lessons related to LGBT issues, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court.