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This method invites the participants to stand in a continuum of opinions about a controversial issue. Issues that are clearly controversial and characterized by polar positions should be used in this method.
The issues should have legitimate opposing viewpoints, such as whether the death penalty is constitutional when applied to juveniles or whether stricter gun control is a good way to stop crime.
Teaching about controversial issues forces students to consider polar positions of a controversial issue; to examine alternative positions and their consequences on society and on individuals; to practice the skill of defending a position; and to practice listening to other opinions.
The discussion of controversial issues not only excites participants, but also teaches decision-making, social participation, and conflict management skills.
Teachers are sometimes reluctant to introduce controversy, fearing that participants will be unable to discuss emotionally charged subjects or ambiguous issues rationally. Nevertheless, teaching about controversial issues helps raise participant interest in the lesson and engages participants in learning and practicing meaningful skills through reasoned debate.
The following suggestions can help make controversy constructive and educational:
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