Here are a collection of blogs featuring the theme of using controversy in the classroom; Not necessarily teaching with controversial topics, but using the technique of pitting equally potent concepts against one another during a normal educational lesson. This idea was born in 2019, when I met James Norman, aka Mountain Buddha, author of “The Write Inspiration” blog.
James had written a blog on a controversial topic: Using expletives while teaching college students, “Potty-mouthed Professors: Why They’re the Best” (Oct. 2018). This article was thought-provoking and generated a lot of conversation through comments/replies. In addition to getting involved through leaving a comment, I wrote a blog of my own featuring a conversation I had recently had with my third grade students. We had discussed the controversial topic of blaming others for your farting out loud (Can Controversy be Classy?). James found this hilarious and reblogged it. A friendship ensued.
James and I are planning to research and write on this subject often, thus this page. Please feel free to explore the topic in your own classrooms. You can tag James and I along with using #ControversyCanBeClassy. Who knows, perhaps this will turn into something more than a collection of blogs. We would love to use your stories to further the cause, which ultimately is to help students think more critically. Thanks, and hope to hear from you!
This blog explores the “Problem Novel” as a source of controversy. I didn’t get to talk about the famous “Trolley Problem” depicted as the the feature image of the blog. The authors of Problem Novels are curators of thought experiments. They present a problem, and then they discuss all of the background and nuance surrounding the problem.
In the trolly problem, you have the ability to pull a lever saving several people’s lives, but you end up killing one person to do so. What if you know that the person who you are killing already has terminal cancer? What if you time travel and find out that the single person is a mass murderer, himself? Or, what if you find out in your time travels that the single person is the inventor of a drug that will save countless lives? Think away!
Breaking Out the Controversy
The idiom “Breaking Out” is used to describe providing some research that supports the idea of using controversy in the classroom, as well as the topic for a writing prompt: Prisoners escaping from Alcatraz. I’ve been sitting on several papers that speak to the idea of successfully using controversy to teach.
My students have learned to engage in cognitively conflicting ideas several times this year, so they have been trained in how to deal with the disequilibrium. Their writing and reasoning for this assignment was phenomenal. This blog speaks to a little of the behind the scenes pedagogy of using controversy in the classroom.
Card Games Can Be Controversially Classy
On Thanksgiving I played Cribbage with my family. Witnessing my daughter having to use critical thinking to decide which card to place into the crib, I was reminded of the inner conflict one experiences when confronted with a controversy.
This blog explores different card games analogous to teaching strategies, and proposes teachers try using games in controversial ways or choosing ones that are innately controversial to use in the classroom.
Teeth-Brushing Vs Hand-Washing Controversy
This was one of the first times I purposefully pitted two related topics in order to have my third graders think critically. It was a smashing success!
Can Controversy be Classy?
The original controversially classy blog from The Captain of Class about what to do if you fart out loud. Check it out for some laughs and comment with your perspective/recommendation.