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By connecting with real life situations and contexts, learning about controversial issues helps students to ‘unpack’ mixed media messages they encounter.

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Children as Consumers — Global Issues

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There are plenty of real life stories and examples that can be used when teaching about issues that are controversial. These help to make students understand that they are real and that the topics touch(ed) people’s lives. This could be quotes from people involved or viewpoints from pressure groups. These work very well with issues in Religious Education as students can easily relate to different viewpoints on issues such as abortion.

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By connecting with real life situations and contexts, learning about controversial issues helps students to ‘unpack’ mixed media messages they encounter. It provides context and authenticity to learning experiences and it supports enquiry and analytical thinking. By helping learners to clarify their own opinions it can raise self-esteem. Aspects of spiritual, moral, social and cultural education can be addressed through teaching about controversial issues. However, it is important to be clear about your aims as you select teaching content and approaches:

 

The Story of the Colorization of a Controversial Benetton …


Furthermore, it is important to remember that they are children. It is easy to water things down too much and present a ‘Peter and Jane’ version of a controversial issue which, frankly, does the students no good at all. However it is also quite possible to expect too much from students. I have, for example, heard of extremely graphic images being used in relation to teaching controversial topics. On the whole, these are not necessary. They can make the real issues seem less human and more akin to a horror movie.


Teachers are increasingly asked to teach about controversial issues which cut across traditional subject boundaries. Of particular interest to humanists are issues where science, ethics, and religion meet: topics such as the origins of the universe and the evolution of life on Earth, advances in genetics and medicine, and environmental issues.