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Controversy in the Classroom

Controversy in the Classroom

Emporia State provides a number of interesting classes students can take during their academic career. The classes range from biochemistry to American government and even early American literature, but it’s not the subject of the class that makes it interesting, it’s the topics and discussions teachers bring into the class room.

ESU needs more classes with controversial topics.

I’ve had my fair share of lecture classes where the students do nothing but take notes and read for the next class. I enjoy these classes like I enjoy all of my classes, but the courses that incorporate student opinions and ideas into the class discussion tend to be more exciting, especially those that bring up controversial ideas for the students to discuss.

Some of the most memorable classes I’ve had were days when we did nothing but discuss our opinions about abortion, war, politics or gay marriage. The teacher knew that to get the class involved in the debate they needed to ask each student what they thought about the issue. Once the students start talking, the conversation starts to take on a life of its own. Bringing controversy into the classroom can only aid student learning, as long as the professor keeps a neutral stance on the subject and doesn’t allow the class to get out of hand. I believe professors who bring up controversial ideas in class know how important it is to make class time interesting as well as instructional.

Not only do controversies make for a fun day in class, but they also have been proven to benefit students in multiple ways. A 2009 analysis of studies about teaching controversial issues by “Educational Researcher” found that teaching controversial issues in class can, “help focus student attention, increase motivation, produce higher levels of cognitive reasoning, produce higher levels of achievement and retention, as well as increase levels of creativity and divergent thinking and students’ self-esteem.”

The debates that ensue in these classes stimulate critical thinking and respect for other’s viewpoints. I would like to see more of these debates and dialogues in classrooms and on campus. It can only benefit students and staff.

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