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Rationale for Teaching a Controversial Issue

Rationalefor Teaching a Controversial Issue

Rationalefor Teaching a Controversial Issue

Thereare various controversial issues in the society in which peopleexpress different feelings. Creating awareness on the topics isapproached with a lot of skepticism to avoid eliciting unwantedfeelings. A controversial topic is defined as a discussion in thepublic arena that has both supporting and opposing sides. Such topicshave the capacity to create a dispute and an intense because there isusually no side with inadequate justifications of the position taken(Bruen, Crosbie, Kelly, Loftus, Maillot, McGillicuddy, &ampPechenart, 2016). In the United States, various topics are consideredto be controversial, and the debate arises as to whether it isappropriate to teach them to children in the different grades. Acquainting learners with the contentious issue of slavery in theUnited States can be contributory in dispelling the myths andtypecasts that children are exposed to because teachers can introduceit from a contextual point of view and familiarize the students tothe landmarks made by the country towards racial impartiality.

WhyControversial Topics are included in Social Studies

Educatorshave found the need to teach controversial topics to children inclass. Although one school of thought is greatly opposed to the idea,there are various rationales for enlightening the topics in aclassroom set up. According to Bruen et al. (2016), social studiesinstructors approach the issues from an impartial stance, and this isnot only healthy for the immediate discussion but also for thelong-term perception that learners assume later in life. This isunlike in an informal set up where children are likely to be orientedto hardcore stances by family members, friends or other influentialpeople in their circles.

Vydiswaran,Zhai, Roth, &amp Pirolli (2012) observe that it would be foolhardyto assume that children will not access the information fromdifferent sources in the community. Secondly, the content of socialstudies would be incomplete without mentioning some of the topics ofimportance in the society. If teachers bury their heads in the sandby overlooking the topics, there would be knowledge gaps among thelearners.

Inaddition, controversial topics are included in the social studiescurriculum because the courses provide accurate data from credibleand impartial sources. According to Loewen (2013), there are variousmyths surrounding the controversial issues with some individualsexaggerating the facts to suit their arguments. However, it isnoteworthy that the information given by the teachers serves as afoundation for the learners to weigh and place future information.The inclusion of the topics in social studies is, therefore,justified.

Slaveryin the United States

Slaverywas first introduced in the country in 1619 in the North Americancolony of Jamestown. They came as imported labor to work in the largeplantations. During the 17th and 18 centuries, slavery had spread toall the parts America (Schneider &amp Schneider, 2014). The largeplantation owners were attracted to the provision of cheap labor, andthey procured the individuals shipped form different countriesparticularly Africa.

Theinvention of cotton gin solidified the need for slaves in thecountry, especially in the Southern States. The masters maximizedproduction of cotton to feed the industries in England by overworkingthe subjects and intimidating them. To keep tem subjective, they weredenied education, the right of congregating and gaining education. Inthe South, slaves constituted a third of the population, and themasters influenced the adoption of codes that enabled them toexercise a heavy hand on them (Schneider &amp Schneider, 2014).

Inthe mid-19th century, there emerged various movements to abolishslavery in the country. Some freed slaves and White liberationistsembarked on a nationwide activism to compel the slave owners to relaxthe rules that governed slaves. Although the efforts began in theSouth, they resonated throughout the country with the help ofindividuals who had similar sentiments. Through the UndergroundRailroad, thousands of slaves were able to run away from theircallous masters. The 13th Amendment that was enacted in 1865officially abolished slavery. This led to the slaves being awardedcitizenship (Schneider &amp Schneider, 2014).

Thistopic would be appropriate to be taught to learners in the fifthgrade. The rational for this is that at their age, they are alreadybeing acquainted with the discrepancies in the country that areassociated with color. The differences can be traced back to slavery,and it would be more appropriate if they get an impartial genesis onthe issue. Additionally, the learning institutions have mixed raceswith African-Americans forming a significant section of thepopulation. Explaining the racial difference from a historicalperspective can be an invaluable approach since it will help indispelling the myths perpetrated in some informal settings.

WhySlavery is Controversial

Slaveryis among the most controversial issues in the history of the UnitedStates because its effects are still evident in the society. It isintense since it is argued between the lines of Whites who make 77%of the population and African-Americans, who are the largest minoritygroup in the country constituting 13.2% of the citizens (Omi &ampWinant, 2014). The White supremacy over the Black slaves and themistreatment meted against them sparks anger and perceivedunfairness. Even after the abolition of slavery, there are variousbeliefs that are still held by some sections of the Native Americansthat consider the Blacks as weaker and inferior.

Anothercontroversy also stems from the rights that were alienated from theslaves. Even after the abolition of slavery in 1865, the free men andwomen could not enjoy similar liberties with the Whites. For example,they were not allowed to vote until 1965 when all the blacks wereallowed to vote (Omi &amp Winant, 2014). This is likely to sparkhatred and the Blacks by being acquainted with how the NativeAmericans treated their ancestors. In a class with mixed races, itwould be imperative to approach the topic with caution to avoidgiving the wrong impression of either case. According to Savenije,Van Boxtel and Grever (2014), it is easy to make children understandthe conditions that led to slavery and the treatment they weresubjected to as well as explaining the tremendous steps that thecountry has made to addresses the injustices.

Relevanceof Teaching about Slavery in Social Studies

Socialstudies involve understanding the trends in the society and theirorigins. The current population composition of the United Statesnecessitates teaching students about the origins of different peopleand their practices. According to Bickford &amp Rich (2014), sincethe Blacks make up the largest minority in the country, it would beimpossible to understand them comprehensively without touching onslavery. Additionally, majority of the Blacks occupy the southernstates. Slavery can be the best topic to explain their earliestpresence in the country.

Thetopic is also relevant because it there are still observabledifferences in economic and health standards between the Blacks andthe Whites. Since learners can be interested in understanding thegenesis of the discrepancies, it would be imperative to introduceslavery in the curriculum. In addition, major historical timelines inthe United States, especially in the 17th and 18th century, revolvearound slavery. A significant number of amendments had an element ofaddressing the issue. For example, the 13th and 14th amendments weremeant to abolish slavery (Schneider &amp Schneider, 2014). On thesame note, the Bill of rights in the American constitution waslargely intended to introduce equality that was instigated byslavery. It is, therefore, a relevant topic in social studies and thestudy of American history.


Conclusively,acquainting students with the controversial issue of slavery in theunited states can be instrumental in dispelling the myths andstereotypes that children are exposed to because teachers canintroduce it from a contextual point of view and orient the leanersto the milestones made by the country towards racial equality.Teaching fifth grade learners about slavery will assist them informing positive attitudes towards each other and shield them frompartial stances in the informal settings. Slavery also forms the coreof American history and the social studies curriculum would beinadequate without addressing it. Therefore, having an informedopinion about racial characteristics of the citizens from the variedracial backgrounds should not be ignored since it can assist inshaping the controversy positively.


BickfordIII, J. H., &amp Rich, C. W. (2014). Examining the representation ofslavery within children’s literature. SocialStudies Research and Practice,66.

Bruen,J., Crosbie, V., Kelly, N., Loftus, M., Maillot, A., McGillicuddy,A., &amp Pechenart, J. (2016). Teaching Controversial Topics in theHumanities and Social Sciences in Ireland: Using Structured AcademicControversy to Develop Multi-Perspectivity in the Learner.JSSE-Journalof Social Science Education,15(3),18-25.

Loewen,J. W. (2013). Teachingwhat really happened: How to avoid the tyranny of textbooks and getstudents excited about doing history.New York N.Y.: Teachers College Press.

Omi,M., &amp Winant, H. (2014). Racialformation in the United States.New York N.Y.: Routledge.

Savenije,G., Van Boxtel, C., &amp Grever, M. (2014). Sensitive ‘heritage’ofslavery in a multicultural classroom: Pupils’ ideas regardingsignificance. BritishJournal of Educational Studies,62(2),127-148.

Schneider,D., &amp Schneider, C. J. (2014). Slaveryin America.New York N.Y.: Infobase Publishing.

Vydiswaran,V. G., Zhai, C., Roth, D., &amp Pirolli, P. (2012, October).BiasTrust: Teaching biased users about controversial topics. InProceedingsof the 21st ACM international conference on Information and knowledgemanagement(pp. 1905-1909). ACM.