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Friday, September 21, 2012

Election Issues and Critical Thinking Resources



Can there be any other time when critical thinking is more needed than election time?  When we talk about critical thinking in schools, we are talking about getting kids to analyze their thoughts, to see and consider other perspectives.  You really need to look no further than the headlines to find great authentic topics for students to discuss, write persuasively, and learn their facts about!
Want a great unbiased resource for those hot topics?  Procon.org is a great place to start!  Procon.org has got a long list of “controversial” topics perfect for getting kids involved in real life research, reading and discussions!  Here are some examples of how critical thinking ties into your curriculum and can help your students to understand the importance of their vote!:
Social Studies
Procon.org has got a great section devoted to the elections.  Start with this great quiz, 2012 Presidential Quiz:  Find your Match, which asks students their opinions on issues and matches them to the candidates (including the Independents).  What a great way for students to see the issues!  You do not have to answer all the questions and you can see what candidate most closely aligns to your way of thinking.  It also points out how important it is to understand the issues before you vote!  There is another section which lists all the issues and where each candidate stands, in their own words.  There is even a “procon” on voting machines!   
Although social studies is the obvious place to start, there is not one subject area that we teach that does not tie into election issues.   What a great way to get students (and maybe even voters) to understand the relevance of what you teach!
Science
Take a look at the “procons” of the environmental issues that separate the candidates including the environment, energy, geneticially modified foods, etc.  A great answer as to “why do we have to know this?”   Have them discover how the laws and policies of our government depend on good science and impact your life.   There are “procons” for climate change, vaccines for kids, alternative energy vs fossil fuels, the safety of cell phones,and more. 
Health
Health care in general is always in the headlines.  Besides health care policies, there are “procons” on the drinking age, DARE, medical marijuana, obesity, and vaccines.  There are even some on sports – drug use, college football playoffs and whether golf is a sport. 
Math
Take a look at all the numbers in these facts on climate change!   Seems like there are tons of relevant math questions you could come up with based on those facts.  And think about it, they would be talking about real numbers, not just apples, oranges, and trains! 
Language arts:
There are some great topics for reading and writing:  Why not start with topics in education? They could not be any more relevant!  Check out the "procon" on “Are standardized tests improving education?”  Other hot topics include:  video games and violence, social networking, and immigration. They have some great Language Arts lessons plans that hit on the national standards.

The lesson plans they provide hit on national standards in a number of areas.  They even suggest using online discussion boards.  The SCAN online discussion tool at www.tregoed.org will not only allow students to discuss the issues, but it will guide them to clarify them, assess what’s important and come up with an action plan.  There are facts on over 43 controversial issues.  Looks like a SCAN session waiting to happen to me!  Now that’s critical thinking at its best!   Help your students understand the issues and understand the relevance of what they are learning in school.   After all “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts."
- Daniel Patrick Moynihan, American sociologist and US Senator (D-NY)
(1927-2003)

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