published on December 6, 2017
Preparing for Critical Conversations
How Instruction In and Use Of an Ethical Argumentative Framework Can Empower Teachers and Students in Discussing Social Justice Issues in the Secondary Classroom
Though public schools are charged with promoting democratic values, they rarely explicitly teach students how to analyze issues from ethical perspectives. Lack of teacher training, competition for time and overestimation of students’ abilities to independently discern the ethical considerations of complex situations may explain its absence from many social sciences curricula. While the ability to consider actions from an ethical lens is critical to the democratic process, class discussions about controversial issues can unravel quickly when self-serving or emotional dynamics dominate an activity. To plan for a more constructive outcome, teachers must first instruct students in the use of universal ethical criteria as the basis for healthy and productive argumentation and provide ongoing opportunities for practicing ethical argumentation. This article describes how such a framework was successfully introduced into a high school health course to encourage deeper and more respectful group analysis of complex issues from various ethical viewpoints.