- Political essays can engage students in conversations while also strengthening their literacy and critical thinking skills, elementary reading teacher Lori Brenneise writes for Edutopia, noting that she also selects topics she believes will spark students' interest — from current events to historical ones such as the American Revolution — and encourages learners to look at all sides of a global conflict.
- Brenneise prompts critical thinking by asking students questions around a topic and telling them that, through their research, they may find their initial position changes. The students then debate their points with each other to find weaknesses in their arguments and develop rebuttals.
- From there, they craft a rough draft of their essay and share their work with classmates to improve their pieces, including their language choice, structure and the arguments they’ve chosen.
Students often have forceful opinions, articulating strong points of views on a multitude of issues. But to successfully navigate their future work places or even a college environment, students will need to develop skills to engage in respectful discourse — and particularly with people they may not agree with. This is essential, whether discussing politics in a college course or deciding on next steps on a group work project.
Being able to rationally examine both sides of an argument can often help all parties find middle ground and then compromise on a decision. This skill also taps into critical thinking and is part of a strong digital citizenship curriculum, as well. Learning how to build a successful argument has also been tied to academic success for high school students.
While these skills can easily be woven into journalism and debate classes, they can also be tied to any subject across the K-12 curriculum. Educators may want to consider setting up ground rules before launching discussions about subjects that may bring up contentious points of view. In that way, they can help teach students how to navigate these topics with respect by focusing on the ideas and arguments rather than the person delivering them.