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February 1, 2014
Vol. 56
No. 2

Resources for Teaching "Controversial" Topics in Social Studies

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      From the February 2014 Education Update feature, "The Class Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest"
      • The Choices for the 21st Century Education Program at Brown University is a nonprofit that develops curricula and training for high school teachers on current and historical international issues.
      • The Council for the Social Studies website contains an archive of articles and lesson plans to help teachers engage students in current events.
      • The Educational Leadership articles "Clash! The World of Debate" (open access), "Thinking About Patriotism" (open access), and "Discussions That Drive Democracy" (ASCD members-only access) provide guidance for developing students' debate skills, preparing students to participate in civic life, and recognizing and honoring diverse viewpoints.
      • Facing History and Ourselves engages students of diverse backgrounds in examining racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. The site contains lesson plans and units.
      • Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility sponsors the website, which includes questions and resources for planning lessons around controversial current issues.
      • Outside the Cave is New York City social studies teacher Stephen Lazar's blog.
      • The National Council for the Social Studies' College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) standards website includes a helpful, downloadable framework that makes connections between C3 standards, English Language Arts Common Core standards, and other disciplines and describes the inquiry arc that organizes C3.
      • New York Times' Learning Network blog describes how teachers can use the Times' "Room for Debate" column to have students dissect topics from multiple perspectives.
      • presents the pros and cons of debatable issues in a balanced and comprehensive way.
      • Social studies teacher Beth Sanders uses the program Start Empathy ( as the curricular base for building a respectful classroom community.
      •, a Web project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers subscriptions to Teaching Tolerance magazine and many lesson plans and videos at no charge for K–12 educators.
      • Follow the Twitter hashtag #sschat to connect with a community of social studies educators.
      • Youth Converts Culture (YCC) is an initiative of Alabama educators Beth Sanders and Daniel Whitt. YCC's mission involves using technology to give students a platform for developing empathy, student voice, and social awareness. The site connects to student-created videos on such topics as the cost of health care and college.
      • Youthspeak uses poetry and spoken word as the medium for youth civic engagement. The site's blog is a rich resource for video and critical commentary regarding social justice issues.
      • Zinn Education Project applies critical thinking to historical topics and presents lessons, activities, and whole books, which are available for download and organized by time period, theme, or resource type.


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