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Controversial Issues Essay

2243 words - 9 pages

As a social science teacher your role is to teach the complexities of society and the interaction between individuals with society. A complex and contentious interlink, that cannot be taught without coming into contact with controversial and sensitive issues. It has been often argued even with in the teaching of Sociology whether or not sociological research can be value free (******), this is a debate that is also in the minds of sociology teachers, can sociology and similar subject be taught from a value free stance, however given the nature of social science subjects such as sociology, citizenship, politics and history, it is inevitable that teachers in such fields will be faced with ...view middle of the document...

As cited in the Gallagher et al (2010, P: 254) Norman Richardson highlighted the classic definition provided by the Cricket Report in 1998 stated that it is an ‘issue about which there is no fixed viewpoint’ (1998, P: 10). On a similar thread, Bailey (1975) previously also provided a caption of this more straightforward definition as an issue upon which a number of people can be seen to disagree upon. This definition is what Deardon (1981) defined as a behavioural gauge for controversial issues, and in a number of ways is lacking, as it does not provide a definition of an issue which is contrary to reason, therefore aptly argued by Oulton et al (2004 (a), P: 490) in a later study also signposted the deficit in this criterion as it could be seen as ‘merely describing a playground disagreement’.
Although such definitions do provide a starting point for gauging whether an issue is of a contentious or sensitive nature, however it is clear that there is a need for a more specific definition/criterion of what constitutes a controversial issue. McCully (2006: P) signifies the need for a consideration of the emotional dimensions of controversy especially when teaching in a divided and conflicting society. Although directly critiquing Stradling’s definition, the following quote also is applicable to the other definitions discussed previously:
If Stradling’s definition lacks one dimension it is that it fails to embrace that strong emotional element that often accompanies controversial issues in societies characterized by religious, cultural or ethnic conflict. (2006, P: 52)
Thus in keeping with the political, religious and cultural difference present within Northern Ireland, there is a need for a definition which is tailored to the unique social context. It is undeniable that when students are faced with issues in which they have strong value judgements to make, there is a definite emotional reaction underpinning their views and opinions on certain subjects and issues, it is these emotional reactions which make an issues controversial. Emerson (2012, P: 13) develops this further adding the issues which also Challenge personal belief systems and also issues that make pupils feel threatened or confused.
For the purpose of this essay, the context of Northern Ireland and the subjects in concern, it is this emotions based definition which is most fitting. Given the value laden topics that are at the heart of social science subjects, this essay will be exploring dealing with the more sensitive topics rather than those which are considered ‘public issues’ moreover the focus will be on the issues that hit to the heart of the pupils within your classroom(McCully, 2006: P52). If within subjects such as sociology and citizenship in particular there is not the scope to express the emotional reactions then there is the fear that this will cause irrational responses and will not create the correct environment which fosters the open-minded exploration of...

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