Your Voice Matters

In the context of the course, ask students to write down a short statement of opinion about something related to the course and/or something in the news. Have a discussion in which they compare their ideas to those of other students. The practice reading laterally by searching the web for sources that address the issue. Map out the range of approaches to the issue. You might take the opportunity to talk about how to refine or reformulate a simple web search and how to quickly check on the reputation of a news source. (Wikipedia has surprisingly good coverage of publications and major websites.) Have students return to their statement and revise it in light of the exploration and class discussion while affirming that meaning is something that is made and they have a role to play in making it – and finding out what the range of thought is on an issue can help them understand issues, that teachers aren’t looking for the right answer so much as for developing thoughtful and informed positions.

Depending on the issue, this may also be an opportunity to help students identify trustworthy sources and discuss what makes them trustworthy. (As Mike Caulfield has pointed out, students need to develop trust more than they need to develop cynicism; they’re already really good at cynicism.) Or it might be a good time to discuss how they keep up with news, an opportunity to both get to know one another and develop strategies for civic engagement.