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Teaching secondary geography
Teaching secondary geography

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4.3 Why teach controversial issues?

According to Oxfam, exploring controversial issues encourages learners to:

explore, develop and express their own values and opinions, whilst listening to, and respecting, other people’s points of view. This is an important step towards children and young people making informed choices as to how they exercise their own rights and their responsibilities to others.

(Oxfam, 2006, p. 1)

By connecting with real life situations and contexts, learning about controversial issues helps students to ‘unpack’ mixed media messages they encounter. It provides context and authenticity to learning experiences and it supports enquiry and analytical thinking. By helping learners to clarify their own opinions it can raise self-esteem. Aspects of spiritual, moral, social and cultural education can be addressed through teaching about controversial issues. However, it is important to be clear about your aims as you select teaching content and approaches:

the geography curriculum is always controversial. It is ideological and linked to the social, economic and political agendas of the powerful. The ‘morally careful’ geography teacher must choose what and how to teach with critical consideration of underlying purposes. They must ask: what is this geography for ?

(Mitchell, 2013, p. 236)