Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies



TITLE:     THE SEARCH FOR A MEANINGFUL DIALECTIC

AUTHOR:   Dwayne Blackwell; Northwest High School,Justin, Texas

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT: 12   Government 

OVERVIEW:   When pressured by an overzealous, high-pressure
instructor, some students will participate in class discussions about
public policy issues; however, even the most dedicated, creative
instructor eventually confronts one or more of the following
conditions/situations:

1.  Students who participate in public policy discussions are not
sophisticated enough to address the more abstract issues because
they are not conversant with models or paradigms which may be used
for evaluating the pros and cons of particular public policy
arguments.

2.  Other students passively sit and listen to classroom discussions,
yet retain very little of the information imparted during such
exchanges.  Not surprisingly, research indicates that students retain
less if they do not actively participate in the learning process.

PURPOSE:    The primary purpose of this activity is to introduce each
student to a framework of political and social values which may be
used to evaluate the validity of any public policy debate, bill, law,
etc.  A secondary purpose of this activity is to socialize the learning
process by introducing cooperative learning in terms of the group
investigation model.

OBJECTIVES:
As a result of this activity, the students will:
           1.  Primary
               a.  Identify a "real-world" problem which
                   needs a solution.
               b.  Use a legal-ethical model or paradigm
                   to evaluate the problem area.
               c.  Formally present their identified
                   solution(s) to a problem area.
               d.  Use their version of the legal-ethical
                   framework or paradigm to question the
                   validity of various solutions to the
                   identified problem area.
           2.  Secondary
               a.  Help students become acquainted with
                   each other.
               b.  Help students acquire interpersonal
                   and small group skills.
               c.  Introduce students to the first and
                   second stages of the inquiry model.
                   The model includes four stages:

                   Stage 1 - Orientation; sensitization to a
                   public policy issue which students
                   consider a major problem in American
                   society; students identify values and
                   value conflicts as they articulate the
                   causes for the problem.

                   Stage 2 - Students choose possible
                   solutions to the problem area.

                   Stage 3 - Students identify the best
                   possible solution(s) to the problem
                   area.

                   Stage 4 - Presentation of the best
                   solution(s) as a result of the research -
                   the bill.

ACTIVITIES - STUDENT

           1.  Day One:
               a.  Announce to the class that the class will
                   be doing group work for the next 2 to 3
                   class periods.  Point out to the class
                   that the groups will be formed on topics.
                   Turn overhead projector on and project a
                   suggested list onto the screen:
                   censorship of Rock lyrics; teenage
                   curfews; civil rights for nonwhites ( a
                   quota system for public universities);
                   economic democracy; punishment for
                   habitual sex offenders.  Continue to
                   point out that each group will be limited
                   to 5 students and that no two groups will
                   be allowed to research the same topic or
                   problem area.  Emphasize that the topics
                   will be assigned on a first come first
                   served basis.  At this point, start
                   putting pressure on the students to form
                   their groups.  Encourage students to make
                   a choice of topics.

               b.  After 4 or 5 groups have formed, instruct
                   the groups to elect a chairperson,
                   recorder, philosopher, facilitator,
                   artist, etc.  Titles may vary with the
                   interest of the group.  The important
                   point is for everyone to have a role and
                   function.  Put considerable pressure on
                   the groups to expedite this activity.

               c.  Instruct the groups to identify and list
                   in writing several possible causes for
                   their problem area.  Encourage each
                   member of each group to participate.
                   Quite obviously, you will be moving from
                   group to group while monitoring group
                   and individual activity.

               d.  After the groups have struggled with
                   finding causes for their problem areas,
                   start distributing copies of two study
                   sheets ( see Joyce and Weil, Models of
                   Teaching, pp.264-265): "The Legal-
                   Ethical Framework: Some Basic Social
                   Values" (Table 15-1) and "Some General
                   Problem Areas" (Table 15-2).  After you
                   have distributed the study sheets,
                   suggest to the groups that the study
                   sheets should be used as a reference
                   source as they attempt to identify values
                   which may have caused the problem area.
                   At this point (close for the end of Day
                   One), assign the study sheets for
                   homework and suggest that the groups
                   should start thinking about solutions to
                   the problem area if they have not done so
                   already.

           2.  Day Two:

               a.  Ask each group for their list of causes.
                   While perusing the lists, suggest that it
                   is now time for each group to come up
                   with solutions to the problem area.
                   Emphasize that the solutions should take
                   into consideration the possible
                   consequences of their solution(s).  You
                   should also emphasize that each group
                   should identify any underlying value
                   conflicts by using the study sheets as
                   a resource.

               b.  Announce at this point that the groups
                   will start making their presentations on
                   Day Three.  Point out that all members
                   of each group should somehow have a part
                   in the presentation.

               c.  With ten minutes left in the period,
                   encourage the groups to finalize their
                   activities by completing their written
                   lists of causes and solutions.  Remind
                   the groups that they should present their
                   findings in terms of a legal-ethical
                   framework.

             3.  Day Three:

               a.  Ask the groups to volunteer for the order
                   of presentation.  If there are no
                   volunteers, then simply select any one
                   group.

               b.  Sitting together in their area of the
                   room, each group will have a spokesperson
                   (usually the elected chairperson) to act
                   as moderator for the discussion.
                   Instruct the class to listen to the
                   group's findings.  The floor will then be
                   opened to questions about the validity of
                   the solutions, observations, etc.
                   Emphasize that the discussion will
                   revolve around the relationship of the
                   solution(s) to the two study sheets.

ACTIVITIES - TEACHER

           1.  When the students are forming groups and
               identifying problem area causes and
               solutions, the teacher guides, advises,
               encourages, counsels, and yes, even threatens
               in a gentle way each student and group.
               Necessarily, the teacher will model the
               various social skills which are necessary
               for the success of cooperative work.

           2.  As each group presents its findings about the
               problem area, the teacher must fulfill
               several responsibilities:

                   The teacher, using the Socratic method,
                   models for both active and passive
                   students a method by which each group's
                   positions are probed by "...questioning
                   the relevance, consistency, specificity,
                   and clarity of the student's ideas until
                   they become more clear and more complex."
                   (see: Joyce and Weil, Models of
                   Teaching, p. 263).  Gradually, through
                   the modeling process, the teacher exposes
                   each group and each student to a legal-
                   ethical framework or model which can be
                   used for analyzing public policy issues.

           3.  As students become more actively involved in
               class discussions, the teacher will become
               less active and more passive in terms of
               class discussion.  The teacher refocuses the
               discussion only if students stray too far
               from the path of applying the model to the
               discussion.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER

           1.  After each group has thoroughly discussed
               their problem area, the teacher achieves
               closure by relating the specifics of the
               discussion to the legal-ethical values
               paradigm.  During this phase, the teacher
               constantly encourages students to interact
               and offer their observations about the
               relationship of the paradigm to the problem
               area(s).

           2.  On a more covert level, the teacher and
               student slowly realize that the goal of
               public policy is to achieve a "balance of
               values in which each value is minimally
               compromised.  To achieve such a balance,
               each party in a controversy should try to
               understand the reasons and assumptions
               behind the other's decisions." (see: Joyce
               and Weil, Models of Teaching, pp.263-268)

           3.  This activity is used to introduce the first
               and second stages of a cooperative research
               project which will involve the student in
               writing and passing a bill into law.

                        ADDENDUM

                     TABLE 15-1  
THE LEGAL-ETHICAL FRAMEWORK: SOME BASIC SOCIAL VALUES

RULE OF LAW.  Actions carried out by the government have to be
authorized by law and apply equally to all people.

EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.  Laws must be administered
fairly and cannot extend special privileges or penalties to any
one person or group.

DUE PROCESS.  The government cannot deprive individual citizens of
life, liberty, or property without proper notice of impending
actions (right to a fair trial).

JUSTICE.  Equal opportunity.

PRESERVATION OF PEACE AND ORDER.  Prevention of disorder and
violence (reason as a means of dealing with conflict).

PERSONAL LIBERTY.  Freedom of speech, right to own and control
property, freedom of religion, freedom of personal associations,
right of privacy.

SEPARATION OF POWERS.  Checks and balances among the three
branches of government.

LOCAL CONTROL OF LOCAL PROBLEMS.  Restriction of federal
government power and preservation of states' rights.


                                   TABLE 15-2  
                     SOME GENERAL PROBLEM AREAS
__________________________________________________
PROBLEM AREAS    SAMPLE UNIT TOPICS     CONFLICTING VALUES
__________________________________________________

Racial and       School Desegregation       Equal Protection
  Ethnic           Civil Rights for Nonwhites   Due Process
  Conflict          and Ethnic Minorities        Brotherhood
  of Man           Housing for Nonwhites and         v.
                    Ethnic Minorities        Peace and Order
              Job Opportunities for    Property and Contract
                Nonwhites and Ethnic         Rights
                Minorities                 Personal Privacy
              Immigration Policy            and Association
Religious and   Rights of the Communist    Freedom of Speech
 Ideological     Party in America            and Conscience 
Conflict      Religion and Public Education       v.
               Control of "Dangerous" or    Equal Protection
                "Immoral" Literature     Safety and Security
               Religion and National           of Democratic
                Security: Oaths,               Institutions 
                Conscientious Objectors
               Taxation of Religious Property
 Security of     Crime and Delinquency         Standards of
   the                                           Freedom
   Individual                                   Due Process
                                                     v.
                                             Peace and Order
                                           Community Welfare 
Conflict        Organized Labor                Equal or Fair
  among         Business Competition and       Bargaining
  Economic       Monopoly              Power and Competition
  Groups  "Overproduction of Farm Goods  General Welfare and
           Conservation of Natural          Progress of the
            Resources                          Community
                                                     v.
                                      Property and Contract
                                        Rights
Health,   Adequate Medical Care:          Equal Opportunity
Education,     for the Aged,             Brotherhood of Man
 and Welfar    for the Poor                      v.
          Adequate Educational         Property and Contract
            Opportunit                   Rights
          Old-Age Security
          Job and Income Security
Security of   Federal Loyalty-Security    Freedom of Speech,
  he Nation     Programs                    Conscience, and
              Foreign Policy                Association
                                            Due Process
                                            Personal
                                              Privacy
                                                 v.
                                        Safety and Security
                                           of Democratic
                                          Institutions


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