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Friday 20 July 2018
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Subjects for classroom discussion


THE INTERNET is bursting with teachable moments these days, and my fear is that teachers are so wrapped up in preparing students for those dreaded end-of-the-year exams that they are not taking notice. Missed opportunities like these are what kill education in the true sense of the word. After all, education is supposed to prepare students for life. Last week, the internet targeted issues that directly impact on teens and their future.

Here’s what teachers should be discussing in secondary school classrooms:

1. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced Congress last week about the issue of privacy on Facebook. Social media is becoming more and more complicated with important issues surfacing about the right to privacy. A reported 87 million Facebook users had information taken from their accounts after they answered a survey on Facebook which never should have been allowed because it violated Facebook’s policies on privacy. That data was then “harvested” by election consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Students need to understand the challenges of enforcing traditional rights to privacy on the internet, how their privacy can be violated and how this all impacts social media. They need to be aware of data mining.

2. The Facebook fiasco has also brought up the subject of fake news again. Social media has been a target for fake news. Students need to learn ways to discern the difference between fake news and real news. Being able to distinguish between objective and subjective writing; fake and real news is a skill students need for life – particularly in deciding how to vote.

3. Did Laura Ingraham bully student David Hogg? The internet exploded with accusations of bullying when Ingraham, a Fox News conservative talk show host interviewed Hogg, a senior student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the scene of a deadly school shooting. After the interview when Ingraham posted a comment about Hogg being turned down from four universities and “wining” about it, many people deemed her remarks a form of bullying.

Every step of this feud makes for important classroom discussion because after Ingraham’s post, Hogg posted a list of her show’s sponsors and asked people not to support her show. Sponsors pulled out. The question for students to debate is whether Hogg had engaged in a form of bullying or a form of protest. Boycotts have long been used as a form of protest. Ingraham apologised for her tweet, but Hogg did not accept her apology because he felt she had only apologised because she lost sponsors.

Then, controversial conservative journalist Geraldo Rivera slammed Ingraham for her post, but defended her right to say it claiming that it was her first amendment right. Bullying is not covered under fair speech. This means we’re back to the question of whether or not Ingraham’s post should be considered bullying. These are all important questions for students to address in this age of cyberbullying.

4. Did American football blackball a player because of his controversial protests? When former National Football League (NFL) quarterback Colin Kaepernick was questioned last week about his accusations that the NFL colluded to keep him out of football, it might not have seemed like an issue that would be important in Trinidad and Tobago. But I argue this is a vitally important question that we should pay close attention to as we teach children about the role of protest in our history.

Kaepernick started a movement where football players took a knee during the US national anthem played before each game. Other players began to join in his protest. This has been a divisive issue in the US with many people feeling that kneeling during the US national anthem disrespects the country and the armed forces. On the other side of the issue, people argue about the right to protest.

From this issue, students can discuss questions like: What is an effective protest? What are the consequences of protesting?

These issues offer a goldmine of discussion questions for students with excellent internet articles from mainstream newspapers and videos for students to watch. It always helps to have visual references for students.

Teachers who feel they can’t devote any time to discuss such issues are sadly mistaken. Discussion sparks interest and debate, which will help build analytical skills that students can use in their exams.

It will rejuvenate tired, bored students and, most of all, it will remind students of the real meaning of education, which includes developing opinions for life.


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