Passionate Discourse

All people need to be involved in passionate discourse every once and a while. This gets the heart pumping, the blood moving, oxygen flowing and the brain functioning at higher levels. Shouldn’t students be involved in this type of activity?

In recent months the oil spill in the gulf has caused me to pause and think about what could happen in the classroom around this topic. There was a commentary today in Education Week titled: Now Is the Time to Support Science Teachers with the blurb:  Concern over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will increase both students’ and the public’s interest in science education, writes Siemens Foundation President Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, but that interest must be met with creative efforts to bolster science teaching. (July 22, 2010)


Students could discuss this topic in any and all subjects and learn the content simultaneously.

When I ask teachers if they are going to use this topic as a focus for learning I have had zero takers. Teacher comments have been around their concern that students will get too passionate about the topic and difficult to manage. This line of talk saddens me. I find teachers don’t trust their skill in guiding discussion.

In a previous blog I made a few suggestions about scaffolding the process of academic dialogue and I hope a few teachers have considered trying some of the ideas. I also think students need to practice discussion and we need teachers willing to take risks and see what happens.

One of my most recent disheartening discussions occurred with my adult children and their reflections about the lack of discussion that occurred around 9 11. One child was in high school, the other in college and there was no discussion in any classroom. The topic was brought up numerous times in different classrooms and none of the teachers would engage classes in this discussion. I understand many were in shock and couldn’t start, but my children voiced the reality that they needed that discussion in a public form. The discussions at home weren’t enough and they still feel disappointment that conversations didn’t happen in their classrooms. How do we find the time, take the time to have passionate discourse with students? What do teachers need to start the process?

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