Activity Description: Holding a political discussion with students can be a challenging task especially if the issues discussed are a) controversial, and/or b) directly concern members of the group – for instance, discussing immigration when immigrant children are in the classroom. An additional difficulty can be that you might not know in advance what set of issues might influence which students and to what degree. Some discussions might risk alienating students who might think that they come under scrutiny because of their identity, religious background, sexuality, social status etc.

One technique to mitigate this risk is to “de-personalize” the issues and the questions discussed in the classroom. This technique can involve reframing the discussion from the personal to the societal level.

For instance:

What do you think about teaching religious studies at school? (Personal)

Changed to…

What do people think about religious studies being taught at school? (Societal)

TIP: Words such as “you” or “yours” usually denote a personal perspective, whereas “one”, “someone” or “society” are used for a societal one. Additionally, you can rephrase the question so that the perspective is less explicit, for example shifting from “Do you think it is OK to make jokes about religion?” to “Is it OK to make jokes about religion?”

[Source: Teaching Controversial Issues training pack for teachers (2020)]

Source: This activity is based on the Teaching Controversial Issues training pack for teacher (funded by the EU).

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