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Issue Analysis Lesson

Social Studies Lessons for High School is designed for social studies teachers to use with their government and history courses. It was developed in response to a shift in education throughout our country: a move away from rote memorization and toward the critical thinking skills necessary for many of the new performance assessment programs.

Each lesson will enable teachers to teach seven specific critical thinking skills in a step-by-step process. The information has been adapted for old media and new media formats. Web sites will be provided that will allow teachers to choose the most appropriate resource for the selected activity. All selections can be copied for classroom use. Teachers may adapt activities to allow students to complete assignments via the web.

Bob Black is former Teachers Network web mentor. He is a social studies teacher at the Harbor City Learning Center, located across the street from the historic Edgar Allen Poe House  in Baltimore, MD.

Sample Student Template

Students will evaluate the impact of governmental decisions and actions that have affected the rights of individuals and groups and have affected maintaining order and/or safety.

Model for Analysis
This year the state government will review the controversial state law requiring that helmets be worn by all motorcycle riders. After hearing testimony from interested groups, legislators are expected to vote on whether or not to renew this law.

Q. What is the main issue?
A. Should motorcycle riders be required to wear helmets?

Q. Define specific vocabulary needed to understand this issue.
A. Actuary tables--data showing life expectancy and risk factors.

Q. Identify all possible positions on this issue. Which two are the key opposing sides?
A. Motorcycle riders who do not want to wear helmets and officials (health, police, insurance) who want helmets required.

Find all of the facts that support one position. 
Pro-law: It would save lives and prevent serious injuries (show statistics of lives saved by helmets).

Find all of the facts that support the opposite position.
Anti-law: It should be a personal decision (show statistics where helmets did not make a difference).

Q. What beliefs/values are in conflict in this issue?
A. Freedom of choice versus health and safety ?

Take a position on the issue. Explain why you chose this position. 
I believe that statistics show how helmets help prevent death or injury.

Q. How could you influence others to support your position?
A.  I would have other teens sign a petition in favor of the law and send it to my delegate in Annapolis.

Q. What steps did you use to analyze this issue?
A. I looked at the evidence on both sides and decided which was more persuasive.


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