The National Book Award winning biography, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Macmillan, 2009), by Phillip Hoose, tells the story of a relatively unknown figure in the early Civil Rights Movement. In March of 1955 Claudette Colvin, then fifteen, enacted Montgomery, Alabama’s first bus protest, refusing to give up her seat to a white woman. She was arrested, spent several hours in jail, and was fined. Her classmates and community didn’t know exactly how to react to what she did at first – it was a spontaneous act of angry protest – though within the next nine months the bus boycott became a reality.
The Debatifier has taken a close look at the legal immigration issue and its complexities, illustrating how the Micro-Macro Debates format can help students unpack and make sense of such a dense and multi-faceted issue, in part one and part two of an extended post. This post will help teachers take an argument-centered approach to the undocumented immigrant issue.
The estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, and immigration enforcement porous enough to allow the number to grow that large, have elicited a great deal of political discussion and societal debate over the past 40 years, though perhaps never so pointedly as in the 2016 presidential campaign. This argument-centered project crystallizes the question at the heart of this national debate:
Do Illegal immigrants pose a significant threat to American citizens?
Here is a simple but profound and universally true pedagogical rule that we have (not invented but) discovered: Whatever the kind of argument-based instructional activity, lesson, or assessment you are working with, it is an essential prerequisite for its effective implementation to develop and present to students modeling resources. Along with prompt, specific, and improvement-directed feedback, modeling may be the most useful tool in the pedagogical toolkit.
Many, probably most, varieties of argument-centered projects, activities, lessons, and assessments require students to build arguments and counter-arguments, and they require that students track arguments carefully on a flow sheet so that they know what arguments have been made by both sides, how (and whether) those arguments have been responded to, and how the argumentation is developed and can be weighed and evaluated. (Tracking arguments is crucial if we are to bring our students into a closer and at the same time more objective relationship with the arguments they make, hear, read, and respond to.)
Since, as the saying goes, there is nothing certain in life except death and taxes, a very important field within mathematical financial literacy is the study of tax law, policy, and procedures. When studying the mathematics of taxes and the procedural specifics involved in completing various tax forms, students should have the opportunity to learn and to practice claiming deductions and calculating their impact on an individual’s or business’s tax liability.
Activating students’ critical thinking, content knowledge of tax policy, and mathematical computation abilities, this multi-sided group debate activity aims to provide students with exactly this opportunity. Students work through several scenarios in which possible clients of a tax preparation company have improperly filed deductions claims. Students then debate about which re-filing to re-claim deductions would be most lucrative for the clients (and the company).
As with other argument-based math projects, claims are based on mathematical computation as evidence, and an invocation of mathematical principles and rules forms the basis of the argumentative reasoning justifying the connection between the claim (often the solution) and the computational evidence.
Whatever the format of classroom debating being used – Table Debates, SPontaneous ARgumentation Debates, Showdown Debates, Intelligence Squared Debates – or structured argumentation activity – Shaping Arguments, Refutation Two-Chance, Argumentative Analysis, or many others – there is common language used to introduce or present argumentation. This common language is formed for use by anyone engaged in an academic or public debate into something we call rhetorical constructs. Rhetorical constructs can also be called sentence stems or templates, though they have a particular purpose, power, and breadth of application when thought about and taught in the context of argument.