Among the topics to discuss in class they highlight the legality of the death penalty, animal testing, the legalization of abortion, climate change and the implementation of censorship, among many others.
Classrooms are often a good setting to touch on controversial topics. Having topics for discussion in class can encourage conversation and discussion in training settings.
Discussions of controversial topics are widely used in educational centers, especially at the secondary level and in university settings, as a training strategy due to the multiple benefits associated with them.
During a discussion with an educational focus, the development of students’ argumentative skills is encouraged so that they work on persuasion and different discourse strategies to convince others.
Critical thinking is also exercised at the same time as mental flexibility, because students must continually analyze what others say and contrast the various points of view, while exercising tolerance.
Additionally, it allows those who participate to structure their own criteria based on collective thought. This means that the exchange of ideas generally allows group and individual growth.
Below is a list of topics categorized by social, political and scientific issues that can be used to promote discussion in the classroom. When raising the topic, many questions can be asked to stimulate discussion and, at the same time, motivate the opposition of points of view that challenge the students.
Social issues are the topics that have to do with the performance of societies, with their way of being and acting. Some of the most interesting to discuss in class with the following.
Reintegration of prisoners
When a prisoner is serving his sentence, there is a question as to whether he will commit a crime again. Some experts believe that reintegration is difficult, others that it is possible.
What should be done with prisoners serving time?
Discrimination against people with disabilities and mental disorders
Prejudices and stigmatization often fall on people who have disabilities or some type of neurological disorder, and these are segregated.
During the debate, it would be beneficial to review if this is ethical and ask why there is a difference to be made, how this affects them and how society can favor inclusion.
Other questions on this issue that can be asked are: should people with disabilities receive an education different from others? How should their inclusion in the world of work be? Is the term “disabled” already discriminatory in itself?
This is a very topical issue, which is why it tends to generate quite a controversy because conflicting views are presented.
This issue has many edges to debate, such as: the role of education and upbringing in the victim / perpetrator duo, the influence of paternal models, and both physical and psychological consequences.
To start the discussion on this very complex issue, it is possible to debate what includes gender violence, types of gender violence and how it can be avoided.
In today’s world, there is constant talk of equality and it is more and more frequent that in schools, even from an early age, policies are promoted to encourage it.
As this is a very topical topic, it will be enriching to discuss how equality is perceived in the classroom, how LGBT groups are viewed and how the integration of women and different ethnic groups is perceived.
It is a topic that can be broadened and looked at in a general way, or focused on a single group in order to broaden it, such as on women and their participation in the labor market.
With the entry of women into the labor market, the family changed considerably, since taking care of children and housework are not their only occupation.
What is the role of the man in the family? Once a woman is a mother, should she sacrifice her career and stay home? What obstacles does the woman who is a mother face in managing her domestic role and her professional role? Which ones does man face? What is meant by “invisible cargo”?
Talking about these questions will generate debate and provide participants with multiple points of view.
Normalization of polygamy
Fidelity or infidelity is a concept associated with couple relationships. There are communities in which polygamy is practiced, which is often frowned upon by others, although there are nations where it is legal.
In this context, analyzing the role of the family, the school and religious parameters is an interesting practice to discuss.
Privacy and intimacy
What to share on social networks? This is a great topic to discuss. You can review how anything from daily life that is shared on the Internet exposes intimacy and can have consequences, as well as analyze how public figures use the platforms to their advantage and what is the new role of the paparazzi.
In all societies there are a series of practices that can be seen as superstitions.
It can be very interesting to analyze them, review their origin, their meaning in today’s world, their transformation over time, and contrast them between different groups.
Those in favor say that equal rights should be for everyone, without discriminating on the basis of race, religion, sex or sexual option.
In this way, denying the right to marry would be part of the discrimination, since all types of couples – be they heterosexual or homosexual – deserve to have the same legal rights associated with marriage: the right to property, inheritance and adoption.
On the other hand, its detractors consider that the objective of marriage between a man and a woman is procreation and maintaining the institution of the family, something that does not happen in the case of homosexual couples and that gives rise to a different type of families , which change the traditional conception of parents, children and home.
- Do video games promote violence in children and youth?
- Should I be of legal age to consume alcohol?
- Should drugs be legalized?
- Should children be sent so many tasks to do at home?
They are those issues in which the States are usually involved to take some measure in this regard. They generally have to do with the legalization or not of certain activities. Some examples are the following.
With technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, millions of jobs will be lost around the world. Many other jobs are created, although people will need time to adapt and retrain; some of them won’t be able to.
This fact has generated some opinions, among them that there should be a minimum payment that is given to citizens so that they can pay their minimum expenses.
What do we do with all the unemployment derived from new technologies? Should aid be given to people who have lost their jobs and cannot be reintegrated?
Legality of the death penalty
There are several countries where certain crimes are punishable by death, which may make an impression on some and others may agree, depending on the level of the crime committed.
Is it revenge? What happens if someone innocent is convicted? Why is it legal in some places and not in others? These are just some of the questions that can be put on a discussion table in the classroom.
Legalization of euthanasia
Discussing the right to assisted suicide and what is known as a “dignified death” is interesting.
It is convenient to review in which cases it should be allowed, who will be the people who will make this decision about the patient, what type of support will be provided to those who attend death and what institutions would be the ones capable of doing so.
There are nations where euthanasia is legal, even for minors. In a classroom, it may be interesting to analyze this aspect from these questions: is a minor capable of requesting euthanasia? Could she be encouraged to continue living while waiting for an improvement? Who should authorize it?
Legalization of abortion
This is usually one of the most controversial topics because it has political, social, scientific, ethical and religious implications.
The discussion in this regard can be guided through a series of questions, such as: physical and psychological consequences of abortion, and what physical and psychological implications it entails, as well as the legal ones.
It is also useful to review when it is considered that abortion should and when not, as well as to walk through the ethical arguments that indicate that from the moment of fertilization life already exists (therefore, according to this approach, an abortion is a murder) and confront them with the scientific arguments that contradict this notion.
Legalization of marijuana
It is a topic that can cause controversy in the classroom, especially with teenagers. There are countries where cannabis is consumed legally according to certain regulations expressed in the legislation, such as quantity of grams, of plants and their medicinal uses.
To promote debate, these aspects can be analyzed, as well as discussing when it should be allowed, when it should not and why it is legal in some countries and not in others.
You can also discuss the use of certain herbs of indigenous origin that are used in religious and healing rites and that generate a certain state of trance, as well as debate on the legalization of drugs in general.
Implementation of censorship
In this world so connected by the Internet, analyzing the different censorship mechanisms that are still implemented in certain countries will generate debate. It will be very useful to discuss what type of content can be disseminated and the relevance of curbing freedom of expression.
Another aspect that can be reviewed is freedom of expression as one of the characteristics of democracy. It could generate debate in the classroom to be limited to the sphere of the forms of government and their different regulations on freedom of expression.
Legalization of prostitution
In many countries, prostitution is punishable, although it is an activity that is widely practiced and is in high demand.
If it is legalized, will the insecurity of these practices decrease? Will it have a positive effect on the health of sex workers and their clients? Will mafias of sexual exploitation be reduced? These and other questions can be very interesting in a discussion, especially at the advanced levels of the school system.
In this context, questions such as the following can be posed: what to do with the masses of people who come from countries in poor living conditions? What consequences does it have on the host country? Should immigrants be welcomed, beyond If it is a matter of altruism? What effects does this have on the creation of human trafficking mafias?
Torture: is it acceptable in some cases?
The debate in this case is called “the time bomb debate.” The example that is used to be in favor of this opinion is the case of a terrorist who is captured, but who before being caught installed bombs that it is not known where they are.
Thousands of innocent people could be killed by this act, in this case torture to find out the location of that bomb would be justifiable.
What taxes should exist?
Taxes are one of the topics that are most debated in the elections and that generate the most discussion among political parties.
What taxes should exist? Do the rich have to pay more? Should they pay the same as people with fewer economic resources?
These are the topics that have to do with the development and evolution of science, which in one way or another affect the lives of humans and other species. Some ideal topics for discussion are as follows.
The world’s large companies dedicated to the manufacture of automobiles are investing in the electric car. It is expected that in several decades all cars will be electric and current ones that depend on oil will be a thing of the past.
Should facilities be provided for the purchase of electric cars? Do they have to pay taxes?
Experimentation with animals
Many products of everyday life have previously been tested on animals, such as cosmetics and medicines.
Is this ethically correct? Are these living beings being treated ethically and humanely? Is it useful to do these tests on a being that is very different from humans? These questions can arouse curiosity and help to create judgment in students based on the arguments they use.
There are more and more robots and with new scientific advances they have similar characteristics to humans.
Do robots have to pay taxes? What rights should they have?
Artificial intelligence and its regulation
Artificial intelligence is a technology that causes some fear among great scientists and entrepreneurs today. It is argued that it can be dangerous, its consequences are unknown, and it can end up out of control.
Should artificial intelligence be regulated? How is it regulated?
There are those who still deny that climate change is a threat. They are right? What is the level of impact on the environment and on the different species? Who are responsible? How can you prevent it from getting worse?
In this topic, a magnifying glass can be placed on a particular aspect, such as recycling campaigns and actions to evaluate their impact or the implementation of “green” fuels to replace fossils.
Reviewing the contribution of governments, organizations and companies to avoid climate change can also be an interesting edge to generate controversy.
Although it seems something out of science fiction movies, there are already nations where this type of scientific intervention is approved by law; however, there are still those who are against it.
To encourage debate, the following can be analyzed: when should it be allowed? Is it an advance in science to improve health? What are its ethical and religious implications? Is it “playing God”?
Evolution of technology
Technology has penetrated everyone’s life, to the point of causing unhealthy dependency in some.
It is worth wondering if technological evolution is going to completely condition the way we live. Is it going to change the way people relate? Instead of connecting, will it create more isolation?
Role of the pharmaceutical industries
The role of traditional pharmaceutical companies often generates a lot of debate. There is a current that affirms that to maintain their economic hegemony, these industries have over-medicated the population.
In addition, there are those who claim that pharmaceutical companies already know the cure for certain diseases, such as cancer, and that they do not reveal them to safeguard their economic interests. Putting this topic on the table will bring up an interesting debate.
Traditional medicine vs. alternative
In this context, one can question the effect of vaccines, ask whether it is a true protection against diseases or is it a measure of social control, analyze whether it is more convenient to carry out holistic treatments to cure diseases or whether it is quackery.
Another aspect to fuel the debate is to make a historical review of alternative medicine and traditional medicine, questioning whether ancestral procedures are better for having been implemented for so long and still be effective.
Investments in space
When large amounts of public money have been allocated to space projects, some criticism has been generated by a sector of the population.
Is it important to invest in space? What percentage should go to this sector?
There are already several companies in the world that allow a person to cryogenize shortly after their death. These customers hope that with the technology of the future they can revive.
Should cryogenization be a right? What will be done with these people in the future? What rights will they have?
Link with the present
From this list of controversial topics, you can choose the ones you want to analyze in the classroom, depending on the educational interest you are pursuing.
One aspect that can be interesting to select a certain topic is that it is linked to a particular moment that is being lived in the environment. For example, if a case of femicide has recently been known, it is a good time to discuss gender violence.
If the topics to be discussed are chosen in this way, they will have more and more current content, which will end up enriching the debate. The important thing is to base any argumentation on real events, form a concept and participate actively in all the exchanges of opinion that are generated.
Other topics of interest
Interesting topics to expose .
Interesting topics to investigate .
- Castillero, O. «24 topics of debate to propose gatherings in class» in Psychology and Mind. Retrieved June 3, 2019 in Psychology and Mind: psicologiaymente.com
- Salinas, J and Oller, M. (2017) «Debating controversial issues to train citizens. An experience with secondary school students »in Praxis educativa. Retrieved June 3, 2019 in Educational Praxis: cerac.unlpam.edu.ar
- «20 topics to expose and debate (in class or with friends)» in urban character. Retrieved June 3, 2019 in urban character: characterurbano.com
- «100+ Interesting Debate Topics» (April 18, 2019) in Owlcation. Retrieved June 3, 2019 at Owlocation: owlcation.com
- «Controversial issues» in aciprensa.Recovered June 3, 2019 in aciprensa: aciprensa.com