Walking the Line in Cactus Country
While some fear that the bill could stifle discussion of any political issues, its sponsors suggest that it only dictates a position of neutrality on such touchy topics. Others argue that the bill is overly broad in scope and its spirit is already achieved through local policies (Ms. Mayer's case apparently cements this point).
As a former educator I recognize the power of teaching controversial issues in the classroom. Students are naturally interested in such tension, and teachers must show sensitivity when turning to these topics given the heterogeneity of their pupils in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, class, etc. Moreover, given the fact that students are in formative stage of development intellectually, balance is a must. There are, however, several ways of achieving this outcome.
1. Present both sides of an argument and ask students to weigh in with the position they find most appropriate.
2. Play devil's advocate, sensing the majority sentiment in the class and portraying the opposite.
3. Balance a viewpoint espoused in class with source material (op-ed pieces, film clips, political speech excerpts, etc) that draws an opposite conclusion.
4. Facilitate a class debate where students espouse their own personal beliefs.
5. Conduct a similar debate, but assign students to particular positions beforehand.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, some of these techniques could be precluded by the aforementioned Arizona legislation. I used each approach at different times during my career to various degrees of success, and wonder if further intrusion into the pedagogical methods of educators is the most productive use of political time and effort.