We live in a very divisive age where many people are only willing to listen to those who agree with them (their echo chamber) and are rude and insulting to those with different opinions. Being able to see both sides of an issue is a key part of being a tolerant person and teaching children to do this is a factor in creating a more respectful society. We may hold one opinion strongly, but that does that stop us from examining and articulating the other side. Doing this will sometimes help us to strengthen are own views and feel more confident in them, sometimes it might lead us to adapting our views slightly or seeing that the issue is more complex than we first thought. Either way, the process teaches a mental agility and expands our knowledge and understanding of the spectrum of opinions.
As an activity Pros and Cons can be done in a number of ways.
- Choose a controversial issue to be discussed. Challenge your children to articulate both the pros and the cons of the issue. You could give different sides to different family members to represent or you could make sure everyone has a turn thinking of arguments on both sides.
- When a controversial topic comes up naturally, make sure that you try to explore a list of the pros and cons before the conversation is finished.
- Play the pros and cons game: Choose a topic, set a timer and get everyone to jot down as many pros and cons as they can. When the time is up, share your ideas and get a point for every argument that you were unique in thinking up. Parents may need to be the referees in deciding if similar points are unique or if an argument in valid.
- Play a non-competitive version: Choose a topic, set a timer and as an individual or a group, see how many pros and cons you can think of.
Possible topics for Pros and Cons include:
- Assisted suicide should be legalised
- Junk food should be banned
- All schools should be co-ed
- Homework should be banned
- Song lyrics should be censored
- The monarchy should be abolished
- Children should have their own phones
- Everyone should have a pet
- Exams should be abolished
For more inspiration, check out the the Routledge book “Pros and Cons”. Noisy Classroom director, Debbie Newman, is the editor of the latest edition.