These guidelines are given to students to help them prepare for open-ended discussions called Friday Forums. The students and their teacher spend at least four days researching and preparing for each Friday Forum. Sample forum topics include:
- What should the United States do about Iraq?
- What should be done about the current diet and exercise crisis affecting American young people?
- Which of the candidates should the voters pick as our state's next governor?
Please read through these guidelines and see if they suggest a discussion format that could be useful in your classes:
What to do in a Friday Forum
Friday Forums are student discussions on key political issues. They are designed to bring you into an ongoing, democratic decision-making process. This week's Friday Forum will explore questions related to immigration to the United States:
Should the United States cut off or drastically limit immigration?
--If so, why? And how?
--If not, why not?
As you prepare for this Forum, keep in mind that it is not a debate. No one will win any points by cleverly outwitting someone or by brashly bowling over those who disagree with them. Rather, a Friday Forum is a process of shared inquiry. We talk in order to test our ideas and find ways to make them stronger. We listen in order to learn from others and to show respect for their points of view.
I. Things to do during the Friday Forum
- State your views and give reasons for your choices.
- Listen to the views of others with an open heart. Understand that they have reasons for their choices as well. Accept that there are costs to your solutions, just as there are to theirs.
- Ask questions to clarify what is being said. Make sure that people state their views clearly and that everyone agrees on what key words mean.
- Be inclusive. Try to keep as many people involved in the conversation as possible.
- Work to keep the discussion on track. Don't let it jump wildly from topic to topic.
II. Things not to do during the Friday Forum
- Don't fail to listen. Instead, pay attention, be open and flexible.
- Don't monopolize the conversation. Monopoly is a board game and, in a forum, it's a boring game. We want to have a discussion, not a speech.
- When challenged, don't just keep repeating your position. Give reasons for your beliefs. Give examples to show why you feel the way you do.
- Don't make personal attacks. You can strongly disagree with a person's ideas without putting them down.
- Don't worry about "winning the argument." Working with others to understand an issue and making the best possible decisions are the goals of a Friday Forum. That's how a democracy works.
*Friday Forums are used in all social studies classes at the Portland Middle School in Portland, Michigan. These guidelines were developed in conjunction with Project TIME, a U.S. Department of Education Technology Challenge Grant.