Seeing Both Sides of an Issue
Building Bridges - Unit II
- Africa, Asia, Central America and Mexico, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, Pacific Islands, South America, The Caribbean, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe
- Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
- Cross-Cultural Understanding
Each student will develop arguments on both sides of an issue to see how it feels to understand opposing views.
- Students will practice the skill of seeing an issue from different points of view.
- Chart paper
- Explain that, as shown in Lesson 9, there are often two or more equally reasonable ways to view a situation, depending on your culture. Being able to see multiple sides of an issue is an important skill. Ask why this may be so. Explain that actively listening to another's viewpoint with an open mind is sometimes the most powerful thing one can do to avoid misunderstandings.
- Suggest to students that active listening is one of the most underrated communication skills. Review with them the rules of active listening. (Maintain direct eye contact. No interruptions. Keep an encouraging facial expression and utter acknowledging sounds, like "uh-huh." Use positive body language. If the person who is speaking gets stuck, ask: Is there more you would like me to know and then resume listening.) Ask for two student volunteers to model the skill of active listening in a brief conversation about "Something surprising that happened to me this week." One student will be the speaker and one student will be the active listener. (It may be instructive to have a role player deliberately violate the rules of active listening—by whistling, looking around, interrupting, or remaining utterly silent—to demonstrate how uncomfortable the speaker becomes.)
- Tell students that they will now practice seeing an issue from different points of view.
- On each of four pieces of chart paper write one of the following: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. Tape each paper on the wall in a different corner of the room.
- Explain that you will state a controversial issue and students will express their opinion by moving to one of the four corners of the room.
- State the issue: My way of doing things is the best way of doing things. Have students move to their desired corner.
- Ask students to form pairs and explain to each other the reasons behind their opinions (using active listening). Then ask spokespersons from each corner to state the reasons behind their pairs' positions.
- Next, tell students that they will have a chance to see the issue from another point of view. Ask the "Strongly Agree" group to move to the "Disagree" group's corner and the "Disagree" group to move to the "Strongly Agree" corner. Then ask the "Strongly Disagree" group to move to the "Agree" group's corner, as the "Agree" group moves to the "Strongly Disagree" group's corner.
- After students have moved to their newly designated corners, ask them to put their first opinion aside for a moment, to keep an open mind, and to try to think of all the reasons they might take the opposite position on the same statement: My way of doing things is the best way of doing things.
- After students have discussed the reasons for their new position with a partner (again, using active listening), ask spokespersons from each corner to state the reasons behind their pairs' new positions.
- Ask the students how it felt to let go of their original positions and see the issue from another viewpoint.
- When the discussion has ended, explain that the discomfort the students may have felt having to take a position opposite from their true feelings is somewhat like the discomfort they might feel when they are in another culture that sees some things differently from the way they do.
- Conclude by reminding students of the enduring understanding: To keep from misunderstanding the behavior of others, you have to try to see the world from their point of view, not yours.
- Ask students how putting this idea into practice might make our world a better place—or the school a better place. In asking students, provide them with real-life examples from world events, past or current. Have them respond to this question first in a class discussion and then, perhaps, in writing.
Frameworks & Standards
- To keep from misunderstanding the behavior of others, you have to try to see the world from their point of view, not yours.
- How can I learn to see things from multiple points of view? Why is this important?
- If you did develop this skill, how could it lead to greater harmony and understanding right here in our own school? How about in the world?
Have the students collect political cartoons from newspapers and magazines, including cartoons from other countries they find on the Web or in the library. Have them prepare a presentation, skit, or multimedia project for the class on how American views seem to differ from each other as well as from views from other countries.