I heard about this web site in the fall, but hadn't had time to figure it out until this week when I started a debate about our current topic of study, German headscarves. After laboriously copying every student's personal e-mail, I'm about to send an invitation to everyone to participate in this debate when a flash of caution overtakes me. Though I'm very excited because I know my debate-loving students would greatly benefit from the site, I realize that I really don't know a lot about the site and maybe I should wait a little bit to see what happens. When I return to my computer a short while later, I find someone had already posted an argument. Now, I'm thinking that the site's really nifty, and I should definitely notify my classes. It's late, so I decide again to wait. By morning, maybe half a dozen more people have responded. How great that students will be able to learn from strangers as well as each other. This is the power of the web. One German-born person filled in some interesting historical facts. Some arguments are stronger than others, but students would have the chance to vote for the ones they think are strongest. Then I come to a response which includes a word that would not be acceptable in a thesis essay. I'm crestfallen. I go to class and, to the delight of my students, tell this story. They became animated and alert. They immediately try convince me that they should be allowed to use the site. (I mentioned how much they love to debate, right?) They also want to know the offending word which is preventing them from debating on-line. I decline to tell, so they start to guess. They shout, "Is it 'I'?" I love this response because A) apparently they've learned not to write "I" in a formal essay, and B) they're naive enough to think this is the word that's troubling me. On the other hand, they then proceed to tell me about the rated R movie they are looking forward to seeing this weekend.
What do you think? Do the benefits of this site outweigh the costs? Should seventh grade public school students be allowed to use this site?
Germany's population is declining. Incentives to parents to increase the birth rate have not worked. Instead, Germany has looked to immigrants to perform many jobs and to keep their economy healthy. Many of these immigrants have come from Turkey, and many practice Islam. Germany has made it difficult for these immigrants to become citizens. Some of the immigrants appreciate having work, but don't want to assimilate into German culture. Others would like the opportunity to become citizens. Germans have differing views on how to handle this situation. One issue which has arisen is whether or not German teachers in public schools should be allowed to wear headscarves. Some German Muslim teachers want the freedom to practice their religion by wearing a headscarf while also being able to perform their job. German teachers have been banned from wearing headscarves in eight of Germany's sixteen states. Should German teachers be allowed to wear headscarves?