Exploring Controversial Issues in the Primary Social Studies Classroom, pp. 8 of 12

It is worthwhile, at this juncture, to include one exchange between two students that stood out prominently during the circle dialogue sharing (names are pseudonyms):

Amy:    I disagree with the solution where citizens are given three job options to pick from. The king still gets to decide who goes where. Or what if everyone wants to be a doctor or teacher? Who will do the less popular jobs?

Dave:    How about we pay people more to do these jobs? Then just let people choose whatever they want to be.

Ms. Angsana: That’s not a bad idea! I read this article online that plumbers in the UK are paid well. It’s considered a professional job!

Amy:    Not in Singapore. Why should we pay more for these types of jobs?

Ms. Angsana: Do we agree that plumbers or cleaners are essential workers in society? When we refuse to pay people in ‘these types of jobs’ a higher wage, what are we saying?

Dave:    They are not worth much in society. They are less important. But wouldn’t that go against our definition of a fair society? This is not a dignified life!

Ms. Angsana: True. So are we going to give citizen three job options to pick from or are we going to allow them the freedom to decide for themselves, but pay more to ensure less popular jobs are filled?

Amy:    I think we need to ask everyone if they are okay to pay more for such jobs.

It is hardly easy, in the competitive environment of a school, to get students to put aside their differences to collaborate, communicate and make collective decisions in the contexts of conflict. However, Ms. Angsana and Ms. Mimosa have demonstrated that when teachers prepare their students for the circle dialogue process and purposefully infuse conflict conversations in their curricula, even children from different backgrounds have the capacity to participate in passionate, respectful collective decision-making that considers the needs of diverse stakeholders.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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