Taking a side: ‘Issues’ Websites for argumentative essays, debates, and (potentially heated!) discussions

 [Repost for Fall 2007 semester]

 With an election year coming up, we’re going to be consumed (or smothered ;o)) with campaign ads focusing on social, political, and econimic issues like taxes, the Iraq War, health care, and government spending, just to name a few.   Many of your instructors enjoy election time; these issues and candidate debates encourage critical thinking, discussion, and debate in the classroom (or if you’re an on-line student, in the discussion area). With this in mind, be prepared for a good deal of socio-political discussion and written assignments in your social science and composition classes. 

While some of us have chosen a side (or have even become advocates) of an issue, there are still many who aren’t sure which side is “right” or “wrong.” When composing an argumentative-style essay (very common in composition courses if there is an election or not) or compiling notes for a debate, it is not always about who is right or wrong; it is about persuading your instructor and/or classmates that the side you are defending is the right side! However, we sometimes find ourselves with a topic that we’re just not sure about. Maybe it’s lack of compassion for the topic, or maybe it is because we have never given much thought about it (I’m almost 23 years old and still not sure which side I am on with the death penalty debate!)  

So what do you do if you have to prepare a speech, participate in a debate, or compose an essay about a topic you know little about, or even worse… care little about? Worry not! There are plenty of user-friendly websites that give all of the FACTS to help you form a strong, unbiased and objective opinion and support the side you chose to take.Here are some of my favorites…

 Balanced Politics: Free Balanced, Non-Partisan Discussion of Political and Social Issues
Balanced Politics is a very simple website to navigate with a list of issues. Click on the issue you want to learn more about and you will be given each side of the issue, as well as a historic overview of the issue.

IDEA: International Debate Education Association: Debate Resources and Debate Tools 
IDEA focuses on the younger population and getting them involved in socio-political issues, but is a great resource for students of all ages.  The Debatabase is my favorite tool. You can search the Debatabase by keyword, use their drop-down menu of topics by theme, or check out their Index.  

Speak Out: Politics, Activism, Political Issues, Government, and Elections 
SpeakOut.com is in partners with a website I use for research candidates called OnTheIssues.org. A lot of focus on Speak Out is on presidential candidates and the upcoming presidential race.
 Speak Out focuses on presidential candidates and their views on issues.For the advocates/activists, there is also a section called “Activism Tools,” where can you sign or start a petition, take a survey, or participate on an on-line discussion.  

There is a fun section called Selectors, which offers a variety of quizzes to determine how closely you “match” with each political party, Senators, our president and presidential candidates.  Multnomah County Library: Social Issues – Homework Center 
Multnomah Country Library’s
Social Issues Homework Center website provides a list of social issues, as well as on-line and print resources to the supporting and opposing side of the issue.


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