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July 25th, 2002
Violence As A Means of Resistance
Procedures

Day 1

Introduce Students to Academic Controversy

1. Have students brainstorm a list of the kinds of communication and collaboration skills necessary for this type of project – e.g. active and respectful listening, “I” messages, no shouting (see the Tips section). Ask the class to identify characteristics of healthy communication and collaboration, and perhaps use a word such as “communicate” as a guide in the brainstorming (E.g. C – collaborate, O – one-on-one, M – mindful, etc.). Keep track of the students’ responses on chart paper and display in the classroom for the remainder of the lesson. Distribute Student Handouts A and B, ask the class to read them silently, and then ask a couple of students to identify what was listed in the handouts that the class hadn’t come up with yet in the brainstorming activity.

2. Ask students to describe a typical debate. How is it structured? What is the end goal? Discuss with students the difference between the Academic Controversy model, with an emphasis on a “win-win” resolution, and the traditional debate model, which results in one side winning and the other side losing. Emphasize that the desired outcome of this lesson is the synthesis of the best reasoning from both positions, and the creation of a new position that all involved can articulate, defend and live with.

3. Distribute Student Handouts 1 and 2, the Academic Controversy Steps and Checklist and the Rules for Academic Controversy. Allow a few minutes for students to read the handouts, encouraging them to underline main ideas. Then call on two to three students to summarize the main ideas represented these handouts. For example, in Step 3, “Engage in Open Discussion,” of Handout 1, students might identify “continuing to advocate for their positions and refute the evidence and the reasoning of the other side” as a main idea. In Student Handout 2, the Rules, students might underline the phrase “even if I don’t agree” under rule number 4, to emphasize that the idea of listening to other people’s ideas is not contingent on agreeing with them. Have another student write the main ideas the class comes up with on chart paper and display in the classroom for the remainder of the lesson.

4. Ask the students the following questions: “Why are we using this process? How can this benefit us? What purpose is there to switching sides? Why is it important to be able to create a new position?” This will help students think about the value of the process. Ask a student to write the responses on chart paper to display in the classroom.

Warm-Up Activity: “Trying on” Academic Controversy (approx. 25 min)

1. Select a student to model the Academic Controversy process with you. Select another student to time the controversy and a third student to track the strategies the class identifies after each step. Explain that after each step in the structured controversy (draw their attention to Student Handout 1), you’re going to stop and ask the class what they noticed. What strategies or approaches worked best in presenting each position? What strategies or approaches worked best for the reversal of perspectives? And what strategies or approaches worked best for the synthesis of the strongest elements from both perspectives? (Have these questions written out on chart paper beforehand and post them during this exercise). A student will keep track of these answers on chart paper.

    Assign the student you are modeling with the following position: Schools should have a dress code for students.

    Assign yourself the following position: Schools should not have a dress code for students.

    Remind the class that you are only modeling how to engage in a structured Academic Controversy, and you are not going to be including the first step (creating the best case for a position). Explain that you are also spending less time on each section than they will when they practice Academic Controversy next or when they do the actual Chechnya Academic Controversy in the next few days.

    Have the timer give you each two minutes to present your positions. Then pause and ask the class what strategies or approaches worked best in the presentations of each position – what worked best in persuading them one way or another? Students will brainstorm and have the note-taker write the responses on the chart paper.

    Have the timer give you two minutes to engage in open discussion. At this point, you and your partner continue to support your positions; you also have the opportunity to respectfully refute your opponent’s points and ask for clarification. Then you will reverse positions. Remind students that the task is not to find the loopholes in their opponents’ arguments, but rather to identify and argue those points that are the strongest and most persuasive as if they were their own.

    Have the timer give you each two minutes to argue for the opposite position. Then pause and ask the class what strategies or approaches worked best for the reversal of perspectives – what are good ways to argue the other person’s position, especially when you were refuting that position just moments ago? Students will brainstorm and have the note-taker write the responses on the chart paper.

    Have the timer give you and your partner three minutes to synthesize. Remind the class that at this point, you and your partner need to take the most persuasive arguments from both sides and create a new powerful position. Ask the note-taker to write down the key decisions or points that both sides agree on in order to come to consensus. Then pause and ask the class what strategies or approaches worked best for the synthesis of the strongest elements from both perspectives – what are good ways to resolve this conflict and create a new position that both sides can live with? Students will brainstorm and have the note-taker write the responses on the chart paper.

    At this point the notes from the class’ reflections on each step of the Academic Controversy will be displayed in front of the class. Ask students the same questions you asked them earlier. This time their answers will be informed by the modeling exercise. “Why are we using this process? How can this benefit us? What purpose is there to switching sides? Why is it important to be able to create a new position?”

2. Hand out copies of the rest of the Student Handouts (Student Handouts 3-7). You will need to provide several copies of Handouts 5, 6, and 7 to each student because their note-taking will require more than one sheet. Review Student Handout 1, the Academic Controversy Checklist, which will help students stay organized as they proceed. Student Handout 3, the Rubric for Assessing Performance in Academic Controversy, will help students understand how they will be evaluated throughout the process and should make explicit what is considered superior, good, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory effort and performance. Student Handout 4, the Rubric for Assessing Performance In Academic Controversy: Written Report and Oral Presentation, will help students understand how they will be evaluated on their written report and oral presentation (if applicable) and should make explicit what is expected of them. Student Handout 5, the Research Note-Taking Form, should be used by students for note-taking and comments during their research position development. Student Handout 6, the Presenting Positions: Note-Taking Form, should be used by students for taking notes on the key points and their comments while listening to the opposite side’s position. Student Handout 7, the Reaching Consensus: Synthesis/Resolution Form, should be used by groups of students to identify and articulate all the key elements of their new position, one that melds together the best elements of both Position A and B.

Explain to students that they will be responsible for using these handouts at each step throughout the lesson, and that they will need to hand Student Handouts 5, 6, and 7 in with their joint report at the end of the lesson for credit. Tell them they will get some practice using the handouts during the practice exercise they are about to do.

3. Organize the class into pairs by having the class count off in twos. Each student finds a partner – every 1 should partner with a 2.

Assign all the “Ones” the following position: There should be year-round school.

Assign all the “Twos” the following position: There should not be year-round school.

4. Remind students that they need to employ active listening for this activity, which means that they cannot talk or ask questions while the other person is speaking, and they should take notes on what the other person says. Explain to them that each person in Group 1 will have two minutes to present his/her position, while those in Group 2 take notes using Student Handout 6. Then those in Group 2 will get 2 minutes to present their position, while those in Group 1 take notes using Student Handout 6. Tell the class that you will time these presentations, and that you will shout “Time” when two minutes are up.

5. When both sides have presented their positions, give the partners three minutes to engage in open discussion. Remind students that at this point they should continue to advocate for their positions, while trying to refute the reasoning of the other side.

6. Those in Group 1 and those in Group 2 now reverse perspectives, adopting the view they were just trying to refute. Students in each group will have two minutes to present the best case for what was the opposing perspective. Remind students that this is the most difficult step in Academic Controversy, and that they really need to work at stepping out of their own shoes and stepping into the shoes of their partners, arguing for the reverse perspective.

7. Give students five minutes to work with their partner to synthesize their two perspectives, drawing on the best reasoning from both positions and melding them into a new position. Both students in the pair are responsible for tracking this conversation and the key elements of their new position using Student Handout 7. Students turn these in.

8. Evaluate students for this first day’s work based on their participation in this exercise, and based on Student Handouts 5, 6, and 7 that they hand in. This is a good opportunity for informal assessment to learn which students may need some additional help.

Day 2-3

Warm-Up and Introduction to Content

1. Ask students to respond to the following question, and list their responses on the board: What historical struggle for equal rights in the United States involved people who believed in non-violence and others who believed in “whatever means necessary”? You could provide them with a few prompts that might help them understand those elements of the Civil Rights era that will resurface in the case study of Chechnya. For example, you might ask:

  • What were African Americans fighting against during the Civil Rights era?
  • What was the political and social environment in which they lived?
  • Who were the two major leaders associated with this movement?
  • What were they reasons for their belief in non-violence or violence, if necessary?

Allow some time for discussion and for students to reflect on this example.

2. Introduce the case study – the war in Chechnya between Russian forces and Chechen separatists and the question of whether the use of violence by the separatists is acceptable as a means to achieve independence and freedom from occupation. Ask a student to point out Russia on a map in the front of the classroom and then to locate Chechnya (you may have to supplement this exercise by handing out copies of an additional map). Then ask the student to identify three to four of its neighboring countries.

3. Hand out the following article from the Resource list: “Chechen women seek Bush’s ear on untold bloodshed,” by Elaine Monaghan. Reuters, April 29, 2002. This is an excellent introductory article and good overview of the current state of affairs in the war in Chechnya. It provides statistics on the death tolls on both sides, the refugee crisis and the disappearances.

Ask students to read it, and then to briefly summarize the case in two-three sentences. Then call on one or two students to read their summaries out loud.

4. Identify the controversy that the class will be engaging in for the next few days: “Violent resistance: Is it acceptable for those struggling for independence or freedom from occupation to use violent means?”

  • Position A: It is acceptable for those struggling for independence or freedom from occupation to use violent means.
  • Position B: It is not acceptable for those struggling for independence or freedom from occupation to use violent means.

Form Groups and Research Positions

1. Divide the class into groups of four. Explain that these will be the groups that students will remain in throughout the rest of the lesson. Students’ performance will be evaluated based on individual effort, participation, and contribution to the group. Assign a pair from each group to each position.

Remind students that each team will be thoroughly researching their position in order to create the best case for their position. After they have become knowledgeable about their position, they will need to organize and frame logical, compelling and well-reasoned arguments to use in the structured controversy.

2. Ask students to brainstorm a list of questions they will need to answer in order to develop the strongest argument for their particular position. Track these on chart paper. Then, if any questions have been missed, the teacher can provide the following list to further focus students in their research:

  • As you conduct your research, define the following terms and concepts (write the definitions on Student Handout 5): separatists, guerrillas, occupation, civilians, independence
  • What has been the impact of the war in Chechnya and the Russian occupation on the lives of civilians in Chechnya?
  • What have been the consequences of the violent methods employed by the Russian forces? What have been the consequences of the violent methods employed by the Chechen separatist rebels?
  • In Chechnya, are there non-violent alternatives for resisting the Russian occupation? If so, what are they? What are the pros and cons of violent vs. non-violent means?
  • When is or isn’t violence acceptable as a means of resisting oppression and achieving independence?

3. Hand out the Resource Packets (see Resources/Materials section). Briefly introduce the resources pieces included.

4. Students will need substantial quiet time to read individually, using Student Handout 5 as a guide and to take notes, before joining their partners to develop their case. You may want to structure a reading and then joint-work time, or you may want to leave the structuring of their time up to the students in each pair.

5. Assign the following homework assignment the night before the structured controversy takes place: Ask students to review the notes they took while conducting their research, and to identify those elements that might be most persuasive in making a case for their position. They should highlight or “star” those sections of their notes that are most compelling and come ready to share them with their partners the next day.

Day 4-5

Warm up and Re-group

1. Ask one or two students to briefly describe in their own words why this issue is a controversy. What are the opposing viewpoints regarding the use of violence by those struggling for freedom from occupation?

2. Have students re-group with their partners. Give the pairs 10-15 minutes to share the sections they highlighted for homework, and to strategize about how to make the strongest, most logical case for their position.

Present the best case for their positions

1. Remind students about the rules for Academic Controversy (refer them to Student Handout 2). Have a student read them aloud or paraphrase them.

2. Explain to students that you will be timing each pair’s presentation, and that the pair that is not presenting should be actively listening and taking notes using Student Handout 6. The listening pair should also be analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments.

3. Allow each pair four to eight minutes, depending on your time budget, to present the best case possible. It is often helpful to alert students when there are two minutes left.

Engage in open discussion

1. Allow five minutes for open conversation between the two pairs.

2. At this point, each pair continues to support their position, and students have the opportunity to refute their opponent’s points and to strengthen their own. This is a time for discussion, and also provides time for individuals to ask clarifying questions of the other pair.

Reverse perspectives

1. Pairs now switch sides, adopting and arguing the point of view they earlier tried to refute. This is the most difficult step for students. It is hard to suddenly switch hats and to now have to powerfully and persuasively argue your opponent’s position. It might be helpful to remind students here about the ultimate goal and expected outcome of Academic Controversy: a new position that both pairs can live with, a real win-win situation that leaves no one the loser.

2. Allow each pair four to five minutes to prepare their new position, encouraging them to carefully review the notes they took during their opponents’ presentation. Remind students that the task here is not to find the loopholes in their opponents’ positions, but rather to identify and argue those points that are the strongest and most persuasive as if they were their own.

3. Allow each pair three to four minutes to represent the best reasoning of the opposite perspective.

Day 5-6

Re-Group and Synthesize

1. Restate what the two positions have been for this Academic Controversy:

  • Position A: It is acceptable for those struggling for independence or freedom from occupation to use violent means.
  • Position B: It is not acceptable for those struggling for independence or freedom from occupation to use violent means.

Ask a representative from the Position A pair to summarize for the other three people in their group what the three to five most compelling, well-reasoned arguments they have made are. Ask a representative from the Position B pair to do the same thing.

2. Now opposing pairs need to come together to jointly select and agree on the best reasoning from both Position A and Position B. Ask the pair supporting Position B whether the arguments just presented by the pair supporting position A are the most compelling and well-reasoned. Ask the same of the Position A pair. What other key points were made that are missing from the list? Are any arguments not well reasoned (with supporting evidence) and persuasive?

3. Have each group of four use Student Handout 7 to identify and articulate all the key elements of their new position, one that incorporates the best elements of both Position A and B. Refer students to the goal of the exercise as explained on Handout 7: a solution that represents a synthesis of the reasoning behind both positions. Walk through how to use Handout 7, highlighting where students note the key points from both arguments and where they record their ideas for solutions.

The new position is more than just a compromise. It should represent new thinking and possibilities, and it should not force either side to “give up” too much. The new position may be something that might not be entirely possible without new international efforts, laws, or sensitivities. This is a chance for students to “think outside the box” – to imagine brand new ways of resolving the given conflict.

For this particular Academic Controversy, new positions might include:

  • Violent means are acceptable if employed by oppressed groups who have suffered many losses of innocent life among their own.
  • Violent means are acceptable as long as the targets are military ones and not civilians.
  • Those who lack independence and freedom must get the assistance from the international community so they can avoid using violent means.

Creating a joint report

1. Each group of four will create a report that briefly describes the presentation and main arguments of the two positions; identifies and explores the key elements of and rationale for the new position; and provides a creative and persuasive case for the new position.

2. Refer students to Student Handout 4, Rubric for Assessing Performance In Academic Controversy: Written Report. Ask students to read through the rubric. Then, walk the class through one or two of the columns of the rubric, highlighting the differences between scores (one-four points) and emphasizing the criteria you will consider when you evaluate their work. Allow time for students to ask any questions they may have regarding the rubric. Through this exercise, students should gain a clear sense of what is expected of them as they embark on the preparation of the joint report. This is also a good time for the teacher to discuss deadlines (e.g. outline of report due Monday, bibliography of resources due Tuesday, etc.).

3. For the final joint report, each group of four will prepare a written report that includes a thesis statement that clearly advocates for a new position, a rationale for that new position, and a conclusion that includes next steps for the United States and the international community to take. Students might divvy up writing responsibilities after brainstorming together, or the group might outline the paper together and then divide up writing responsibilities among individuals or pairs.

4. Then, if time permits, each group can choose one of the following creative options as an additional joint-product to hand in.

  • An illustrated timeline of events in Chechnya since 1994. Students might include statistics that illustrate the experiences of civilians.
  • A mural or collage (including text and visuals) chronicling the experiences of Chechens under Russian occupation. Students could include the actions and experiences of the rebels.
  • The enactment of a scene (either performed live in the classroom or videotaped) – either fictional or an historical re-enactment.
  • The development of a fictional personal narrative (e.g. a Chechen rebel and his or her rationale for using violent means to achieve independence).
  • The development of a resolution to the United Nations regarding steps the international community should take to ensure a peaceful resolution to the on-going war in Chechnya.

Extension Activities

The ideas below offer opportunities to explore the issue of violence as a means for resistance to oppression and/or occupation.

Consider the following case studies: Palestinian struggles for statehood and the use of suicide bombers as a means of resistance (http://www.esrmetro.org/currentpalestine.html); the South African anti-apartheid struggle; Gandhi’s non-violent resistance in India and South Africa; Martin Luther King’s vs. Malcolm X’s strategies in the U.S. civil rights movement.

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