To the Editor:
There seems to be a consistent effort to consider both sides of every argument in the interest of fairness. We see it on cable news shows that invite guests to argue that down is up in an effort to appear nonpartisan. We see it in textbooks that present proven facts alongside inaccuracies where both are seen as equally valid possibilities. And now we are seeing it in a social studies curriculum that asks little black boys and girls to argue the pros of slavery, which was covered in a recent Education Week article (“A Popular Social Studies Curriculum Got an Internal Review. The Findings Weren’t Pretty,” June 14, 2019).
While it is critically important that our children be able to listen to diverse perspectives and consider the beliefs of others, it is also important to recognize that this does not apply to every situation. Not every story deserves two sides. Take what happened in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 for example. On one side, there were white supremacists shouting chants, such as “Jews will not replace us.” On the other side, there were citizens who responded by coming together to speak out against racist ideology. A deranged man used his car to mow down members of the group of innocent people standing against hate, killing one young woman. A key takeaway for the president of the United States after this incident was that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Would it ever be acceptable for a teacher to ask her students to argue the benefits of the Holocaust? Some ideas are so absurd, and some acts are so immoral that it is not in anyone’s best interest to validate them for the sake of balance or critical thinking. Some so-called “two sided” issues do not deserve equal consideration.
Timothy A. Clark
Social Studies Teacher
A version of this article appeared in the July 17, 2019 edition of Education Week as ‘Not Every Story Deserves Two Sides’