Here is one way to set up a mini-debate activity to get students to see an issue in its complexity.†
1.) Have students write for a few minutes about their own feelings on the issue whether or not marijuana should be legalized.† Also have them consider the opposite side.† What are their reasons for taking their side?† What would be the reasons people might offer for the opposing view?
2.) Have students discuss what a pro/con debate of this issue might look like:
- What are reasons for legalizing marijuana?
- What are reasons against legalizing marijuana?
- If a person from each of these sides sits down to debate the issue, what would you envision this debate looking like?† How would they argue?† What would each side say?
- Would this debate likely get anywhere?
3) Emphasize why itís important in our context to go beyond a pro-con debate:
1) Academic argument must attempt to accomplish something, and must thus take into consideration the audienceís concerns and values and attempt to address them.† Also important is articulating a logical and well-supported argument, something thatís hard to do (and typically not called-for) in many non-academic contexts
2) Academic argument assumes any issue will probably be more complicated than a simple pro/con stance.†
4) Divide the class into 6 groups where each group plays the role of one of these individuals or groups:†
- Law Enforcement
- Cancer Patient
- Doctor For Legalization
- Doctor Against Legalization
- Drug Dealer
5) With their assigned persona, have each group address the following questions:
- Would this group be for or against legalization?†
- What would be this groupís position?† Why?† That is, what particular values and concerns do they have in relation to this debate?††
6) Once groups are done, have them list their work on the board so they can start to see the breakdown of what different positions people take on this issue.
7) Discuss their findings.† Highlight the finer distinctions among the opinions and actual positions these groups have on the issue and how the groupsí values and interests inform their positions.