argument in the driver’s seat

When I taught a year of high school, I had my tenth graders write an argument essay about whether or not driving while talking on cell phones should be banned. We researched the topic, discussed our findings, held a classroom debate, and wrote the essay. It was a great assignment because the topic was something they cared deeply about, considering that most of them were close to getting their driver’s license.

For the debate, I made them memorize some of the facts and statistics from the research, so that their responses wouldn’t devolve into unsupported nonsense. It made a big difference, and I was impressed by their articulation backed by passion. By the time we held the debate, most students agreed that cell phones should be banned while driving, so I had to divide the class evenly to take each side. There was grumbling from those who couldn’t support their particular stand, but they all did a remarkable job defending the assigned positions. Even after the bell rang, I heard them out in the hallway pontificating.

One of the arguments in favor of talking on a cell phone while driving was that it was no different than talking to a passenger. I wish I had had the benefit of this study showing that not to be the case.

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