Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bullying: Arguments promote information literacy

Book cover, 'Matters of Opinion: Bullying' by Carla Mooney. Cropped image depicts the torsos and arms of two male-presenting teenagers. One has shoved the other against school lockers, and reaches to take money from his hand
In Matters of Opinion: Bullying (Norwood House Press, 2016), Carla Mooney presents pro and con arguments for three issues connected with bullying:

“Has the Internet Made Bullying Worse?”, “Are Schools Doing Enough to Stop Bullying?” and “Should Bullying Be a Criminal Offense?”

This brief volume encourages students to critically examine arguments, focused around a topic that bears direct relevance to their school-going experience.

There are so many ways that students can have a direct connection with bullying — they may commit acts of bullying, be the target of bullying or confront bullying as a bystander. That personal impact makes this book a great resource for promoting information literacy among middle-school students and young adults.

The pro and con arguments are paired with essays that encourage critically examining the tools that were used when crafting these arguments: knowing the difference between primary and secondary sources, recognizing author bias and being able to critique the use of “expert” testimonials.

One subtle aspect that intrigued me, in the question of bullying and the Internet, was that pro and con arguments cited the exact same figure by the Cyberbullying Research Center, but they worded it in different ways. The pro position stated that “about 20 percent of students say they have been cyberbullied at some point in their lives.” The con position characterized it as “only about one in five teens.” Twenty percent is one-in-five.

I was curious to discover which of the two wordings was closest to wording actually used by the Cyberbullying Research Center. When I explored its website, I discovered that regardless of how it is worded in the pro and con arguments, the figure appeared to be an average of results taken from multiple surveys.

The CRC’s most recent analysis (as of July 2016) concerned nine surveys administered from 2007 to 2015. Lifetime victimization rates ranged from 18.8 percent in a May 2007 survey to 34.6 percent in a survey administered in January 2014. The identified average across those nine surveys was 26.3 percent.

Comparing an original source to the ways that it is represented in “objective” journalism and arguments would be an informative exercise for an information-literacy curriculum.

In the final part of the book, students are led through a six-point process for developing, researching and completing their own written argument.

A notation from the publisher indicates the book aligns with Common Core Language Arts Anchor Standards for Reading Informational Text and Speaking and Listening. Detailed notes list the sources used for each argument, and a bibliography also lists books, articles and websites.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinion expressed is my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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