Series Review: Both Sides of the Story

Animal Rights by Patience Coster. 2012. 9781448871841. Gr. 5-8.

Arab-Israeli Conflict by Nicola Barber. 2012. 9781448871834. Gr. 5-8.

Cloning and Genetic Engineering by Nicola Barber. 2012. 9781448871872. Gr. 5-8.

Death Penalty by Nicola Barber. 2012. 9781448871858. Gr. 5-8.

Ethics of War by Patience Coster. 2012. 9781448871889. Gr. 5-8.

Euthanasia by Patience Coster. 2012. 9781448871865. Gr. 5-8.

As you probably noticed during the recent Presidential election, the United States is a very polarized country on many issues.  While I love a passionate, energetic debate as much as anyone else, it has gotten a bit ridiculous on the news channels; pundits are seen shouting over one another, expounding upon their opinion (of which they are certain is the only correct opinion). I worry that this is the contemporary model of discourse that our students have.

The Both Sides of the Story series seems to be an antidote to this, aiming to present arguments about controversial issues in an even, level-headed way that allows readers to think for themselves and form their own opinions.

Each volume begins with some background and history about the topic, laying the groundwork for the more detailed arguments that follow.  The books are full of information boxes, pictures, and illustrations that support the text nicely.  A feature that I particularly like is the information boxes that contain quotes by experts or contemporaries from opposing sides of the issue.  Here is an example of this from the Death Penalty title:

“The bumper sticker says ‘Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing is wrong?’ And I agree with that.” – Richard Hughes, drummer in rock band Keane 2010.

“It is by exacting the highest penalty for the taking of human life that we affirm the highest value of human life.” – Edward Koch, US politician, from his 1985 essay “Death and Justice: How Capital Punishment Affirms Life.

There is consistency between all of the titles in the series; no apparent bias exists on the topics, and careful language is used in the presentation of arguments.  For example, often you see the phrasing, “some people argue…” or “opponents of this believe…” or “many supporters dismiss…”.  This neutral language is essential in presenting both sides of the issue, allowing readers to consider both sides as they form their opinions.

I can see Both Sides of the Story being an excellent resource for educators who want to stage classroom debates on contemporary issues.  This series would also be an excellent starting point for researching a writing assignment on the topics covered.

And you never know, these books may play a role in the development of a new generation of cable news pundits.  But, please, if you have the chance, tell these future talking heads to talk a little quieter and not interrupt!


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