Okay, so my class elected to discuss and write about legalization of marijuana for their in-class essay. I had never done this topic in class before (I know, can you believe it?) and I was actually intrigued by the topic. I did a lot of reading to prepare for the class discussions. And I was genuinely interested in learning more about the topic for my personal understanding.
And now, after two weeks, I’m so sick of it. The going-back-and-forth with one research countering another research endlessly… it’s really hard to get a clear picture of the issue. One of the more interesting articles was Kevin Drum’s “The Patriot’s Guide to Legalization” (published in Mother Jones). To be fair, we also read two articles from National Review (one by Richard Vigilante and another by Richard Cowan) – the articles are too old to be accessed via the website (but available through academic databases).
This is also to say that my students came into the topic already supporting legalization, and they continue to support it. My goal in teaching this material – or any other topic really – was mainly to talk about argument. We talked about the nuances of arguments – to understand claims about “causal” and “link,” for instance. I do think the students were able to at least broaden their horizon regarding the topic. They learned to consider the various aspects of the debate and learned to discuss the gateway effect, substitution effect, medicinal values, global practices, effect on usage, and so on. We talked about evidence and thesis – how to build an intelligent, evidence-based argument.
I may continue to allow my classes to choose the class topic for an essay, but I’ll have to brace myself if this topic comes up again. No more pot talk, please.