I realized that I never gave an update on my student's research paper topic. The final idea came from an essay that my students read called "I'm Like a Bird." In the short essay, the author writes a defense of the pop song "I'm Like a Bird." He argues that while the song may not last as a long as classical pieces written by Bach or Mozart, pop music has its place in the musical world. He finds enjoyment in the way pop music can make a person feel good, at least for a little while, and in the way the music is disposable.
One of the writing prompts at the end of the essay asked the students to write a defense of an activity they participate in that they feel other people unfairly criticize. This prompt gave me the idea to have the students write a defense paper. I expanded the scope a little bit to include values and beliefs. I thought that this would be a great opportunity for students to research and discover why they think a certain way or have certain beliefs. I did limit their topics in that I told them I wanted them to avoid topics like abortion, the death penalty, steroids, marijuana, and the environment. I usually limit these topics because students rarely write a strong papers when they chose these topics. They usually pick these topics because they think it will be easy to write the paper because there is a plethora of information available. Of course, they forget that the information is often unreliable and biased (at best).
They are going to turn their papers in next week. Based on their proposals, I have some interesting topics coming in and I am looking forward to reading what they found. I think I gave some of the students extra stress because I did not place strict parameters on the type of research materials that they needed to find. I told them that they have to have three outside sources and they have to be good, reliable sources. It is up to them to determine what is a good, reliable source (they have to learn how to fly sometime).