After the first assignment, which centers around a reading from their textbook, my students will be choosing a topic to write the rest of their papers on, culminating in a researched position paper by semester's end. Today we talked about potential research topics. In one class, I pretty much had to pull teeth to get anyone to generate topics. My second class? Not so much a problem.
They covered a lot of ground, between current events and ongoing debates. Church-state issues, English as the official language, movie rating system effectiveness, and stem cell research--sound research topics.
Of course, some were also off the wall.
"Aliens!" (On the off-limits list, I told them, but space exploration funding went on the board.)
"Bestiality!" (Not on the off-topics list, but not recommended. I'd want a detailed outline well in advance, figuring that would deter 'em. Calling their bluffs usually works. Also, awkward moment: "What's bestiality?" from a different student)
"What kind of pirates?" I asked, "File sharing or high seas?"
"Both!" They mentioned a couple high-conflict areas where pirates really were problematic. I was writing topics on the board quickly, trying to keep up with the rapid fire of ideas.
"How about Jack Sparrow?" one clown asked.
"As much as I'd appreciate a cover sheet with Johnny Depp on it, no," I said.
"Celebrity obsession!" someone else called out.
I paused before writing that one down. "Well played," I had to say.