Abortion/Academics/College/High School/My Life/Teen Life

5 Tips for Arguing About Tough Catholic Truths in the Classroom

Rest in peace my grades.

Rest in peace all of my friends and any amount of “coolness” that I had.

It was nice knowing you.

I did a presentation for my class against abortion during my sophomore year of high school. And on that day I was pretty sure I was committing academic and social suicide.

But hey, I’m alive to tell the story. And I am here to say I won the whole class over. The teacher was crying. We all prayed a rosary together.

Just kidding. That presentation I did was pretty bad. But I’ve learned a lot from it. Since then I’ve done a handful of presentations, in-class discussions, and papers on topics from the existence of God to other Catholic social teaching like pornograhy to genetic engineering.

And I’ve learned a lot from failing and learning how to succeed. And learned that it doesn’t actually have to be academic or social suicide.

Frankly, your classmates have probably only heard what popular media has told them about these positions. They have probably never heard it said intelligently, charitably, or from someone your age.

You have a beautiful opportunity to show them differently, and here’s some tips on how to do that:

Use good sources

We live in a culture where everything posted online is taken as “truth.” But you’re smarter than that and so are your teacher and classmates. While they may be good places to start, avoid citing Catholic or any sketchy looking websites. There are plenty of good philosophical and secular (not religious) scientific sources to back you up. A good example of this is pornkillslove.com. On every article there are dozens of academic journals listed on the bottom which makes them trustworthy.

Meet your audience where they are

What kind of people are in your class? What are the common misconceptions when it comes to this topic? Answering these questions are key to addressing your audience.

Here are some examples:

  • Saying “Birth control is not just a religious issue.” will open up the conversation and debunk misconceptions.
  • Saying, “Pornography is especially damaging to women because….” will address the people who care about women issues in the class.
  • If you’re a guy and talking about abortion saying, “I know I am a male and cannot experience what being pregnant feels like but…” acknowledges what people are already thinking.

Don’t be overly emotional

Tread lightly. Remember, you are in an academic setting. Sometimes coming off too emotionally invested can make you lose academic credibility. Alarming statistics and real personal narratives should be able to speak for themselves. Preaching in this setting can come off as cheesy. Plastering photos of babies on powerpoint and using common sayings like, “Your mom was pro life” and “What if your best friend was aborted?” honestly aren’t very helpful and don’t offer a lot of academic insight.

Be charitable

Seriously. It’s better to not speak at all than to speak without love. A good starting point is to practice charity and love with your classmates and teacher long before and after your presentation or debate. We should be doing this anyways, but especially for when you talk about a tough topic. They’ll understand your heart better.

A second tip is to watch your tone. If people feel like you’re condescending or belittling them, they’ll immediately close off and become defensive. One way you can do this is to acknowledge other sides and demonstrate that you get where they’re coming from. Be compassionate to that.

Offer it all up for the glory of God

It’s tempting to make this all about us and try to show off that we’re the smartest person in the room. We are not. We have been graced to know truth and given even more grace to share it. Depend on that grace. It’s not about what we do, but what God does with our openness. Before even writing out a single word tell Jesus that this assignment is His and you want to do what He wants with it.

If you do this, you don’t have to be a slave to fear. Because it’s not your work but His. You can be confident in that. And somewhere in between the statistics and the compassion in your voice, we can pray that they’ll be able to experience the heart of Jesus.

About the Author

Teresa Nguyen

I'm a twenty-something gal who's a big advocate for picnics, long walks, and dancing (even if you suck at it). I want to spend my whole life delighting in the Lord's love and being in awe of the sacredness of the human person.

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