Argument Wars Engages Students in Civics

            Icivics is a platform that creates and hosts civics-oriented games to promote student interest in history and government. Some of the current games highlighted on the website are related to law, the founding fathers, journalism and immigration. The platform strives to be nonpartisan, in order to foster conversations around current events in the classroom.

            In Argument Wars, the user plays as a lawyer in front of the Supreme Court. As such, you choose your position in cases, including Bond v. United States, Brown v. Board of Education, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and Miranda v. Arizona, and make arguments that support your stance.

            Once you choose your character and position, you decide which amendment the case relates to. In this example, I’ll be arguing the United States’ side of Bond v. United States, an issue of states’ rights relating to the Tenth Amendment.

            Throughout the game, each player makes arguments support their position. Each player has certain cards, which either support an argument, or may be unrelated at all. You can click on each card to read more about what the argument would entail and dismiss cards that are unrelated or would support the other side instead.

Once you choose the proper card, the judge rules on whether the argument is valid. If the judge wants to hear more, you match tiles to connect the supporting evidence or arguments with the point at hand. You are given three rounds to do so.

            Additionally, whenever the opposing player makes their argument, you can choose to object. However, be careful when objecting! An incorrect objection can result in a reduction of points.

            The final results of the case depends on how many points you earn throughout the game. Points are given for correct arguments and support of those arguments.

            Overall, Argument Wars, and the icivics platform in general, seems like a great way to teach students about civics and how the legal system works. Although it does little to teach about the structure of the court system, each round of the game presents the main concepts of a Supreme Court case. Additionally, by arguing in favor of one side, users are taught critical thinking skills, as well as why the case was controversial or important at the time that it was argued. By being a game, students are provided with an interactive way to learn about cases, which otherwise is usually done by writing a case brief.

            Furthermore, the game cannot be easily won. The player must read through what the judge and opposing side says in order to choose their argument. I think that this is especially important in games for students. I remember playing math games in elementary school that were fun, but failed to connect the curriculum to the activity. In addition to the games, icivics has a section on their website that lays out lesson plans for teachers based around the games. The platform, which provides evidence and methodology on research about the games’ impact on students, seems to be both engaging and thoughtful.  

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