25 Controversial Topics: Position Paper Guide

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College and controversial topics go hand in hand, making it a great time to sharpen your debate skills and determine your stance on today's most controversial issues.

By the time you graduate, you'll likely have been involved in spirited classroom discussions, lively political disagreements, or even full-fledged protests.

At some point, you may also have to write about something controversial, such as capital punishment, abortion, or gun control. Exploring topics like these can challenge your worldview, personal ethics, and emotional instincts and make you a more clear-headed thinker.

The first step to writing any position paper is to take a stance between two main arguments, which requires you to understand both perspectives — and to back up your arguments with cold, hard facts.

To help, we've compiled a list of the top 25 most controversial topics. It is by no means an exhaustive exploration of each position; instead, consider this a starting point to familiarize you with the broader issues before you dive deep into research.

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Table of Contents

Controversial Topics

Gun Control

Gun violence has been a heated debate topic in the U.S. for years. Mass shootings and other acts of gun violence kill nearly 40,000 people every year in the U.S.

The gun control debate largely hinges on interpretations of the Second Amendment. It reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Advocates for gun rights argue the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" means that the government cannot control the possession of firearms. Thus, they oppose any laws that impact their ability to buy, carry, or accessorize guns.

By contrast, gun control advocates focus on the part of the Second Amendment that says gun rights are meant to be "well regulated" by local, state, and federal legislative bodies. They push for stricter gun control laws, including more extensive background checks, regulations on assault weapons, and banning high-capacity magazines.

Today, the debate has escalated due to the high rate of gun violence and the rising frequency of mass shootings. In 2019, there were 417 mass shootings in the U.S., according to data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive (GVA). The increasing prevalence of mass shootings has sparked fierce debates about the sale of assault rifles, background checks for gun buyers, and the connection between gun violence and mental illness.

Further Reading

Find out what you can do with a criminal justice degree to help resolve this debate.

Abortion

The abortion debate has long been one of the most controversial topics in the United States. It centers on a fundamental disagreement over the question of bodily autonomy, as expressed through a person's right to terminate a pregnancy.

Abortion became legal in every state following the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade. Every state has at least one abortion clinic, and in 2017, 18% of pregnancies ended in abortion.

The debate typically splits into two common viewpoints — pro-choice and pro-life — which both wrangle with religious, moral, and philosophical beliefs.

The pro-life perspective argues that life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore abortion is equivalent to murder. It is seen as an act of violence that can have physical, emotional, and psychological repercussions, even if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Pro-life supporters believe that government intervention to prevent abortions is justified.

On the other side, pro-choice argues that people have the right to choose to have an abortion because they have bodily autonomy — complete control over their own bodies. They believe that it is immoral for the government to make medical decisions on behalf of pregnant people. Thus, the pro-choice perspective opposes federal, state, or local laws that restrict access, impede funding, or create legal obstacles for getting an abortion.

Further Reading

Check out what you can do with a law degree to actively participate in this debate.

Religious Freedom

Religious freedom is considered a fundamental human right for every American. The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Yet, religious liberty continues to be controversial in its execution. Discussions about religion and politics are often polarizing because they dig deep into how people view the world. As the adage says, "don't mix religion and politics."

The First Amendment compels the government not to show preference to a specific religion or take away an individual's ability to exercise faith. It also ensures that neither the state nor the church has the power to rule over each other. Under the First Amendment, Americans have the right to practice any faith or to have no faith. Legally, they can do so without fear of government coercion, even in public.

In practice, the fiery disagreements over how freedom of religion can and should be expressed have led to clashes over God's mention in the Pledge of Allegiance, displaying the Ten Commandments in public spaces, and businesses denying service based on religious belief. The issue is particularly prevalent around Christianity, which appears in many aspects of public life in the United States, despite not being the official religion.

Many people with pro-religious views argue that religious freedom means they have a right to make choices about who they serve or employ and what they display or do based on their religious values. Others argue that religious freedom means not having to follow the trappings of a specific religion in public spaces or required pledges, and also not being denied access to goods, services, or jobs based on their religious beliefs.

Further Reading

Check out what you can do with a law degree if you're interested in having a voice in the debate.

Animal Rights

Animal rights advocates believe that animals should be able to live free from use in medical research, hunting, agriculture, and other industries that benefit humans. The central conflict here is about conflicting priorities: protecting animals or serving humanity's needs.

According to Gallup, 39% of Americans consider animal research immoral. Gallup found fewer people support medical testing on animals, buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur, and cloning animals in 2020 than they did in previous years.

Animal-rights activists argue that animals deserve similar or equal rights as human beings, free from captivity, abuse, or neglect. Additionally, the animal rights movement believes it's immoral to eat animals or use them for labor and research. This also extends to protecting animal habitats from displacement or destruction for purposes like dredging rivers, trawling, agriculture, and urbanization.

Opponents of animal rights do not typically advocate for cruel or unnecessary animal abuse, but they believe animals are not equal to humans and that it is morally justified to use animals to benefit human society. Most prominently, they believe that animal research can lead to medical discoveries and improved quality of life for humans, such as testing antibodies on animals to fight against COVID-19. They also argue that animals do not think or feel emotions such as pain, fear, or loneliness.

Most people fall somewhere between these two viewpoints. For example, many people support animal rights, but still eat meat. Others are repulsed by animal abuse, but still support using animals to advance medical research.

Further Reading

Find out what you can do with a biology degree to help resolve this debate.

Vaccines

Vaccines have revolutionized global health with life-saving immunity from certain diseases. Polio, smallpox, tetanus, and other infectious diseases are no longer deadly because of innovative vaccines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines prevent thousands of Americans from getting infected by diseases each year. Immunization is the best protection against these diseases, especially for children with weak immune systems. They may also help bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a speedier end.

But there has been some opposition to vaccines in recent years. The push back against vaccines comes for different reasons, including fear, misconceptions, and mistrust of science. Anti-vaccine activists are often referred to as anti-vaxxers.

Some of the most persistent arguments against vaccines include a widespread fear that vaccines cause autism, that natural immunity is better than being inoculated, and that vaccines contain harmful chemicals. Over the years, public health officials, physicians, and medical experts have debunked these claims.

Despite that, anti-vaxxers still argue that vaccines can be dangerous and contain hazardous or poorly-researched substances, creating risks that outweigh the benefits. Meanwhile, vaccine supporters believe all parents have a responsibility to comply with medical advice on vaccine administration, protecting their children and strengthening herd immunity for society as a whole.

Further Reading

If you want to be an active part of resolving this debate, find out what you can do with a nursing degree.

Privacy Rights

The right to privacy is a controversial issue that centers on conflicting priorities between individual privacy and public safety. Over the years, the U.S. government has expanded its capacity to conduct mass surveillance on its citizens in the name of protecting national security interests.

Privacy rights advocates argue that government surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizures. They also express concern about private enterprises, like Google and Facebook, that can gather and store vast amounts of personal data.

Those who support mass surveillance believe that the threat of terrorism and foreign interference outweighs the right to privacy, arguing that the government should be able to protect Americans through any means necessary.

Sharing personal information through social media and e-commerce also creates privacy issues. Many people willingly disclose things like financial data, addresses, and credit records to private entities, which can then be hacked by internet thieves.

Further Reading

Find out what you can do with a computer science degree to help resolve this debate.

Free-Market Capitalism

There are two main viewpoints in the debate over free-market capitalism: those who favor economic regulation and those who prefer a free market.

According to the Cambridge Journal of Economics, market governance must hold a "balance between economic and social goals and between individual and communal goals." The ideal system encourages efficient but responsible use of resources that aligns with the interests of individuals, corporations, and society as a whole.

Supporters of regulation believe that free markets are inherently unstable, unequal, and prone to boom and bust cycles. In order to achieve a functional, fair economic system, they believe government control is necessary, to soften the effects of good and bad economic periods and prevent systemic imbalances.

Economists who favor a free-market approach argue that government interference is what causes ups and downs in the first place. They claim that regulation misallocates resources and creates — rather than softens — market instability. According to them, a healthy market with maximum long-term growth and fewer highs and lows comes from a free market.

Other issues in the debate include privatizing public resources or utilities, the legislative push and pull over regulatory oversight, and the outsized role that money plays in our political system.

Further Reading

Find out what you can do with an economics degree to help resolve this debate.

Global Climate Change

The debate over global climate change centers on a series of questions: Is global warming real? Is it caused mainly by human activity? How harmful is it likely to be? What can we do about it?

Rising global temperatures, warming oceans, and shrinking ice sheets all indicate that Earth is warming in response to increased greenhouse gas levels, which are mostly due to human-made emissions. The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century due to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Environmental groups believe humans have a moral obligation to stop climate change before future generations pay the price. To that end, they support policies that help reverse the long-term effects of climate change.

Some skeptics argue that the dangers of climate change are exaggerated, while others accept global warming as real but dismiss evidence that suggests it's connected to human activity. This perspective leaves climate change skeptics to reject calls for regulatory limits on emissions, arguing that the economic cost outweighs the environmental impact.

Global climate change also impacts economics, politics, and foreign affairs. Government regulation, suppression of scientific data for political gain, and international agreements on climate change often play a role in the debate.

Further Reading

If you're interested in having a voice in the debate, check out what you can do with a degree in chemistry.

Evolution

Although most scientists accept the evolutionary theory that humans evolved from primates, many Americans still reject it. According to the Pew Research Center, about 1 in 5 U.S. adults believe that life on Earth has never changed.

Those who support evolutionary theory tend to believe in Charles Darwin's natural selection views, which are considered the primary process behind evolution. Others agree with Darwin's premise, but prefer to use more modern scientific theories to explain how change occurs.

The push back against evolution is often rooted in religion. Those who believe humans were created in the image of God are often called "creationists." They contend that evolutionary theory conflicts with teachings in the Bible and the Judeo-Christian concept of a God who alters human events. This perspective is sometimes called the theory of "intelligent design," claiming that life couldn't have arisen by chance and must have been designed by an omnipotent being.

This disagreement is most prominent in discussions around education. Many Evangelical Christian groups resist teaching evolution in science classes because Darwin's ideas conflict with their worldview. Others advocate for including intelligent design in public school science curricula alongside the scientific theory of evolution, which has sparked debate about the separation of church and state.

Further Reading

Check out what you can do with a degree in biology to actively participate in this debate.

Marijuana Legalization

Despite being legal in 11 states, marijuana is still highly controversial across the United States. The major debates center around its usage as a medicine and whether it should be available for recreational use, like alcohol. There are currently 55 million American adults (16.9%) who use marijuana in the U.S., including 43% of college students.

Advocates view cannabis use as a personal choice and argue that laws infringing upon that choice infringe upon individual liberties. They also say that prohibition prevents those in need from receiving proper medical treatment and that enforcement often targets minorities and other at-risk populations unfairly.

Prohibitionists question the validity of marijuana's medical use and believe the risks to public health, safety, and civic order outweigh any potential benefits. They also fear it will become a gateway drug if it's made legal for recreational use.

As more states have legalized marijuana, the debate has expanded, with advocates calling for clearing low-level marijuana convictions, using marijuana as an alternative to opioids, and examining the economic potential for marijuana cultivation in agriculture.

Further Reading

If you want to participate in resolving this debate, find out what you can do with a degree in political science.

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment, sometimes called "the death penalty," is a criminal sentence in which a convicted criminal is deemed unfit for rehabilitation and executed by the state. It is legal in 28 states and under federal law.

Those who support capital punishment believe that some crimes are heinous enough that those who commit them are too dangerous to be kept incarcerated. They also believe that the death penalty acts as a deterrent against other would-be criminals and provides a sense of justice for victims, survivors, and their families.

Opponents of capital punishment contend that governments should not have the authority to determine who has a right to live or die, arguing that human life is too significant to be penalized — no matter the crime. They also point to evidence that the death penalty can lead to killing innocent people by mistake.

The capital punishment debate also touches on racial and socioeconomic inequalities in the justice system, ideas around rehabilitation and punishment, and the economics of incarceration.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 22 people were executed in the United States in 2019. According to the Criminal Justice Project of the NAACP, there are 2,620 people on death row as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Further Reading

Find out what you can do with a degree in criminal justice or law to resolve the debate.

Marriage Equality

In 2015, the Marriage Equality Act made same-sex marriage legal everywhere in the United States and was later upheld by the Supreme Court. Even so, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals to marry still lead to heated debates, especially within religious communities.

Those who support marriage equality believe gender and sexual orientation should not affect access to rights under the law, including marriage rights. They believe all couples deserve access to the same recognition, legal rights, and tax benefits.

Opponents of marriage equality argue that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, and allowing any other type of union undermines the institution of marriage and should thus be sanctioned by law.

Most opponents of marriage equality have a faith-based viewpoint, arguing that non-heterosexual romantic relationships contradict teachings in the Bible, making them sinful in the eyes of God. They believe the government is obligated to prevent these marriages, triggering further debate about the separation of church and state.

While marriage equality is the law in the United States, the debate over LGBTQ+ access to equal treatment continues.

Further Reading

Check out what you can do with a degree in criminal justice or law to actively participate in this debate.

Immigration Reform

Immigration reform concerns rules around how immigrants can legally enter and stay in the United States. The government's stance on immigration restrictions often changes with presidential administrations, due to ideological differences between the two major political parties. The rate of immigration to the U.S. has been exacerbated by asylum-seekers, escaping gang activity, drug violence, civil unrest, and human trafficking in Latin America.

Some believe that the U.S. should permit entry to all people who come in search of opportunity, freedom, and a better life. They also support policies that create more accessible pathways to citizenship, even for those who arrived illegally, and protest against conditions in immigration detention centers, believing them to be human rights violations.

Others worry that illegal entry into the country — or even excessive legal entry — will strain the economy and pose a threat to national security. They prefer restrictive immigration policies and tighter border control measures to reduce immigration and prevent illegal immigration.

The Trump administration has attempted to enact immigration reform by dismantling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which creates a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. But in July 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld deportation protections for DACA recipients. Trump also temporarily blocked international students from returning to the U.S. to study during the coronavirus pandemic.

Further Reading

Learn more about going to college as an undocumented or immigrant student with our resources page.

The Trump Presidency

Donald Trump's presidency has been a constant source of controversy. His abrasive leadership style, tone, and methods in office are dramatically different from his predecessors, drawing an unprecedented level of ire from citizens who oppose him. He was impeached in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine to smear then-Democratic-presidential-hopeful Joe Biden.

As of July 2020, President Trump had made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims. This included falsehoods about the coronavirus pandemic, fringe conspiracy theories, his impeachment trial, and protests over the death of George Floyd.

He's also clashed with world leaders, openly supported white supremacists, and ignored evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections. Those who support President Trump claim the media misrepresents him — despite evidence to the contrary — or deny his past statements.

Trump supporters embrace his policies, which include more substantial immigration restrictions, protections for the Second Amendment, and nationalist identity politics. They also view the president as a political outsider whose unconventional style and behavior are a needed disruption of traditional politics.

Trump's opponents have fiercely criticized him for mishandling the coronavirus pandemic, race relations, and constitutional law. His opponents also view his presidency as a dangerous deviation from normative American values about executive authority, democratic rule, and general political civility.

Trump's opponents advocate for progressive policies that clash with his conservative viewpoints, including humane immigration reform, enhanced environmental protections, and stricter gun control laws.

Further Reading

Find out what you can do with a political science degree to help resolve this debate.

The Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis in the United States refers to an epidemic caused by opioids, a class of drugs that include prescription pain relievers, heroin, and the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The prevalence of these drugs has resulted in misuse, addiction, and 400,000 deaths from overdose over the past two decades.

According to the American Society of Interventional Pain (ASIP), the crisis first began in the early 1990s following a rise in prescribing opioids as legal painkillers for chronic pain. Opioids are highly addictive, and over the next 30 years, addiction to them spiraled out of control.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), 128 Americans died per day in 2018 from overdosing on opioids. NIDA considers it "a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare."

There is much debate about how to handle the epidemic. According to ASIP, many arguments in favor of opioids are based on "traditions, expert opinion, practical experience, and uncontrolled anecdotal observations."

Public health advocates have pushed for tighter regulations on prescription pain relievers; improved access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services; and further research into the effects of addiction.

There have been high-profile trials over who should pay for damage caused by narcotic painkillers in recent years. They often pit manufacturers of pain relievers against counties, cities, and individuals affected by the crisis.

Further Reading

You can help support those with opioid addiction with a degree in addiction recovery.

Transgender Rights

Transgender rights aim to protect individuals who identify as a gender that is different from the one assigned to them at birth. They argue that human rights should apply equally to all people, including those who are transgender, cisgender, non-binary, or intersex.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), transgender people face discrimination in education, housing, military service, credit access, and healthcare based on their gender identity or gender expression. There are 1.4 million trans adults who live in the U.S.

Nearly half the United States does not have legal protections for LGBTQ+ employees. In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal for employers to fire or discriminate against an employee because they are LGBTQ+. The 6-to-3 decision was a landmark victory for transgender rights.

Transgender advocates work to strengthen and expand legal protections in schools, healthcare, the workplace, and common law. Opponents of transgender rights push back against the idea that people should have the right to identify as a gender other than their assigned birth gender.

Religion is often a major source of anti-transgender sentiment. According to the Pew Research Center, 63% of U.S. Christians disagree that someone can be a gender different from the sex assigned to them at birth.

Further Reading

Learn more about the issues impacting transgender individuals with our resource page for LGBTQ+ students.

Federal Livable Wage

The federal minimum wage — $7.25 per hour — is the legal minimum that employers must pay workers in the United States, with some exceptions, like for tipped positions. A livable wage is the minimum hourly pay needed for an American working 40 hours per week to be able to afford the United States' basic standard of living.

The federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009, and more than half the states and Washington, D.C., have minimum wages set higher than the federal minimum. Most of the debate around minimum wage focuses on whether it has kept pace with inflation and the rising cost of living — essentially, whether the federal minimum wage is a livable wage.

Labor advocates, union groups, and social justice groups largely support raising the federal minimum wage to account for rising living costs. They believe that a higher minimum wage will alleviate homelessness and poverty in the United States.

Democrats have called for the rate to be raised to $15 per hour over the next five years. Their plan would also increase the base hourly wage for tipped workers and workers under age 20 and end a subminimum wage system that affects workers with severe disabilities.

Opponents of a higher minimum wage argue that such a pay hike would burden small-business owners with heavy operating costs, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Others say having a federal rate at all is not helpful because cost of living varies across the country.

Further Reading

Find out what you can do with an economics degree to help resolve this debate.

White Supremacy

White supremacy is a belief that white people are a superior race with the right to dominate society at the expense of other racial and ethnic groups. White supremacy has morphed into a political ideology that affects socioeconomic and legal structures within the United States.

In recent years, white nationalism has gained political traction in the United States — even in the White House. President Donald Trump is widely condemned for promoting racism, bigotry, and hate speech through anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim sentiments.

White supremacists often clash with people of African ancestry, indigenous peoples, Muslims, and Jewish people. This racial violence has led to numerous acts of right-wing terrorism. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), right-ring extremists killed 38 people in 2019 — 76% of all extremist-related murders that year. These perpetrators typically self-identify with ideologies that include neo-Nazis, neo-fascists, and neo-Confederates.

White supremacists heavily coalesced around the removal of Confederate monuments amidst the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in 2020. The monuments have long drawn ire for honoring the institution of slavery.

Opponents of the white nationalist movement typically advocate for stricter hate crime laws, open immigration reform, and protection against racial or religious discrimination. They also push for greater access to economic power for marginalized racial groups and for reparations for slave-descended Americans.

There is also an ongoing debate over how to classify white nationalist violence and activities, with opponents of the white nationalist movement calling for such actions to be classified as domestic terrorism.

Further Reading

Check out Fighting Racism With Your Degree to learn more ways to have a voice in the debate.

The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal refers to a congressional resolution put forth by progressive politicians in 2018 to confront global climate change.

The resolution includes steps to curb emissions, impose environmental regulations, and explore alternative fuel and energy sources. It also aims to provide new, high-paying jobs in clean energy industries. But the Green New Deal has been stymied by climate change deniers, conservative politicians, and lobbyists with business interests in fossil-fuel industries.

Supporters of the Green New Deal view global climate change as a legitimate threat to all life on Earth. They also see it as an energetic path to restructuring our lifestyle, economy, and job market around more sustainable, fair, and environmentally sound policies and initiatives.

Opponents of the Green New Deal typically don't believe in climate change or downplay its long-term effects. Republicans often shoot down environmental legislation like the Green New Deal because they fear it will affect their fossil-fuel interests.

Further Reading

If you want to be an active part of resolving this debate, consider a degree in public policy.

Electoral College

Two of America's past four presidents — Donald Trump and George W. Bush — were elected president despite losing the popular vote. This result was mainly due to the Electoral College.

This state-by-state delegate system assigns electoral votes available for presidential candidates to each state based on its population. Its original purpose was to ensure that smaller and less populous states would not be disenfranchised by bigger states.

In most states, candidates only need to win the popular vote to win all of its assigned electoral votes. Trump won seven of the 11 largest states in 2016 and was thus awarded more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton, despite losing the overall popular vote by the widest margin in U.S. history: 2.8 million votes.

This discrepancy has meant that the electoral system has generated significant controversy over the years. There is much debate about whether big states can actually control election outcomes without it.

Supporters of the electoral college defend its original rationale, arguing that it ensures smaller and less populous states have federal representation. Others say it prevents large states from dominating votes for the presidency.

Opponents of the electoral college argue the system is flawed because it too often contradicts the popular vote. Many have called for eliminating the electoral college altogether; to that end, 16 U.S. states have signed on to the National Popular Vote bill, which aims to override the electoral college by having all of its signatories pledge their delegates to the candidate who wins the popular vote.

Further Reading

If you want to participate in resolving this debate, find out what you can do with a degree in political science.

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is a political movement to resist police brutality against Black people. BLM began in response to repeated instances of law enforcement facing little to no legal repercussions for use-of-force incidents that resulted in a Black person's death.

BLM has grown into one of the most massive movements in U.S. history. Recent polls found that between 15 to 26 million Americans participated in BLM demonstrations in 2020 over the deaths of George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor, and other victims of police brutality.

Supporters of the movement consider police brutality to be a form of oppression against Black people, arguing that it is one symptom of inequalities in legal, judicial, and socioeconomic status. Advocates also believe that failure to prosecute officers for using excessive force demonstrates that Black lives are less valued than white lives. BLM has proposed defunding police, reforming law enforcement, investing in underserved communities, and holding officers accountable for racial bias and brutality.

Critics believe that BLM is an unfair condemnation of law enforcement. They argue that defunding police or changing their tactics would undermine their ability to uphold the law under dangerous circumstances. Others point to Black-on-Black crime as justification for anti-Black attitudes, while dismissing or ignoring acts of violence by white people that specifically target Black people. The Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matters slogans were adopted to reflect this pro-police stance.

Further Reading

College students can advocate for racial equity within specific academic fields. Check out Fighting Racism With Your Degree to learn more.

Cancel Culture

Cancel culture refers to rapid boycotts of public figures, companies, and media after they say or do something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture usually stems from call-outs on social media, which can spiral into mass shaming or harassment campaigns.

Proponents consider the movement a form of social justice for marginalized groups. They point to the sweeping #MeToo movement, which used a hashtag to empower women victimized by sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape to share their stories. Other targets include statues of Confederate leaders, which were removed during Black Lives Matter protests, mainly due to online criticism deeming them racist.

Cancel culture has also condemned high-profile figures accused of sexual misconduct, racist jokes, or transphobic beliefs. It's also used to hold white people accountable for racist, entitled, or demanding behavior following viral social media posts.

Supporters argue that cancel culture is a long-overdue way of speaking truth to power, enabling marginalized people to resist long-standing forms of abuse and prejudice. The call-outs often challenge historical inequalities and bring greater accountability to those in positions of power.

Critics of cancel culture believe it is an unfair and indiscriminate rush to judgment that relies on "mob mentality." Some have likened cancel culture to a witch hunt against public figures for various personal, political, and ideological reasons. Others have said canceling someone can be an overly disruptive form of intolerance.

Further Reading

Find out what you can do with a political science degree to better understand this issue.

Student Debt Crisis

The student debt crisis refers to the $1.6 trillion in collective student loan debt owed by college grads or dropouts in the United States. In 2019, the average graduate with a bachelor's degree had $29,900 in student debt. According to The Brookings Institution, almost 40% of borrowers may default on their student loans by 2023. Some argue that the problem reflects a rising number of Americans obtaining more education, while others point to historically high tuition rates as the culprit.

There is an ongoing debate about the structure of student loans, rising tuition, and the worth of a college degree. Some, including Democratic senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, believe all federal student debt should be canceled, while others argue that it is indicative of greater educational outcomes and that canceling it would be unfair.

Opponents of mass debt cancellation consider the debt load to be a necessary burden that leads to increased average lifetime incomes. Critics also cite the fact that monthly payments have stayed consistent over the past two decades, allowing debtors to carry more extensive debt.

Supporters of canceling student debt believe the crisis was caused by "failed government policies, not recklessness on the part of students," according to the Wall Street Journal. Proponents also say student loan debt weighs down the economy, leading to delayed home buying, marriage, and wealth formation.

The central question is whether the government is obligated to help pay off student debt or if it remains college students' responsibility.

Further Reading

If you want to learn more about student loans and student debt, check out The Student Financial Aid Source.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The ongoing conflict between Israeli and Palestinian people has been a controversial geopolitical issue for decades. The conflict is rooted in competing claims to the Holy Land, and specifically the West Bank, which includes Jerusalem and has deep ties to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths. Disputes over borders, access to Jerusalem, security, and Palestinian refugees have led to one of the most intractable conflicts in the world.

The United Nations, European Union, and the United States have intervened in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the U.S. a strong supporter of Israel. Jewish, Christian, and conservative advocates in the U.S. tend to view Israel as a critical democratic partner in an Islamic region. However, the U.S. has also tried to broker a diplomatic solution that would result in two states for Israel and Palestine.

Detractors believe that Israel is guilty of human rights violations against Palestinians. They consider Israel to be in the wrong for occupying the West Bank, expanding Jewish settlements into Palestinian territories, and implementing domestic policies that marginalize Arab and Muslim populations. These critics include global human rights watch groups, Muslim groups, and progressive political leaders.

American critics of Israel often believe that the U.S. has a responsibility as Israel's ally to hold it accountable for its actions. Many of them characterize Israel's current policies toward Palestinians as counter-productive to lasting peace.

Further Reading

Look into what you can do with a legal studies degree to actively resolve this issue.

Universal Healthcare

Universal healthcare is the idea that all Americans should have access to affordable, quality healthcare, regardless of their income or financial resources. Universal healthcare systems already exist in countries like Sweden, Hong Kong, and Kuwait, where the local and federal government pays for most costs associated with healthcare coverage.

While the demand for healthcare reform in the United States — especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic — is very popular, the idea of universal healthcare continues to be a controversial debate topic. Widespread disagreement over how to control high insurance costs, bureaucratic treatment obstacles, and deep socioeconomic inequalities has lead to conflict.

Those who support universal healthcare argue that access to affordable, quality healthcare should be a fundamental right. They want to supplant the current stratified and economically unequal insurance system with a more fair, accessible, and efficient healthcare system.

Opponents of universal healthcare argue that it would invite unwanted government involvement in healthcare administration, ultimately leading to systemic inefficiencies and a violation of individual freedom to choose. Corporate leaders in the insurance, healthcare, and pharmaceutical sectors often push back against universal healthcare because it interferes with profitability and free-market economics within the healthcare industry.

Further Reading

Find out what you can do with a degree in healthcare administration to actively participate in this debate.

Evan Thompson is a Washington-based writer for TBS covering higher education. He has bylines in the Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, and others from his past life as a newspaper reporter.

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