• You will read two essays.

    Before reading, you have to think about biases.

    This is important – please understand the following sentence before moving on. Reread it if you have to:
    "Bias" means that you already believe something about the topic, that might keep you from thinking about the topic in a new or different way—you shut your mind off to any other possibilities because your mind is already made up.
    We all have biases: Justin Bieber is da bomb! Justin Bieber sucks! Soccer is the dumbest sport ever! Soccer rocks! etc. You may notice that these biases are simply opinions. But that's what opinions are - your bias about a topic. But a bias can go deeper than just an opinion because an opinion doesn't need any proof to back it up. But a bias may be based on proof.

    A bias isn't necessarily bad in and of itself. What you need to watch out for is letting your biases get in the way of your thinking about a topic in a new way. Bias is what can shut down all communication and change and leads to the "I'm-right-and-you're-wrong" thinking that stops progress from happening.

    Take a look at our government: Many politicians believe that their side is 100% right and that it is a sign of weakness to even listen to other points of view. They think that even worse than listening to another's point of view would be to change their mind about something. It is somehow thought in politics that changing one's position about anything is a sign of weakness, yet in real life we change our minds all the time as we receive new information.

    At your age, most of your biases come from your parents: you hear your parents talk, or you do activities with your family and begin to form your biases. Starting around 6th grade you start to do a lot more things with friends and those friends influence you to strengthen the biases you already have or form new biases.

    For example, you may think guns are great (it might be because your family has guns and uses them). Or you may think guns are terrible (this might be because your family doesn't own guns or you know someone who has had a bad experience with them). These are both biases: Bias 1) You already like guns or Bias 2) You already hate guns.

    Reading without a bias about guns means you put aside what you currently believe about guns, read the material that is available, then make a decision based on the argument and proof of the information that you read, not have your mind made up beforehand and ignore everything that you read.

    For example, maybe you really hate guns. You should put aside your bias about guns, read the information about why guns are good, and think about the arguments (proof) the person has considering guns. In the end, you might possibly agree with that person so you then have a new belief about guns. Or, maybe, the argument they make isn't good enough and you keep your belief without changing your mind. Whichever the case may be, you should keep an open mind to the possibility of changing your mind if the person is convincing enough. The same goes if you already have a bias for guns: You just nod your head and say, "Yep, that's right!" without ever questioning the strength of the argument presented.

    What you really need to look at are the arguments—the way a person is trying to convince you about their point of view. They should do this by giving good reasons, proof and explanations.

    The two essays you will read both talk about “banning” or “prohibiting” guns. To ban or prohibit guns means that people would not be allowed to have or use guns. 

    When reading that last sentence, if you just had positive thoughts, like, “Yeah, that’s right! I agree.” You have a bias against guns. However, if you thought, “What, that’s stupid! Guns rock.” Then you have a bias for guns.

    Even if you had one of these two thoughts you have to put aside those biases and focus on how the essay is trying to convince you their side is right. Keep an open mind. Analyze the essays based on exactly what they say and how they say it.

    Read the first essay that says that guns should not be banned.

    When you are finished, read the second essay that says that guns should be banned.