Stay Informed with NYPL's "Opposing Viewpoints" Database

By Helen Broady, 115th Street Library
May 8, 2019

If you're like most people, you're concerned about the many social issues facing people living in the U.S. You know where you stand, but are still puzzled by conflicting messages from media, so-called experts, research, and statistics. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, a database that's accessible online via the New York Public Library Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center, is a useful resource to examine evidence and form your opinions on the issues that are important to you.

Illustration of a line of people walking through the American flag

source: BCCL, The Economic Times

The Opposing Viewpoints database allows you to browse through many topics or search for a "hot issue" you'd like to understand better. It's divided into general categories including Business and Economics, Health and Medicine, Science, Technology and Ethics. The "National Debate" topic (immigration, no surprise here) is given plenty of coverage, including links to audio of related talks and articles, provided through a collaboration with National Public Radio (NPR).

Each topic begins with an overview: definitions, history, statistics, and other factual information. Along with numerous pro and con viewpoints, there are critical thinking questions for discussion, very useful for students, or for arguing with your brother-in-law over dinner. 

I was recently led to this database after reading an article in a New York City newspaper which I found to present a very one-sided view of charter schools. Learning about the origins of these semi-public, for-profit schools was a good start; from there, I found 51 viewpoint essays, more than 1,000 magazine articles, coverage from academic journals, and much more. 
Proof that the database lives up to it name is the appearance of the article "Charter Schools are a Bad Idea" by the noted education policy analyst, Diane Ravitch, balanced by policy analyst Akash Chougule's claim that school choice is needed because teachers' unions protect bad teachers and harm students. A story on gentrification and neighborhood schools also provided some surprising insights.

Most of us want to be better informed, but few of us have time to read such a large variety of sources, as the Opposing Viewpoints database has in one place.  But, when you have a few minutes to spare, why not explore this one-stop shopping source? I'm pretty sure you will find some surprises.