Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion

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In a conservative educational climate that is dominated by policies like No Child Left Behind, one of the most serious effects has been for educators to worry about the politics of what they are teaching and how they are teaching it. As a result, many dedicated teachers choose to avoid controversial issues altogether in preference for "safe" knowledge and "safe" teaching practices. Diana Hess interrupts this dangerous trend by providing readers a spirited and detailed argument for why curricula and teaching based on controversial issues are truly crucial at this time. Through rich empirical research from real classrooms throughout the nation, she demonstrates why schools have the potential to be particularly powerful sites for democratic education and why this form of education must include sustained attention to authentic and controversial political issues that animate political communities. The purposeful inclusion of controversial issues in the school curriculum, when done wisely and well, can communicate by example the essence of what makes communities democratic while simultaneously building the skills and dispositions that young people will need to live in and improve such communities.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the 2009 NCSS Exemplary Research in Social Studies Award

"Teachers are tempted to avoid controversial issues in preference for "safe" knowledge and "safe" teaching practices. This book interrupts this dangerous trend, providing a spirited and detailed argument for why curricula and teaching based on controversial issues are crucial."—The Social Studies Professional

"Hess’s argument is both refreshingly pragmatic and rooted in transformative aims."—Theory and Research in Social Education

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415962292
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 3/27/2009
  • Series: Critical Social Thought Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 1,428,797
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Diana E . Hess is an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Table of Contents

Series Editor Introduction, Michael W. Apple


Section One: The Case for Controversial Political Issues

1. Why Democracy Demands Controversy

2. Rationales for Controversial Political Issues Discussions

3. Defining Controversial Issues

Section Two: Inside ClassroomsChapter 4. Skillful Teaching of Controversial Issues Discussions

5. Diversity in our Midst: Ideological Diversity in Classrooms and its Impact on Controversial Political Issues Discussions

6. To Disclose or Not: A Controversial Choice for Teachers, Co-authored with Paula McAvoy

Section Three: Controversy in the Curriculum

7. Teaching in the Tip: Controversies about What is Legitimately Controversial

8. September 11: "The Ultimate Teachable Moment:" How Supplementary Materials and Textbooks Deal with Controversy in the Classroom

9. Creating More Controversy in Classrooms

Appendix A

Appendix B

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