Navigating Controversial Classroom Discussions
Conversations about controversial political issues within the public-school classroom are necessary for the whole development of students as they prepare to participate fully in democracy, part of their role as conscious social reproducers of the American political regime. Effective educators train students to critically understand and analyze political conflicts pluralistically through contemporary and historical lenses. However, teachers are caught amid a conflict within the public discourse about the appropriateness of engaging in political and controversial classroom discussions. As a result, state legislatures and local school districts are defining their stances on such issues, sometimes leading to barriers in the path of educators having productive political discussions within their classrooms. This paper provides a rationale for engaging in political conversations within U.S. classrooms by understanding the legal structure and how to use state standards to examine such issues philosophically. Finally, this article provides several perspectives and methods teachers can use to have productive political dialogue within their classrooms aligned to the identified legal structure.
Keywords: Democratic education; Political Philosophy, Controversial topics, Exploratory dialogue