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Controversial Topics in the Classroom, and on WBEZ

August 30, 2014

A bit over a week ago, caught in the grip of  the national tensions surrounding Ferguson, MO, I wrote a blog post arguing that teachers need to bring this event and others like it into the classroom. The post was picked up and re-blogged at “The Answer Sheet” at the Washington Post, and also at the National Education Policy Center (link). Then, a school district superintendent in Illinois announced that if the events and tensions in Ferguson, MO, were mentioned by students in the classroom, their teachers should change the subject.

At WBEZ-FM in Chicago, Tony Sarabia’s show The Morning Shift decided to take up the topic of teaching about controversial issues, and they asked me to participate in a 15-minute segment after seeing my blog post. I was glad to be asked and to be part of the program, and I’m also glad they were able include Steven Becton, who does some important work around these issues with Facing History and Ourselves, in Memphis. (You can see Steven in this video from FHAO). I hope anyone reading or listening to any of my thoughts on this topic will notice my insistence that I’m not putting myself out there to prescribe any specific content, focus, methods, etc., but rather trying to articulate a broader principle; in order for schools to maximize their effectiveness in supporting student learning – in the most lasting and transformative sense – schools have to stay relevant to students’ external lives and concerns. It’s also in our best interests as a country to promote deeper understanding of these issues among our students.

Here’s the segment from WBEZ.

 

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