School of Education News

UW-Madison’s Hess examines controversies in the classroom with Social Education

November 29, 2018

The most recent edition of Social Education — the flagship, peer-reviewed journal of the National Council for the Social Studies — includes a special section on teaching controversial issues that was guest edited by UW-Madison’s Diana Hess.

Hess is dean of the School of Education and holds the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education.

Dean Diana Hess
Not only has Hess researched and examined how controversial discussions surrounding politics and constitutional issues happen, she has also written a recent award-winning book on the subject, “The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics and Democratic Education,” co-authored with Paula McAvoy. This work received AERA’s Outstanding Book Award in 2016 and the Grawemeyer Award in 2017.

In September the School of Education hosted a conference titled, “Teaching About the 2018 Elections: Preparing Students for Political Engagement,” which was attended by over 200 Wisconsin educators and teacher education students.

After this event, Hess says she recognized how widespread this concern was among teachers in the state. In her introduction to Social Education’s collection of articles, she writes that failure to teach civic engagement, or even the outright exclusion of this topic from the curriculum, sends “a host of destructive and misguided messages.”

Hess urges teachers everywhere to consider how they incorporate political discussion into the classroom, writing the “stakes, after all, are exceptionally high: empowering young Americans to become active participants — and to coexist peacefully — in a pluralistic society brimming with opposing views.”

Read Hess’ introduction to the special section on this web page.

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