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To Avoid Pitfalls on Controversial Issues, Know Your Stuff

Teachers' thorough understanding of a subject and students' respect for different points of view can help smooth the way for dealing with controversial topics in the classroom, professional-development experts

Dealing with politically charged subjects like immigration and stem-cell research, points out Thomas Hatch, an associate professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, presents a real dilemma for teachers. They want to talk to students about society and issues in the news, yet precisely because people disagree on such topics, teachers have to pay close attention to presenting its different sides.

"In general, many teachers feel like they want to make their work relevant to their students and often gravitate to the issues of the day....They also want students to not only learn content and skills, but make sense of the world around them," Mr. Hatch said. Teachers could benefit by not separating divisive issues from the curriculum, he added, and by making the curriculum itself a product of open discussion that reflects the point of view of many different groups.

This article, written by Vaishali Honawar, appeared in the July 26th, 2006 publication of Education Week.
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