Abstract 3-Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 2011

Promoting Educational Reform through Teaching about Hurricane Katrina

Margaret S. Crocco
University of Iowa
Ching-Fu Lan
Hui Soo Chae
Gary Natriello

Teachers College, Columbia University


This paper deals with two types of educational reform related to teaching and learning the traditional school subject of social studies.  First, we consider the importance of teaching about controversial issues by examining the impact of Hurricane Katrina, the record-setting, natural disaster, which struck the Gulf Coast of the United States in late August 2005.  Using this episode as their foundation, the authors demonstrate how the common practice of avoiding controversy within the social studies arena can be addressed.  Since Katrina represents a topic for which no warrant exists within state standards for teaching the subject, it can be considered a true “teachable moment”.  Second, we analyze a case study involving the use of technology to spark discussion relative to the issues of race and class tied to Katrina, primarily for the two-year period after the hurricane struck.  While the use of digital technology has been slow to gain popularity in the field of social studies, the authors use the case study to demonstrate how it can be utilized to generate democratic dialogue and civic engagement.

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