Abstract 7, Volume 8, Number 3, Winter 2013

Dialogue, Discussion, and Democracy in the Social Studies Classroom

Rory P. Tannebaum

Clemson University  


This paper seeks to intertwine current literature in social studies education with practical suggestions for integrating dialogue and controversy into the practicing teacher’s classroom.  The works of John Dewey (1926), Diana Hess (2004), and Walter Parker (2003) will serve as the foundation of this essay; placing an emphasis on their respective arguments advocating for the school as a place where students learn to develop the ability to participate in informed dialogue and understand the foundational elements of a functional democracy.  The essay will place emphasis on the necessity for teachers who incorporate controversial social issues into their lessons through various forms of discourse.  To that end, a foundational analysis of the benefits of integrating controversial issues into the social studies classroom will be provided and followed by a description of four practical lessons that have effectively fostered dialogue amongst students at the secondary level.  The aim of the paper, ultimately, is to provide practicing social studies teachers at the middle and high school level with feasible lessons that are grounded in the theories and philosophies of the leading scholars in social studies education. 

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