Avoiding the discussion of controversial topics in U.S. classrooms deprives students of an important part of their learning. Jonathan Zimmerman and Emily Robertson, authors of The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2017) say Americans are terrible at having informed, reasonable debates in part because schools do not prepare students for such exchanges. Although our policies encourage or even require instruction about controversy, we do a poor job of preparing and supporting teachers to ensure that they can provide such instruction. Teachers need both the prestige to lead the discussion of controversial issues and the protection to do so consistently. In addition, Americans need more education about exactly what constitutes a controversy, which is itself a controversial issue.
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