Topic 2: Engaging with Controversy

In addition to the previous approaches and strategies mentioned, it is important that difficult issues regarding biases, stigmatizations and conflicting views are explored collectively instead of being silenced. This approach involves taking the risk of broaching issues that might result to:

  • Disputed claims
  • Conflicting values and beliefs
  • Contested facts
  • Polarised views
  • Conflict of interest
  • Strong emotions
  • Suspiction and lack of trust
  • Denigration of the other.

(Source: Kerr & Huddleston, 2020)

With respect to facilitating conversations that take on these controversial issues, a degree of confidence is needed on behalf of the educators. As Kerr and Huddleston argue (2020), this confidence stems from building up skills and knowledge such as those indicated in the table below:

Skill Description
Switching Roles
Exploring the position of the educator, parent etc. in relation to conflicting opinions
Instead of addressing the issue on a personal level, framing the language discussion on the issue on societal level (ability to frame statements about controversial issues in less threatening societal terms)
Using historical, geographical, or imaginary parallels to approach the topic indirectly
Building empathy
Helping children and young people to identify and appreciate alternative points of view is an important element in teaching about controversial issues. Helping students see issues from a range of perspectives.
Dealing with insensitive remarks
Ηandling insensitive student remarks and the role of class rules and school policy in creating a climate which both reduces their incidence and helps teachers to deal with them when they occur.