In the spirit of models of argument starting with inquiry, this book starts with a question: What might it mean to teach argument in ways that open up spaces for change—changes of mind, changes of practice and policy, changes in ways of talking and relating? The author explores teaching argument in ways that take into account the complexities and pluralities young people face as they attempt to enact local and global citizenship with others who may reasonably disagree. The focus is foremost on social action—the hard, hopeful work of finding productive ways forward in contexts where people need to work together across difference to get something worthwhile done.
"I can think of no more timely, moral, and smart approach to literacy in and out of school than Jennifer Clifton’s new book. Unless we humans learn to discuss critical issues with each other across differences in a joint journey, not to conversion, but to a better shared world, there may soon be no livable world left for us."
James Paul Gee, Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies and Regents’ Professor, Arizona State University, USA
"The ideas in this book completely transformed my perspective as an argument writing teacher. My students now view conflict as more than a two-sided philosophical battle of little interest or relevance. Rather than ‘solving’ hypothetical problems by choosing the 'right' stance, they engage with community stakeholders to enact real change. Their flexibility in critically weighing complex issues results in their being better equipped to grapple with the complexities of the adult world."
Julie Sheerman, Co-Director, Missouri Writing Project, Teacher Consultant, Marceline High School, Missouri, USA
"Jennifer Clifton’s ideas should provoke teachers of argumentation—that is, all English, debate, and composition teachers—to rethink the nature of argument as well as their purposes and practices for teaching it. In thoughtful, but accessible prose that invites readers into dialogue, Clifton unpacks a theoretical and practice based stance that veers from the polarization so evident in contemporary society and instead offers innovative ways to engage wide-ranging perspectives within ever changing and diverse contexts."
Bob Fecho, Professor of English Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, USA
"Clifton offers a theoretically rich and beautifully felt account of why we must teach argument as a means of positive social change in secondary through university classrooms. As Clifton notes, the stakes could not be higher, from police brutality and wage disparities, to marriage rights and access to clean water; how youth learn to argue together is fundamentally about crafting more equitable futures. Necessary reading for all of us who teach and study literacies, composition, and justice."
Django Paris . Associate Professor, College of Education, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University, USA
Chapter 1: Provisional Knowing and the Need for Argument
Chapter 2: Dynamic and Distributed Argument: Youth and Contemporary Public Life
Chapter 3: Constructing Shared Concerns and Alternative Practices of Argument in Public Life
Chapter 4: Argument as Dialogue Across Difference: The Praxis of Public Life