1st Edition

Teaching Classroom Controversies Navigating Complex Teaching Issues in the Age of Fake News and Alternative Facts

By Glenn Y. Bezalel Copyright 2024
    194 Pages 2 Color & 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    194 Pages 2 Color & 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    194 Pages 2 Color & 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Teaching Classroom Controversies is the essential guide for all teachers trying to navigate their way through issues of controversy in the age of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’. Arguing that schools have a key role to help turn the tide and promote intellectual humility and openness, the book shows teachers how they can set the boundaries to ensure a purposeful learning environment that thinks about controversy in terms of evidence, reasoned argument, and critical reflection.

    Drawing on the latest research, the first part of the book provides frameworks for teaching and learning about controversy, including how to facilitate respectful discussion, the biases that impact student beliefs, and the pedagogical techniques that should be applied in the classroom. The second part offers practical guidance on how to teach the most contentious issues facing young children and teenagers in society today, dealing with wide-ranging questions such as:

    • Is Santa Claus real?
    • Do I have a ‘normal’ family?
    • Is the Holocaust a hoax?
    • Should there be any limits on free speech?

    Teaching Classroom Controversies offers teachers the tools to develop their students' critical thinking on the timely and cutting-edge issues of controversy that are shaping our world.

    Introduction  Part I.  1. Why teach controversy?  2. The Controversy of Controversy  3. The Rules of Engagement  4. Mental Toolkit  Part II.  Your Guide to the Guides  Practical Guide to Controversy  Is Santa Claus real?  Do I have a ‘normal’ family?  Surely no one can disagree with the idea that ‘love is love’?  Are transwomen, women?  Who’s to blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?  Should there be any limits on free speech?  Being ‘Woke’ just means being kind to others, especially vulnerable people. How can anyone disagree with that?  You don’t really believe what the government / media is telling us…?  Is the Holocaust a hoax?  You don’t really believe in climate change? It’s obviously a hoax!  Afterword


    Glenn Y. Bezalel is Deputy Head (Academic) at City of London School, where he teaches Religion & Philosophy. Glenn is also researching the pedagogy of conspiracy theories and controversy at the University of Cambridge and has written numerous articles on a range of educational topics for both academic and professional publications. He lives in London with his wife and five children.

    "In this remarkable book, Bezalel charts a path through some of the hottest and "explosive" issues in contemporary discourse. Teachers are often expected to be able to discuss fraught issues like transgenderism or the Israel-Palestine conflict, an expectation that does not match their confidence in their own knowledge and ability to do so. Despite this, we owe it to our students to be well-informed and to be able to help them delve into these topics in a non-judgmental, safe and supportive way, but until now there has been no single resource that is scholarly, meticulously well-researched and clear enough to help us do this. Bezalel's book fits this role perfectly and promises to act as a support for teachers in tackling these controversies."

    Adam Boxer, Head of Science at Totteridge Academy in London and Education Director for Carousel Learning

    "We live in a time when social forces within and outside of our school systems push to discourage teachers from dealing with controversial subject matters in their classrooms. Yet the need for teachers to continue to do so has never been greater. Glenn Bezalel’s book, Teaching Classroom Controversies, presents a compelling case for teaching controversial issues, and offers solid and practical advice for how to do so effectively. Helping young people to think through controversial issues is central to the aims of education, for in doing so they learn how to weigh and evaluate knowledge claims and competing value positions, which is both an essential life lesson and a central civic virtue for democratic citizens. The second part of the book, a “handbook for teaching controversy,” provides useful guidelines for teacher-led classroom discussion and debate, along with specific examples for how to put these principles to work. The book is consistently fair and sensible, and provides a reminder that these are still achievable."

    Nicholas C. Burbules, Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor, Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

    “I’ve really enjoyed this book. It will definitely make students and teachers think.”

    Richard Davis, Head of Religion & Philosophy at Haberdashers' Boys' School

    "In an age of social media, where opinions are often elevated above facts and disagreement can mean exclusion, many teachers are reluctant to tackle controversial issues in the classroom. Glenn Bezalel makes a compelling case for honest discussion and active citizenship – and the important role of education in modelling these skills. From theory to classroom reality, this is an important and timely book – an indispensable guide to all things controversial."

    Dr Jeremy Hall, Editor of Dialogue Journal

    "This is an excellent and timely book that every teacher and parent needs to read. Bezalel deals with the most controversial topics of concern for children and teenagers in a fair and in-depth way, helping teachers to navigate their way through the trickiest of debates that come up in the classroom."

    Sophie Hussey, Head of Religion & Philosophy at Yarm School

    Glenn Bezalel’s book is a much-needed, scholarly and thorough exploration of the topic of controversy, where it sits in the twenty-first century and why it has become such a thorny and almost insurmountable issue in schools and in the wider world. Bezalel’s lens is highly intelligent and perceptive. 

    In the first part of his book, he looks at controversy from every possible angle and sets out why it has in some ways become something that some academics, college vice-chancellors and headteachers are doing their best to avoid at all costs, when really the discussion and debate of opposing viewpoints is the cornerstone of any successful democracy or society that claims to believe in freedom of speech and of conscience. 

    The second part sets out valuable strategies that teachers can deploy in order to introduce, tackle and officiate over the successful discussion of controversies in the classroom; this includes when a controversial topic unexpectedly arises in a lesson or setting up a successful discussion of a knowingly controversial topic in a lesson. 

    At this time in our development as a nation, we are constantly seeking to navigate our way through highly-charged notions such as cancel culture, free speech, hate speech and safe spaces. It is key that we are able to listen to those with whom we disagree and that we can also all also voice our own views without fear of being shouted down or told that we are just plain wrong. 

    What I loved about this book most is that it is consistently and infectiously optimistic-yes there is a problem, we are told, but here are some ways we can tackle it. Anyone who has a dearly-held love of freedom, free speech and who has desire to ensure that these are to be cherished and held dear by rigorous, reasoned discussion and debate will find that this is the book they have been waiting for.

    Clare Wagner, Head of The Henrietta Barnett School

    "Teaching Classroom Controversies could not have arrived at a better moment in the history of classroom life. In this incisive, practical and beautifully written book for teachers, Glenn Bezalel demonstrates why critical thinking in education matters more than ever and provides the reader with a highly accessible account of how to nurture it in a time where the capacity to speak ‘truth to power’ and the role of the critical thinker is in crises in modern educational institutions globally. Importantly too, Bezalel confronts the practical puzzles of ‘controversy’ that continue to baffle most educators in the midst of the culture wars and demystifies them for the teacher seeking to promote criticality in the classroom. Teaching Classroom Controversies offers a complete re-evaluation of how to address our current political reality in the imaginative realm of the classroom."

    Professor Jo-Anne DillaboughFaculty of Education, Universtiy of Cambridge 

    "Teaching Classroom Controversies is bursting with tips and tricks, lesson ideas, suggested timeframes and thought-provoking activities that fill the reader with excitement at the prospect of applying them in their own setting.

    Another key strength is Bezalel’s commitment to a balance between traditional and progressive approaches to education; he is careful to strike an equilibrium between the pursuit of truth and of character when educating our students."

    Matt Beckett, Schools Week