Education: Posts

Hess & McAvoy win the 2017 Grawemeyer Award in Education!

We are so pleased to announce that Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy have won the 2017 Grawemeyer Award in Education for their book, The Political Classroom!

The Grawemeyer Award in Education is intended to stimulate the dissemination, public scrutiny and implementation of ideas that have potential to bring about significant improvement in educational practice and advances in educational attainment. The award was created not only to reward the individuals responsible, but also to draw attention to their ideas, proposals or achievements. The award is designed to recognize a specific recent idea/study rather than a lifetime of accomplishment. Read more...

Diana E. Hess is the Dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she also holds the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education. Formerly, Hess was the Senior Vice President of the Spencer Foundation, where she spearheaded the development of the Disciplined Dialogues Project, an innovative and rigorous process of deliberation and communication that seeks to improve education by informing research, practice, and policy about highly controversial educational topics – such as charter schools and teaching quality. Before this, Hess was a high school teacher, teachers’ union president, and the associate executive director of the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago. She also leads the New Civics Project that is funding the development of measures of the quality of youth civic and political engagement. Hess earned a Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle. Since 1997, she has been researching how teachers engage their students in discussions of highly controversial political and constitutional issues, and what impact this approach to civic education has on what young people learn. Her first book on this topic, Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion won the National Council for the Social Studies Exemplary Research Award in 2009.

Professor Hess is deeply committed to working with teachers to improve the quality of democratic education in schools. To that end, she frequently keynotes conferences, and leads professional development courses and workshops. Professor Hess serves on several boards: The Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, the iCivics Scholars Advisory Board, the National Urban Debate League, and the Donors Forum.

Paula McAvoy began her career as a high school social studies teacher in California, where she taught for and co-directed the Foothill Middle College Program for ten years. She went on to earn her doctorate in philosophy of education from the department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing that degree in 2010, she worked as an assistant professor at Illinois State University and then became an Associate Program Officer at the Spencer Foundation. She is currently the Program Director of the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Paula’s philosophic work focuses on the aims of schooling in a democratic society, and she has recently used the tools of moral and political philosophy to consider cases of cultural and religious accommodation and the aims of sex education. Some of this work has been published in Educational Theory and Theory and Research in Education. In 2006, she began working with Diana Hess on the Discussing Controversial Issues study, which provides the evidentiary basis for The Political Classroom. During the analysis of this work they noticed that teachers were confronting some common ethical problems in the classroom and that they were making quite different decisions about how best to respond. By bringing philosophy into conversation with the empirical findings, we hope to have made a contribution to democratic education that is more helpful to educators than a strictly empirical study and is more attentive to the complex task of teaching than a strictly philosophical work.

What made you decide to write this book?

The book is based on a large mixed method study of teachers who use discussions of controversial issues and what students learn from these experiences. Many teachers shy away from these discussions, and the book gave us an opportunity to share our findings that discussion of political issues is time well spent—discussion deepens learning in important ways.

What is the one thing you hope readers take away from this book?

Three chapters of the book focus on teachers who do this work well. We hope that these in-depth descriptions of what good practice looks like, the challenges that teachers face, and how they respond to them help others to feel more comfortable facilitating discussions in the classroom.

Is there something you think is important to highlight about this topic?

Some practitioners and parents believe that controversial political issues do not belong in the school. Yet, since the very beginning of public schools they have been, at least in part, charged with preparing young people for democratic life. We argue that students are not prepared if they have not had the opportunity to think about and discuss the issues that divide the democracy they are inheriting.

What is a common misconception about this topic that you would like to clear up?

In our politically polarized climate, parents, teachers, and administrators can worry that discussing politics with students will become too heated or that some political views will be silenced. This book shows discussion is a skill that teachers and students can learn and that productive disagreement in the classroom is possible.

  • The Political Classroom

    Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education

    By Diana E. Hess, Paula McAvoy

    WINNER 2016 Grawemeyer Award in Education Helping students develop their ability to deliberate political questions is an essential component of democratic education, but introducing political issues into the classroom is pedagogically challenging and raises ethical dilemmas for teachers. Diana E.…

    Paperback – 2014-11-13
    Critical Social Thought

More about Hess & McAvoy