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Teachers can become strong facilitators of contentious conversations when approaching civil discourse through the lens of courage, understanding, belonging, and empathy.
- Grade Level: PreK-12
- ISBN: 9781071856192
- Published By: Corwin
- Series: Corwin Teaching Essentials
- Year: 2022
- Page Count: 216
- Publication date: May 05, 2022
Build civil discourse with courage, understanding, belonging, and empathy.
Discomfort lies at the heart of all learning and growth, especially concerning discussions on difficult and complex topics like climate change, slavery, and police brutality. This book presents ways to help teachers become strong facilitators—not endorsers—of contentious conversations to promote a stronger sense of community.
There are four themes that arise when exploring civil discourse: courage, understanding, belonging, and empathy. This book is organized around these themes, each chapter providing resources for educators to teach the skills of discourse with:
- How-to tips for bringing work beyond the classroom
- Chapter checklists to guide progress and assess learning
- Exploration of different types of discourse (dialogue, discussion, debate) and when to use each
- Steps for preparing a classroom for contentious conversations
- Activities to practice discourse and disagreement
Addressing the problem of how to have politically and emotionally charged conversations in the classroom, this book guides 6-12 educators – particularly teachers of history, civics, ELA, and other social studies and humanities disciplines -- in facilitating discussions based on fact, intellectual reasoning, and mutual respect.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Courage: Why discomfort cannot be avoided
Chapter 2: Understanding: Gaining clarity on the meaning of terms
Chapter 3: Belonging: Establishing a classroom community
Chapter 4: Empathy: Preparation with safe topics
Chapter 5: Discourse: Structures for contentious topics
Chapter 6: Growth: Improving and expanding our impact
Conclusion: Staying the Course and Continuous Improvement
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I strongly recommend that educators interested in high-quality discussion as both a form and outcome of pedagogy read Civil Discourse: ClassroomDiana E. Hess
Conversations for Stronger Communities. Schmidt and Pinkney bring decades of experience to the task of expertly situating the need to teach young people how to participate in civil discourse in our current political context. Through lively and well-written narrative, the authors bring a lot of new wine to a venerable bottle. Readers will walk away with strong rationales for focusing on civil discourse in schools, along with very clear and pragmatic examples of what good looks like.
How can schools and teachers prepare our youngest citizens to actively engage in discourse about issues in society? Schmidt and Pinkney’s bookStefanie Rosenberg Wager
brilliantly explains why discussing contentious issues matters, for both the future of our democracy and student learning, while providing a wealth of practical ideas and resources for teachers. This book couldn’t be more timely and enduring.
Helping young people to learn to discuss contentious issues is one of the most promising ways to strengthen—and even to save—our republic. InPeter Levine
Civil Discourse: Classroom Conversations for Stronger Communities, Schmidt and Pinkney provide a scholarly, thoughtful, and also highly practical guide to doing just that. Teachers will find it extraordinarily useful.
Schmidt and Pinkney are seasoned and masterful social studies educators and advocates. They present the topic of civil discourse in a manner that is knowledgeable and approachable. The strategies presented in Civil Discourse: Classroom Conversations for Stronger Communities implore educators to be courageous and incorporate these techniques and practices in their classrooms.Amber Coleman-Mortley
Masterful and timely, Schmidt and Pinkney’s Civil Discourse: Classroom Conversations for Stronger Communities, is—to paraphrase David McCullough—“a guide [for social studies teachers] to navigation in perilous times.” This brilliantly scaffolded set of practices guides social studies teachers through the often-challenging process of bringing meaningful and constructive civil discourse into the classroom. This is a must-have for your social studies classroom.Nathan McAlister
Schools can never be culturally neutral terrains devoid of politics. And because of this, educators will continue to grapple with the teaching of potentially contentious topics. We live in a time where students and educators are confronted with political debates, blatant racism, a global pandemic, and more. Civil Discourse offers classroom teachers and school leaders a practical guide to facilitate classroom conversations with knowledge and sensitivity. It will equip you with strategies and tools to not only act tomorrow but to critically reflect on your own practice as an educator.Darnell Fine
Civil discourse is essential for a functioning democracy. Schmidt and Pinkney lay out a step-by-step guide using building blocks that allow educators to help build communities in their classrooms by allowing them to foster civil discourse with their students. They involve multiple stakeholders in the solution-based approach to discussing contentious topics in classrooms and how that can make a larger impact outside the classroom. This is a must-read for all who work with students and who want to make an impact through civil discourse.Elizabeth Evans
Civil Discourse: Classroom Conversations for Stronger Communities offers hope and help for educators during this highly polarized moment. Co-authors Schmidt and Pinkney urge educators to take courage and view contentious topics as an opportunity to train and instill understanding, belonging, and empathy in students. This book is packed with ideas, tips, and strategies to aid the educator in successfully establishing and cultivating a classroom where civil discourse leads to a community where students learn to accept and celebrate differences with maturity and respect; with Civil Discourse, students will learn how to think, not what to think.Karalee Wong Nakatsuka
Engaging students in discussion requires the teacher to think about much more than which questions to ask. Covering everything from how to communicate with parents to what to do when discussions go awry, this succinct guide provides educators with the foundations and strategies they need to create high-quality classroom discussions.Paula McAvoy
Now, more than ever, our young people need to be equipped with the right tools to engage in critical conversations that will allow them to take informed action on issues that negatively impact our society. Civil Discourse, with its practical guidance for building community, cultivating empathy, and leaning into discomfort with contentious topics, is exactly the type of resource that educators, no matter the subject area, need to support the next generation of change makers. Bravo and thank you!Fay Gore
In a time of increasing political and social polarization, understanding the ins and outs of civil discourse has never been more important or potentially more impactful. As with so much else, it is often left up to our educators to navigate a difficult path in ensuring that students learn how to engage in civil discourse around difficult conversations. Civil Discourse: Classroom Conversations for Stronger Communities provides both experienced and beginning educators with a way to navigate that path. It is an engaging and enjoyable map for the educator looking for a way forward in improving discussion and tackling tough issues!Steve Masyada
This is a timely and needed work for teachers engaging in democratic education. The authors both provide practical approaches to engaging with controversies within the classroom and take on key issues of the day—namely, polarization, the effects of misinformation, and the need to engage with others in civil and empathic ways. They make the case for how schools can play a role in addressing these issues and provide practical and applicable steps forward for teachers at a time when these practices may place them under a political microscope in their communities.Jeremy Stoddard
Schmidt and Pinkney write at a time when the need for students to engage in true dialogue and discourse is more important than ever. The pointed examples, protocols and structures, and compelling data make this an essential tool for every educator who engages in such rich topics. Students are naturally curious, opinionated, and eager to discuss bold ideas and controversial concepts, and as a result, they need deft educators who are equipped to teach the skills in discourse while thinking critically, suspending judgement. This book fills an important void in the education of educators to effectively nurture a community of learners, of any age, to critically explore the ideas, beliefs, and perspectives of those around them.Scott Thomas
Schmidt and Pinkney have created a road map for educators to build confidence in instilling the skills of civic engagement in students. As they brilliantly note, by not talking to those with whom we disagree, we are choosing to ignore our interdependence. Economic, social, educational, and environmental benefits can all develop in the form of a well-informed voter focused not on the correct answer but rather on the correct way to navigate civil discourse. This reading gives me hope that students today will be better equipped to create a sustainable civil society for us all.Stephanie Rogers Canter
I can almost hear social studies teachers’ collective sigh of relief. Schmidt and Pinkney have written a book that illuminates one of education’s great challenges and offers realistic, reasonable, and attainable recommendations. The balance of structure and flexibility in their approach reflects an authentic understanding of what it means to be a classroom teacher in this moment. The authors honor teachers’ professionalism and expertise, with vigorous assurance that we all have much to learn. The whole book feels like a PLC of gifted, welcoming teachers gathered in a comfortable teachers’ lounge, coffee in hand, ready to solve all the world’s problems.Jessica Ellison
Schmidt and Pinkney indisputably define and provide a road map/strategy for civil discourse. In a time when barbershop, hair salon, club, and church meeting conversations can turn contentious and even violent at times, these strategies are a welcomed resource. Providing our students with the necessary skills and processes of considerate, thought-provoking discourse may foster transformation of our individual communities.Chanda Robinson
Schmidt and Pinkney provide a blueprint for teachers who face the daily challenge of tackling contentious topics. Civil Discourse: Classroom Conversations for Stronger Communities is a timely resource that will assist teachers with building a classroom culture built on courage, understanding, belonging, and empathy. Teachers are provided helpful strategies that will bolster teacher confidence and ultimately make a positive impact on student learning.Daniel Kelley
With our homogenized neighborhoods and echo chamber media bubbles, schools are one of the few places where Americans can engage in discourse about important topics with people who hold differing viewpoints. Civil Discourse provides teachers with clear guidance on how to facilitate these invaluable conversations in their classrooms. Teachers from all grade levels will benefit from the wisdom found in these pages.Bruce Lesh
Learning how to teach contentious issues is difficult for preservice teachers who don’t yet have the confidence to facilitate these types of discussions with students. Civil Discourse: Classroom Conversations for Stronger Communities is a road map for teachers on how to get started. Schmidt and Pinkney focus on building community, which is often overlooked in conversations about teaching contentious topics. They lay a foundation for how to have civil discourse in all classrooms—not just social studies ones. This book highlights civil discourse as a life skill—one that all teachers can practice learning from.Annie McMahon Whitlock
In a time when a primer on engaging students in meaningful and purposeful discourse on public matters has never been more needed, Schmidt and Pinkney deliver a comprehensive vision. Each chapter provides a substantive explanation and actionable recommendations for how teachers, collaborative teams, and administrations can work to transform social studies instruction into a much needed foundry for democratic citizenship.Jenifer Hitchcock
It’s time we stop talking about creating active and knowledgeable citizens and start the actual process of training our students to engage in civil and civic discourse. One reason we often push this process to the back burner in our lesson plan books is because we’re just not sure what that can look like. In Civil Discourse: Classroom Conversations for Stronger Communities, Schmidt and Pinkney provide not just a powerful rationale for developing engaged citizens but the practical tools to make it happen. If you’re like me and are tired of randomly searching online for how to facilitate difficult but absolutely vital conversations, then Civil Discourse was written specifically for you. Schmidt and Pinkney provide the structure, strategies, and resources you’re looking for and that your students need. A perfectly timed book for every educator!Glenn Wiebe
This is a must-have book for every educator’s personal library. Schmidt and Pinkney provide an invaluable framework and “how-to” guide for teachers who want to foster healthy civil discussions on controversial issues. The authors make this difficult pedagogical task accomplishable, and their practical guidance strengthens the ability of schools to succeed in their most important mission of developing young people into empathetic, informed, and active citizens.Brian Brady
Civil Discourse: Classroom Conversations for Stronger Communities provides teachers with a step-by-step practical framework on how to engage students in civil discourse. The framework allows teachers to fully implement the civil discourse framework or make adjustmentsAverill Kelley
to their current instructional practices. I really appreciate the discussion on the differences between debate, discussion, and dialogue to ensure that students and teachers learn the differences between the concepts and help students engage in meaningful conversations about American politics.
Schmidt and Pinkney’s book is a wonderful primer for educators who need a jumpstart or a refresher on discourse in civics education. They have gathered many practical and useful tips, guides, and resources for the classroom and personal edification for beginning and veteran educators alike. This book is a must-have for anyone teaching in the social studies classroom and training future social studies educators. As a classroom guide and when designing curriculum, Schmidt and Pinkney’s book is an invaluable tool for working with students to create strong and engaging discourse civics education.Melissa R. Collum
How will students practice and master the skills of engaging in challenging discussions with people of diverse viewpoints if those conversations aren’t happening in classrooms? While the past few years have seen a rise in resources aimed at convincing teachers of this need, too few offer a road map to help make this happen. Civil Discourse offers the classroom teacher a step-by-step approach to fostering productive civic dialogue in their classroom. Each chapter identifies a list of essential teacher practices and action steps a teacher can take to make those practices their own. This book is a valuable resource for teachers and teacher-educators looking to bring meaningful discussion back into classrooms.Shannon Salter Burghardt