Moral Questions in the Classroom: How to Get Kids to Think Deeply about Real Life and their School Work

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9780300090321: Moral Questions in the Classroom: How to Get Kids to Think Deeply about Real Life and their School Work
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What constitutes a just war? How does race matter in America? Are the interests of corporations the same as those of the public when it comes to the environment or public health? Middle and high school history, literature, and science classes abound with important moral, social, and political questions. But under pressure to cover required materials and out of fear of raising controversy, teachers often avoid classroom discussions of questions of profound importance to students and to society.

This book investigates how schools can responsibly take an active role in moral education while honoring their academic mission. Using extensive observations in public, Catholic, and Jewish high schools, Katherine Simon analyzes the ways in which teachers avoid or address moral questions raised by students and implicit in course materials. She examines how morally charged issues may be taught responsibly in a diverse democracy. And in an afterword that teachers and teacher educators will find particularly useful, Simon provides practical tools and strategies for structuring discussion and designing units to help teachers explore moral issues more deeply with their middle and high school students.

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About the Author:

Katherine G. Simon is director of research and professional development at the Coalition of Essential Schools in Oakland, California.

From Publishers Weekly:

Motivated by a suspicion that schools fail to teach what "matters," Simon, director of research at the Coalition of Essential Schools in California, spent months observing literature, history and biology classes at a public, a Catholic and a Jewish high school. What "matters" to Simon is the integration of moral and existential inquiry into the classroom; she argues that not only are moral and existential questions at the heart of the major disciplines, they are also extremely compelling to students. But too much of what goes on in schools, she contends, is "the forming of uninformed opinions" and "decontextualized fact acquisition." Although she shows how even good teachers sometimes deflect or shut down important discussions, Simon places the blame squarely on the education system that works "against teachers being able to incorporate discussions of substantive issues into their classrooms." As in many recent books, the villain is the standardized test, and the stakes, for both students and teachers, attached to it. Simon writes fluently, integrating transcripts of classroom discussions smoothly into her narrative and engagingly conveying her idealist's passion for reform. To reconsider education's entire enterprise is a very tall order, however, and Simon acknowledges the enormous obstacles her project faces. Readers will agree that students shouldn't continue to feel disengaged in school because they're denied the chance to ask and answer essential questions, but they may be skeptical of Simon's starry-eyed recipe for change.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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