Beyond the Classroom: The Role of Controversy and Real World Ethics in Education

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:40
Oral Presentation
Fida SANJAKDAR, Monash University, Australia
Current issues such as extremism, racism, marriage equality, violence against women and civil rights, are seeped with underlying issues of a controversial and ethical nature. Various global geo-political processes of these issues have perpetuated violence against minority communities worldwide and have fuelled racism, nationalism and xenophobia. Such issues and their associated geo-political reactions and processes, have also increasingly found their way in our classrooms reshaping curriculum content, teacher pedagogies and student learning. Ongoing debate in educational discourse that students, as democratic citizens in the twenty‐first century, must be prepared to deal with ‘real-life’ issues, has seen a demand in educative responses to enhance the relevance of teaching about controversy in schools. However, despite research supporting the value of teaching controversial issues as a way to promote critical thinking, the teaching of controversial issues and real world ethics in many Australian classrooms is shrouded in controversy and public concern because these issues can become eclipsed by comingling concepts of values and morals. This paper reports on data from a recent project exploring secondary school Humanities and Social Science teachers’ perspectives about the intersections between teaching controversial issues and creating new thinking in education for democracy, civic citizenship, understanding human rights and real world ethics. Using interview data, this paper presents insights into teacher’s beliefs about their role in teaching about controversial issues as well as the role of school and other institutional power relations to promote in students a deeper understanding of their social world. Classroom teaching observation notes also presented in this paper, demonstrate how teachers use effective pedagogies to mobilise their students in the powerful role of disrupting fear, ignorance and prejudice embedded in controversial issues. Essentially, this paper invites discussions about the hard curriculum, pedagogical and ethical challenges that confront our schools and teachers today.