Published on November 10, 2014
1. Controversy as Pedagogy © 2014, John Wesley White, University of North Florida
2. Controversy as Pedagogy: My Thesis • Controversy is ever-present – In students’ lives, in the news, in literature, in other content areas • Avoiding controversial issues further separates schooling from reality and students’ interests – Controversy is inherently culturally-relevant – Avoiding controversial issues suggests that schools are not places of intellectual inquiry (compare for example to universities) • Classrooms should be the safe places where we teach students to confront controversial issues in a logical, measured, and insightful manner – Eliminating misconceptions & opening minds © 2014, John Wesley White, University of North Florida
3. What is Controversy/Controversial? Things are not inherently controversial; rather, societies and cultures make them so. Controversy tends to result when mainstream ideas (aka the philosophical and ontological beliefs of those who have and maintain power within a society) clash with newer or different ideas that challenge those ideas/philosophies. Controversy cannot be separated from issues of power. © 2014, John Wesley White, University of North Florida
4. Controversy As Threat People or groups with a vested interest in certain ideologies and ways of being (social and economic structures) tend to shun controversial issues and texts –especially in schools where the majority of students might encounter such texts— because the ideas therein may lead to increased discord, critical questioning, and even calls for change from newer generations. Consider some of the ways you have been discouraged—overtly or tacitly—from engaging students in specific topics (especially those surrounding sex/sexuality, politics, religion, gender roles and identity, and even true critical thinking) © 2014, John Wesley White, University of North Florida
5. Example 1: 1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck 4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker 6. Ulysses by James Joyce 7. Beloved by Toni Morrison 8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding 9. 1984 by George Orwell 10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner 11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov 12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 13. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White 14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce 15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller 16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 17. Animal Farm by George Orwell 18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway 19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner 20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway 21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne 23. Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison 26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 27. Native Son by Richard Wright 28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey 29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut 30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway 31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac 32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway 33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London 34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf 35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James 36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin 37. The World According to Garp by John Irving 38. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren 39. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster 40. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien 41. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally 42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton 43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand 44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce 45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair 46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf 47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum 48. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence 49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess 50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin 51. My Antonia by Willa Cather 52. Howards End by E. M. Forster 53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote 54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger 55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie 56. Jazz by Toni Morrison 57. Sophie's Choice by William Styron 58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner 59. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster 60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor 62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald 63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf 64. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence 65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe 66. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut 67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles 68. Light in August by William Faulkner 69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James 70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe 71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 72. A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs 74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh 75. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrene 76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe 77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway 78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein 79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett 80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer 81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys 82. White Noise by Don DeLillo 83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather 84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller 85. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells 86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad 87. The Bostonians by Henry James 88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser Most Frequently Banned Books (ALA) © 2014, John Wesley White, University of North Florida
6. Example 1 (Con’t) Most Frequently Banned Books (ALA) Banned Books Florida: A Light in the Attic, Shel Silverstein Restricted to students with parental permission at the Duval County, Florida public school libraries because the books features a caricature of a person whose nude behind has been stung by a bee. My Friend Flicka, Mary O’Hara Pulled from fifth- and sixth-grade optional reading lists in Clay County, Florida schools because the book uses the word “bitch” to refer to a female dog, as well as the word “damn.” I Am the Cheese, Robert Cormier Banned in Panama City, Florida, because of “offensive” language. The controversy snowballed further on May 7, 1987, when 64 works of literature were banned from classroom teaching at Bay and Mosley High Schools by the Bay County school superintendent. © 2014, John Wesley White, University of North Florida
7. Controversy What kinds of issues might you encounter in the aforementioned texts that some find problematic? How might you use these issues to engage students in critical thinking about these issues? - “that’s so gay” - “that [lesbian relationships] are gross” - “she was asking for it” How and where might you engage students in controversial issues in your content? Is your content amenable to engaging students in controversy? © 2014, John Wesley White, University of North Florida
8. Controversy in the Content Areas ELA: Controversy abounds in novels, poems, popular music, nonfiction texts, newspapers, etc. Students lives are full of controversy; their writing can be excellent avenues to explore issues. Social Studies: History is controversy; the vast majority of historical events occurred out of controversial issues. Geographical boundaries arose from powerful forces (most often conquest). Ideologies spread via conquest (military and economic). There are numerous economic models that compete for dominance (each of which has underlying beliefs about equity and freedom). Psychology. Science: Major discoveries in science have almost always been controversial. Copernicus’ ideas were radical and threatening; Darwin’s theories are still debated 150+ years later; when does “life” begin? What separates scientific theories from philosophical or ideological theories? Nature or nurture? Gender differences/ Math: Though less controversial an area than other content areas, math can be a great way to critically examine numerous controversial issues and real-life situations/scenarios: finanical empowerment (usery), economic or political disempowerment, district maps & demographics, economic disparity… Health/PE: Sexual education (not just reproduction); obesity (and cheap, high fat, high sugar foods); alcoholism and drug addition… © 2014, John Wesley White, University of North Florida
9. Controversy via Images, Music, & More
10. Controversy in the Content Areas Summary: Controversy abounds in student discussions about school, about their lives outside of school, about their relationships and beliefs, about current events, etc. The very fact that students experience these issues and want to talk about them is reason enough for us (educators) to engage them in exploring the issues further. It is also a chance for us to help them discover nuance and new ideas, to become more fully functioning “readers of the world” (Freire). -Yet, teachers are often discouraged from engaging students in academic discussions of these issues - time not on task; time away from tested subjects - fear of parental/societal rebuke - lack of ‘answers’ to student questions (belief that they should have the answers) - teachers’ fears of appearing biased © 2014, John Wesley White, University of North Florida
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