In “The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools,” Jonathan Zimmerman and Emily Robertson explore the reasons why controversial topics are widely debated outside of school walls, yet often nervously avoided within school classrooms themselves. Armed with a detailed history of American educational policy and a clear philosophical analysis of the value of contention in public discourse, they argue that the opposite is true; one of the best things American schools can do is face controversial topics head on. With common-sense wisdom, they show how emphasis in the classroom on careful, reasoned debates about hot-button issues can prepare students for lives as democratic citizens.

Heterodox Academy invites current K-12 school administrators and teachers and those training to become administrators and teachers to adopt or adapt these discussion questions as warranted by their interests and circumstances. Our one request: within an environment of open-mindedness, curiosity, and intellectual humility, please encourage disagreement and ensure everyone has an opportunity to be heard.