Democratic Discord in Schools

Democratic Discord in Schools Cases and Commentaries in Educational Ethics

Edited by Meira Levinson and Jacob Fay, Foreword by Margot Stern Strom and Adam Strom
paper, 360 Pages
Pub. Date: April 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-302-4
Price: $34.00

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Pub. Date: April 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-304-8

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Teaching in a democracy is challenging and filled with dilemmas that have no easy answers. For example, how do educators meet their responsibilities of teaching civic norms and dispositions while remaining nonpartisan? Democratic Discord in Schools features eight normative cases of complex dilemmas drawn from real events designed to help educators practice the type of collaborative problem solving and civil discourse needed to meet these challenges of democratic education. Each of the cases also features a set of six commentaries written by a diverse array of scholars, educators, policy makers, students, and activists with a range of political views to spark reflection and conversation.


Democratic Discord in Schools breaks new territory and offers concrete examples on the eternal synergies between our aspirations for the practice of democratic citizenship and the messy frictions educational practices struggle to manage. It is the book every teacher, parent, policy maker, and concerned citizen should read and ponder. — Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, Wasserman Dean and Distinguished Professor of Education, University of California at Los Angeles

This is a powerful and important book. The eight normative case studies are authentic, interesting, and provocative. The commentaries that follow serve to deepen understanding of the dilemmas at the heart of each controversy and provide alternative perspectives about what could or should be done. — Diana Hess, Dean and Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education

Democratic Discord in Schools feels like a book that came along at just the right time. — Kelley Nicholson-Flynn, Klingenstein Center

Levinson and Fay have put together an innovative, thoughtful and timely text that speaks both wisely and practically about educating for democracy in these troubled times. — Citizenship Teaching & Learning

[This book] is worth reading and using as a model for constructive engagement across difference. Its realistic approach offers a refreshing alternative to both idealistic and overly cynical narratives about the prospects for productive pluralism and democratic education. — Philosophical Inquiry in Education

How can we, as educators, demonstrate our commitment to democratic deliberation and collective decision making? We can start by reading the cases and commentaries in this book and discussing how we might approach the issues presented. As a tool, this book can aid those tasked with making decisions in schools by demonstrating the possibilities of learning from how we deal with democratic discords in schools. — Theory and Research in Social Education

Democratic Discord in Schools provides multiple examples of pedagogical strategies and activities to guide discussions. Levinson and Fay’s book is a prime example of working with the public to develop constructive, democratic solutions to such problems and should be of interest to philosophers of education. — Philosophical Inquiry in Education

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About the Editors

Meira Levinson is professor of education at Harvard, where she also serves as graduate fellowship program codirector in the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and as co-convener of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Civic and Moral Education Initiative. A normative political philosopher and former middle school teacher, Levinson writes about civic education, multiculturalism, youth empowerment, and educational ethics. Her work has been supported by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Spencer Foundation, the National Academy of Education, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her books include The Demands of Liberal Education (Oxford University Press, 1999), Making Civics Count, coedited with David E. Campbell and Fredrick M. Hess (Harvard Education Press, 2012); No Citizen Left Behind (Harvard University Press, 2012), and Dilemmas of Educational Ethics: Cases and Commentaries, coedited with Jacob Fay (Harvard Education Press, 2016). She is currently working to develop a field of educational ethics, modeled after bioethics, that is theoretically rigorous and policy- and practice-relevant.

Jacob Fay is a visiting assistant professor of education at Bowdoin College. His research synthesizes philosophical theories of injustice with insights from developmental psychology to propose a novel approach to theorizing about injustice. He was co-chair of the Harvard Educational Review, a member of the 2013–14 Spencer Foundation Philosophy of Education Institute, a 2016–17 Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Graduate Fellow, and a 2017–18 Edmond J. Safra Center Ethics Pedagogy Fellow. He is coeditor with Meira Levinson of Dilemmas of Educational Ethics: Cases and Commentaries (Harvard Education Press, 2016). Previously, Fay taught eighth-grade history at the Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, New Jersey.