Your Roadmap for Teaching Controversial Issues

Today’s polarized climate may seem intimidating for teaching controversial issues, but it also makes it all the more important. With the right approach, classrooms can be welcoming spaces for students to test-drive their ideas and to see disagreement as an opportunity to learn, not as a form of conflict. Classrooms are ideal incubators for facilitating constructive dialogue on today’s most divisive issues—from immigration… to religious and cultural tolerance… to the relative powers and functions of our three branches of government.

New to this work? Or not sure how to get started? We have created five Teacher Guides and a series of brief informational videos (3-4 minutes) to help you prepare for teaching controversial issues in your classroom. Here is how to get started:

  1. Go deeper with the free Teacher Guides below. Each covers an essential topic to help get you started.
  2. Explore the free Video Series. With shared experiences from educators in the field, the videos offer guidance, encouragement, and inspiration.
  3. Use our starter lesson, Stipulating Speech. The lesson provides background reading on hate speech and the First Amendment to address the issue: Should public colleges allow hate groups to recruit on campus?

Download the Teacher Guides

Find best practices for teaching controversial topics, such as who to communicate with ahead of time, how to check your own bias, and how to build a safe and respectful learning environment.

Watch the Video Series

Gain insights from experienced educators.

Teaching Controversial Issues: Why Do It? (3:53)

Learn the reasons why educators teach controversial issues.

Deciding to Decide: Sharing Your Views with Students (3:14)

Hear views from both sides of the discussion.

The Teacher's Playbook: Effective Strategies (4:10)

Which teaching strategies do educators recommend?

Talk the Talk: Communicating with Stakeholders (3:32)

Hear how teachers communicate with families and administrators.

Take It From Us: Advice from Teachers (3:31)

Listen to the experts share their advice for teaching controversial issues.