Experiences of Social Studies Teachers with Teaching Controversial Public Issues in the Classroom

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Title:
Experiences of Social Studies Teachers with Teaching Controversial Public Issues in the Classroom
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1 online resource (234 p.)
Language:
english
Creator:
Dahlgren, Robert L.
Publisher:
University of Florida
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
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Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Doctorate ( Ph.D.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Curriculum and Instruction (ISC), Teaching and Learning
Committee Chair:
Yeager, Elizabeth A.
Committee Co-Chair:
Terzian, Sevan G.
Committee Members:
Pace, Barbara G.
Bondy, Elizabeth
Koro-Ljungberg, Mirka E.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
controversy, curriculum, history, teachers
Teaching and Learning -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre:
Curriculum and Instruction (ISC) thesis, Ph.D.
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )

Notes

Abstract:
This constructivist study investigates the experiences of veteran social studies teachers with teaching controversial content in north Florida classrooms. The subject of controversy in the social studies is of particular importance in the contemporary context of curricular narrowing and challenges to public educators?'academic freedom. At the same time, this dissertation research project supplies evidence that internal factors such as individual teacher's educational background, political and religious worldview and teaching philosophy have as much, if not more, influence on teaching practice as these external factors. The investigation gives voice to veteran practitioners who are often lost in the discussion of social studies teaching and learning practices. Over the course of 2 interviews, these teachers addressed the meanings that they have constructed from their years of experience in the classroom. They spoke candidly about their hopes, fears, and frustrations in regard to the field, while providing rationales for individual lessons that address controversial issues. In order to examine the interviews at the heart of this project, I employed a narrative analysis methodology that allowed the authentic voices of these practitioners to emerge. These narratives speak in prophetic ways about the positions that social studies teachers take when approaching the use of controversial public issues. In the current climate of political and social reaction, secondary social studies teachers might be forgiven for questioning the necessity for and relevance of research in their daily struggles. However, it is precisely within the current political mood in education that research can and must play a role in clarifying the needs and goals of teachers. In this study, I hope to provide the rationale for research that situates itself on the solid theoretical ground of the constructivist tradition and seeks to empathize with and provide documentary evidence of the day-to-day reality of teachers' experiences. The insights gained from this process, therefore, can provide a template for an innovative teacher training process that focuses on the possibilities of student investigation of issues of controversy.
General Note:
In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note:
Includes vita.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description:
Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description:
This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis:
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local:
Adviser: Yeager, Elizabeth A.
Local:
Co-adviser: Terzian, Sevan G.
Electronic Access:
RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2010-08-31

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lcc - LD1780 2008
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UFE0022576:00001


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The concentration of educational policymakers on standards and testing procedures during this

period has had the unfortunate consequence of obscuring the need for research that focuses on

the lives and voices of ordinary teachers and students. The top-down, bureaucratic nature of

much of what has posed as educational reform during this period has thus created a lamentable

suspicion of theory and research among those practicing in the field. However, rather than

shrinking from this task in the face of this gap between research and practice, researchers in the

social studies have a particular imperative to conduct investigations of the daily experiences of

classroom practitioners as a means of stimulating grassroots reform in the field. Researchers such

as Keith Barton, Ronald Evans, Stuart Foster, S. G. Grant, Linda Levstik, Wayne Ross, and

Elizabeth Yeager have started this process by probing the ways in which students make sense of

history and how teachers conceive of their teaching practices.

I would humbly wish that my own research will become a small part of this burgeoning

movement toward democratizing the process of educational reform. My project begins from the

premise that teachers will more effectively investigate their own teaching and learning practices

if they feel free from ideological pressures to engage in free and open inquiry processes. At the

same time, research that merely presents practical suggestions for practice to teachers often

overwhelmed by the demands of the accountability movement is ultimately counterproductive.

Many have conducted insightful research into the pedagogical routines of exemplary teachers

when it comes to presenting controversial issues in the classroom (Hess, 2002). Others have

focused on the conceptions of novice or pre-service teachers (Dawson-Salas, 2004; Misco &

Patterson, 2007). Recently, Claire and Holden (2007) have produced an edited volume of essays

considering the teaching of controversial issues, such as presenting issues of war and peace to

young students, in a British context. However, there is a vacuum is the literature when it comes

to addressing the stances of veteran social studies teachers in the United States. It is my hope that





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1 EXPERIENCES OF SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHERS WITH TEACHING CONTROVERSIAL PUBLIC I SSUES IN THE CLASSROOM By ROBERT L. DAHLGREN A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008

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2 2008 Robert L. Dahlgren

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3 For Karen

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would first like to express my most prof ound gratitude to the chai r of my dissertation committee, Elizabeth Anne Washington. Since I began the doctoral program at the University of Florida in the fall of 2004, she ha s been a great mentor and friend, and I cannot find the adequate words to convey the importance of the guidance that she has provided to me at the College of Education. I also sincerely appreciate the efforts of the members of my doctoral committee: Elizabeth Bondy, Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, Barbar a Pace, and Sevan Terzian. Their cogent criticism at key stages of the data collection and writing processes of this project allowed me to design and complete a project that I hope will stimulate the thinking of others in the field. During my time at the university, I have been fortunate to collaborate with a number of talented doctoral students, incl uding Darby Delane, Jemina Espinoza-Howlett, Sheryl Howie, Cheryl Kmiec, Brian Lanahan, Phil Poekert, and Patrick Ryan. Their comments on earlier drafts of this dissertation project were invaluable. Two other members of the COE family, Steve and Susie Masyada, offered me their hospitality during a critical time in my studies and for that I will always be grateful to them. The staff of the Florida State Archives and the Smathers Library offered important assistance to me during this project. I would al so like to thank Jill J ohnson, the Director of Communications at Duval County P ublic Schools, for her help in locating a pool of participants. The administrations of the three schools profiled in this study al so opened their doors to me and my thanks go out to them. Of course, the teacher s whose stories form the heart of this project will always be in my thoughts. Finally I would like to acknowledge my fam ily. I come from a long line of teachers, including my grandmother Helen Hobart, my aunt Ran Hobart, family friend Leonard Blostein,

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5 and my mother and father Wayne and Em Dahlgr en, who have all given me inspiration in my years in education. My brother St eve Dahlgren and his wife Mela nie and son Eric have always been there for me. I resisted the urge to teach for many years before my dear wife Karen Carter brought me back into the fold, and it is therefor e to her that this diss ertation is dedicated.

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6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF TABLES................................................................................................................. ........10 LIST OF FIGURES.......................................................................................................................11 ABSTRACT...................................................................................................................................12 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................14 Statement of the Problem....................................................................................................... .15 Purpose of the Study........................................................................................................... ....22 The Nature of Controversy.............................................................................................. 23 Teachers Stances............................................................................................................26 Research Questions............................................................................................................. ....31 Conclusions.............................................................................................................................31 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE........................................................................................ 34 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........34 Academic Freedom: A Historical Sketch............................................................................... 35 Conceptions of Academic Freedom................................................................................38 Twentieth Century Struggles for Academic Freedom..................................................... 43 Legal Conceptions of Academic Freedom............................................................................. 50 The Contemporary Culture Wars............................................................................................ 53 Conclusion..............................................................................................................................61 3 RESEARCH METHODS.......................................................................................................64 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........64 Research Perspectives.......................................................................................................... ...66 Qualitative Research........................................................................................................ 66 Constructivism.................................................................................................................68 Research Settings.............................................................................................................. ......70 Participating Schools.......................................................................................................72 Selection of Participants...................................................................................................... ...74 Pilot Project.....................................................................................................................74 Sampling Procedures and Criteria................................................................................... 74 Description of Participants.................................................................................................... .75 Data Collection.......................................................................................................................78 Interviews........................................................................................................................79 Interview Process.............................................................................................................80

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7 Archival Collection.........................................................................................................83 Data Analysis..........................................................................................................................84 Subjectivity Statement......................................................................................................... ...87 A Note on Validity..................................................................................................................89 Limitations.................................................................................................................... ..........90 Conclusions.............................................................................................................................92 4 FINDINGS: CONTROVERSIAL CONTENT IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES TODAY......... 95 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........95 Teachers and Controversy...................................................................................................... 97 Adam: Stay Away from Abortion................................................................................... 97 Cathy: Im an Old Hand..................................................................................................98 Donna: Church vs. State................................................................................................101 Eric: Republicans and Democrats................................................................................. 102 Frank: GSA....................................................................................................................104 Gina: Social Studies is a Minefield ............................................................................... 107 Conclusions...........................................................................................................................109 5 FINDINGS: TEACHERS EXPERIEN CES WI TH CONTROVERSY.............................. 111 Introduction................................................................................................................... ........111 Curricular Choices............................................................................................................. ...112 Adam: Cut and Paste Job............................................................................................... 113 Ben: Renaissance to Modern......................................................................................... 114 Cathy: The Seven Years War is Still the Seven Years W ar....................................... 116 Donna: They Need Structure......................................................................................... 117 Eric: It Gets Very Vocational........................................................................................ 119 Gina: Sociology.............................................................................................................120 Controversial Lessons...........................................................................................................121 Adam: The Bell Curve................................................................................................... 122 Ben: Student Skit...........................................................................................................124 Cathy: World Religions Journal.................................................................................... 125 Donna: The Jena Six...................................................................................................... 127 Eric: The Cold War....................................................................................................... 130 Frank: Abstract Art........................................................................................................ 131 Gina: Teaching Buddhism.............................................................................................133 Conclusion............................................................................................................................135 6 FINDINGS: TEACHERS POSITIONS TOWARD CONTROVERSY .............................138 Introduction................................................................................................................... ........138 Three Cases...........................................................................................................................139 Fahrenheit 9/11 .............................................................................................................139 The State of the Union in Colorado........................................................................... 142 Voices of the Peoples History...................................................................................... 144 Teachers Views...................................................................................................................146 Adam: Theyre Nuts!.....................................................................................................146

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8 Ben: Truth, Consequences, and War............................................................................. 149 Cathy: Stick to the Script............................................................................................... 151 Donna: Violation of Trust.............................................................................................153 Eric: It Just Isnt Accurate ............................................................................................. 157 Frank: Rally Round the Flag.........................................................................................158 Gina: I Set the Agenda.................................................................................................. 160 Conclusions...........................................................................................................................163 7 TOWARD A NEW MODEL OF CONTROVERSY IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES ............167 Introduction................................................................................................................... ........167 Conceptions..........................................................................................................................168 The Bush Administration.............................................................................................. 168 Religion.........................................................................................................................170 Race...............................................................................................................................172 Iraq.................................................................................................................................174 Abortion.........................................................................................................................176 Experiences...........................................................................................................................178 Students.........................................................................................................................178 Colleagues.....................................................................................................................180 Parents...........................................................................................................................182 Curriculum.....................................................................................................................184 Positions................................................................................................................................186 Student Focus................................................................................................................186 Accuracy........................................................................................................................188 Inoffensiveness..............................................................................................................189 Fear................................................................................................................................190 Curriculum Focus.......................................................................................................... 192 Conclusions...........................................................................................................................193 8 CONCLUSIONS.................................................................................................................. 200 Introduction................................................................................................................... ........200 Implications................................................................................................................... .......205 Future Investigations............................................................................................................211 Conclusions...........................................................................................................................212 APPENDIX A IRB PROPOSAL.................................................................................................................. 215 B RECRUITMENT EMAIL SCRIPT......................................................................................217 C INTERVIEW PROTOCOL.................................................................................................. 218 D TRANSCRIPTION CONVENTIONS................................................................................. 219

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9 REFERENCE LIST.....................................................................................................................220 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................234

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10 LIST OF TABLES Table page 7-1 Controversial Issues....................................................................................................... ..196 7-2 Experiences with Controversy.........................................................................................197 7-3 Positions Toward Controversy.........................................................................................198

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11 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 7-1 Controversy in the classroom : A model........................................................................... 199

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12 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy EXPERIENCES OF SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHERS WITH TEACHING CONTROVERSIAL PUBLIC I SSUES IN THE CLASSROOM By Robert L. Dahlgren August 2008 Chair: Elizabeth Anne Washington Major: Curriculum and Instruction This constructivist study investigates the expe riences of veteran social studies teachers with teaching controversial content in north Flor ida classrooms. The subject of controversy in the social studies is of particular importance in the contemporary context of curricular narrowing and challenges to public educators academic freedom. At the same time, this dissertation research project supplies evidence that internal factor s such as individual teacher's educational background, political and religious worldview and teaching philosophy have as much, if not more, influence on teaching practice as these external factors. Th e investigation gives voice to veteran practitioners who are often lost in the discussion of social studies teaching and learning practices. Over the course of 2 interviews, these teachers addressed the meanings that they have constructed from their years of experience in the classroom. They spoke candidly about their hopes, fears, and frustrations in regard to th e field, while providing rationales for individual lessons that address controversial issues. In order to examine the interviews at the heart of this project, I employed a narrative analysis methodology that allowed the auth entic voices of these practitioners to emerge. These narratives speak in prophetic ways about the positions that social studies teachers take when approaching the use of controversial public issues. In the current climate of political and social reaction, secondary social studies teachers might be forgiven for

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13 questioning the necessity for and relevance of resear ch in their daily struggles. However, it is precisely within the current political mood in education that research can and must play a role in clarifying the needs and goals of teachers. In this study, I hope to provide the rationale for research that situates itself on the solid theoretic al ground of the constructi vist tradition and seeks to empathize with and provide documentary evid ence of the day-to-day reality of teachers experiences. The insights gained from this proc ess, therefore, can provide a template for an innovative teacher training proce ss that focuses on the possibilitie s of student investigation of issues of controversy.

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14 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The protruding nail gets hammered down -Japanese proverb I first became aware of the i ssue that has motivated my prim ary research interests at the University of Florida on a bright afternoon in the fall of 2004. I was teac hing in a high school in Jacksonville, had recently begun my doctoral studies, and wa s making one of my many pilgrimages to Gainesville. During these long dr ives, I consumed a wealth of audio books, iPod music, and talk radio. On the afternoon in questi on, I was surveying the local political talk shows in order to get a sense of the atmosphere surrounding the Presidentia l election. I happened upon Sean Hannitys nationally syndica ted radio show on a local AM st ation and was surprised when he took a call from a listener in Jacksonville. I was even more s hocked when the caller identified herself as a parent of a Jacksonville magnet school student who had just watched Michael Moores documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 in her media issues course. As Hannity began to call for the heads of the teacher, pr incipal, and superintendent invo lved, I remember having this one thought running through my head: P lease dont let it be my school! Of course it was my school, and after interviewing the teacher in question about the intentions behind his lesson plan and the subseq uent disciplinary acti ons taken by the school district, I began to wonder if this was merely an isolated incident or part of a more noteworthy pattern of ideological pressure being brought to bear on teachers and university faculty. Within a few days, I had collected information about nearly two dozen incidents that had occurred from Washington state to North Carolina, spanning mi ddle school settings right up into community colleges. In these cases a pattern emerged: first, the challenges to an in dividual teachers use of Fahrenheit came during a narrow band of time at th e height of the final leg of the 2004

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15 Presidential election. Sec ond, challenges did not follow the typi cal pattern of a parent contacting the individual teacher or school administrator; rather the first phone call went to a local or national media outlet, typically one connected to the Republican Party. Therefore, and finally, a political agenda emerged; that is, education se emed to have become a wedge issue very much like stem cell research, gun ownership, or gay ma rriage. It seemed to me a ripe issue for investigation. Statement of the Problem Social studies educators who wish to have the freedom to address controversial public issues in their classrooms face a gigantic conund rum at the beginning of a new millennium. On the one hand, the scholarship rela ted to the issue is clear in th e proposition that discussing public controversies in the classroom has a particular imperative within a democratic society. Kelly (1986) argued that, schools, pa rticularly those publicly financed and state supported, in a democracy have a moral responsibility to de velop in their charge s the understandings, competencies and commitments to be effective citizens (p. 116). These in clude the abilities to make reasoned decisions about c ontroversial public issues based on evidence and to debate these positions in a reasonable, if passionate, manner. Engle and Ochoa (1988) te stified that citizen problem-solvers in a democracy are best educat ed by the continuous inclusion in their schooling of real-life situations that re quire the making of informed and morally-responsible decisions (p. 27). Gutman (1999) concurred that societies in which the people are presumed sovereign require an educated citizenry with certain abilities and practices such as criti cal thinking skills and regular engagement in public debate. She commented: When citizens rule in a democracy, they determine, among other things, how future citizens will be educated. Demo cratic education is therefor e a political as well as an educational ideal. Educati on not only sets the stage for de mocratic politics, it plays a central role in it. (p. 3)

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16 Many social studies researchers have spoken over the years about the efficacy of teaching methods that incorporate controversial subject matter and materials (Banks, 1990; Grant, 2003; VanSledright, 1997). Barton and Levstik (2005) no ted in their work with elementary school students that, High quality academic discussions not only prepare students for participation in democratic debate and negotiation, they also su pport important aspects of historical thinking, including better understa nding of historical agency (p. 139). Hahn and Tocci (1990) showed that engaging students in debate s on provocative issues in history has the effect of stimulating their interest in the electoral process. Furthermore, Oakes and Lipton (2007) found that students in social studies classes eagerly look forward to debates on hot-button topics. They commented that the happiest classrooms are those presided over by a teacher who deal s openly with his (sic) values of treating others with respect and di gnity, and who frequently engages students in democratic participation and decision making (p. 194). Claire and Holden (2007) remarked that, the controversial issues with which children wish to engage are potentially far more dangerous and they need education and strategies for mana ging them without violence (p. 6). The National Council for the Social Studies (2007) recently updated its statement on academic freedom and the teaching of controversy, remarking that social studies teaching involves controversial issues, and thus, the necessity of academic freedom for social studies teachers and students (p. 282). From this brief survey of the research in teaching and learning, one might then imagine that teaching controversial public issues would be a standard practice in secondary social studies classrooms. On the other hand, however, the political leaderships of even those societies, such as the United States, long committed to representative democratic structures have often exhibited nervousness over this potential fo r educators and educat ion to stimulate individual enlightenment and even grassroots political act ion. Rury (2005) noted that di senfranchised groups, such as

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17 women and the working class, were explicitly forbidden from entering educational institutions in the early decades of the United States republic. In the case of African American slaves in the Antebellum period, for example, the prohibition agai nst literacy was bolster ed by the threat of death (Anderson, 1988). For the past century and a half, there has ther efore been a delicate balance between the imperatives of the market, fostered by the social efficiency school, and the more child-centered approaches of pedagogica l progressives. Spring (1992) connected the various national security crises to witch hunts against teachers, pointing to the periods of the First World War and Cold War competition with the Soviet Union as acmes of censorious activity directed against teachers. There is a wealth of material (C arleton, 1985; Foster, 2000; Schrecker, 1998), for example, detailing the pern icious effects of McCa rthyism on education at secondary and higher education levels in the 1950s. In recent years, critics of progressive education have attacked what th ey have termed political correctness among the teaching faculty and professoriate and have argued for an objec tive teaching stance in the classroom (DSouza, 1991; Ravitch, 2000; Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). Social studies educators thus have entered the 21st century f acing an existential crisis in the field. The study of social studies is today th reatened by both the increasing narrowness of the American public school curriculum as well as th e demands of the accountability movement that has centered its quest for increased standard s on improving test scores on mandated state examinations in reading and mathematics. As Hursh (2001) noted, the field of social studies has largely been disdained by the conservative regime s that have controlled education policy from the Departments of Education at federal, state, an d district levels over th e past 25 years, largely because of its identification with the progressive movement and institutions such as Columbia Teachers College, home of radical educators such as George Counts, Charles Beard and Harold Rugg. Ravitch (2003) exemplified th is stance when she bemoaned:

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18 Over the past century, the teaching of chr onological history was steadily displaced by social studies. And for most of the century, the social studies establishment eagerly sought to reduce the status of chronological hist ory, in the belief that its own variegated field was somehow superior to old-fashioned history. (p. 1) Consequently, as Symcox (2002) noted, c onservative policymakers have, in the past generation, striven to define the social studies more narrowly as hist ory education, which, in their eyes, must be presented as a patriotic narra tive (often termed the story well told) of uninterrupted progress and democracy. While this conflict has often been portrayed in the literature as mere partisan bickering (Hunter, 1991; Tyack, 2003; Zimmerman, 2002) th at could easily be solved with more compromise from all sides, it is at heart anothe r chapter in an age-old epistemological debate about how students can best learn about the worl d around them. Traditionalists in the field such as Adler (1998) and Bloom (1987) argued that st udents can best understand what they described as our common heritage by casting an eye back towa rd history, especially what has traditionally been framed as the history of Western civilizations. Schlesinger (1992) argued that this project has particularly urgency within a diverse society, such as the Un ited States, which he fears will become Balkanized by the entrance of progressi ve waves of new immigration. The founders of the Social Studies field and those such as Alla n Kownslar who pioneered the New Social Studies movement of the 1960s began at quite distinct points and arrive at noticeably different conclusions from the traditionalists. Students, in the progressive scheme, best learn about their cultural surroundings by e xperiencing them at first hand and being allowed to make meaning of them for themselves. History for social studies edu cators, therefore, is mo st valuable in shedding light on contemporary social issu es and problems; as Barton a nd Levstik (2005) demonstrated, history as a dry, abstract study is ultimately counter-productive as it drives the curiosity for history from students more effectively than doe s any other method. The field of social studies

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19 during progressive eras thus has been conceived of as a more expansive endeavor, encompassing the fields of economics, sociology, psychology, and the study of law. The conservatism reinforced at the admini strative and policy-making levels by a 25 year program, launched during the Reagan administ ration, focused on narrowing the curriculum, standardizing the routines of schooling and increasingly wresti ng authority over the classroom from teachers. Apple (2001), for example, survey ed the deleterious influence of pre-packaged, teacher-proof curricula, such as the Whittle Cor porations Channel One, which robs classroom teachers and students of 10 minutes of less on time each school day. Aronowitz and Giroux (2003) identified this trend as having orig inated in the Commission for Excellence in Educations A Nation at Risk report (1983), which re -established the social efficiency-oriented agenda, first developed by the administrative prog ressive movement, which disdains the role of teacher as researcher, in tellectual and professional: The call for excellence and improved student creativity has been accompanied by policy suggestions that further erode the power teach ers have over the conditions of their work while simultaneously proposing that administ rators and teachers look outside of their schools for improvements and needed reforms. Th e result is that many of the educational reforms appear to reduce teachers to the status of low-level employees or civil servants whose main function is to implement reforms decided by experts in the upper levels of state and educational bureaucracies. (p. 23) Gatto (2000) further argued that these conserva tive trends were continued in the 1990s by the corporate-oriented, neo-liberal Clinton admini stration, which began the trend toward statemandated high-stakes testing regimes. Conservative education activists have, in a few cases, transcended mere rhetoric concerning curricular matters a nd lobbied successfu lly with school administrations for disciplinary action against individual teachers. As Evans (2003) noted, the present and recent wave of att acks are coming from pe rsons with powerful connections receiving substantial financia l support from well-heeled conservative

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20 foundations bent on influencing policy, such as the Fordham Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the American Enterp rise Institute, and others. (pp. 523-524) The most well-established of these today incl ude Citizens for Excellence in Education, Phyllis Schlaflys Eagle Forum, and the Concerned Wome n of America led by Beverly LaHaye, wife of Tim LaHaye, who has become a media star in reli gious, conservative circles with his apocalyptic Left Behind book series. Conservative organizations oriented towar d, in David Horowitzs (2006) ironic words, taking politics out of schools (p. 371), abound in the culture of education today. Another online organization influenced by Horowitzs gr oup Parents and Students for Academic Freedom (PSAF), ProtestWarrior.com, has created 160 high school chapters, arming students with ammo that strikes at the intellectual solar plexus of the Left (Pro testWarrior.com, 2006, p. 1). Another organization known as the Christian Copts of California distributed 5,000 booklets in several states denouncing a seventh-grad e World History curriculum program as an attempt to engrave Islam in the minds of children (MacDonald, 2005, p. 2). Organizations such as PSAF and its affiliates have had a noticeable effect, as Horowitz (2007) himself was quick to claim. In November 2004, for example, a journalism teacher in Indianapolis was suspended af ter a group of parents critici zed his decision to publish a controversial story in the Fra nklin Central High School newspape r about a classmates arrest on murder charges (Olsen, 2004). A month later, a drama teacher in Paradise Valley, Arizona was fired after a parent complaint a bout a skit her students wrote a nd performed about the Holocaust (Madrid, 2004). In Grand Rapids, Michigan, an English teacher was suspended with pay for assigning a collection of stories, A thletic Shorts, that included wh at parents described as racial slurs ( Book With Racial Slurs 2005). In April 2006, Sidney McGee, an art teacher from Frisco, Texas, was fired after parent complaints about th e nude art that her 5th grade class viewed while

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21 on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Ar t (Pilkington, 2006). More recently, former Vice President Al Gores Oscar-winni ng documentary on global warming An Inconvenient Truth has been the subject of furious debates in school board meetings (Libin, 2007). Misco and Patterson (2007) outlined the case of Jay Bennish, a middle-school teacher in Colorado who was put on paid administrative leave for a month in the spring of 2006 after having been audiotaped by a student seemingly comparing the Bush administration to Hitlers Germany. Bennish was later intervie wed under the klieg lights of the Today Show by Matt Lauer. Prentice Chandler (2006), an American history teacher in northern Alabama, detailed his struggles with his schools administration over his use of the primary source companion volume to Howard Zinns classic A Peoples History of the United States text. Most recently, a California high school student and his parents f iled a federal lawsuit in December, 2007 against his Advanced Placement European History teache r for alleged violation of Constitutional rights due to the teachers persistent comments about religion (Haldane, 2007). These stories and others like them lead to a startling conclusion: it is remarkably easy to get fired merely for attempting to teach ones subject in a public sc hool in the United States today. In this context, the practical conclusions that classroom practitioners draw from their own experiences and those of fellow co lleagues with teaching controvers ial public issues can either encourage or discourage them from pursuing a cr itical curricular agenda in the future. For example, Barton and Levstik (2004) commented on the ways in which the current political climate acts as a fetter against meaningful, empath etic discussions of pub lic issues around race, gender and ethnicity in the social studies classroom. They stated: (S)tudents (and teachers) in the United States are likely to have similar difficulty using what they have learned in history to exam ine controversial current issues. Not everyone wants to engage in reasoned judgment, develop an expanded view of humanity, or deliberate over the common good; many would rather stick to their own unexamined opinions, personal prejudices, a nd private desires. (p. 240)

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22 Given this context, it is not surprising that Niemi and Niemi (2007) found that, teachers convey their political opinions in the classroom in expected and unexpected ways (p. 39). In their research, they found four patterns in this regard: 1) giving a direct opinion a bout politics and government; 2) giving advice to students about theirs and others politic al behavior; 3) expressing exas peration or frustration with the political system and politicians as well as name-calling of politicians and other government officials; and 4) commenting on government as it relates to their own classroom and/or school. (p. 39) This dire situation, thus, calls for a research ag enda that examines the experiences of veteran social studies teachers and the conceptions and stances toward teaching controversial subject matter that stem from these experiences. Purpose of the Study A profound paradox confronts researchers in soci al studies education today: at the same time that the field is flourishi ng in the halls of higher educati on, the relevance of research in American public schools is waning. The unfort unate result of a century-long attack on progressive modes of teaching a nd learning is a significant gap be tween research and practice. This is especially true in the social studies, which as Barton and Levstik (2004) suggested, is a field that has all but disappeared at the elementa ry level and is still dom inated at the secondary level by content-driven history courses and traditional, teac her-centered pedagogical methods. They commented on this dispiriting educational arena. Lawmakers argue that schools should teach to the test, and schools argue they should teach the way they think best. Researchers criticize teachers for not using primary sources, teachers criticize students for not wanting to learn, a nd students criticize textbooks for being deadly boring. What a mess. (p. 1) As Patterson and Luft (2004) noted, the teaching and learning process is itself a construction and thus it is inevitable that most so cial studies teachers conceive of it in ways that often mimic and model the processes that they encountered in their ow n schooling experiences.

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23 In this current climate of political and social reaction, those toiling in the trenches of classroom practice might then be forgiven for questioning the necessity for and relevance of research in their daily struggles. However, as I hope to suppo rt in this dissertation project, it is precisely within the current political mood in education that research can and must play a role in clarifying the needs and goals of teachers. In this dissertation research project, I hope to provide the rationale for research that situates itself on the solid theoretical ground of the constructivist tradition and seeks to empathiz e with and provide documentary evidence of the day-to-day reality of teachers experiences. The Nature of Controversy This dissertation research project build s upon the existing body of scholarship on the conceptions of and stances toward controvers y common among social studies teachers. Hess (2002) provided an invaluable definition of cont roversial public issues (C PI) as those that are currently under discussion, that take place in the public sphere of debate, and that are contested among different groups within society. Central to this scheme is the premise that CPI discussions involve unresolved questions of public policy. Go od examples of these in todays educational sphere include debates over the reintroduction of school prayer, th e inclusion of Creationism or Intelligent Design ideas in science classes, and the appropriateness of sexual education instruction; in other words, th e equivalent of wedge issues in national political campaigns. Hess listed three attributes of a CPI: (a) that the contro versy is live; that is, th at there is an on-going and vigorous debate concerning th e issue at hand; (b) a variety of segments of the population inform the debate from a multiplicity of perspectives, each looking at the issue through a specific cultural, political and/or social lens; and (c ) there is a profound gul f between these positions among the participants in th e debate about the CPI.

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24 Hess (2007) more recently extended this basi c definition in order to delineate public issues as either open or closed. By these distinctions, she meant merely that some issues, such as stem cell research, gay marriage, or gun control produce positions on both pro and con sides that advocates of either stripe could reasonably clai m, and are thus open to debate. On the other hand, issues such as womens suffrage or the morality of lynching practices are conversely closed; that is, there is only one position--that is, in favor of womens suffrage a nd against lynching--that appears to be reasonable in polite society. Furthermore, she speculated that the majority of teachers would only countenance a discussion of open issues, while they would view a students advocacy for the wrong side of a closed discus sion as a breach of the norms of classroom etiquette and would likely treat the matter as a r outine disciplinary incident, effectively shutting down the discussion. Hess (2007) qualified these concep tions of controversy by stating that issues in the social studies can shift from open to closed (and even back to open again) depending upon the prevailing political winds of the time. For exam ple, she imagined a period shortly after the Second World War, in which many social studies teachers may well have viewed the internment of Japanese-American citizens as a closed matte r upon which most patriotic American citizens would agree on the expediency of the policy. As the war faded into memory, it eventually became an open issue that could be used efficacious ly as a means of critical discussion, while today the consensus among teachers is that it should be a closed matter that constitutes a national disgrace. At the same time, in the wake of th e 9/11 attacks, Malkin (2004) re-opened this discussion, arguing for a return to the post-war consensus that the internment of a group of people thought to have sympathies with a nations enemies was, and is, legitimate in a time of war. Indeed the idea of torture and its relationshi p to Constitutional law is an example of an issue that has shifted from closed, due to a long tr adition of Enlightenment ideals surrounding human

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25 rights, to a very lively open issue in the Bush er a, in which various methods of torture have been re-interpreted as enhanced interrogation techniques. Hesss provocative and interesting operationa l conception of controversy also requires the proviso that ideological disagreements w ill vary in different educational settings and contexts. What is controversial in a rural, Midwestern school district may be perfectly acceptable or even encouraged in an urban, northeastern school district. Cor nbleth and Waughs (1995) discussion of the high-profile cases of the Calif ornia and New York social studies curriculum packages developed in the 1990s reinforces this point. While parents and educators in California felt confident enough to push for a social studies curriculum th at would speak to the obvious diversity of Californias public schools, a similarly-themed Cu rriculum of Inclusion in New York state was soundly defeated after prominent local conservative media outlets such as the New York Post rallied parents to oppose th e curriculum. On the basis of these experiences, Cornbleth and Waugh ruefully concluded, Despite the fact that teachers in the 1990s, particularly in urban areas, were becoming more aware of the inadequacy of curriculum and materials carried over from a halcyon time when white students were a majority, it is clear that t eachers alone cannot effect the kinds of changes that are needed in the classroom. (p. 180) It is certainly the case, as Cornbleth and Waugh (1995) pointed out, that the entire community must be involved in order to agitate for social change in sc hools, yet one can note a certain pessimism in their words, particularly ab out the ability of teachers to be part of that change agenda. By contrast, I will argue throughout this dissertation that the failure of reform efforts such as those in New York and California does not negate the possibi lity of success in the future; however, it does point toward the need fo r a bottom-up, grassroots st rategy that begins in the classroom with the needs and voices of actual classroom practitioners.

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26 Nonetheless, in order for this strategy to succeed, teachers need a sophisticated understanding of the political forc es that operate within educa tional circles today. Kincheloe (2005) raised the critical issue of the power relationships within education that have perennially defined the outer limits of what is appropriate to discuss in a soci al studies classroom in a public high school. He asked, Why are some construc tions of educational reality embraced and officially legitimized by the dominant culture wh ile others are repressed? (p. 34). It is clear from a survey of the history of curricular orga nization that the subjects taught in public schools reflect the values of the power elite in society and education (Fitz gerald, 1979, Loewen, 1995; Zinn, 1980). For example, the perceived national s ecurity crisis provoked by the launching of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 paved the way for revamp ing mathematics and science curricula (Gutek, 2000). Berliner and Biddle (1995) pointed out th at educational leader s in the 1980s and 1990s accommodated the needs of the corporate sector because of a perceived crisis in American economic competitiveness with Germany and Japan. This issue of conceptions of controversy w ithin the social studies curriculum therefore provides the first major category of intere st in this current dissertation project. Teachers Stances While researchers in the social studie s, especially those operating under cognitive constructivist understa ndings, appreciate the bewildering vari ety of approaches that teachers take toward their content, studies suggest that th ere are some common stan ces among teachers in regard to the use of controversia l subject matter in the classroom. In his review of the literature concerning the debate over the ro le that teachers should assume in the discussion of controversial issues, Kelly (1986) presented th e most sophisticated critique of the perspectives common to social studies practitioners. He identified these stances as that of exclusive neutrality, exclusive partiality, neutral impar tiality and committed impartiality (p. 113).

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27 By exclusive neutrality, Kelly (1986) referred to the teacher stance of total avoidance of issues that might be conceived of as controversial in the educational comm unity. Kelly described the arguments put forward by the proponents of this stance: Advocates of this position contend that teachers should not introduce in to the curriculum any topics which are controversial in the broader community. Schools have an implicit obligat ion to serve equally their varied publics p. 114). Teachers serving in a public school system with increasingly diverse student populations would seem, under this scheme, to need even more sensitivity toward issues that might potentially offend one constituency or another than in the past when a more homogeneous student body might be taken for granted. There is an implicit assumption underlying this stance that controversial subjects, particularly hot-button issues involving sexuality or morality, are best left to other socializing institutions, such as the family or religious organizations. Excluding these issues from the classroom setting then, its proponents argue, pres erves the non-partisan status of the school within the community. In the second common teacher stance towa rd controversy--what Kelly (1986) termed exclusive partiality, teachers take what might on the surface seem the polar opposite approach: This position is characterized by a deliberate attempt to i nduce students into accepting as correct and preferable a part icular position on a controvers ial issue through means which consciously or unconsciously preclu de an adequate presentation of competing points of view (p. 116). At its most extreme and authoritarian level, teachers utilizing this approach actively shut down students who have the temerity to question the authority of their opinions and even grade students with opposing views in a punitive manner. It is precisely this stance that those such as Horowitz (2007) presume is rampant throughout secondary schools and institutions of higher learning in this country. Yet, Ke lly was careful to insist that many of those operating under these

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28 terms are not flagrant authoritarians but rather display exclusive partiality in more unconscious ways. These tactics include, for ex ample, selection of te xts that merely repr esent one side of a controversial topic or inviting exceptional students who are known to represent a particular view close to that of the teacher to sp eak in front of the class or part icipate in a debate. In addressing the reasons that teachers might employ these strategies, Kelly focused on their critique of contemporary culture, which, by offering endless indi vidual options to students, seems to obviate the role of guidance: In short, in a culture where knowledge can confuse more than clarify, contaminate more than liberate, some believe that students need to be shielded from systematic exposure to potentially harmful alternative pers pectives (p. 117). Teachers of this school of thought are likely to consider thei r students too naive or unschooled to be able to make meaning for themselves when it comes to the vital issues of the day. Kelly (1986) referred to the third and mo st popular stance toward controversy among teachers as neutral impartiality. In this approac h, teachers present a wide variety of materials regarding contentious issues for students to debate At the same time, they remain scrupulous in their neutral distance from the material, even at the risk of seeming evasive to students curious about their views on the topics Kelly described the method: Overall, the teacher seeks to promote a classroom atmosphere where complexity of understanding, tolerance for ambi guity and responsiveness to constructive criticism are extended and where genuine dissent--the right to express an o pposing view without ridicule, coercion or censure-flourishes. Challenging but achievable, this ideal of impartiality suggests a collaborative and passion ate, if not conflict free, search for truth. (pp. 121-122) Teachers pursue this method by employing an exemplary variety of modes, including guest speakers, library researc h, role playing and small group discussions. Kelly (1986) noted that this neutral impartiality seems to many pre-se rvice and novice practitioners to adhere to the best practices within the field. Yet he critiqued the model for its cold rationality: despite its

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29 important strengths, this perspective suffers from problematic assumptions and a narrow rationalism, suggesting the need for a fourth major perspective on the teachers role (p. 127). The neutral impartiality stance, despite its strengths, is thus deficient in that it carries with it the pretense of objectivity, which, in the students eyes, might seem overly coy or even dishonest. The fourth stance alluded to in Kellys (1986) words is committed impartiality. In a stance that Kelly described as the most well -rounded and satisfying, the teacher enters a discussion on a controversial topic as a committed participant, offering candid perspectives as well as the rationales for these positions. At the same time, the teacher takes care to create an atmosphere of free inquiry among students with th e presumption that no opinion is the definitive one for consideration. In the end, the teacher be comes what Brinkley (1 999) called a pole of attraction for a particular set of ideas, while not disenfranchising student s who may disagree with the teachers stance. Kelly described the assumptions underlying this stance: Committed impartiality entails two beliefs. First, teachers should state rather than conceal their own views on controversia l issues. Second, they should foster the pursuit of truth by insuring that competing perspec tives receive a fair hearing th rough critical discourse. (p. 130) Kelly (1986) counseled that this voicing of viewpoints can legitimately be either teacher initiated or in response to stude nt inquiry and should not be c ouched in the guise of devils advocacy or compromised with excessive humility or repeated qualification (p. 131). This is a courageous stance in todays educational climate, and Kelly identified several critiques of the method. Many who adhere to either exclusive neutra lity or neutral impartiality stances argue that there is an implicit contradiction involved in th e committed impartiality stance; put plainly, that a teacher who is admits to a committed position on an issue cannot be an impartial arbiter of classroom discussion. In addition, many point to the obvious dispar ities in power and authority within the classroom environment between teach ers and students. While not disputing these,

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30 Kelly put forward the contention that there need not be a contradiction implied with committed impartiality: To acknowledge that there are cert ain clear-cut cases of abuse of teacher selfdisclosure is not to assert, at le ast successfully, that all teacher self-disclosure is clearly violative of impartiality (p. 131). In the end, Kellys advo cacy for this position at least opened the door to the possibility of teacher advocacy and self-discl osure of views within a democratic classroom space. In this dissertation resear ch project, I expand on Kellys theoretical model of teachers stances and develop a more practical model of teachers positions toward teaching controversial content. In his work on teaching about environmental issu es in the context of social studies classes in the United Kingdom, Hicks (2007) extended Kellys discussion to address an additional platform of stances--the cognitive and affective perspectives. Kelly contended that most social studies teachers who attempt to teach about issues such as climate change do so from the cognitive perspective, attempting to raise the consciousness of their students. He commented: How do educators approach the matter of teachi ng about global issues? The initial response is often a desire to alert learners to the nature and importance of the problem, whether to do with environment, development, rights or conflict (p. 75). This approach might involve presenting different perspectives on the issue of c limate change--Hicks re ferred to neoliberal, neoconservative, and radical perspectives--a nd having students research and debate these perspectives in a classroom forum. At the same time that Hicks (2007) felt that teachers using the cognitive approach have employed an excellent learner-cen tered approach for investigati ng global issues, he continued to feel that what is often missing is the affectiv e dimension (p. 75). From this perspective, the goal of instruction shifts from a mere cognitive understanding of a social problem to creating a sense of personal feelings of re sponsibility and empowerment around the issue that might lead to

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31 individual or social action. Hicks noted that classroom discussion is a vital piece of this kind of teaching practice that aims to encourage an affective response among students: What ameliorated the initial sense of despair they felt when facing the stat e of the world was the opportunity to meet as a group and discuss wh at they were feeling about the course (p. 76). From this initial step, students can be shown a range of activist options from reformist action, such as buying green products to more radical ac tion, such as attending demonstrations against polluters. It is precisely these various stances and the meaning-making processes that contribute to their construction that I propose to study in this di ssertation project. Research Questions Princip al Research Question 1: What meanings do social studies teachers construct from their experiences with teaching controversial subject matter? Ancillary Research Question 1: How do social studies teachers conceptualize controversy in the social studies? Ancillary Research Question 2: How do these understandings intersect with their own teaching practice experiences, especially when it comes to teaching about controversial subject matter? Ancillary Research Question 3: What teaching positions emerge from the conceptions and experiences? Conclusions Educational reform has been the by-word of educational policy in the past generation. As Grant (2007) pointed out, one cons equence of this movement has been the standardization of social studies practice: Although la rgely left out of the No Child Left Behind legislation, social studies remains a frequently te sted subject on state-level stan dardized examinations (p. 250).

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32 The concentration of educational policymakers on standards and testing pr ocedures during this period has had the unfortunate consequence of obs curing the need for research that focuses on the lives and voices of ordinary teachers and students. The top-down, bureaucratic nature of much of what has posed as educational reform during this period has thus created a lamentable suspicion of theory and research among those practicing in the field. However, rather than shrinking from this task in the face of this gap be tween research and practice, researchers in the social studies have a particular imperative to conduct investigati ons of the daily experiences of classroom practitioners as a means of stimulating grassroots reform in th e field. Researchers such as Keith Barton, Ronald Evans, Stuart Foster, S. G. Grant, Linda Levstik, Wayne Ross, and Elizabeth Yeager have started this process by pr obing the ways in which students make sense of history and how teachers conceive of their teaching practices. I would humbly wish that my own research will become a small part of this burgeoning movement toward democratizing the process of e ducational reform. My project begins from the premise that teachers will more effectively inve stigate their own teaching and learning practices if they feel free from ideologica l pressures to engage in free a nd open inquiry processes. At the same time, research that merely presents prac tical suggestions for pr actice to teachers often overwhelmed by the demands of the accountability movement is ultimately counterproductive. Many have conducted insightful research into th e pedagogical routines of exemplary teachers when it comes to presenting controversial issues in the classroom (Hess, 2002). Others have focused on the conceptions of novice or pre-se rvice teachers (Dawson-Salas, 2004; Misco & Patterson, 2007). Recently, Claire and Holden (2007) have produced an edited volume of essays considering the teaching of controversial issues, such as presenting issues of war and peace to young students, in a British context. However, ther e is a vacuum is the literature when it comes to addressing the stances of vete ran social studies teachers in the United States. It is my hope that

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33 this study will add significantly to our understand ing of why so little critical teaching of controversial topics actually transpires in the classroom at a time when the research in the field cries out for more of it. As a c onsequence of conducting this dissert ation project, it is my wish that my research will be a ray of hope and in spiration for those teacher s who continue promote these principles of democratic, prog ressive inquiry in their classrooms.

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34 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Introduction The social studies teachers stance toward the content material used in his or her classroom involves a complex set of calculations based on a variety of f actors including his or her teaching philosophy, content knowledge, poli tical perspectives a nd level of classroom teaching experience. In the current wave of what Zimmerman (2002) called the culture wars in the public schools (p. 2), social studies practitioners must also weigh a series of questions related to the ways in which this course cont ent will be perceived by a number of different audiences. Will the content of this lesson provo ke among students accusations of bias? Will the schools administration object? Will there be an angr y phone call or parent conference as a result of the lesson? What will be the tone of the local or national media coverage in the case of a challenge? Above all of these que stions, teachers must assess whether they are stepping into the realm of controversy. Answering these questions in a constructive manner requires a complex understanding of the history of academic freedom and the legal protections that are afforded public school teachers in the United States today. The ability of public school teachers to addr ess controversial social issues has a long and yet contested history in the United States. In this chapter, I present a review of the literature regarding this history. In the course of this su rvey, I argue that, while academic freedom has long been a central concern for American educators, pa rticularly those operating in the arena of higher education, secondary-level practitio ners have rarely been afforded the freedom to exercise full autonomy over their classroom practice. Indeed this notion of academic freedom has throughout the history of American schooling run counter to the imperatives of the educational establishment. Finally, a critical look at the forces of power lying unde rneath curricular battles

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35 today shows that these imperatives must be confronted openly a nd honestly in order for progress to be made toward the goals of organic teaching and learning. Academic Freedom: A Historical Sketch Academic freedom has long been regarded as part of the liberal de mocratic tradition and as a sacrosanct principle in the halls of acad emia. Philosophers such as John Locke, whose Letter Concerning Toleration ( 1689/1995) argued that states should have no control over the religious beliefs and observances of men and that tolerance should be extended to nonconformists and pagans, and Denis Diderot ( 1753) spoke eloquently to the Enlightenment conceptions of intellectual autonomy as a vital concern for pluralistic democracy. Much of American Constitutional law regarding the freedom s of religion, press, speech, and assembly has been an outgrowth of Locke's theoretical fr amework. John Stuart Mill (1859/2003) further expressed the need within such a society for engagement in multiple points of view, even deliberate falsehoods, without fear of suppression: But the peculiar evil of sile ncing the expression of an opi nion is, that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existi ng generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wr ong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, pr oduced by its collision with error. (p. 100) In the modern era, these philosophical stat ements have been inscribed in proclamations such as Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which declared that, Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expressi on; this right includes freedom to hold opinions, without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers In the United States, the right to academic freedom for university faculty was formally valid ated by organizations such as the American Association of University Prof essors (AAUP), which, in its founding manifesto, stated that,

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36 Institutions of higher education are conducted for the co mmon good and not to further the interest of either individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon free speech for truth and its free exposition (1915). The National Council for the Social Studies (1969) in its own position statement Academic Freedom and the Social Studies Teacher echoed this idea: A teachers academic freedom is his/her right and responsibility to study, investigate, present, interpret, and discuss all the releva nt facts and ideas in the field of his/her professional competence. This freedom implie s no limitations other than those imposed by generally accepted standards of scholarship. As a profession, the teacher strives to maintain a spirit of free inquiry, open-mindedne ss, and impartiality in the classroom. As a member of an academic community, however, the teacher is free to present in the field of his or her professional competence his/her own opinions or convictions and with them the premises from which they are derived. (p. 1) At the same time, political elites through th e ages have viewed education as a doubleedged sword, vital for training the next genera tion of laborers and yet highly dangerous when oriented toward enlightenment and social just ice. Chomsky (2003) noted that, Controlling the general population has always been a dominant concern of power and privilege, particularly since the first modern democratic revolution in seventeenth century England (p. 5). Thus, as education has become conceived of as both a mean s of socialization and of liberation, abuses of academic freedom have been legion in Western hi story from Socratess death sentence after having been convicted by the Athe nian citizenry of the capital cr ime of corruption of youth to the tragic fate of Galileo, compelled to live under ho use arrest after recanting his lifes work to the Papacy. While it is common among American citizen s today to imagine Constitutional rights, such as the First Amendment restriction of Congr ess in regard to laws prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of spee ch or of the press, as permanent features of American society chiseled into the foundations of American demo cracy, the turbulent history of

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37 struggles for the rights to speech, assembly and intellectual autonomy belies this assumption. Indeed, the credo that undergirds Americans faith in the immutability of representative government is also frequently undermined by th e very words of the Founding Fathers of that system of government. For example, as Parent i (1983) quoted him, John Jay once declared that, The people who own the country ought to govern it (p. 6). Alexander Hamilton shared this elitist political philosophy: The voice of the people has been said to be th e voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determ ine right. (as cited in Lodge, 1904, p. 401) Given these sentiments, I argue that academ ic freedom--like other bourgeois, democratic liberties--is best understood not as a gift from above guaranteed by constitutional documents, but rather as the result of centurie s of political struggle and subject to continual flux. If viewed in such a way, academic freedom thus becomes a goal to be fought for and to maintain through active engagement rather than a right that can be passively counted upon in times of need. In addition, the right to academic freedom is neither consistent nor incons istent with the major narratives of American public schooling, or schooling in other nati ons for that matter; rather, it exists on a separate plain, often buffeted by the prevailing imperatives of education as a means of facilitating assimilation, industria lization, modernization or promo tion of national security. As we have seen in stark relief in the past 6 year s, individual civil liberties often suffer at moments of national crises, and academic freedom has cer tainly been no exception to this rule. Bracey (2002) urged us to be wary of such a discourse of crisis, because each time the United States faces a social crisis of some kind, the schools get blamed for it (p. 44). By reviewing the literature related to the history of academic freedom, I hope to shed some light on the varying conceptions of this vital right for teachers and to recommend m easures for its protection in the future.

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38 Conceptions of Academic Freedom Reform in American public education has typically come as the result of a perceived national crisis. At the same time, as Berliner an d Biddle (1995) noted, a false sense of crisis has often been used in a manipulative manner in orde r to further a variety of political agendas in education: One of the worst effects of the Manuf actured Crisis has been to divert attention away from the real problems faced by American education--p roblems that are serious and that are escalating in todays world (p. 4, emphasis in original). The Amer ican public school system, or common schools in the contemporary parlance, rose as a direct response to the insights of major figures in the common school reform movement. As Kaestle (1983) noted, reformers such as Horace Mann, Henry Barnard, and Catherine Beecher were appalled by the lack of professionalism among the teaching faculty, th e outdated and mechanical nature of the curriculum, and the very decrep it qualities of the f acilities common to ma ny Antebellum school systems. They were further motivated by a re formist desire, doubtless borne of their middle class, Protestant roots to im prove society. Kaestle summarized the principal tenets of common school reformers: (T)he sacredness and fragility of the republican polity ; the importance of individual character in fostering social morality; the central role of personal industry in defining rectitude and merit; the delineation of a hi ghly respected but limited domestic role for women; the importance for character building of familial and social environment (within certain racial and ethnic limitations); the sa nctity and social virt ues of property; the equality and abundance of economic opportunity in the United States; the superiority of American Protestant culture; the grandeur of Americas des tiny; and the necessity of a determined public effort to unify Am ericas polyglot population, chiefly through education. (pp. 76-77) This seemingly contradictory ideology with its twin thrusts of individual rights and public solidarity thus produced a school system that was at once revolutionary in its structural reforms and, at the same time, hostile to dissent from without or, especially, within. These institutional changes, while admittedly improving the nature of schooling, also had the result, perhaps even

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39 intentionally so, of stripping some of the autonomy from the teaching faculty. Indeed, the curriculum reforms undertaken during the common school period were perhaps the first instance of what Christian-Smith (1991) referred to as teacher-proof materials. While few would recommend a return to the widespread use of corporal punishment in American public schools, its gradual removal from the classroom management arsenal represented a loss of control for public schools teachers. With the standardization of curriculum a nd the increased profe ssionalization of the teaching field came the institutionalization of the teacher training process in so-called Normal Schools (from the French term lecole normale ). Ogren (2005) listed the many virtues of Normal Schooling, among them that these institutions provided working class and immigrant women with employment opportunities unthinkable to a generation before. Institutions such as Catherine Beechers Hartford Womens Seminary opened in 1832, also advanced the Common school reformers goal of feminizing the teaching faculty as they viewed women as more natural and nurturing educators of youth. This sentiment, agai n perhaps inadvertently, led to a gendered split between teaching and administrativ e tracks that continues to this day. Ogren noted that female graduates of state Normal Schools tended to teach for a few years before marriage, whereas men tended to move quickly from teaching into school administration, which had more status among middle-class professions ( p. 186). This bifurcation between teaching and administration has had far-reaching effects on competing notions of academic freedom afforded to teachers and administrators. As this division between teaching and admi nistration became institutionalized in Normal Schools, the gap between research and practice-still a key issue today-grew apace. Academic freedom is so closely entwined with the history of higher education as to be described by Hofstadter in his and Metzgers classic hist ory of the subject as concurrent with the

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40 development of the university from the twelfth century (Hofstadter & Metzger, 1955, p. 3). As Stone (1996) reported, the late 19th century repr esented a period of genuine revolution in American higher education. During this time, uni versities such as Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Chicago were founded with the mission of implementing dramatic reforms, such as the introduction of an elective cour se system, graduate instruction and scientific courses. Stone noted that, New academic goals were embraced. To criticize and augment as well as to preserve the tradition became an accepted func tion of higher education (p. 64). Nineteenth century debates about academic freedom in universities were energized by the discussion of two issues--academias response to Charles Darwins theory of evolution and the influence of the German university. Stone ( 1996) argued that the gr adual acceptance of Darwinism led to challenging the institutional contro l of the clergy in universities: In the attack on clerical control of universitie s, the most effective weapon wa s the contention that the clergy were simply incompetent in science (p. 347). No less dramatic was the effect of Prussian conceptions of academic freedom on the Amer ican university. Reflecting on his numerous pilgrimages to German universities of the day, for example, William Rainey Harper (1892/1938), the first president of the Univ ersity of Chicago, remarked: When for any reason the administration of a uni versity or the instruction in any of its departments is changed by an influence from w ithout, or any effort is made to dislodge an officer or a professor because the political sentiment or the religious sentiment of the majority has undergone a change at that moment the institution has ceased to be a university. (p. xxiii) This comment reflected the one major distinction between Prussian and American conceptions of academic freedom. As Stone (1996) stated: The German conception of academic freedom distinguished sharply between freedom within and freedom outside the university. Within the walls of the academy, the German conception allowed wide latitude of utterance. But outside th e university, the same degree of freedom was not condoned. (p. 67)

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41 While Stone continued that, American professors rejected this limitation (p. 67), the right of university faculty to express them selves at public lectures, demonstrations and other events is precisely what chafes at many conservatives who accuse the current professoriate of political correctness (DSouza, 1991; Kimball, 1998; Kors & Silverglate, 1999). In much the same way as the late 19th centu ry amounted to, in Hofs tadter and Metzgers (1955) words, a revolution in higher educat ion, (p. 277), America s public schools went through a similarly fundamental restructuring period, often referred to by historians of education as The Progressive Era. Stone (1996) remarked on the irony that many of the new, more secularminded university presidents of this era--Harvard s Charles W. Eliot, for example--played a key role in this restructuring of public schools. Brought together unde r the auspices of the National Education Association, the Committee of Ten led by Eliot issued a report that began the vogue for standardization of curriculum that continue s with state-sanctioned content frameworks today. This new wave of administrators sought to creat e a school system that would act primarily as an agent of socializati on, inculcating students with the skills and mentality that would allow them to become useful, productive members of the industr ial capitalist order. Ty ack (1974) offered the explanation that social contro l exists in some form in every organized society from the Bushmen to the Eskimos and in every epoch of r ecorded history (p. 10). This is, of course, correct, and yet it is no exaggerati on to say that figures such as th e dean of Stanford Universitys School of Education Ellwood Cubberley took this be lief in what Bowles and Gintis (1976) called social reproduction to an unprecedented level when he suggested that schools are factories in which students are products to be molded (C ubberley, as cited in Tyack, p. 190). While few educators today would share Cubberleys more sa nguine turns of phrase, the influence of the social efficiency model to this day is inescapable.

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42 During the 1890s, progressive thought began to split into two camps, referred to by Rury (2005) as administrative progressi ve and pedagogical pr ogressive wings. While they shared the modernizing zeal of administrators such as Cubberley and Eliot, those interested in reforming schools from within by adopting new methods of t eaching increasingly came to reject the social efficiency model. Principal among these i nnovators was the philosopher John Dewey, who played a key role in this pedagogical revol ution by founding the La boratory School at the University of Chicago before moving to New York City to take up a leading position at Columbia Teachers College. Dewey (1928), who as its first president wrote the AAUP statement on academic freedom cited earlier, believed that the right to free inquiry in academia was essential and developed a sophi sticated framework for dealing with its complex issues. Ironically, he disdained the phrase academic freed om because, as he punned, there really is nothing academic about freedom (Dewey, 1928, p. 332) Instead, he insisted that, freedom of mind, freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry, freedom of discussi on is education, and there is no education, no real educati on, without these elements of freedom (Dewey, 1928, p. 332). Following this logic, any challenge to these freedoms would fundamentally destabilize the foundations of intellectual integrity upon which he believed a cademia rested and would therefore be an attack upon the very idea of education an d upon the possibility of education realizing its purpose (p. 332). For these reasons, Dewey far pr eferred the term fr eedom of education (1936, p. 376) to academic freedom, as it would be a more all-encompassing concept that included the entire academic commu nity rather than merely instructors and their students. From his vantage point in the early part of the 20th century, Dewey identified two major sources of the threat to this freedom: traditi on and the imperatives of a political and economic elite. Dewey (1938) critiqued the curriculum of the traditional school as inert and producing experiences that would alienate st udents from their educations. In this traditional context, Dewey

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43 (1938) commented: (T)he subject matter consists of bodies of information and skills that have been worked out in the past; ther efore, the chief business of the sc hool is to transmit them to the new generation (p. 17). This shor t, prescient statement stands as an effective antidote to the prescriptions of contemporary advo cates of canonical cultu ral literacy such as Hirsch (1988) and Ravitch (2003). The more pernicious variety of threats to freedom of education, for Dewey (1936), stemmed from the attempts to close the minds, mouths, and ears of students and teachers alike to all that is not consonant with th e practices and beliefs of the privileged class that represents the economic and pol itical status quo (p. 377). As the 20th century progressed, educators saw Deweys worst fears in this regard confirmed as education more and more became shackled to the imperatives of this elite and the marketplace that is their primary arena. Twentieth Century Struggles for Academic Freedom As the 20th century dawned and produced a series of global conf lagrations, education became gradually more tied to the needs of the nati onal security state. This began to appear with the advent of the involvement of the United States in the First World War. Spring (1992) detailed the efforts of the Wilson administrations Committ ee for Public Information (CPI) in disciplining teachers accused of making anti-war statements. The CPI, established a mere 2 weeks after the declaration of war against the Central Powers, in cluded a number of notable educators, including Guy Stanton Ford, dean of the University of Minnesotas graduate school, and the social efficiency advocate William Bagley, who was chosen to edit the CPIs primary organ National School Service (NSS). Under Bagl eys leadership, the NSS dist ributed pro-war propaganda to the public school system by delivering issues di rectly to individual sc hools. As Spring (1992) described it, (t)he major part of each issue of the NSS was devoted to detailed lessons for elementary and high school classe s designed to teach patriotism, the evils of the enemy, and the

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44 principles of democracy (p. 24). The bulletin, among other objectives, encouraged teachers to promote war games and military-oriented arts lessons in their classrooms: No form of occupation material can claim exemption from war service. Drawings of ponies and friendly cows are supplanted by galloping cavalry horses. Crayoned ships sail the ocean bringing supplies to our soldiers, while bits of folded paper floating through the air become miniature air ships. Clay cannons bullets and soldiers are a common sight on the modeling table. Soldier games and marc hing songs are called for. Over There seems to be known to all and is more popul ar than the most tuneful childish melody. (Spring, 1992, p. 24) Not surprisingly, many teachers objected to su ch a blatant use of their classrooms as a means of disseminating war-time propaganda. Howeve r, at a time in which the rights of teachers were ill-defined, Evans (2004) noted that teacher s were counseled by their administrators to display an enthusiasm for the war effort and cauti oned against the use of any material that might be construed as dwelling upon the horrors of war. As the gap between research and practice th at had begun in Normal Schools of the 19th century continued to grow in a new century, groups of academics such as those centered around Columbia Teachers College began to forge radical conceptions of social studies instruction often termed social reconstructionism. Social reconstr uctionism, as Dennis (1989) noted, grew out of the view that schools in an era of crisis for industrial capitalis m could not merely train students for future jobs in a failed economic system. Dennis commented that, after a lengthy and inspirational visit to the Soviet Union in 1929, George Counts came to believe that a planned economy had to be an essential f eature of any well-run industrial society, and th at view was reinforced on his return to America early in 1930, when he saw at first hand the eff ects of capitalism gone amok. (p. 37) Counts believed that schools could play an integr al role in promoting co llectivism as a means of social change. Writing in the depths of the Depression, Counts (1934) stated: Any completely satisfactory so lution of the problem of edu cation therefore would seem to involve fairly radical so cial reconstruction. The fact is that for the most part contemporary society is not or ganized primarily for the educ ation of its children or for

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45 the achievement of any other humane purpose. Such matters are largely subordinated to the processes of wealth production and accumulation. (p. 562) One of the most common methods of encour aging this empathetic, humane response in children was by engaging them in works of Ne w History such as David Saville Muzzeys An American History or Charles Beards An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States Despite their overwhelming popular ity during the 1920s and 1930s, as Zimmerman (2002) explained, thes e textbooks came in for a with ering attack from not just patriotic organizations such as the American Legi on but also ethnic societie s that felt they were misrepresented or under represented in these texts. Challenges to academic freedom in the first half of the 20th century, thus, often came in the form of organized campaigns against prog ressive and radical history textbooks. As the country became mired in depression and war in the 1930s and 1940s, schools became a focal point for a dialogue on the nature of patrioti sm. During the 1930s, Harold Rugg (1931), one of the founders of the Teachers College program at Columbia University, developed a series of social studies textbooks that strongly reflected the social reco nstructionist ideals expounded by Ruggs associates Beard and Counts. Evans ( 2004) described the M an and His Changing Society series of texts and workbooks as cente red around guiding principles distilled from the frontier thinkers, including the grow th of modern cultures, developm ent of loyalties and attitudes for decision making, and the synthesis of know ledge through social studies (p. 60). The textbooks proved enormously popular, selling more than two million copies during a 10 year period and established Rugg as the primary voice in social studies education for his time and, not coincidentally, a lighten ing rod for controversy. As the country became drawn into the globa l conflict that would become World War II, the need to stress patriotic duty became para mount and Ruggs textbooks, with their focus on

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46 social issues, problem solving, and critical thinking, came under intense scrutiny and criticism. Zimmerman (2002) reported that many of these attacks were launched by civic organizations such as the American Legion and the Chambers of Commerce, who feared the influence that Ruggs critical stress on issues of economic in equality would have on children suffering the effects of the Depression: The attack on the Rugg books was swift and sudden, steam rolling across the country even more rapidly than the texts had done (p. 67). Rugg and his books were, not surprisingly, labeled Communi st and Rugg himself a Fifth Co lumnist. A shell-shocked Rugg (1931) defended himself and his conception of a unified course of so cial studies against what he termed a manufactured crisis, writing that st udents needed to utilize facts, meanings, generalizations, and historical movement. Whenever history is needed to understand the present, history is presented. The same thing has been done with economic and social facts and principles (pp. vi-vii). Despite the mass remova l of Ruggs books from the shelves of American classrooms in this period, Evans (2004) remark ed on the lasting legacy of Ruggs approach: Ruggs influence on the social studies was qu ite extensive, despite the attacks, which would lead to a discontinuation of the textbook series. Workbooks for the series continued to sell well after the attacks, an indication that the books were still being used for some time in schools well into the 1940s. Despite, and perhaps partly because of, the lasting fame generated by public uproar over his textbook series, Ruggs achievement remains to this day the high point of progressi ve reform in the social studies. (p. 65) In perhaps the apogee of attacks on academic freedom in the history of the United States, Cold War anti-communism on Amer ican universities and high sc hool campuses saw scores of educators subpoenaed to testify before the H ouse Committee on Un-Ameri can Activities. Caute (1978), Kille (2004) and Sanders (19 79) further chronicled the cases of academics that were fired for suspected acts of subversion during the 1950s in New York, Nevada and Washington states respectively. Less has been written, however, on the effect of the censorious mood of this period on secondary-level teachers. Schrecker (1986) date d the beginning of this period of reaction to

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47 March 22, 1947, the day that President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9835, which mandated a new national security program premised on the declared loyalty of public employees. Central to this act was the promo tion of loyalty oaths, required of all public employees, including public school teachers and faculty and staff members of state unive rsities and colleges. Schrecker commented ironically that, Since the security m easures already in place had largely eliminated most Communists and other dissidents from sensitive positions, the new program was superfluous, except as a political gesture (p. 4). Superfluous or not, these loyalty oaths were taken quite seriously and literally by administrations of public inst itutions and were often used to dismiss teachers and university faculty who either refused to adhere to or merely ignored them. Despite the threat, there was si gnificant opposition and resistance to the oaths. O. L. Davis (2000) remembered: We college students opposed the loyalty oa ths that the Texas legislature imposed upon teachers in public schools and colleges a nd upon all students at public colleges and universities. One of my ex-G I classmates expressed his co ntempt of the law by signing, across several semesters, names like Joseph St alin and Vladimir Lenin on the copy of his oath, each of which a local official in th e busy registration line du ly notarized. (pp. xixii) Loyalty oaths were based on new and often vaguely worded definitions of what it meant to be a subversive person. For example, the Ober Law, enacted by the Maryla nd legislature in 1949, defined as subversive anyone: Who commits or aids in the commi ssion, or advocates, abets, advises or teaches by any means any person to commit, attempt to comm it, or aid in the commission of any act intended to promote the overthrow, destruction, or alteration of, the constitutional form of the government of the United States, or the Stat e of Maryland by revolution, force, or violence, or who is a member of a subve rsive organization. (Gutek, 2000, p. 106, authors emphasis) As a result of the combination of the st rict adherence to loyalty oaths and a broad definition of dissent and subversion, thousands of teachers and university personnel lost their jobs in the period of 1947-1950. Foster (2000), for example, reported that over 300 teachers in

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48 the New York City public school system were fired in 1948 and 1949 after investigations into their acts of subversion or ties to the Communi st Party (CP). The House Committee on Un-American Ac tivities (HUAC), as Schrecker (1998) detailed, grew out of earlier committees, such as the Dies Committee, that responded to the growth of the CP during the years of the Great Depression. In 1946, HUAC became a permanent standing committee with a broad mandate to investigate char ges of Communist subversion within public institutions. This corresponded with an era in which committee members and its supporters issued sensational charges that support ers of the Soviet Union existed within the top levels of the federal government. The 1950 conviction of high-ranking U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss only served to stoke thes e fears among the American populace; Hiss was convicted for perjuring himself during testimony in hearings res ponding to the accusations made by writer Whittaker Chambers that Hiss was a Soviet spy. The successful prosecution of Hiss established a pattern of public hearings held between 1951 and 1954, in which noted individuals in public life from writers to Hollywood producer s were subpoenaed and called before HUAC in order to testify about their subversive activities. As Sanders (1 979) noted, those who refused to appear or answer questions before the committee--often citing the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination--were ch arged with contempt of Congre ss and held to large fines or imprisonment. University faculty members were often targets of these investigations. For example, Schrecker (1986) outlined the case of Johns H opkins University professor Owen Lattimore, a recognized expert in the field of China affair s, who was brought before the committee in 1952 as a result of having been named a Communist c onspirator by ex-CP member Louis Budenz. After a lengthy hearing, the final HUAC report found th at Lattimore was a conscious articulate instrument of the Soviet cons piracy and cited him for perjur y (Schrecker, 1986, p. 166). In the

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49 aftermath of the hearings, Lattimore was allowe d to keep his position, but his reputation was severely damaged. Dozens of academics faced a similar fate before the HUAC hearings were brought to an abrupt end in 1954 as a result of the damage to McCarthy and the committees reputation in the popular medi a. While the focus of HUAC was clearly on Americas professoriate, Foster (2000) noted that Ameri cas classroom teachers did not escape the attention of the witch-hunters. He commented that teacher s, unlike academics, had little if any formal protection: At mid-century, more than half of all teachers in the United States were untenured; their job insecurity wa s prevalent, and their professiona l status was low. To advocate communism in this climate was to invite almost certain dismissal (p. 19). As the reactionary 1950s turned the corner into the radical 19 60s, Americas teachers were faced with a new challenge--how to respond to students who were taking on sometimes revolutionary, new views and expected their mentors to share in their enthusiasm for activism in the realm of civil righ ts and opposition to the United States military interven tion in Vietnam. Some intellectuals were attracted to the first stirrings of, for example, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, while others, even those prominent in th e Old Left, recoiled at what they saw as the juvenility and bad manners of the new activis m. Jehn (1996) recalled that, as the Johnson administration dramatically expanded the bombing campaign in Vietnam, many academics joined hands with students at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and other radicalized campuses to organize a series of impromptu teach -ins. In these actions, activist professors and students were energized by the examples of the 1 930s sit-down strikes that led to the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organization, as well as the more recent acts of civil disobedience at lunch counters in Woolworth s stores throughout th e South. At the same time, however, Jehn reported that activists were divided in terms of the nature of their prot est: moderates pressured by Columbia University president Grayson Kirks argument that academics should hesitate before

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50 (advocating for a cause) simply because he can never entirely shed his scholars gown felt a weight of responsibility about their roles as educators (Kirk, as cited in Jehn, p. 163). Yet Michigan anthropologist Marshall Sahlin captured the mood of the period when he was reported to have cried out in the midst of an all-night campus debate that, The y say were neglecting our responsibilities as teachers. Lets show them ho w responsible we feel. Instead of teaching out, well teach in-all night (as cited in Levitas, 1965, p. 24). In the end, the National Teach-ins of 1965, though short-lived, served to challenge the tr aditional notions of academics as non-partisan arbiters of cultural knowledge. Legal Conceptions of Academic Freedom The late 1960s also saw major advances in rights for public school students, particularly emerging from the venue of the Supreme Cour t. In the 1969 decision in the Tinker vs. Des Moines case, the court ra dically re-defined the rights of high school students by st ating that these rights do not end at the school house gates (Tinker, 1969, p. 2). The decision stemmed from an incident in December 1965 in which three Iowa high school student s, including the plaintiffs in the case, John and Mary Beth Tinker, wore black armbands decorated with peace symbols to school in order to protest the on-going United States military intervention in Vietnam. The school subsequently suspended the three students un til they agreed to adhere to the school policy proscribing political statements. In the major ity decision, Justice Abe Fortas found that the Tinkers had engaged in political expression, which could not be denied them under the Constitution. This Tinker test, while contested ov er the years, has continued to be used in deciding similar cases around students rights, although it is uncle ar whether it will hold up to scrutiny under the current conservative incarnation of the Court, which re cently decided against a group of Alaskan students who had displayed a banner reading Bong Hits for Jesus during a school assembly.

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51 Given the relative paucity of literature regard ing the rights of classroom practitioners in public schools, it has been difficult for teachers to negotiate the fine lin e between reasonable and appropriate advocacy and inappropriate attempts to inculcate values in students. In the absence of clear guidelines within the field, trade unions and organizations dedica ted to civil liberties have frequently weighed in with their own conc eptual frameworks. The American Civil Liberties Union (1994), for instance, issued its own Po licy Guide on classroom advocacy, which stresses the importance of an overall cla ssroom atmosphere of free inquiry: This should include discussion of controvers ial issues without the assumption that they are settled in advance or that there is only one right answer in matters of dispute. Such discussion should include presentation of divergent opinions and doctrines, past and present, on a given subject. The teachers own judgment forms a part of this material. If such judgment is clearly stated, students are bett er able to appraise it and to differ from it on the basis of other materials and views placed at their disposal than they would be if a teacher were to attempt to conceal bias by a claim to objective scholarship. (p. 4) While, as Strossen (1996) commented, there is no definitive Supreme Court precedent in relation to academic freedom, . we can draw some inferences both from the Courts general pronouncements about academic freedom or First Amen dment rights in the classroom setting (p. 74). In its Sweezy vs. New Ha mpshire decision in 1957, for example, the Court stated: Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our ci vilization will stagnate and die (as cited in Strossen, p. 77). Ten years later, in the Keyshian vs. Board of Rege nts of the University of New York, the Court echoed this declaration: Our nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent valu e to all of us and not just to the teachers concerned (as cited in Strosse n, p. 77). At the same time, however, Strossen noted that the courts have to date failed to adequately clarify the contours of these rights. Indeed, far from this, Strossen stated:

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52 The Supreme Court has actua lly done the opposite, by repudi ating it to some extent. Along with its pronouncements about schools duty not to indoctrinate their students, the Court has also declared that public schools not only may inculcate certain ideas or values in their students but also indeed that they have a duty to do so. (pp. 77-78, emphases in original) Thus, the judicial system has left open to inte rpretation the question of which ideas and values are central to the school curriculum and which may fall outside the mainstream. Advances in multicultural education, fo r example, provoked a profound reaction among conservative educators in a series of conflicts that came to be dubbed The P.C. Wars. In the early 1990s, the vogue in the popular media for attacki ng supposed political correctness in education created a virtual cottage industry of books accusi ng various progressive academic institutions of censorship. The very t itles of these books-Profscam (Sykes, 1989), Tenured Radicals (Kimball, 1998), Kindly Inquisitors (Rauch, 1995), The Shadow University (Kors & Silverglate, 1999), to name but a few--is enough to give one a flavor of what these books offered: dark, apocalyptic portraits of former 1960s radicals turned tw eed-jacketed tenured academics run amok inside Americas pristine, Ivy-walled fo rtresses. In the most commerci ally successful of these books, DSouza (1991) detailed a series of examples in which misanthropic deans and ideologically hide-bound professors relentlessly beat up on their impressionable students, restricting their learning opportunities with slante d curricula and draconian speech codes. DSouza, a former editor of the conserva tive student newspaper The Dartmouth Review, became a leading spokesman of this movement against the politically correct crimes of uni versities against their students. Describing the faculty of Stanford Univ ersity, DSouza complained, . (they) have placed ideological prejudice at the center of their curriculum (p. 92). Among these alleged prejudices were propensities to ward Marxist historical theory, literary criticism, feminism, multiculturalism, and the Frankfurt school. Despite an over reliance on anecdotal evidence to buttress his startling charges, DSouza and like -minded critics had a good deal of success in

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53 shifting public opinion in the 1990s, with some r eal consequences. Levine (1996) commented on the lasting influence of the P.C. Wars: Those who oppose current developments in highe r education have not been able to halt the continued evolution of a more eclecti c, open, culturally diverse, and relevant curriculum through the persuasiveness of their case and their scholar ship, but they have been exceedingly skillful in casting aspersio ns on and perverting the meaning of those developments. (p. 171) Indeed, those such as Horowitz (2007) i nvolved in the current campaigns to include Academic Bills of Rights in the codes of universities across the country have attested to the influence that they have drawn from these ea rlier campaigns against political correctness. The Contemporary Culture Wars It is no coincidence that a parallel struggle emerged in the 1990s around attempts to draft frameworks for what had been identified by the first Bush administrations America 2000 policy as the core subjects. What began as a well-intent ioned and yet nave attempt to resolve such nuts and bolts issues as scope and sequence and core topics among history teachers quickly mushroomed into what Evans (2004) described a ccurately as the runaway train of standards reform (p. 149). The first salvo in this battle was launched in 1994 against the attempt, led by a group of scholars around the University of California-Los Angeles, to co nstruct a new national framework for history instruction. This episod e was documented by a group of participants, Nash, Crabtree, and Dunn (1997): In the predawn hours of October 20, 1994, Gary B. Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and other Californians helping to develop the National Hi story standards were rattled out of their slumber. East Coast friends, having scanned their morning copies of The Wall Street Journal were phoning, the three-hour time differen ce forgotten in their stunned reaction to Lynne Cheneys editorial page article attacking the standards. The banner headline pronounced The End of History. (p. 3) In the Wall Street Journal piece, Cheney (1994), a former chairperson of the National Endowment for the Humanities, painted a bleak portrait of the future of traditional history

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54 education: Imagine an outline for the teach ing of American history in which George Washington makes only a fleeting ap pearance and is never describe d as our first president (p. A22E). Nash, a respected historian, and his colleagues in turn accused Cheney of deliberate obfuscation in suggesting that the frameworks were to be used in classroom settings rather than as guidelines for teaching. After several rounds in th e national media and in the halls of the U.S. Senate, which in 1995 censured the frameworks by a vote of 99-1, Nash offered to re-draft the frameworks in a manner that might be pleasing to everyone involved. The fi nal draft was, in the estimation of Evans (2004), a watered-down versi on designed not to offend. It had the desired impact, blunting the criticism of the earlier volumes and receiving a much more positive reception (p. 168). Indeed, Rav itch (2003) praised the final ve rsion for removing the most politically charged language (p. 137). What exac tly did conservatives object to in the original draft of the National History standa rds? Ravitch explained that it was its vision of a United States with its origins in multiculturalism: The defining mark of the UCLA standards wa s their claim that American history began as the meeting of three worl ds: African, Amerindian and Eu ropean. This was a rejection of the traditional interp retation, which had tra ced the origins of the American nation to the English influence on American language law, government, religion, culture, and institutions. (pp. 137-138) This incident must be seen in the context of a series of culture wars over the historical canon in the Reagan/Bush years, including the controversy over ar chitect Maya Lins design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, the publica tion of Martin Bernals twovolume study on the Egyptian influence on ancient Athens, Black Athena the 500th anniversary commemoration of Columbuss voyage to the Americas, and the Smithsonian Institutes exhibition The West as America. These campai gns have taken on more urgency in the periods surrounding Presidential election campa igns, at which point public ed ucation has often been used as a wedge issue to stimulate the activism of the conservative base.

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55 Recent years have seen the rise of organi zations such as the Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) and its K-12 adjunct Parents and Students for Academic Freedom (PSAF) that call for the implementation of an Academic B ill of Rights (ABOR) on college and secondary school campuses. Its principal organizer David Horowitz, a former 1960s -era student radical turned neo-conservative media pundit, has made frequent appearances on talk radio and cable news programs advocating for the ABOR, which has been offered as legislation in some 23 states (McKenna, 2006). As Jacobson (2006) report ed, these efforts have been upended in states such as Pennsylvania after thoroughgoing investig ative research has failed to produce evidence to support Horowitzs contention that schools an d universities are increa singly run by radical ideologues. In December 2003, the American Association of Univ ersity Professors issued a statement condemning the ABOR project as Orwel lian and a grave threat to the fundamental principles of academic freedom (AAUP, 2003, p. 2). These set-backs have not slowed SAFs advocacy; indeed, thr ough the organizations website, Horowitz and his supporters openly encour age students to audio-record lectures and report professors who engage political topics de emed controversial by the organization--the Iraq war, for example--to university administra tions. SAFs mission statement (2004) instructs students to: Note and object to events that abuse the acad emic nature of the university. These include one-sided faculty political te ach-ins, one-sided faculty conferences and one-sided faculty lecture series that are inappropriately partis an events in an academic setting. Make a list of these events and demand reforms from the a ppropriate university authorities to ensure representation of divers e viewpoints. (p. 3) Despite the organizations claims that the AB OR merely codifies the principles of free speech and free inquiry first introduced by the American Association of University Professors nearly a century ago (SAF, 2004, p. 1), SAF and its adjuncts offer a radical new conception of academic freedom that pits the freedom of students against their professors and teachers in an

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56 almost binary opposition. Indeed, Horowitz (2006) compiled a list of what he referred to as The 101 Most Dangerous Academics, largely pr ofiled by SAF members and supporters. Not coincidentally, one of those included on Horowitzs list--University of Colorado ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill--was recently fired by university regents after a lengthy controversy involving his comments about the 9/11 attacks. Horowitz (2007) subsequently made the curious defense that his earlier books provocative subtitle was a publishers choice that he opposed: To be fair, the subtitle of the book wa s a provocation and the response somewhat predictable, even though d angerous was not a claim actually made in the book. The subtitle was added to my original title by the publisher long after I had finished the manuscript. (p. 81) Horowitz presumably failed to s ee the irony that this mea culpa appeared in a chapter of his latest book Indoctrination U. titled Dangerous Professors. Horowitz (2007) more recently turned his attention toward K-12 public schools and teacher training programs, which he described as a political movement that had targeted the educational system as a Gramscian platform to a dvance its agenda . (p. 104). Horowitz saved most of his ire for what he terms the social jus tice movement, which he charged with violating its professional obligations to its students by promoting the idea that American society is inherently oppressive and syste matically racist, sexist and c lassist and thus discriminates institutionally against women, nonwhites, workin g Americans and the poor (p. 107). Horowitz concluded: The leftist political agenda of social justice educators underm ines this traditional vision of the role of the American public school sy stem. The historical ideal of public schooling as a means of assimilating all children, and particular ly the children of recent immigrants, into a common civic and democratic culture is now under assault by education professors advocating social justice and class conflic t and deriding the ideal of a common civic culture as nothing more than capitalist hegemony. (p. 110) In this brief statement of purpose, Horowitz laid bare the political inclinations behind his conception of academic freedom. While making th e pretense of neutrality and objectivity,

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57 Horowitz instinctively fell back on the principles that motivated the social efficiency advocates 100 years ago. As Ross (2000) pointed out, the reality of this stance is that material that upholds the status quo is considered objec tive, while material that encourages students to make critical judgments is labeled political. However, he asked us to consider, neutrality is a political category, that is, not sup porting any factions in a dispute (p. 44). Using this metric, Horowitz and his ABOR project is, thus, a highly-polit icized movement engaged in preserving the privileges of powerful, entrenched inte rests in education and the wider society. In order to combat effectively these threats to academic freedom and not to be caught off guard, Brinkley (1999) opened a dialogue about the importance of understanding the precise political direction of these academic freedom challe nges. In contrast to the wealth of material regarding intellectual freedom in the university se tting, there has been a relative lack of literature regarding conceptions of and threats to academic freedom for secondary level teachers. Murphy (1990) attributed this absence of concern to the confusion surr ounding the issue within the ranks of the major teachers unions. Apple (2001) further surmised that teachers have not been afforded the same rights as univers ity faculty due to the progressive de-skilling of teachers in an era of increasing standardization of curriculum. Bracey (2002) termed these developments The War on Public Schools. Kincheloe (2005) comment ed that No Child Left Behind reforms demand disempowered teachers who do what theyre told and often read pre-designed scripts to their students (p. 5). The National Council for th e Social Studies (NCSS) Position Statement on Academic Freedom and the Social Studies Teach er (2007) spoke to the context of increasing standardization under this neo-conservative Acco untability Movement and its effects on social studies teaching practice: In recent years, the movement for standa rds and high stakes testing has impinged on issues of academic freedom. In some schools, the movement for accountability has led to

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58 the imposition of unhealthy pressure to cover content in a superficial manner, serving as a constraint on meaningful teaching and learning. (p. 283) Spring (2002) traced the po litical agendas of groups from the religious right to the Greens, pointing out that while religious discussions tend to be extremely volatile among parents in southern Bible Belt states, the primary motivation for activism in schools in the Pacific Northwest is more likely to be the engagement of students in environmental issues. Spring commented: Educational disputes range across a political spectrum, from the agendas of the crusading religious right to the separatist feeli ng of Afrocentrists and Indiocentrists (p. vii). Spring delineated the agendas of four distinct groups--Com passionate Conservatives, Neoconservatives, New Democrats and The Green Party Left. Spring (2002) defined the first category as those who are equally motivated by morality and standardized testing with rega rd to student performance. The archetype of this movement is former Texas football coach Rod Paige, whom Pres ident George W. Bush appointed Secretary of Education in 2001. Paige, like many other functi onaries in the Bush administration, had longstanding ties with the Christian Co alition and other religious conservative organizations that have used grassroots school board advocacy as a means of affecting change in what they see as a school curriculum overrun with secular humanist ideals. Spring summarized the efforts of these activists: Therefore, the opposition to educationa l and government bureaucrats and the desire to return power to the people is based on the assumption that this will restore traditional values to education (p. 24). In focusing on localized struggles, these religiously-inclined activists have made tremendous strides toward influe ncing the social st udies curriculum. The Neo-conservative movement, as Sp ring (2002) noted, orig inated with the proliferation of conservative thi nk tanks that sprang up in the wake of Ronald Reagans first electoral triumph in 1980. Organiza tions such as the Manhattan Institute and the Olin Foundation

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59 see themselves as providing the intellectual capit al for conservative educational reform in a climate in which the traditional institutions of hi gher education have been captured by liberal and progressive activists. The main thrust of the efforts of neo-conser vative groups is the privatization of public education, with voucher pr ograms as a principal means of achieving this goal. This focus on school choice operates from the assumption that government schools are ineffective and under-performing, whereas the pr ivate sector would introduce a necessary element of competition to the process of educa ting children, particularly those in underserved communities. Although the aforementioned groups have certain ly been ascendant in the past decade, it is important not to forget the la rge numbers of education activists on the left side of the political spectrum. Spring (2002) asserted that the New Democrats, who ran education policy during the Clinton era of the 1990s and still occupy many positions of power within the educational bureaucracy at state and local district levels, ma rried the demands of the global marketplace with those of Main Street America. A key premise of this agenda is the Skill-Mismatch Theory, first propounded by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who stated in terms reminiscent of A Nation at Risk (1983) that Americas e ducational institutions were producing candidates illsuited for work in an increasingly complex global economy. As Bill C linton (1996) remarked: There are people, principally the bottom half of Americas hourly wage earners, who are working hard but arent getting ahead because they dont have the kind of skills that are rewarded in this global economy (p. 33). In th e resulting Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the Clinton administration poured money into programs such as Head Start, while at the same time paving the way for the Accountability Movement by convincing teachers unions to agree to programs of recer tification and standardized testing.

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60 In a chapter provocatively tit led Whats Left of the Left?, Spring (2002) described the ideas of progressive activists who have certainly been toiling away in the wilderness in recent decades and yet can wield some considerable po wer in local districts in New England and the Pacific Northwest. These activists, many attach ed to the Green Party and the Presidential candidacies of Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004, often exhibit a simila r consumer-based politics to that which social and religious conservatives employ albeit to very different purposes. Parents informed by a variety of perspectives--from feminist to Afrocent ric to queer theory--thus have pressured local municipalities to adopt mo re inclusive curricula in their schools. Even though Spring was careful to be even-h anded and to present the full scope of the challenges to the academic freedom rights of te achers, the fact remains that much of the movement activism that has underscored the most recent censorious efforts has come from the right. It is clear that progre ssive educators have been out maneuvered by their conservative counterparts in recent years. Frank (2004) described this dynamic in vivid terms: While leftists sit around congratulating them selves on their personal virtue, the right understands the central signifi cance of movement-building, an d they have taken to the task with admirable diligence (T)here are the think tanks, the Institutes Hoover and American Enterprise, that send the money sl uicing on into the pockets of the right-wing pundit corps, Ann Coulter, Dinesh DSouza, a nd the rest, furnishing th em with what they need to keep their books coming and their minds in fighting trim between media bouts. (p. 247) That said, some caution is necessary in ch aracterizing grassroots educational reform efforts, especially when it comes to labeling parent organizations involved in curriculum challenges as right-wing. Ravitch (2004) pointed out that both right a nd left wing groups have pressured schools and individual teachers about their curriculum choices in recent years. She comments that, both right-wingers and left-wingers demand that publishers shield children from words and ideas that contain what they deem the wrong models for living (p. 79). At the same time, though, as Giroux (1987) demonstrated, the cl ear majority of these movements have come

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61 from the right. He commented, As part of the existing political assault on public services and social justice in general, sc hools are increasingly being subor dinated to the imperatives of neoconservative and right-wing interests that would make them adjuncts of the workplace or the church (p. 26). In addition to maintaining a cr itical focus, it is important not to over-generalize about the intentions of these movements or to demonize their participants. Apples (2001) nuanced interpretation of the motives of religious parent s is especially helpful. He noted, for example, that trends toward hom e schooling are linked to: What are often accurate concerns about public schooling--its overly bureaucratic nature, its lack of curriculum cohere nce, its disconnection from the lives, hopes, and cultures of many of its communities, and more--here of ten connected to more deep-seated and intimate worries (pp. 173-174) However, Apple was careful to note that what pare nts often fail to take in to account is the fact that the degradation of public education is by neo-liberal and ne o-conservative design. Over the course of the past 20 years, there has been a concerted, consistent effort to impoverish public schools and to create an atmosphere in which parents quite logically lose faith in their communitys schools (Bracey, 2002). This has culm inated in the bipartisan-sponsored No Child Left Behind legislation, which e xplicitly targets schools charact erized as under performing for takeover by private educational c onsortia, such as the Edison School Project founded by Channel One entrepreneur Chris Whittle. Conclusion At the beginning of a new millennium, Rav itch (2000) summed up what she portrayed as the sorry legacy of a century of progressive educational reform: Throughout the twentieth century, progressive s claimed that the schools had the power and responsibility to reconstruct society. Th ey took their cue from John Dewey, who in 1897 had proclaimed that the school was the primary means of social reform and the teacher was the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God.

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62 This messianic belief in the school and the te acher actually worked to the disadvantage of both, because it raised unrealistic expectations It also put the schools squarely in the political arena, thereby encouraging ideologue s of every stripe to try to impose their social, religious, cultural and political agendas on the schools. (p. 459) In this florid statement, one can see the major patterns of the history of the competing notions of academic freedom and its discontents. Ravitch (2000) also inadvertently unmasked the agenda of neo-liberal and neo-c onservative educators who control mu ch of the infrastructure of public schooling in the 21st century. While there is a lengthy hist ory stretching from the mid 19th century to the present of teachers freely advocating for themselves and their students in the classroom, this is, as I have argued, a contested legacy. Conceptions of intell ectual autonomy develope d early in the nations universities, and yet the ways in which teachers roles have been understood in the history of public schooling have precluded their being afford ed the same rights as those of university faculty. This insight should not suggest, however, that those worki ng in academia have received unassailable rights to academic freedom free from challenges. These rights have fluctuated wildly from period to period, reflecting drama tic pendulum swings betw een periods in which educators assumed themselves to be involved in fundamental social change followed by periods of conservative retrenchment and even soci al reaction. Neo-libera l and neo-conservative educators continue to disparage the idea of a pol iticized classroom. The lesson of this long and labyrinthine history is that continual vigilance an d struggle is necessary in order to maintain the rights of teachers and academic faculty to pursue their own ag endas in the classroom. In his classic work On Liberty, Mill (1859/2003) expr essed in no uncertain terms the necessity for this bold struggle and the dangers that its loss might entail: Who can compute what the world loses in the multitude of promising intellects combined with timid characters, who dare not follow out any bold, vigorous, independent train of thought, lest it should land them in somethi ng which would admit of being considered irreligious or immoral? No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize that as

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63 a thinker it is his first duty to follow his inte llect to whatever conclu sions it may lead There is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides. It is when they attend only one that errors harden into prejudices and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood. (p. 99) In the chapters that follow, I will detail the course of a research project that considered the real voices of veteran social studies teachers voices that express fear s and reservations about their roles as advocates in the classroom and yet at the same time burn with the desire to carry forward Mills shining sentiments penned some 250 years ago.

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64 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODS Introduction The importance of establishing a clear philo sophical and theoreti cal foundation for the implementation of new methods in the social studie s lies in the need for an effective, robust and flexible pedagogical practice. Ind eed, the two goals are inseparabl e. As Kincheloe (2005) argued, The teaching and learning process is intimately c onnected to the research act (p. 3). Once the teacher-researcher in the social studies has accepted the assumptions underlying the constructivist paradigm based on a reading of the literature and rese arch, for example, he or she begins to reflect upon and change the goal of inst ruction from one of imparting a vast store of historical facts to a passive st udent audience to one of encouraging students to engage with a variety of disciplines in an effo rt to develop deeper, more critical perspectives. The constructivist framework presumes that knowledge is produced within an educationa l community from the experiences that are made available by the less ons at hand. Grant (2003) explained constructivist teaching and learning priorities in the following terms: Taking constructivism to school means that knowledge is viewed as complex and multifaceted, that something may be lost when ideas are reduced to elementary pieces, that teaching is about creating opportunities for students to think about work through big ideas, and that learning is mo re about understanding than si mply memorizing those ideas. (p. 84) This process is fostered by authentic and real-world environments and culturally and socially relevant subject material as opposed to remote and abstra ct environments driven by text or testing priorities. These real -world experiences are imbued w ith the richness of culture, the complexity of communication within social gro ups and the ubiquity of problem solving. Social studies instruction also benef its most when meaning constr uction takes pla ce within the framework of the learners prior knowledge and experience. Hopkins (1994) noted that

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65 Knowledge in the modern world has become mobile and liquefied. The schools must find ways to accommodate to the turbulence, inde terminacy, and fluidity of the world outside if they are to meet the increasing demands that are laid on them by economic and social circumstance, and especially the demands of our democratic society. (p. 7) This world of increasing pluralism and democracy described by Hopkins (1994) is necessarily complicated and invol ves a multiplicity of perspectiv es as well as controversy. Engaging students in this world re quires on the part of the instru ctor an elaborate practice of scaffolding lessons in order to capitalize on the students own personal an d social knowledge and experiential bases. The practice of secondary social studies te achers in the United States has traditionally been circumscribed as an individual, and often isolated, act and thus the framework of cognitive constructivism, which emphasizes individual meaning-making processes, seems ideal for research into the meanings that indivi dual teachers derive from their experiences with controversial public issue material. Teaching and learning practices that encourag e students to construct their own meanings from lessons in the social studi es rather than merely passively receiving information from an expert instructor in turn require a research agen da that fits the goals of constructiv ist inquiry. Whereas quantitative studies that rest upon positivistic assumptions of objectivity that decontextualize the teaching and learning process, constructivism recontextualizes research in education, acknowledging the complex web of reality that exists in every school. Eisner (1995), for example, used the metaphor of the visual ar ts to describe just such a research agenda, commenting that, artistically crafted research he lps us to understand much of what is most important about schools. By its concern with pa rticularity it can help us to recognize what individual teachers actually do when they teach (p. 5). Conve rsely, Kincheloe (2005) pointed out that a research agenda that looks at teachers and students ways of knowing in the classroom is irrelevant to resear chers trapped within the supposedly scientific worldview underlying more

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66 traditional methodologies: In transmission-based c onceptions of teaching there is no reason to study the learner. Teachers in such pedagogies are given the curriculum to teach. They simply pass designated knowledge along to students and then test th em to see how much they remember (p. 6). This sorry state of affairs, refe rred to by Freire (1970) as the banking concept, is, however, precisely what social studies educat ors face in the early days of the 21st century, pressured by curriculum frameworks and testing regimes. This project, therefore, is a humble attempt to realize the potentialities of a constructivist perspective within research into teaching practices in the social studies. In the following chapter, I outline the methodological design of a resear ch project guided by the principles of both constructivism that looks at th e ways of knowing of a group of seven social studies teachers currently practicing in Jacksonville, Florida public schools, as it re lates to the matter of teaching controversial public issues. Research Perspectives Qualitative Research The research interests identified in this project fall squarely into the realm of qualitative research and call for a research design create d along these lines of inquiry. As Gergen and Gergen (2000) stated The domain of qualitative inquiry offers some of the richest and most rewarding explorations available in social science (p. 1025). In th e vast arena that is social research, qualitative investigator s fundamentally ask questions a bout the meaning of the activity that is taking place in some field of social inte raction. Glesne (1998) described this process as a careful and diligent search (p. 3). In the educati onal context, qualitative researchers often view the classroom and its participants as texts to be read, or interpreted, based on a number of previously agreed upon criteria.

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67 Numerous scholars have stressed the impor tance of research questions as a framing mechanism in qualitative research designs. Ma ykut and Morehouse (1994) underscored that the questions that we ask will always to some degree determine the answers we find (p. 43). Thus, in contrast to research questi ons in quantitative studies, which tend to revolve around identifying sets of variables and seeking an understanding of the relationship, or correlation, between them, research questions in qualitative studies attempt to produce data that will be thick, that is, rich in its descriptive detail and value. Glesne (1998) re marked that these questions often spring from a review of the literature. She advised In working out the rese arch statement, begin by jotting down questions about your topic, generated by your reading of the literature and your own experience (p. 24). Following this astute advice, therefore, the research statement and questions that form the core of this dissertation research project, stem from pe rsonal experiences with challenges to academic freedom as well as a read ing of the literature on the stances of social studies teachers toward the teachi ng of controversial public issues. Some have warned, however, that this s eemingly common-sense approach can escape researchers, particularly thos e entering the field, who may take the importance of research questions for granted. For example, Hatch (2002) spoke to his experiences mentoring novice researchers: When I meet with students at various stages of the research process, I always remind them to refer back to their research ques tions. New researchers almost always feel overwhelmed when they first enter the fiel d. There is so much going on, that they can barely take it all in, let alone make a record of it. As king if research questions have been answered provides a way to ju dge if enough has been done. (p. 42) There have certainly been moments in the re search process where I have felt the sense of being overwhelmed by the data and, thus, the rema rks of veteran qualitativ e researchers and the guidance of my dissertation committee have been i nvaluable in this rega rd. Research questions thus begin with what Creswell (1998) described as a how or a what so that initial forays into the

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68 topic describe what is going on (p. 17, emphasis in original). In qualitati ve research, questions take an open-ended character, avoiding the polari ties typical in objectivis tic inquiry. Using these guidelines, I chose qualitative methods of inqui ry in order to explore the ways in which secondary-level social studies teachers construc t meaning from their e xperiences with teaching controversial public issues in th e classroom. These methods helped me to elicit au thentic voices of classroom practitioners. Constructivism While the study of the issue of controversy in secondary social stud ies instruction could potentially involve a variety of methodologies, I felt that a cons tructivist framework was best suited for eliciting the organic voices and narra tives of classroom practitioners. Constructivism as a theoretical framework, as Fosnot (1996) no ted, has often been defined in contrast to positivism, which dominated the field of social research from its inception in the mid-19th century until the period after th e Second World War. Fosnot comm ented that constructivism is fundamentally non-positivist and as such it sta nds on completely new ground (p. 10). Whereas, as Crotty (1998) described it, the essential inten tion of positivism and its adherents is to attempt to bring the discipline of the physi cal sciences to bear in social science research as a means of establishing definitive proof and certainty in re search findings, constructionism fundamentally breaks with this tradition by rejecting the search fo r abstract truth as chimerical. Crotty stated While it would be extremely premature to sou nd the death knell of this centuries-old tradition, foundationalism of this kind has certainly come under heavy attack and co nstructionism is very much part of the artillery brought against it (p. 42). Instead of a search for this illusory objectivity, constructivism th erefore posits social research as a process of gathering evidence not of direct causation but rather of human experience. It is just this search for experiences that is at the heart of my project.

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69 In an epistemological sense, constructivis m--and its twin paradigm constructionism--in its most common forms rests upon the assumption that learners construct knowledge as they attempt to make sense of their experiences in the everyday world. As Driscoll (1994) noted Learners, therefore, are not empty vessels wait ing to be filled, but rather active organisms seeking meaning (p. 360). More succinctly put by Kafai and Resnick (1996): Children dont get ideas, they make ideas (p. 1, emphasis in original). This process is in operation regardless of what is being learned and thus, for educators influenced by the c onstructivist paradigm, virtually any subject can be valuable, any moment a teachable moment. As students progressively make meaning from the environment around them, they learn to develop, expand and test out mental patterns until one emerges that suits the particular task at hand. This set of assumptions about learning in turn leads to the development of spec ific types of research interests and teaching and learning practices that necessarily go hand in ha nd with one another. For example, Larochelle and Bednarz (1989) commented that as constructivism implies that knowledge is always knowledge that a person constructs, it has prompted the development of didactic situations which stress the need to encourage gr eater participation by students in their appropriation of scholarly knowledge (p. 3). This insight leads researchers interested in pursuing a constructivist orientation to establish a research agenda that focuses on the cr eation of learning environm ents that will likely produce a social or collaborative meaning-maki ng process. For example, Wineburg and Wilson (1991) profiled the work of two t eachers who acted as facilitators of student learning rather than as experts imparting wisdom to students in their American History courses. For these reasons, a constructivist theoretical perspective provides this research project, the aim of which is to present current social studies practitione rs with the opportunity to sh are the meaning-making processes

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70 with which they engage in the course of maki ng decisions about teaching controversial subject matter, with the ideal theoretical foundation. Research Settings Duval County, Florida in many ways represen ts a microcosm of the United States past, present, and future. The county, which comprises metropolitan Jacksonville, offers many of the perplexing issues of inner-city blight and suburban sprawl that confound urban planners across the country. At the same time, it includes several rural areas that reflect the conservative values and political inclinations that recall the heyday of the Pork Chop Gang, a North-central Florida alliance that virtually controlled Florida politics until the civil rights movement and reapportionment in the 1960s. As such, Duval County is ideally suited for an exploration of the myriad issues involving the teachi ng of controversial subject matter. Duval County, originally founded in 1822 from a section of St. Johns County and named for former Florida Governor William Pope Duval, includes the largest geographical spread of any urban county in the United States, covering a territory from the Suwannee River on the west to the Atlantic Ocean on the eas t, north of a line from the mouth of the Suwannee River to Jacksonville on the St. Johns River (Gold, 1928) For the students of public school magnet programs, such as the two included in this proj ect--Orange Park College Preparation School and Riverview Arts Academy--this ur ban sprawl has important implicat ions, as students are typically either bused into their nei ghborhood schools and then again out to these magnet high schools or are transported by parents or guardians. The most recent census data (United States Census Bureau, 2000) indicated that Duval County includes 778,879 people, 303,747 households, and 201,688 families residing in the county, with a relatively low population density for an urban space of 1,007 people per square mile. The racial makeup of the county consists of slightly more than 65% of people of White-

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71 European, 27% of African American, 4% of Latin American, nearly 3% of Asian, and less than 1% of Native American and Pacific Islander backgrounds. Slightly more than 3% of the population were listed as mixed race or of other racial category. More than 90% speak English, 4% speak Spanish, 1% speak Tagalog (a language native to the Philippines) as a first language, a demographic feature largely due to the presence in the southern ex tension of the St. Johns River of the NAS Jacksonville naval air station. According to the same census data (Un ited States Census Bureau, 2000), there are 303,747 households out of which a third have childre n under the age of 18 living with them, 46% are married couples living togeth er, slightly more than 15% ha ve a female householder with no husband present, and a third are non-families. Twenty six percent of all households are made up of individuals, and nearly 8% have someone livi ng alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.51, and the average fa mily size is 3.06. The median income for a household in the county is $40,703, and the median income for a family is $47,689. Males have a median income of $32,954 versus $26,015 for females. The per capita income for the county is $20,753. Roughly 9% of families and nearly 12% of the population are below the official federal poverty line, including 16% of t hose under the age of 8 and nearly 12% of those aged 65 or over (United States Census Bureau). The politics of Duval County reflect its d eeply segregated history. While the largely African American inner-city popu lation on the western end of J acksonville typically votes for Democratic Party representatives to the U.S. Congress such as Congresswoman Corrine Brown, the larger county reflects more c onservative political and religious perspectives and has in recent Presidential elections beco me one of the most reliable larg e counties for Republican candidates. In 2004, for example, President George W. Bush r eceived nearly 58% of the popular vote in the county, as opposed to the just over 41% rece ived by his opponent Se nator John Kerry (Duval

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72 County Board of Elections, 2004). According to the city of Jacksonvilles official website, there were 515,202 registered voters in Duval County as of October 2004 (City of Jacksonville, Florida, 2004). Participating Schools This project drew participants from thr ee high schools within th e Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) district: Orange Park College Preparation School, Southside High School, and Riverview Arts Academy.1 Orange Park College Preparation School (OPCPS) is a high school on the western side of Jacksonville that was ope ned within the shell of an existing inner-city, neighborhood high school in 1995. OPCPS has attempted to cope with the high demand for its seats by building two extensions on the historic school building as well as using temporary trailers as instruc tional facilities. It features an honors tr ack with a required number of Advanced Placement courses for students as well as an International Baccalaureate magnet program. OPCPS has a diverse student body, only 15% of which lives within the surrounding neighborhood, while 85% are either bused in from their neighbor hood schools or are transported by parents or guardians. According to the DC PS website, 49% of the current OPCPS student population defines itself as Caucasian, 28% as African American, 14% as Asian American, 6% as Latin-American, and 3% as mixed race. The OPCPS faculty is similarly diverse and younger than that of the average DCPS high school. This is primarily due to the higher than average turnover of its faculty; in its first 10 years of operation (1995-2005), an average of 18 openings out of 42 faculty positions were filled each summer (Duval County Public Schools, 2007). Southside High School (SHS) is a neighbor hood high school located in the Mandarin area of south Jacksonville. Opened in 1990, the sc hool has a unique de sign for a Duval County school, featuring an open layout th at includes a large courtyard wh ere a majority of the students 1All names of schools and participants are pseudonymous.

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73 socialize during lunch periods. Given the growth of the Mandarin area in Jacksonville, SHS has faced the issue of severe overcrowding and is the second largest high school in the Duval County school system. The schools Vision Statement asse rts that its aim is to develop knowledgeable, confident, and self-relia nt lifelong learners ready to assume civic responsibility and who possess skills necessary to function successfully in an increasingly competitive global society (Duval County Public Schools, 2007). As a neighborhood sc hool, SHS, reflects the demographics of the Mandarin area of the city, which is home to a disproportionately large Asian community. According to the DCPS website, 51% of SHS student s describe themselves as Caucasian, 19% as Asian American, 13% as African American, 7% as Latin American, and 6% as mixed race or other (Duval County Public Schools, 2007). Riverview Arts Academy (RAA) is an arts magnet high school located on the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville. The school firs t opened in the 1930s as a traditional school for African American students. RAA became an arts-focused magnet public high school in 1985 and has been rated one of top arts high schools in America by Newsweek magazine. The schools design utilizes a variety of colors, a tin design, with a number of unique campus features such as a rotunda, sculpture garden, art gallery, and theater. Students at Riverview take traditional high school courses in the four core cu rricular areas, while concurrently attending arts classes as part of a specific arts program. The ar ts areas in which a student ma y major include Creative Writing, Dance, Instrumental Music, Mu sical/Technical Theatre, Film/TV, Visual Arts, Piano, and Vocal Music. Students are accepted to the school on the ba sis of auditions offered in the spring of each school year. A number of Advanced Placement a nd honors classes are also offered in numerous academic areas. According to the DCPS website, 64% of RAA students described themselves as Caucasian, 15% as African American, 8% as As ian American-Pacific Islander, 3% as Latin American, and 2% as mixed race/other (Duval County Public Schools, 2007).

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74 Selection of Participants Pilot Project During a pilot project conducted in the spring of 2007, I collected focus group, interview, and archival data from 5 DCPS teachers. After the recruitment process, the 5 participants first sat down with me for a focus group session on March 9, 2007, which lasted for approximately 75 minutes and produced a wealth of fascinating observations about th e state of social studies, many in the form of extended narratives. In an effort to reduce the effect of social pressure potentially existing within the focus group setting, I then conducted individual in terviews with each participant. Lasting approximately 60 minutes, thes e interviews were invaluable in allowing each participant, including 2 teachers w ho had been slightly reticent in their contributions to the focus group session, to reflect deeply on their practices. Fina lly, I collected curricular work products from each participant, including syllabi and samp le lesson plans in order to make comparisons between them and to analyze the influence of cu rricular frameworks stan dards on each teachers decision making process. In reflecting upon the outcom es of this pilot project, I identified the lack of purposeful sampling and the reliance on convenience as a major weaknesses. Sampling Procedures and Criteria The insights derived from my experiences c onducting this pilot proj ect influenced greatly the manner in which I designed this dissertation re search project. I reali zed in reflecting on the research process of this pilot proj ect that the data that I collected from 5 secondary social studies teachers was rather limited in scope as a result of my having to rely on a participant group of relatively novice practitioners. Thus, for this cu rrent project, I used a more purposeful sampling approach. Patton (1990) described the basis of the method as focus(ing) on selecting information-rich cases whose study will illuminate the questions under study (p. 230). This method of selecting participants, also referre d to as purposive or judgment sampling, has the

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75 advantage of revealing patterns of meaning-making that are associated with the epistemological subjectivity of the constructiv ist paradigm. Bernard (2000) de scribed this procedure: In judgment sampling, you decide the purpose you want informants (or communities) to serve, and you go out to find some (p. 176). I have followe d Bernards criteria for using purposeful sampling following the determinations that I ha ve made concerning the purpose of the studys participants within the project and I sought them out accordin g to the following criteria: 1. Each participant is a full-time public school teacher. 2. Each participant is currently employed full time in a Duval County public school. 3. Each participant has a minimum of 5 years of classroom teaching experience. 4. Each participant is currentl y teaching at the secondary-level. 5. Each participant is currentl y teaching in the social studies. Once I had gained the appropriate permissions to conduct this study from Jill Johnson, the director of communications DCPS, she provide d me with a list of 24 potential participants. From this potential pool, I first e liminated any participant that did not fit the criteria listed above and selected 7 individuals from three area high schools. I am c onfident that this purposeful sampling procedure produced a sample of partic ipants that provided w ith a thicker set of narratives about classroom experiences from which to draw my analysis. Description of Participants My first participant, Adam, is a 35 year ol d White male. Born and raised in Chicago, he now teaches Advanced Placement U.S. History, Government and Economics at Orange Park College Preparation School in Ja cksonville. After his familys relocation to Jacksonville, he was graduated from a magnet high school. He attende d a university in South Carolina and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. He has 12 years of teaching experience in South Carolina, Florida and Illinois. Adam described hi mself as a conservative-libertarian and listed

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76 government regulation, tax policy, and race relations among the most important political issues in contemporary American society. My second participant, Ben, is a 32 year old Asian male. A self-described Navy Brat from New Jersey, he now teaches World History at Southside High School in Jacksonville. After his father was transferred to NAS Jacksonville Na val Station, Ben attended a high school in St. Johns County. Upon graduation, he completed a Bachel or of Arts in History and a Masters in Education at a university in Jacksonville. Ben has 10 years of teaching experience in DCPS schools. He described himself as conservative and is concerned a bout a number of social issues including affirmative action admissions policies. My third participant, Cathy, is a 62 year old White female. With 37 years of teaching experience behind her, she is currently the So cial Studies Department head and teaches Advanced Placement European History and World Re ligions at Orange Park College Preparation School in Jacksonville. Originally from the Pens acola, Florida area, she received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Histor y from a university in central Florida. Cathy has 37 years of service and will retire from OPCPS at the conclusion of the 2008/2009 school year. She described herself as an old liber al feminist and commented that she remembers the second wave of feminism, you know, Gloria Steinem and all those women, well. My fourth participant, Donna, is a 52 year old White female. A Florida native, she teaches World History and Humanities at Rive rview Arts Academy in Jacksonville. After starting at local college near where she attended high school in centr al Florida, she returned to the Jacksonville area with her mother and receive d a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at a local university. She has since completed her Masters degree in Social Studi es Education and has twenty years teaching experience. Donna called hers elf apolitical and admitted that she is a little cynical about politics.

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77 My fifth participant, Eric, is a 54 year ol d White male. Born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, he now teaches U.S. History, Govern ment and Economics at Southside High School in Jacksonville. After receiving a Bachelors de gree and Master of Arts in Teaching degree from a university in Maryland, he and hi s wife relocated to Jacksonville in order to be closer to elderly parents in the Ponte Vedra area. Eric described himself as an ethnic conservative, and is concerned about educational policy issues such as inclusion and multicultural education. He has 19 years of teaching experience. My sixth participant, Frank, is a 43 year old Latin Ameri can male. Jacksonville born and bred, he attended the oldest college preparatory school in the district a nd now teaches Advanced Placement U.S. History at Riverview Arts Academy in Jacksonville. After beginning college in Jacksonville, he finished his Bach elors degree in History at a uni versity in western Florida. He has since earned a Masters degree in Social Studies Education at a university in Jacksonville. Frank considers himself liberal and felt that he fits in with the lib eral climate at Riverview as a consequence. He is the faculty sponsor of th e Gay Straight Alliance at Riverview and has fourteen years of teaching experience in DCPS schools. My final participant, Gina, is a 38 year old White female. A Florida native from Boca Raton, she now teaches World History, Sociology and Law Studies at Orange Park College Preparation School in Jacksonvill e. After her graduation from a Jewish private academy in south Florida, Gina stated that she bounced around a variety of Florid a institutions, beginning with a university in Tampa before re ceiving a Bachelors degree from a university in Miami. She described herself as a liberal and claimed to use innovative techniques in the classroom, including the use of role playing and the arts. At the outset of this project, I submitted my project design to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of Florida for institutional approval (s ee Appendix A). Upon IRB

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78 approval, I contacted Jill Johnson in order to receive official approval to conduct research within DCPS schools. I then proceeded to contact partic ipants using a recruitment email included in Appendix B. The 7 individuals profiled above met with me for an initial interview in November, 2007. Before beginning the interview session, each individual signed the informed consent form included in Appendix C. These interviews last ed approximately 60 minutes and consisted of conversations about their conceptions of controversy and their experiences dealing with controversial subject matter in the classroom (see Appendix C). In early December, 2007, I returned to Jacksonville and in terviewed each participant about his or her views about using a group of curricular pieces that have proven cont roversial in the field (see Appendix D). These interviews lasted approximately 60 minutes. In addition, I collected one syllabus and one lesson plan detailing a lesson that the participants had deemed controversial during the initial interview session. Data Collection The purpose of data collection in qualitative re search is to begin to make meanings of the data. Connell, Lynch, and Waring (2001) noted that from the beginning of data collection, the qualitative analyst is beginning to decide what things mean, noting regularities, patterns, explanations, possible configurations, causal flow s and propositions (p. 3). At the outset of this project, it became clear that interview and archiv al collection strategies would be the ideal data collection foundation for a study cente red on the voices of classroom practitioners in the social studies. There were a number of reasons for this decision. First, the indi vidual interview is wellsuited to the cognitive constructivis t research perspective in that it allows participants to discuss candidly their experiences in th e classroom. Second, the interview strategy is a technique that allows for delving into the ways in which indi vidual teachers construct the meanings of their experiences in retrospect, whethe r these experiences are generall y positive or negative. Finally,

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79 the search for archival materials is crucial in order to consider the va riety of positions that teachers take toward the lesson construction process. Interviews Numerous scholars (Eisner, 1995; Holstein, 2002; Lincoln & Guba, 1985) have testified to the nature and importance of interviewing in qualitative research. Maykut and Morehouse (1994) described the interview as a conversation with a purpose (p. 79). In the constructivist paradigm, that purpose is to elicit responses from individuals or groups of subjects, such as, in the case of this project, social studies teachers, in order to ascertain how they construct meaning from their teaching experiences. As Holstein and Gubrium (2003) remarked, interviews can range from the casual, often taking place within pa rticipant observation scenarios, to the formal; the interviewers stances often mirror this variety of scenarios. However, certain principles are regarded as standard throughout the arena of qualitative resear ch. As Hatch (2002) discussed, While the researchers stance in relation to his or her data ma y be different across different qualitative paradigms, the basics of doi ng observation, interviewi ng, and unobtrusive data collection are similar (p. 71). These basics that Hatch referred to incl ude creating a research protocol that outlines the details of the design and purpose of the project, obtaining the proper approvals from the sponsoring institution, esta blishing trust with th e participants and constructing an interview protocol that encourages the participan ts to speak openly about their experiences within a naturalistic setting. Whether casual or formal, the interview is sh aped by the needs of the researcher; in the end, as Maykut and Morehouse (1994) stressed, participants agree to be interviewed to help the researcher pursue his or her focu s of inquiry (p. 80). The intervie wer approaches the subjects in the spirit of open inquiry, allowi ng the subjects to unders tand the research inte rests that guide the project. This agenda requires a structured protocol (with the ob vious exception of those projects

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80 whose research perspectives such as grounded th eory call for semi-structured protocols), which includes all questions that will be asked of participants; this protocol is typically reviewed and sanctioned by the researchers sponsoring institu tion as a matter of maintaining ethical standards in research practice (see Appendi x A). In approaching the interv iew subject or subjects, an unobtrusive stance is important in order to keep the research participants at their ease and to be able to collect meaningful data. Spradley (1979) described the appropriate point of view for the researcher: By word and by action, in subtle ways and in direct statements [researchers] say, I want to understand the world from your point of view. I want to know what you know in the way you know it. I want to understand the meani ng of your experience, to walk in your shoes, to feel things as you feel them, to explain things as you would explain them. Will you become my teacher and help me understand? (p. 34) In other words, in qualitative projects employi ng a interview strategy fo r data collection, the researcher and subjects act as partners in the process. When us ed appropriately, interviews can provide the researcher with a window into their pa rticipants worlds, especi ally those events that have not been observed at first hand. Interview Process With these provisos in mind, I interviewed 7 teacher-participants in order to ascertain how each makes meaning from the experience of teaching controversial public issues. After contacting participants using the recruitmen t email included in Appendix B, I arranged individual interview sessions during a 3 week period in Nove mber, 2007. In order to capture these participants in a na tural setting, I interviewed each partic ipant in his or her classroom, often during preparation periods or immediately af ter the end of the instructional day. This understanding came from my reflections after conducting the aforementioned pilot project, in which I conducted interviews in restaurants and coffee shops. Interv iewing the participants this time in the classroom allowed for fewer dist ractions and interruptions in the session.

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81 As Bogdan and Biklin (1982) noted, a good part of the work (of interviewing) involves building a relationship, getting to know each othe r, and putting the subject at ease (p. 135). Toward that end, I designed the initial interview session to begin with questions that would allow the participants to talk freely about their educational backgrounds: 1. Describe your own educational background. 2. What do you consider the most controversial issues in teaching social studies at the high school level? 3. What in your experience makes thes e issues controversial within your community? 4. Give me an example of a recent lesson that you have taught that contained what you consider controversial material. 5. What was your experience when pres enting this material to students? 6. Describe any experiences you have had in which students or their parents have criticized the cont ent of a lesson that you have taught. 7. Looking at the curriculum piece that you have brought to the session, describe your intention in designing the lesson. 8. What do you perceive as potentially c ontroversial about this lesson content? 9. Is there anything you would like to add? In these initial interview sessions, it was notable that the veteran practitioners had experienced far more than the novice practitioners I had previously inte rviewed and had stronger opinions about the use of contr oversial content material. Cathy, for example, related several interesting anecdotes about parent conferences in which she had participated both as a teacher and as a department head. The data from these conversations will be presented in Chapter 4. In the second, follow-up interview session, I selected three extra-curr icular pieces that had proven controversial in my survey of the aca demic freedom cases in the literature: Michael Moores documentary film about the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq conflict Fahrenheit 9/11 ; President George W. Bushs 2006 State of the Union address to Congr ess; and the companion

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82 volume to Howard Zinns A Peoples History of the United States. These interviews were conducted in December, 2007 and early Januar y, 2008 and lasted approximately 60 minutes. Participants responded to the following questions: 1. This extra-curricular content material ha s proven controversial in the field. What is your level of fam iliarity with it? 2. What, if anything, would make this content material potentially controversial in your school or community? 3. What, if any, value would this material have in your own curriculum? 4. What, if any, concerns would you have in using this content material? 5. What do you perceive as potentially controvers ial about this material, especially as it relates to your school and wider community? 6. What, if any, official policies in your school would relate to your potential use of this content material? 7. Is there anything you would like to add? Five of the 7 teacher-participants were fam iliar with the three curri culum pieces that I had selected and offered ready opinions a bout them. All participants had seen Fahrenheit 9/11 when it originally premiered in 2004, 3 of the participants had watche d the 2006 State of the Union address live, and all but 1 participant was familia r with Howard Zinns work. Participants were especially interested to hear of the challenges to academic freedom across the field. Adam, for example, commented, Im not a big fan of Mi chael Moore, but I dont think you should lose your job over showing one of his movies. After vi ewing selections of these curriculum pieces, the participants engaged in conversations that indicated their stances toward using such controversial public issues material in the classroom. Data from these sessions are presented in Chapter 5. Finally, I conducted a brief member check se ssion with each participant in March, 2008 in order to verify the analysis of the data collected from the interview sessions. Guba and

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83 Lincoln (1981) described member checks as a continuous process during data analysis, including, for example, asking participants abou t hypothetical situations. These sessions lasted approximately 30 minutes and consisted of the following questions: 1. After reviewing the initial an alysis of the data collected in this project, do you have any concerns about the way that yo ur views have been presented? 2. Do you have any further comments about the analysis of the data collected? Through these discussions and discussions with my dissertation committee members, I reflected on the occasionally judgm ental tone of my initial analys is and accounted for this in subsequent revisions. During this process of conducti ng interviews, I main tained a habit of keeping field notes. These simple notations, whic h I later converted into a researchers log primarily assisted me by helping me to remember vi sual cues that were no t apparent on the audio recordings of the session. At th e end of the process of conducting the initial set of interviews, I transcribed them using the conventions listed in Appendix D. In order to maintain a close relationship with the data, I tr anscribed the initial round of interviews from November by hand. After completing the second set of interviews, I employed a transc ription service in order to expedite the analysis process. In March, I tran scribed the final set of member check interview sessions by hand. Archival Collection Archival collections, as de fined by Bradsher (1988), are at their most basic levels, repositories of institutional records and personal papers of enduring value or interest. These often have the character and ro le of preserving the details of the lives of venerable institutions and powerful individuals within society. Thus, the trad ition of archival resear ch has often been linked in the literature (Barthes 1977; Foucault, 1972) with a reinforcement of the status quo within the political and social sphere. The use of archival records of teachers by qualitative researchers

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84 following a constructivist perspectiv e, however, has the potential to illuminate more democratic avenues of discourse that can lead to the empowe rment of a class of educators typically subject to what Apple (2000) referred to as a process of de-skilling. Toward this end, I collected one syllabus, one lesson plan, and supplementary mate rials from each participant that supported a lesson that they conceived of as containing potentially controversial subject matter. For example, Ben brought to the session an extremely contentheavy World History syllabus and then spoke about an experience in which he had had to acco mmodate a student who had transferred into his class from a class that was studyi ng a different era of history. Participants were asked to bring this curricular material to th e initial interview session and were asked to speak about the potential controversies involved in the lesson plans. These curricular pieces a nd the narratives that emerged from the conversati ons with participants indicated strongly a variety of stances toward controversy and patterns of instruction of these kinds of ma terials. In addition, I reviewed the relevant literature on controvers y in the social studies in order to select a group of what were deemed in the literature to be controversial subject material s, such as the DVD version of Michael Moores 2004 documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 which prompted a national discussion of appropriate teaching practices during the period of the 2004 Presidential election campaign (Dahlgren, in press). Data Analysis Data analysis in qualitative research invol ves a complex system of techniques intended to discover something relatively simple--the meaning of the researchers da ta; in Glesnes (1998) poetic words, finding your story (p. 130). The purpose of this activity is to organize what the researcher has witnessed in the data collection process in ways that ca n be readily understood by ones peers in a variety of professional settings Hatch (2002) encouraged researchers to view data analysis as an on-going process that should begin as soon as the data is collected. Following

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85 Hatchs advice that analysis is happening from th e first moments of data collection (p. 149), I looked early for patterns emerging from the data that I collected fr om both archival and interview sources. Narrative Analysis Narrative analysis centers on the stories that are told by research participants in the course of interviews. As Grbich (2007) pointed out, there is an underlying presumption that much of our communication is through stories an d that these are revealing of our experiences, interpretations and priorities ( p. 124). While much of the 20th cen tury history of this method of analysis was dominated by formalist structur alism, exemplified by the work of Labov and Waletzsky (1967), more recent work has turned toward more socio-cultural approaches influenced by postmodernist theoretical perspect ives that focus on the subjectivity of each personal narrative (Daiute & Lightfoot, 2004). Narra tives are attractive targets for researchers, partially because of their ubiquity in the interview context. Yet, as Riessman (1993) pointed out, the definitive nature of the narr ative can be notoriously difficult to determine with any precision. Still, Riessman commented, For now, (narrative ) refers to talk organized around consequential events (p. 3). In this case, I have chosen to fo cus on the narratives that speak to social studies teachers experiences dealing wi th controversial public issues. As the interviews and focus group sessions that I conducted in the spring of 2007 produced a number of rich, insightf ul narratives, I felt that this fo rm of analysis would reveal the underlying cultural, political, and social contexts that exist within each school setting, with the possibility of investigating critic al patterns of discourse within th em. The data analysis procedure for this project began with a process of open c oding in order to extract the valuable narratives and to eliminate portions of the interview data that did not directly relate to the research questions at hand. As a beginni ng researcher, I found the style referred by Miles and Huberman

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86 (1994) as descriptive coding the most accessible method. After the transcription process, I reread the transcripts several times, correcting fo r mistakes and identifying message units. I then divided the transcript broadly in to large sections based on majo r topics and then into more specific subtopics, as demonstrated in the following example: Lines Topics 1-12 13-27 28-39 39-62 63-91 Introduction Education Teaching experience Lesson preparation Economics class This process led me to focus more intently on the narratives emerging from the data that spoke to the research questions and could prove valuable to the project. In the course of open coding, I determined that there were thr ee major themes--conceptions, experiences, and positions--that would drive the organization of the dissertation. After this process, I conducted a structur al narrative analysis procedure based on the approach of Labov and Waletzsky (1967). In th eir work, Labov and Waletzsky identified six major elements that defined a standard narrative structure: (a) an abstract, which summarizes the main themes of the narrative; (b ) an orientation, which explains the context of the setting of the narrative; (c) a complicating acti on, in which the narrative is pl unged into new territory, often involving conflict; (d) an evaluation, in which the narrator provides an assessment of the meaning of the narrative and hi s or her action within it; (e) a resolution, which provides the conclusion to the narrative; and (f) a coda, an occasional element that provides a final comment to the narrative. This involved printing out portions of the transc ript and cutting and pasting each constituent element onto large sheets of paper. This structural analysis pr ocess, though somewhat rigid, assisted me in placing the narratives selected for analysis in an organized form. In additi on, it allowed me to scrutinize the

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87 narratives from the data in a much more intensiv e manner. Finally, I coded the narratives, using a method described by Bamberg (2004) that is intended to probe the identities of the subjects involved. Specifically, I analyzed and compared the structure of each narra tive in an attempt to understand what elements of the narratives were used in order to assert a positionality as a classroom practitioner. This method of focusing on the positioning of individual teachers within their storytelling roles allowed me to conceptu alize the subjects iden tities as impinged by both the person-to-world and world-to-p erson positions. For example, some participants indicated that their choices came from stances to ward the material or political positions developed over the years (person-to-world position), whereas others indicated that they felt constrained from time to time by the context of curriculum narrowing or st ress on testing procedures (world-to-person position). This form of narrative analysis allowed me to note patterns in teachers testimonies; for example, that those focused on curricular matte rs tended to begin with and focus on a lengthy orientation segment in their narratives. This provide d me with an ideal vantage point in which to investigate a group of social studi es teachers choices with regard to lessons and curriculum as they relate to their various positions on the i ssue of the use of contr oversy in their teaching practices. Subjectivity Statement I approached this study looking through th e prism of perspectives borne of both theoretical understandings and personal experiences, including as a classroom practitioner with 7 years of teaching experience in Massachusetts and Florida public schools. As a progressive social studies teacher and teacher educator, I share the convictions about intellectual autonomy common to my field, documented in the National Council for the Social Studies statement (1969), that the teacher is free to present in the field of his or her professional competence his/her own opinions or convictions and with them the premises from which they are derived.

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88 Further, I reject the positivistic premise that th ere is an objective and absolute truth about the past that can be retrieved and passed on to a pa ssive group of students. Rather, it has long been my contention that good teaching in the social st udies begins with assisting students in finding ways to do history, that is, to coach them in th e skills of researching and evaluating the multiple perspectives that exist in historical scholarship (Barton & Levstik, 2004). My reading of critical theory ha s also left me with the firm belief that the critical tradition with its roots in Western Marxist philosophy a nd its pedagogical conclusions have created for educators a vital conceptual fram ework for studying the effects of society and culture on schools. Many educators in the past 30 year s have found this body of critical literature an invaluable tool in terms of analyzing the power structures that often form the basis of the public education system and may or may not be replicated and reproduced within schools. Teachers in todays schools are often frustrated by what they see as cynicism on the part of their students. From contemporary critical theorists and pedagogue s such as Apple, Gi roux, Kohn, McLaren, Wink, and many others, we can see th e creative opportunities that exist in todays schools for fundamental change. The ideas of critical pedag ogy are far from hegemonic today and certainly garner derision from conservative quarters; and yet, they are alive with possibilities for an educational system of tomorrow. These ideas imbue my own research with precisely these opportunities for social change. As this study builds upon my previous resear ch, including a number of case studies of incidents of censorship of teacher practice in K-12 schools, which has suggested a new period of challenges to the academic freedom of public school teachers and to the image of public education in general, I entere d this project with a certain predisposition toward the data (Dahlgren, in press). It is inevitable from the manner in which I designed the interview protocol that the subjects ascertained this bias and perh aps provided convenient answers to fulfill the data

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89 needs of the project. I guarded against this temptation by cond ucting individual interviews in natural settings. Finally, as a former teacher in the Duval County Public School system, I feel a close bond with the faculty of the schools in the district. After working in th e district as a social studies teacher for 3 years, I have a natural empathy for the conditions of work that the subjects from DCPS face on a daily basis. It is impossible for me to remove from my memory experiences of teaching in unconventional classroom spaces, proctoring state mandated FCAT examinations and attending teacher recertification seminars. Given all of these subjective factors, it is imperative that I, as a researcher, follow the formal procedur es indicated in the proj ect protocol and resist the temptation to interpret the results of the project entirely through these filters. A Note on Validity Issues related to validity are crucial in any research study. Morse, Barrett, Mayan, Olson, and Spiers (2002) commented that Without rigor, research is wo rthless, becomes fiction, and loses its utility. This is particularly the case when it comes to qualitative research. As Gergen and Gergen (2000) noted, the pers istent attack on the objectiv e standards at the heart of quantitative methodologies based on positivistic paradigms by proponents of post-positivistic, and particularly postmodernist, theoretical models has led to substantial skepticism concerning the epistemological foundations of scientific practices (p. 1026). This skepticism has produced what Denzin and Lincoln (1994) called a crisis of validity. They raised the insightful question, How are qualitative studies to be evaluated in the poststructural moment? (p. 11). Guba and Lincoln (1981) clarified thinking within the field replacing reliability and validity with the parallel concept of trustworth iness, containing four aspects: credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. Within these were specific methodological strategies for demonstrating qualitative rigor, such as th e audit trail, member checks when coding,

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90 categorizing, or confirming results with participants, peer debriefing, negative case analysis, structural corroboration, and re ferential material adequacy. During the course of developing this proj ect, I became convinced that the methods common to constructivist research can provide a path toward pr oviding validity in a qualitative research design. By noting the patterns in the da ta, the researcher can begin to weave a rich narrative pattern of descriptions from the fieldw ork experience. Through th is process, important qualitative details emerge from the data Maykut and Morehouse (1994) stressed the development of propositional statements as a resu lt of gathering and analyzing data from field work. In order to make sense of a vast array of field notes, audio tapes, and archival documents that I collected during this projec t, I converted this raw data into an easily digested form through a process of coding and unitizing. I followe d Maykut and Morehouses (1994) recommendation of using index cards and large sheets of paper in order to quickly a nd easily recognize the patterns emerging from this raw data. Finall y, this methodology invol ved a high level of trustworthiness due to an audit trail, including a detailed researchers journal, member checks in which I asked the 7 project participants for thei r input in the analysis of the interview and archival data, and the triangulation of multiple methods of data collection and analysis. Limitations As I reflected upon the findings and conclusions that have emerged from the data at the center of this investigation, I noticed several signif icant limitations. First, despite my firm conviction that the Jacksonville, Florida area represents a microcos m of the United States in the 21st century due to its spra wling ex-urban landscape a nd surrounding rural areas, it is undoubtedly the case that Duval C ounty is a specific context fo r study. Given this reality, the conclusions drawn from data produced in interv iews with 7 secondary social studies teachers

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91 currently practicing in Duval C ounty public schools contains issu es particular to Northern Florida that may not be generalizable to other areas of the count ry. This insight was reinforced by the comments of 2 of the participants duri ng member checks conducted at the completion of the data analysis process of th e project. Adam, for example, commented that teachers in other states might disagree with us, might have differe nt things to say. Donna agreed with Adams assessment, suggesting that the more liberal demographics of her setting, while distinct from the other schools in the survey, might be more emblematic of schools in the Northeast or Pacific Northwest regions: We get a lot of kids who move here from the New York area or from Oregon or something and theyre shocked by how conservative this place can be. Despite the purposeful selection of participants that resulted in a diversity of political, religious and philosophical dispositions, the sample of teachers in this study may well reflect this demographic reality as well. An awareness of the particular characteristics of Duval County, Florida, should thus be noted when reviewing the results of this project. A second limitation involves the setting of the interview sessions for the project. As mentioned in Chapter 3, I conducted all interviews with participants in their classrooms, as a means of creating as naturalistic a setting as possible for the investigation. This understanding sprang from my earlier pilot project, duri ng which I conducted focus group and interview sessions in local cafes and restaurants. During these sessions, it was evident that there were numerous distractions for the participants. Thoug h the classroom settings in the current project proved to less distracting for the participants they may well have also restricted the forthrightness of the teachers statements about th eir experiences with cont roversial material in their schools. One participant, Gina, seemed especi ally nervous about the na ture of the questions during the initial in terview session and had to be convinced about the confidentia l nature of the projects procedures before continuing the session. In the member check session that I

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92 conducted, Gina admitted that, I mi ght have told you more if I wa snt worried constantly about someone walking by in the hall. While I am conv inced that teachers classrooms were the best settings available for this project, I am also fully cognizant of the fact that the pa rticipants in the study might have provided slightly differe nt testimonies under different conditions. Third, the conclusions of this project are somewhat limited by the lack of observational data. In order to pursue a cognitive constructiv ist framework, I restricted my data collection procedures to interview and archival data. This da ta provided me with invaluable insights into these teachers meaning constructio n processes regarding the use of controversial subject matter. However, 2 of the participants noted duri ng follow-up member check interviews that observations of classes might have produced so me different conclusions. Cathy, for example, commented that, you cant really tell whats happening in a teachers classroom unless youre in there. At the same time, Cathy admitted th at this observation process might have had to continue for a lengthy period befo re producing any valuable data that might have added to the understandings reached in this project. Frank conc urred with this view, a dding that, its a shame that we couldnt have planned to have you come out and see a class where some controversy came into it. These participan ts are undoubtedly correct in th ese remarks, and yet I am reasonably satisfied that the data produced during this project is a significant contribution to the scholarship regarding the us e of controversy in the so cial studies. Moreover, it serves as a useful launching pad for further research on the subject. Conclusions While there is a wealth of valuable research that investigates the conceptions of controversy among pre-service soci al studies teachers (Misco & Patterson, 2007) or the best practices in teaching controversy among exempl ary social studies teachers (Hess, 2002), the voices of the millions of veteran social studies practitioners have been missing from these

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93 studies. Yet it is precisely these t eachers who have been surprised to find their rights to academic freedom challenged by a number of sources. This dissertation project was designed in order to elicit the stories of everyday experiences that veteran social studies teachers have had with presenting controversial subjec t matter in the classroom. By exploring the unique narrative patterns of their testimony, it is my hope that this project will be of service to those teachers who are continuing to struggle daily to provide their students with critic al lessons that will help to shape their worldviews. As I delved into the wealth of material on qualitative research practices during this project, I was struck by the conn ection between these res earch methods and the art of driving in a large, crowded urban center. Having lived in the city of Boston for nearly 20 years, I can attest to the daily hurdles that face urban drivers. To my mind, they mirror perfectly the hurdles facing a researcher conducting a qualitative ly-oriented project in the wa y that they demand that the researcher/driver in both cases to be attentive, to scrutini ze new surroundings and to avoid potential hazards in the road. Just as the driver in an urban sp ace must map out a clear and safe path from Point A to Point B, so too must the qualitative researcher develop a clear plan for a project that will progress from initial inquiry to final conclusi ons and development of theory. Just as the urban driver must be on the lookout for pedestrians crossing the road at inopportune moments, so too must the qualitative researcher be aware of potential concerns among his or her subjects. Just as the urban driver must proc eed with caution, so too must the qualitative researcher be sensitive to the subtle changes in environment and adjust to them at a split second. Just as the driver in the urba n space may occasionally come across a serendipitous parking space next to a desired destination, so too will the attentive qualita tive researcher occasionally be rewarded with moments of pure spontaneity a nd creativity among participants. The metaphor of driving in a crowded urban space, thus, has been helpful to me in imagining the contours of

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94 qualitative researching today. In the research pro cess that I describe in the following chapters, it is my intention to use these insights in order to avoid these pitfalls and to take advantage of the potential for rewarding collabora tion with teacher-participants.

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95 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS: CONTROVERSIAL CONTENT IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES TODAY Introduction Controversies abound in public education, as indeed they do throughout many avenues of American culture. This could only be the case in such a complex and diverse society as the United States. As Kammen (2006) commented in his survey of controversie s in the art world of the past century, The ongoing democratization of American culture during the course of several generations has inevitably made cont roversies more likely to occur (p. xi). In other words, the empowerment of previously disenfranchised groups, and in the educational context, this includes students and parents, has incr eased the prevalence of controversy. When it comes to the education of children, the most deeply held be liefs among American citi zens about politics, race relations, religion and morality frequently lead to explosive conflicts. Thes e conflicts are not in and of themselves always negative in charac ter; indeed, the movements that energized the landmark Supreme Court cases involving schools and education such as Brown vs. Board of Education, Tinker vs. Des Moines, and Lau vs. Ni chols show that controversy can lead to important new understandings about the social role of American education that presage such vital reforms as school desegregation, students rights and bilingual education. Numerous recent studies have affirmed the need for the discussion of controversy in the classroom (Barton & Levstik, 2004; Hughes & Sear s, 2007; Parker, 2002). However, the era of neo-liberal reforms that has marked the past 25 years since the initia tive of the landmark 1983 report A Nation at Risk has ushered in a narrow Back to Basics curriculum based on social efficiency ideals that has been intolerant of th e teaching of controversia l issues. The advent of state-mandated testing programs under the Goal s 2000 and No Child Left Behind regimes has only accentuated and exacerbated these trends. Added to this standards-based system instituted

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96 by a corporatist educational lead ership is a qualitatively new a nd complex web of conservative national religious and political lobbying operations, corporate me dia and parents groups. The two wings of this movement, often working in concert with each other in the past decade, have created an agenda of routine and monotony on the one hand and fear and reprisals on the other. As Yeager (2005) noted, this agenda of standard ization has viewed what she has referred to as wise teaching practices, including critical discussion in the social studies, as extraneous at best and positively dangerous at worst. She commented, Teaching in public schools today, in the context of the shell game that is high-stakes te sting, must be completely frustrating: alternately pressured and frenetic, unimaginative and stifling (p. 1). At the same time, though, Americas public sc hool teachers retain a good deal of control and autonomy over the course of events in th eir classrooms. While the age of teachers as captains of their ships, sequestered in their cl assrooms may have gone by the wayside in an age of accountability, classroom practit ioners continue to make key decisions about how to present topics, what materials to use, and how to assess student perf ormance. Thornton (1991) referred to this as the gatekeeping role, in which teach ers make significant decisions over what students in their classes study and learn on a daily, if not hourly, basis. The following chapter details the data derived from a series of interview sessions concerning social studies teachers views of what constitutes controversy in their field today. These conversations reveal a profound sense of ambivalence toward the gatek eeping role; on the one hand it is viewed as a burdensome responsibility without the consequent freedoms normally associated with it, and on the other hand, it is fraught with potential for contentious c onversations inside and outside the educational communities in which they make their daily living.

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97 Teachers and Controversy At the outset of each interview, I asked each teacher-participant to respond to the question of what he or she percei ved as controversial in the fiel d of social studies teaching and learning today. The narratives that emerged from each conversation illustrated the ways in which each teacher views his or her subject matter, re vealing the positionality or identity of each teacher vis-a-vis his or her conten t, as indicated by Bamberg (2004). Adam: Stay Away from Abortion In a narrative that I titled Story A--Stay Away from Abortion, Adam indicated in his narrative structure several uniquely evocative patterns that speak to his view of controversy in the field of social studies. His narrative began, intriguingly, not w ith the traditional abstract, or overview, of the content of the narrative. Rather, he announced spontaneously that, my department head told me to stay away from th em (controversial subjects) It is only when I prompted him that Adam supplied the abstract a nd orientation elements that provided much of the context of the narrative: Adam A-1. The two big topics Ive worried about, well, three, but Ill put the first two together. The first two are homosexuality a nd abortion, which invariably come up in the Government class, especially if youre going to look at, well especially with AP, not so much Honors, especially when you look into ci vil rights and how c ourts operate and how precedents are set because you have a number of decisions that affect those, you know. Adam indicated here that the Honors track survey of American History is likely to produce more opportunities for the discussion of controversial social issues such as homosexuality and abortion than is the Advanced Placement U.S. History survey, in which he is pressured by time to sti ck with the history. Adam commented that the two most potentially controversial topics that might come up in his American Government and U.S. History curriculum are abortion and homosexuality. In the orientation section, Adam commented about the contemporary releva nce of these issues:

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98 Adam A-2. Roe v. Wade is getting kind of old now, I think the last 5 years, we, weve had a lot of abortion cases, we had a lot of ga y rights and marriage, well, not so many gay marriage cases but gay rights cases that are se ttled that people are going to be reading about in textbooks for years to come. Returning to the complicating action at the co re of his narrative, Adam deliberated on the meaning of his departme nt heads directive: Adam A-3. I dont know specifically if she meant dont mention it at all or tread lightly, but I thought, how can I talk about modern government and modern judiciary without discussing these issues? It is revealing that here at the center of the narrative is a dramatic contradiction between the relevance of topics such as abortion and ga y rights and the relative ri sk of introducing them into the class discussion arena. Th e ambiguity of the department h eads directive has an apparent influence on his practice, as he revealed in his evaluation of th e narrative: And I worry a little about addressing them because somebodys gonna comp lain. In the resolution to the narrative-- And so far nobodys complained--the success in Ad ams mind is at least somewhat measured in the lack of controversy provoked among th e school community, and particularly among students and parents, as a conseque nce of his curricular choices. This is perfectly summarized in the coda: And thats kept things calm. In th e end, Adams stance of avoidance as one that provides the relative success of a smooth and peaceful teaching practi ce, even if it is at the risk of sacrificing the discussion of relevant public issues. Cathy: Im an Old Hand Cathy, the most veteran practitioner included in my participant samp le, foreshadowed the delicate position that she takes in the classroom in relation to controversial subject matter at the outset of her narrative. In the abstract to Story A--Raised Catholic, she commented: Cathy A-1 So, sure, Ive got to be conscious of not offending anyone, because Ive got in a typical class, a Southern Baptist kid next to a Hindu kid next to a Pentecostal kid. But at the same time, I tell them from the star t that were going to dig deeply into the doctrines and beliefs of these different faiths so that theyve got to be willing to do that.

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99 In this passage, Cathy indicated that there is an implicit tension between the utilization of controversial content in her lessons and her very reasonable goal of sensitivity toward students of different cultural backgrounds in a diverse set ting. Thus, she operates from a position of being conscious of not offending anyone. In the orie ntation piece that open s the narrative, Cathy described this setting and deepen ed the context of the abstract by speaking to the potentially explosive content on offer in her elective course in World Reli gions. Asked how she stimulates discussion in her classes, Cathy evaluated her methods by speaking about her assessment procedures: Thats simple. I coun t class participation and the stude nts know that from the start. There can be some grumbling but they mainly accept that. Cathy then provided the resolution segment of the narrative: Cathy A-4 I tell them that I was raised Catholic but Im not going to be a priest, even if I could in my church, I wouldnt be one. So Im not going to preach a mass in class, Im not there to convert anyone. Th at happens the first week, if not on the first day of class. And that seems to relax people. In an interesting coda to this piece, Ca thy extended her comments about the appropriate teachers position toward students to include re ference to her lengthy teaching experience: Im an old hand. The younger teachers here feel intim idated. But not me. In other words, Cathy seems to feel that her approach of inoffensiveness is one borne of decades of experience; by extension, those who delve into controversial public issues in their classroom discussions are displaying the navet typical of novice practitioners. These themes of the value of teaching expe rience in terms of demarcating a neutral position in the classroom are further explored in a second narrative, Questioning Slavery, in which Cathy discussed the issues that have emerged from her AP European History course. Again, she was insistent about the need to present controversial i ssues to students, while at the same time maintaining a distance from the material:

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100 Cathy B-1 I dont shy away from any of it. Im not trying to stick it in their faces, but how can you teach European history without de aling with the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation, Columbus, the Holocaust, all of these things that have plenty of debating points to them? Cathy focused the narrative on her unit encomp assing the European slave trade with West Africa, during which she admitted that she witnessed a pattern in which there is one student who questions slavery on a regular basis. She explaine d this complicating action: Cathy B-3 But then there will be some quiet little kid wholl say, Are we sure that this wasnt exaggerated. And theres usually a shocked pause in the class and then pure chaos. Sometimes I have to referee these battle s. I tell them that they have to back up what theyre saying or it wont be allowed in my class, in our discussion pit, thats what I like to call it. The image of the referee here seems an esp ecially apt one for a teacher such as Cathy, who values neutrality above all else. Again Cathy raised the issu e of experience, contrasting her matter-of-fact position toward what her students consider an outrageous outburst. Asked how she handles such incidents in the classroom, she evaluated her methods: Cathy B-4 If they cant produce some evidence, so me empirical evidence, of the truth of what theyre saying, then I dont allow it. It doesnt get an airi ng. I dont allow idle speculation that can hurt people, because we have plenty of Black students in this school and theyre just sitting ther e looking shocked when something like that happens. Im worried about the effect that some accusation or something is going to have on them. Again, it is illuminating that Cathy sees part of her role in the classroom as that of an ersatz ombudsman, clearly establishing the parameters of what constitutes useful inquiry and what amounts to idle speculation that can potentially harm students in a diverse school setting. Asked whether these students with controvers ial viewpoints are able to marshal sufficient evidence to her satisfaction, Cathy commented: Cathy B-5 No, they usually pull something out of thin air that theyve heard from a parent or friend or something, at best its something theyve pulled off the Internet from a white supremacist website.

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101 The result of this intervention then is laid out in a coda section to the narrative: Thats usually the end of it, it shuts them down. And then I can go on with what my agenda is for discussing the issue. In this brief riposte, Cathy clearly distinguished betw een her agenda for the lesson and that of the rogue stude nt presenting a controversial opi nion on a historical issue. She was equally clear about the results of her ac tion: it shuts them dow n. Thus, despite her intentions to maintain a distant and neutral pos ition in the classroom, she betrayed her goal of suppressing potentially damaging discussions. Donna: Church vs. State Donna, one of 2 teachers interviewed who teaches at Riverview Arts Academy (RAA), presented in Story A--Church vs State a narrative that spoke to the reality that challenges to extra-curricular materials can come from both the traditional right as well as from liberal elements, which in the past generation have b ecome more attuned to i ssues of identity and diversity. In the abstract, she noted that as a social studies teacher in an arts academy she is in a distinct minority and that the liberal arts/humanitie s position that is her focus is occasionally at odds with the vocational ar ts-based thrust of the instruction at Riverview. The environment gives RAA a quite different atmosphere to many in th e Jacksonville area, as Donna explained in the orientation segment of the narrative: Donna A-2 Well, you have to understand that this is a different school from the others in the area. You might have a more conservative environment in most schools, particularly in the neighborhood schools where if youre a liberal minded teacher like me you have to be careful to not talk t oo openly about abortion or se x or whatnot. Here, though, the students and even their parents are pretty diverse and much more li beral than in most schools in the area. Its just the ar ts school focus, it changes everything. The complicating action portion of the narra tive then laid out an example of this difference in atmosphere, in which Donna wa s surprised by a student who challenged her

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102 decision to bring in Christmas music to add to the festivities around the da ys before the winter holidays: Donna A-3 So, Ive had kids question choices that wouldnt be a problem in other schools. For example, I had for years brought in a copy of the Elvis Presley Christmas album, you know, with Blue Christmas and I ha d a kid complain that it was Christian music and that I shouldnt be playing it. He was Jewish and I guess I hadnt thought of it. In evaluating her choice of extra-curricular materials, D onna expressed surprise in the students response as she ha d considered the record: A classic that I grew up with and my kids grew up with and it just seemed warm and friendly to have it going in the classroom in those days before the holidays when all the kids are ready to get ou t of school and have fun. In the end, her resolution to the narrative provoked her to think a bout her role in the classroom. As an older teacher, she ruminated on the cultural gulf that has widened over the years between her and her students: Donna A-5 I guess as I get a little older, it seems that I get further away from what these kids are about. They dont listen to my ki nd of music anymore and I sure dont listen to theirs. The vehemence of her final comment indicated in her rising crescendo, I sure dont listen to theirs, shows a distan ce from youth culture that belies he r expressed desire to reach the students in her classes. In the coda, she commente d: So, Ive had to rethink some things. There is sadness to her voice in commenting that perh aps her once close connec tion to her students has been lost over the years. Thus, a position of distance has crept into Donnas practice as a consequence of her understanding of the widening cultural gap between teachers and students. Eric: Republicans and Democrats In a narrative titled Story B--Republicans vs. Democrats, Eric began by critiquing the quality of contemporary journalistic standards. Asked for an exampl e of controvers ial content in the social studies, he provided an abstract in which he envisions that the partisan conflict

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103 between the Republican and Democratic parties will get hotter in the next year. In the orientation section of the narrative, he spoke abou t how he planned to involve students in these issues during the Presidential election campaign: Eric B-2 Ill get the Government kids in fo r the spring semester. Im planning to do some debates with the students. Have them choose candidates and debate different issues from the point of their chosen candidates. These intentions stated clearly, Eric took a moment to mention his own position toward the issues in the classroom: Eric B-3 I make no bones about my own opinions, the students know from day one that Im a Republican, die-hard conser vative, voted for Bush twice, but that doesnt mean that students cant criticize Bush in my classes, and they sure do, and I criticize him too sometimes, I think this administration has been deeply disappointing to conservatives in many ways. Here, Eric seems to open up the possibility of the teacher playing an active role as one voice of many in a spirited, democratic discussion of the issues surrounding the 2008 Presidential campaign. Yet, he quickly followed this up with an evaluation segment that seemed to negate this possibility: Eric B-4 I just try to keep the students focu sed on reasoned opinions I dont let them just shoot from the hip, they have to back up their rants, they cant just take something from the Daily Show and run with it, I want sources. In his evaluation, Eric displayed distrust of popular culture, here exemplified by the fake news humor of The Daily Show When he remarked in the resolu tion to the piece that, I try to make it real in the Government class, he was ag ain drawing a clear distin ction between the level of scholarship he expects in his classroom and what he sees passing as infotainment in the contemporary culture. What this means in effect fo r his students, though, is th at they are not free to voice their opinions with impunity; rather they must have fully footnoted and sourced views if they wish to make cont ributions to the class.

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104 Frank: GSA Frank is the only one of the 7 participant-t eachers whose narratives s poke to the reality of dealing with controversial topics outside of the traditional classroom setti ng. In Story A--GSA, he spoke about his tenure as the faculty sponsor at Riverview Arts Academy (RAA) for the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a nationwide support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students and their st raight friends and supporters. In his abstract, Frank mentioned that this experience stems from the demographics of RAA: Weve got a lot of gay and lesbian students here, probably because of the arts focus, thats the stereotype but theres some truth to that. In the orientation segmen t of the narrative, Frank discus sed how he was approached to sponsor the group: Frank A-2 So, one of the first years I was here, a group of students asked me to sponsor the Gay Straight Alliance chapter here at Riverview. When I was first asked, I didnt have professional status and I was still single so I told them thanks but no thanks. I helped them find someone else to sponsor th em for a few years, to get the group going and I attended some of their events to let them know that I supported what they were doing. In indicating that his decision to decline the st udents offer at first was due to his lack of tenure and marital status, Frank underscored the precariousness of the novice teachers employment status today. In th e complicating action to the narrati ve, he addressed his decision to become a sponsor after a colleagues retirement: By then, Id been married, I had a conversation with my wife about it, and she encouraged me to take it on. Asked why this changed his mind, he briefly referred to the irony of all of these Republican politi cians who are married and turn out gay, but insisted that just having the ring on helps. Interestingly, it appeared that his main concern is not the reaction of parents and students, but rather that of his colleagues: Frank A-3 Oh, this is funny, the first year that we entered a float in the Homecoming parade, I was sitting in the f aculty lounge and there was a list of participating groups that was tacked up on the bulletin boa rd and one of the old guys in the math department said something like, Gay Straight Alliance? Whos the sponsor of that group?

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105 In the evaluation section of the narrative, Fr ank admitted that his role as GSA sponsor has meant handling some delicate ethical issues, such as how to address students who come out to him. Asked whether he felt mandated to report th is to parents, Frank responded that, Im not required as a mandated reporter to inform parents that their kids are gay, so I dont. I leave that up to the students. In the resolution to the piece, then, Frank admitted some concern about parents, but mainly in rega rd to their relationships w ith their sons and daughters: Frank A-5 Anyway, Ive had students who were ac tive in GSA who came out to their parents and their parents forbid them to come to meetings. They still come when they can sneak away or find an excuse to be after school. But Ive never had a parent complain to my face. Theyre probably too embarrassed. In this lengthy narrative, Frank described the risks taken by teachers who take on responsibilities beyond the classr oom that involve tackling cont roversy. With regard to the explosive issue of gay sexuality among teenagers, Franks decision to wait until he received the protection of professional status within his sc hool and the protected status of marriage is perfectly understandable. Yet, ev en here, the implicit message th at he sent the group of students who had initially approached him is that contro versy involves risk and potential embarrassment in front of ones colleagues. Back in the classroom, Frank displayed a si milar prudence. In a s econd narrative, Story B--History as History, Frank bot h recognized the potential for cont roversy in the field--I tread lightly around religious issues, the war, those kinds of issues--and demarcated a position for himself in the classroom. In the abstract to the narrative, he used coded language to explain this approach: I treat history as hist ory. This fascinating constructi on, history as history, is a code redolent of avoidance of controve rsy. In the orientation to th e narrative, Frank placed this position in a practical context:

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106 Frank B-2 Im lucky if I get up to Reagan in a good year. Yeah, thats a good year if I get to 1980. And Im not sure that the students put together the periods like Vietnam and Iraq and Im not sure I want them too. There s a lot of talk about that but its more complicated than that. Yes, Vietnam was a disaster and Iraq is a disaster but theyre really different. And I want students to unde rstand Vietnam for Vietnam, to understand why we got involved and the mistakes that were made there, but not necessarily to extrapolate from that to be against Iraq. I thi nk its conceivable to think that Vietnam was a bad idea and that Iraq is noble, or vice versa. Here, Frank intriguingly turn ed the practical matter known to all public school teachers of curricular time pressure into a blessing in disgui se. As Franks survey of American history is unlikely to reach contemporary topics, which in hi s mind are more fraught with political tension and controversy, students are able to focus their minds on looking at issues in historical context without the temptation of making historical parall els. In the complicating action of the narrative, Frank used an example of a lesson from a unit on World War I to illu strate this method. He centered his students minds on the practical c onsequences of diplomatic efforts such as President Woodrow Wilsons Fourte en Point Plan. Frank was refr eshingly candid in reflecting on and evaluating his own pedagogical style: Frank B-4 Like I say, Im pretty traditional when it comes to teaching style, I lecture very much like my high school history teac her Mr. Evans did. I remember looking at what he did and I wanted to be like him, to be able to l ecture with authority and have students hang on my words like they did for hi m. He was awesome. So, when I lecture, Im trying to help students to see how the decisions made by leaders have consequences, so we spend a lot of time with graphic organi zers looking at the roots of conflicts and the consequences of particular decisions. This comment reinforced the voluminous research that suggests that many social studies teachers merely replicate the teaching patterns th at they themselves witnessed in their own schooling. The position that emerged from the narrative, then, is that a narrow focus on historical inquiry as a means of a voiding potential points of c ontroversy in instruction.

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107 Gina: Social Studies is a Minefield In contrast to the approach that emerged from the narrative structure contained in Franks stories, Gina viewed it as inevitable that contr oversy will be part of social studies instruction. This perspective is highlighted in the abstract to Story A--Socia l Studies is a Minefield. Asked what is controversial in the field, Gina responded candidly: Gina A-1 Sure, well, what isnt? I mean, I dont start out expecting to do controversial work every day, I dont want to get fired, but social studies is a minefield, right? This metaphor appeared especially appropriate in Ginas specific setting of Orange Park College Preparation School, which she described in the orientation segment of the narrative as a school in which parents can be re ally intense, I guess is the right word, concerned. As did Eric, Gina laid much of the blame for this intense atmosphere at the feet of the media. In the complicating action section of th e narrative, Gina claimed that parents are often provoked into action against specific teachers and schools they might otherwise trust because of the salacious coverage of such incide nts in the local media: Gina A-3. And it seems as if people are easily set off these days anyway, you see that every day on TV and in the papers, there ar e always people willing to complain and get upset about things. In an interesting structural element, Gina then provided a coda that expressed her view that the climate in education has changed signifi cantly during her time of service: I know I sound old talking like this, but I really think that things have changed. This was then followed by an evaluation segment in which Gina transitioned from her critique of the media into a lament about the overly litigious nature of contemporary American society: Gina A-4. And its not just the peop le here in Jacksonville, its everywhere. I mean, you constantly see in the Florida Times Union where someone is suing someone else for wrecking their coat in the dry cleaners or so me such. I mean, whats that all about?

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108 This complaint about the changing nature of education, in which teachers are caught in a bind between the increasing pressures placed on them from on high by an unseen educational bureaucracy and parents who are viewed as customers of educational services, emerged from many of these conversations. Asked to comment on whether this heightened sensitivity exists among her students, Gina provided a further narr ative, Story B--Going, Gone, Gonzo. In the orientation segment that begins the narrative, Gina reminisced about an inci dent that occurred in the spring of 2007 during the scandal involving the fi ring of several U.S. attorneys by the Justice Department led by former Attorney General Albert o Gonzalez. She then detailed the incident in the complicating action of the narrative: Gina B-3 I have this bulletin board in the classr oom and I try to change the items pretty frequently to keep the kids interested. So I have a lot of current ev ents topics and extra credit questions on there. Most of the time the students dont notice but I try. So one of the things I do is cut out pictures and head lines from magazines and newspapers to go along with the current events issues. So I f ound this headline with a picture of Gonzalez and it said something like Going, Gone, Gonzo or something like that. I think it was from Newsweek because I have a subscription that co mes to the school and I put it up and something like the next day, a student w ho usually is barely awake asked a question, Why is that there? Gina described a feeling of being caught off guard in respons e to the students query. In the evaluation of the narrative, Gina commented defensively: Well, I thought it was ideal for my Law Studies class. Anyway, I thought it was funny . Interestingly, just as Gina was preparing this defense, she noted in the resolutio n segment of the narrative that the student was far from serious in raising the issue: Gina B-5 And I geared up for a big fight with him about my right to bring items in from home and trying to enrich the curriculum and blah de blah blah, but then he just smiled, kind of like Gotcha! Finally, Gina provided the ab stract to the narrative at the end of the story: Gina B-1 Thats funny, because they complain but a lot of times its just to see if they can get a reaction from me, get me to say Come on! Thats almost my catch-phrase. Come on!

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109 This final exhortation, repeated tw ice indicated Ginas level of fr ustration with regard to these interactions with students and their parents. Conclusions The narratives that emerged from these interviews illustrate that the experiences that social studies teachers at the secondary level ha ve had, and, more importantly, the meanings that they have constructed from these experiences with teaching controversy have led to the development of a variety of very individual positi ons toward their roles as teachers. These begin with their own organic conceptions of what c onstitutes controversy within the school and wider community. All 7 teacher-participants interviewed we re able to readily detail these experiences and to make meaning from them, as expressed in fascinating narrative structures. As Adam recalled, conversations with veteran colleagues had an important role to play in developing his approach as a novice teacher. My department head told me to stay away from them (controversial subjects). As researchers have suggested (Apple, 2001; Barton & Levstik, 2004; Grant, 2005), pre-service and novice practitioners are often given the advice from veteran teachers to leave behind the idealism and theoreti cal understandings that they gained from their teacher training experiences. What is particularly fascinating in these conversations is that these pieces of advice, offered to them early in their car eers, are internalized to the point at which they are still extremely vivid in their memories many decades later. All of the teacher-participants were equally able to recall immediately experiences in which their curricular de cisions were challenged. These conf licts ranged in severity from relatively mild and innocuous incidents, such as the mock indignation expressed by a student in response to Ginas posting of the headline rela ting to Alberto Gonzalez, to more serious censorious incidents. The profusion of these incidents leads all of the teachers interviewed to be

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110 cautious, however; in the words of Donna, You have to be careful not to talk too openly about abortion or sex or whatnot. While each teacher has negotiated his or her own position toward controversial subject matter, these encounter s seem to have provoked common responses of either avoidance of a distant neutrality. Finally, all of the participants spoke eloque ntly about the social pressures placed upon them by the educational community, by the studen ts, parents, and even the colleagues with which they work side by side in terms of thei r responses to their experiences in the classroom. Franks memory of the faculty lounge incident in which one of the old guys in the math department said something like, Gay Straight A lliance? Whos the sponsor of that group? is a testament to these kinds of pressures and how they relate to the decisions to take on risks in their teaching practices in and out of the classroom. It also testifies to the ne ed for teachers entering a new school to build alliances with like minded colleagues. In the next chapter, I analyze the curricula r materials selected by my teacher-participants to represent their teaching of controversial public issues. I th en look at the narratives that emerged from our conversations about the lessons contained within thes e curricular materials.

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111 CHAPTER 5 FINDINGS: TEACHERS EXPERIENCES WITH CONTROVERSY Introduction The issue of teachers positions toward subject matter is a central concern in teaching and learning practices in the social studies today. Yet, c onstructivism as a paradigm, and those who conduct research within it, explic itly reject th e idea that knowledge is impartial. Indeed, as Kincheloe (2005) pointed out, this is precisely what distinguishes constructivism from more traditional, positivistic ways of knowing. He commented that, An epistemology of constructivism has maintained that nothing represents a neutral perspective, in the process shaking the epistemological f oundations of modernist Cartesia n grand narratives. Indeed, no truly objective way of seeing exists (p. 8). In the constructive worldview, different individuals in the educational community, whether they be teachers, students, administrators parents, or those in the wider community, will view the subject matter of a social studies classr oom in a variety of ways. Kincheloe (2005) used the analogy of a sports event to imagine how a German bank teller, an Igbo tribes person, a Texas rancher and a woman from a small village in China close to the Mongolian border might describe a major league baseball game (p. 9). When posed in th is clear-cut manner, it should be apparent that an approach the privileges multiple perspectives--what in constructivist literature is referred to as bricolage--is the most appropriate one, especi ally in todays diverse classroom. However, the history of American schoo ling has not followed this pattern. As I mentioned in my review of the literature, edu cators throughout the history of American schools have viewed the social studies curriculum th rough the lenses of the dominant imperatives of schooling of the day. For example, colonial educators saw schooling and its curriculum as a means of perpetuating the values, often religious, of the Old World of Europe in the New World

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112 of the colonies. For revolutionary figures, such as Thomas Jefferson and Noah Webster, the role of schools was to unite a fragile republic by means of a transmi ssion of patriotic virtues into passive Republican machines. Nineteenth centu ry common school reformers such as Horace Mann and Catherine Beecher utilized the curriculum in order to instill the liberal values of middle-class Protestantism in a massive wave of immigrant families and their children, whom reformers found lacking in their sense of work et hic. In all of these cases, the assumptions underscoring these efforts were that the curric ula were impartial; however, underneath this facade of neutrality, the imperatives of those who possessed social capital were able to dictate the terms of what the cultural capital offered in the classroom (Rury, 2005). In the following chapter, I explore the vi ews of 7 social studies teachers currently teaching in the Jacksonville, Florida area, as they consider their positions toward the content material on offer in their classrooms. Curricular Choices At the initial interview session, I asked the 7 teacher-participants to bring some work products from their teaching practic e, including one sample course syllabus and one sample plan for a lesson that they perceived as controversial. During these interviews, I asked them to speak to the potentially controversial elements of thes e materials. The narratives that emerged from these conversations illustrate the individual re sponses to the myriad challenges and pressures facing secondary social studies teachers today. Moreover, my analysis of these narratives, informed by Bambergs (2004) positionality thesis, points toward the very personal positions taken by these individuals toward the use of controvers ial subject matter. These positions are the subject of Chapter 6.

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113 Adam: Cut and Paste Job In a narrative titled Story B--Cut and Paste Job, Adam candidly addressed the process surrounding the creation of the sylla bus for his course in American Government at Orange Park College Preparation School (OPCPS). In a reveal ing narrative gambit, Adam began, not with an abstract or overview of the narr ative, but rather by orienting the narrative in the context of curricular time pressures. He first described the decision to present the syllabus for the Government course rather than that for his A dvanced Placement U.S. History course, which he referred to as, restricted by the needs of the AP and the College Board. Adam elaborated on the pressures placed on him by the testing regimen at his school: Adam B-2. But mostly its that over the past few years, as you probably found, weve lost a lot of time to testing. We now have a pre-test at the begi nning of the year, and a post-test at the end of the year. And thats in addition to PSAT if you teach ninth grade and AP tests and IB tests and its just endle ss. So weve lost time for regular instruction and Ive had to adjust so that I get through as much material as possible. Its tough and I have to admit that I dont get to as much as I used to. Just cant. This dilemma involving coverage of material in an era of mandated testing is a common one for secondary social studi es teachers and Adams unique narrative structure indicates a rationale for a programmatic tre nd in his instruction practices. Once this rationale had been provided, Adam returned to the abstract of th e narrative in which he indicated that, To be honest, since Ive been doing this fo r a long time, its usually kind of a cut and paste job from the previous years material. In other words, Adam begins his preparation of the next years course from the shell of the previous years instruction and adds ve ry little to it. Adam further questioned the need to provide fresh material for each year of instruction by describing his old school teaching style: Adam B-4. Im kind of old school, I guess even though I dont like to think of myself as a dinosaur or anything but I do mostly direct instruction or lecture or whatever you want to call it because that seems to give students the structure that they need. In fact, when I

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114 try to do more group stuff, they complain, especially the AP students. They just want content that they can use for the test. It is noticeable that when speaking of the general course design, Adam couched his choices in terms of the needs of the institution; when discussing his own pedagogical choices, however, he reflected on the need s and preferences of his studen ts. He further contrasted the profiles of his Advanced Placement (AP) students, whom he viewed as more concerned about learning content for the cumulative AP examinati on, and his Government students, who might be more open to more experimental methods: Adam B-5. Well, theyre more in tune with doing group work but still its not really my style. I might do more experi mental stuff with them but not as much as you might or others might do. It is only in this resolution section that Adam referred to his own preferences, expressing that cooperative methods are not my style. This sublimation of ones own needs and psychic rewards in the educational process is typical of the secondary social studies teachers position toward the social studies curriculum today. Adam perfectly exemplified the common notion of adapting to the imperatives of the domin ant power structure within schooling. Ben: Renaissance to Modern Ben echoed Adams concerns about the n eed to conform to curriculum frameworks structures when designing his World History surv ey. In Story C--Renaissance to Modern, Ben employed a similar narrative structure to addr ess the content coverage issues involved in teaching a traditional survey covering the total ity of human history from Ancient Mesopotamia to the contemporary world: Ben C-2 Some schools have gone to a system in which theyre doing Ancient and Classical Civilizations in the middle grades and then letting us start with the fall of Rome. That helps. Ideally, we should be doing Rena issance to Modern, dont you think? Well, as you can see here, Im spending the first half of the year--almost 18 weeks--just getting up through the Middle Ages. That means that its a constant struggle to get to the end of the survey.

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115 In this orientation segment, Ben admitted that in teaching this unwieldy World History survey, a lot gets left out and that, for most teachers that means that anything beyond Western Europe and the United States gets tossed out--La tin America, Asia, Africa most of all because most teachers have been trained on European hist ory and they feel comfortable with that. In other words, the pressures of the traditional survey have cr eated an unfortunate dynamic in which students and future teachers are trained in th e context of a Eurocentric historical focus that excludes the stories of non-Europeans. Once Ben had laid out the context for his curricular decisions, he discussed the possibilities for teach ing the traditional survey in more inventive ways. Asked if he had ever attempted to teach half of the survey rather than trying to cover the totality of human history, Ben admitted: Ben C-1 Well, I tried that one year--and this wa s before the End of Course exams came in. So, one year I got it into my head that Id just start with the Renaissance and move forward from there. After all, Ive had frie nds who taught the survey backwards, so what I was doing wasnt that radical. I was just assuming that the middle school teachers were doing their jobs, which I think they are for the most part. In his evaluation of this method, Ben extoll ed the virtues of this abbreviated survey: I immediately noticed that I had the freedom to do units on the Ottoman Empire that I hadnt been able to do before, and I could get further in the survey. I ended up with a unit on contemporary conflicts in the 90s that year. It was amazing. Yet, despite these advantages, there is a compli cating factor created by the institutional demands of the school. In this section of the narrative, Ben described a s ituation in which a new student was introduced to his class: Ben C-3 But the problem is that I had some students who switched from another class into another. I get this kid in my class and of course, hes been doing the Hellenistic Period with his other class a nd were already doing the Scie ntific Revolution, some few thousand years later. I tried my best to cat ch him up but it was hard for him. So, I got called in for that. Ben further elaborated on this theme in the resolution to the narrative, describing the events of a meeting with the vice principal, department chair a nd the parents involved: Well, I

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116 agreed to meet with the student twice a week after school to catch him up and I had to agree to some accommodations around testing and grading. I didnt mind that. While Ben concluded that this was a fair compromise, he affirmed his intent ion to try to avoid this kind of situation in the future by making sure to not do that again. Im back to doing the straight survey. The coda of the piece then related the lesson that Ben learned from this incident: Ben C-6 Youre dead meat if you dont keep up with the pace of the survey and whats covered on the test. Theyve gotten to the poi nt where they look at each question and do a statistical review of each t eachers performance on those items. So, if I say skipped teaching about the Byzantines and all my st udents failed those items, theyd know for sure. At the end of his narrative, ther efore, Ben had resolved to drop his experimentation with the traditional historical survey, which he had f ound useful in freeing time for more topics and covering more contemporary issues, because of the curricular pressures attached to teaching World History. Cathy: The Seven Years War is Still the Seven Years War Cathy, the most veteran teacher among the pa rticipants, began her narrative with an apology for the stale quality of the syllabus fo r her Advanced Placement European History course. In Story C--The Seven Years War is Still the Seven Years War, Cathy allowed that, Ive been doing it all th e time that Ive been here and longe r in other schools, so its (the syllabus is) pretty dusty. In the complicating action portion of the narra tive, Cathy contrasted her approach with that of a junior colleague, w ho had adopted the dramatic practice of destroying all of her materials at the end of the school year in an effort to prevent boredom and intellectual atrophy: Cathy C-3 I used to have a close friend who ta ught here a few years back who had a ritual in which she literally burned her notes from the previous year on the last day of school. She made a big deal about too. Shed in vite friends like me over for a barbecue and shed throw the notes on the grill. And then shed spend most of the summer putting the course together, and she did APUSH, so I dont know how she did it.

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117 While she clearly admired her friends pa ssion and devotion to teaching something new and fresh every year, Cathy distinguished between her friends practice an d that of her own. In the orientation section of the narra tive, she rationalized that the hi storical topics that form the core of her curriculum dont chan ge: History hasnt changed, th e Seven Years War is still the Seven Years War, right? Cathy in this brie f telling quip acknowledged an approach toward history in which one dominant perspective on an event is superior to more novel approaches. She expanded on this flippant remark in her evaluation: Cathy C-4 I probably teach it the way that I wa s taught it years ago. Again, the topics havent changed much and I resist the revi sionist stances that have become popular. Some of the younger colleagues here are bri nging in some postmodernist concepts in their teaching--multiple perspectives and th e like--and I raise an eyebrow at that in meetings. In a dramatic shift in the narrative, Cat hy resolved the narrative by referring to her impending retirement: Im going to retire at th e end of next year and everyone knows that my reign is almost over. Sensing this shift, she immediately added some dark humor in the form of a coda to the piece: Cathy C-6 Theyll say, The Queen is dead at the end of next year and a new department chair will be nominated. Whoeve r is unlucky enough to get the job has my sympathy. The darkly comic tone that pervaded many of Cathys comments throughout this narrative belie her obvious seriousn ess of intent with regard to her craft. This humor provides Cathy with a means of anticipat ing her retirement at a period of her career when she undoubtedly feels the social pressure of supervising a nd working alongside younger colleagues who bring to the school new and adventurous ideas with which she may disapprove. Donna: They Need Structure While Cathys tone and decision-making pro cess was very personal, Donna organized her narrative concerning her World Hi story curriculum, Story B--T hey Need Structure, around her

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118 perceptions of the needs of her students. She adm itted in the abstract of the narrative that the document that she had brought to the session was not a syllabus in th e traditional sense: Donna B-1 Well, I dont know if you would call it a syllabus, not at l east what theyll get at college level as much, I guess, its what you might, I d ont know, its really just a list of rules and require ments for the course. She immediately provided a justification fo r this unusual choice by explaining the context of her school and student population. She commented in the orientation sec tion of the narrative: Donna B-2 I find that since most of my st udents think of World History as a requirement, not as something that they love, not as something that they have a passion for like drawing or painting or singing, that I have to lay down the law on the first day about whats expected of them. I give them this big lecture about how few students will actually end up working in the arts, and I have statistics to prove it. They need to know these things. It is striking in these comments that Donna s interpretation of the context of Riverside Arts Academy as a school that prepares students to have what she considers unreasonable career expectations leads her toward a more conservative teaching stance and practic e. She clarified this position by stating that, Of course, we would like to be able to sing or write poetry for the rest of our lives, thats a given, but we have to be pr actical about these matters. They may have to fall back on their academics. In her calculus, most of her students will fail in their desired career in the arts and will thus have to fall back on the knowledge and academic structure that she hopes to provide them in her course. She expanded on th is theme in the complicating action segment of the narrative: Donna B-3 And if theyre going to go to college they need to fulfill the requirements of college admissions, theyll need four years of the core subjects. The arts faculty need to inspire them to be creative for the rest of their lives even if they end up as accountants, but my job is more bread and butter. The phrase bread and butter is redolent of a vocational educational project and yet, in Donnas estimation, she is passing on the founda tional knowledge and skills of a liberal arts curriculum. In the evaluation segment, Donna addr essed the need for her list of somewhat arcane

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119 and pedantic rules--the need for a three ring binder and colle ge-ruled paper, for example--by describing her arts students: A lot of these kids just walk around in a kind of cloud all day long, theyre up there and I need to br ing them back down to earth. Asked if she encountered any resistance to these rules and re gulations in her classroom, Donna provided the resolution to the piece: Donna B-5 I dont take a lot of guff about it, either they do it my way or theres going to be trouble, I tell them that. My way or el se, because if you start getting into arguments and accommodations with these kids theyll run away with you. In the end, the tone of Donnas narra tive--They Need Structure--suggested her justification for her tough lov e approach and toward a group of students for whom she cares deeply and yet considers incapable of developi ng meaning for themselves without the aid of a structured academic program. Eric: It Gets Very Vocational When asked to provide a syllabus for this proj ect, Eric elected to present a syllabus that he had created for his elective course in Economics. Like most of the participants, Eric began his discussion by outlining his reasoning for organizing th e course in the way that he has chosen. In his orientation section to Story C--It Gets Very Vocational, Eric explained his preference for using experiential, project-based lessons: Eric C-2. I like to think that students learn mo re from rolling up their sleeves and wading in the material. Sure, I can lecture about how Wall Street works and I do as a way to prepare them for the game, but its through buying and selling stocks and checking their values every day in the paper and competing wi th each other that they get a sense of the system and how it works. I do a lot of project based stuff. I do the standard stock market game in the second half of the course. When asked whether he had considered more practical exercises in household finance that might relate to more students than does a stock market game, Eric demurred, explaining in a statement that forms the abstract for the narrativ e that those exercises might be more suitable for

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120 a more vocational course such as Business Math for lower-level students: I do some of that, but it gets very vocational. In the complicating action segment of the na rrative, he related an experience that led him toward his curre nt thinking about the Economics course: Eric C-3 The first job that I had in Delaware, I got tossed an upper le vel elective course like this one in economics and I started out with a course outline that had a lot of activities like the ones that you talked about, dealing with a household budget. checkbook management, and so on, and I ran it by the de partment head and you know what he said? He looked at the project work and he said, Thats what we do in Business Math. In other words, that was something for the dumb kids. In his evaluation of the narrative, Eric sugge sted that he had internalized the message communicated by the department head and th e school community in Delaware about the contradiction between practical-based lessons and high academic standards: It was all about tracking for sure and what the kids were supposed to need, at least in terms of the way that the school defined that. His choice of the conditional phrase at least in terms of indicates a certain level of discomfort with school policy evident in his first teachi ng job, and yet at the same time, Erics current syllabus suggest s that he has made his peace with the dichotomy between the vocational and the academic curriculum. Gina: Sociology In discussing her curricular choices for her elective course in So ciology in her narrative Story D--Sociology, Gina employed a striking narrative pattern that be gan with the resolution to the narrative: The problem is that some of the kids, no, most of the kids are pretty provincial so they immediately gravitate toward something th at fits in with their ethnicity because thats easy to do. Asked to explain this comment, she st ated that the requireme nts of the course are fairly flexible because no one really looks at the materials that we use to teach the elective courses, they just kind of give us a textbook a nd let us go. In the orientation section of the narrative, she expanded on her views a bout student-driven course work:

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121 Gina D-2. If the group is particularly interested in youth culture or the family or law and order, then we go with that. As long as I c over my two big units in the term then Im happy with that. At the same time, she argued that it is the closed and narrow perspe ctives of her students that restrict her options. She de scribed this point in an extended commentary that provided the complicating action of the narrative: Gina D-3. I had a group that investigated whet her there was an image among students that male cheerleaders are gay. That was intere sting. But most are the usual axes the kids have to grind about school policy. One year the administration had decided to go against school tradition and award the Spirit Stick--it s this dumb thing that they have for pep rallies--to the junior rather than the senior class. Well, the seniors were irate and several did their projects on that. So it varies. This statement seemed to contradict the th emes throughout Ginas various narratives that stress student-centered learning a nd innovative teaching practices. It is clear from this statement that Gina put a higher value on issues that she finds important--for example, gay sexuality--and disparaged issues that she finds relatively trivia l that are merely axes the kids have grind about school policy. This statement ignored the understa nding that those issues closest to students lives can often be the ones that motivate student action that can inform a life-long practice of community engagement and activism. Controversial Lessons As discussed in the last chapter, teachers conceptions of contr oversial teaching within the social studies varied widel y. These viewpoints are informed by a variety of elements, such as individual political ideas, educational background, content knowledge, an d the context of the school community. These elements can be seen in the choices that teachers make about the daily lessons that they present to groups of students. At the culmination of the first set of interviews, I asked each teacher-participant to discuss a sample lesson that they conceived of as potentially controversial. The narratives that emerged from these conversations are fascinating in the way that they illustrate the individual positions that these teachers have de veloped toward social

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122 studies curricula, and especially toward the controversial content areas, over their many years of service. Adam: The Bell Curve In his narrative Story C--The Bell Curve, Adam described a lesson that he built around a suggestion made by Herrnstein and Murray (1994) in The Bell Curve a book that led to furious scholarly exchanges (Fraser, 1995; Jacoby & Glauberman, 1995; Kincheloe, Steinberg, & Glesson, 1996) surrounding the authors claims that American class st ructure represented a natural meritocracy based on intelligence and consequent career success or failure. In the orientation section of the narrative, Adam addressed the controversial nature of the lesson: Adam C-2. Well, you said controversial and that book was hot. Its cooled off now, in fact I dont think anyone even remembers it, de finitely the kids I work with have never read it, never heard of it, for sure. Asked to describe the design of the lesson, Ad am detailed how he took the basic kernel of an idea from Herrnstein and Murra y and built it into a lesson: Adam C-2. What I did was to create a workshee t that had the basic set-up on top. They (Herrnstein and Murray) start the first chapte r by asking readers to think of their twelve closest friends. In the book, they wanted pe ople to list the educational achievement of friends and they do that to talk about their idea of a cognitive elite. Well, so after we read and discussed this short piece here, then I had them list their friends names and then I had them sort them by a num ber of different categories. Adam continued the orientation section of the narrative by addressing how his students status within the prestigious In ternational Baccalaureate magnet program at Orange Park College Preparation School--a cogn itive elite within the sc hool--and the relative diversity of the group made the lesson even more explosive. Adam C-2. They all are in high school but I wanted to find out how many had close friends in other schools, how many had close friends in the IB track vs. the Honors track--this was an IB heavy class on Government, so most of them associated with other IB kids because they travel together all day long and theyr e all smart kids that their parents probably approve of. Then I had them categorize by age, gender, all sorts of other sociological categories including race.

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123 At this point in the narrative, Adam admitte d that he purposely designed the lesson for its maximum effect on students, who rewarded him for his efforts when the situation in his classroom blew up. In the complicating action se gment of the narrative, Adam described the reaction of his students to the assignment: Adam C-3. So the first kid who notices it says, Hey, you cant ask us that! And I said, Why not? So that started a whole discussi on the basic point of which was whether or not even asking questions about race was raci st. I was pretty ast onished. I guess I knew I might be treading in deep waters, but I assumed it would be because some parent would be familiar with the book. Here, Adam expressed surprise not in that the lesson was pe rceived as controversial, but rather by the direction of the challenge. He interpreted his students reactio n to the assignment as one of avoidance: It was just that the whole class wanted to ignore the issue of race because they think theyre color blind in this generation, that it doesn t matter any more. When asked if he revisited the topic with a nother lesson design, Adam provided the resolution to the narrative: Adam C-5. Yeah, but the discussion ha d really skewed it because then I dont think I got honest answers. And what I got was a kind of rosy colored view of everything, everyone is friends with each other and there are no problems, no divisions at all, you know. And thats just not the truth. In evaluating the incident, Adam admitted that he did not achieve the objectives that he had had for the lesson--to encourage students to sp eak truthfully and cand idly about issues of race and class from a place of intimate knowledge --but he assigned blame on the students for not being open to explore the basis of their friendships rather than exploring the issues that were raised by the design of the lesson itself. Asked if he would re visit the lesson, Adam supplied a somber coda to the piece: Adam C-6. I did the same lesson for two classes that day and it was pretty much the same story in both and I went home that nigh t and I was still really tensed up from the whole thing and I thought I dont need this, I don t need to come from school and not be able to sleep because of some stupid lesson, jackass.

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124 With some reframing and fine-tuning, Adam s lesson might well be successful in the future; yet, the experience of having his le sson called into question by his students, and particularly the shocking accusation made agains t him of racism, had clearly chastened Adam from approaching the same lesson, or perhaps the topics at the h eart of the lesson, ever again. Ben: Student Skit Ben continued this theme of student resistan ce to lessons in his narrative Story D-Student Skit. In the abstract to the narrative, Ben explained his pref erence for using studentcentered activities in his classroom instruction: Ive tried to include more student-centered exercises over the years, so one of the ways th at Ive included students more is through skits. Asked about the source of the skits, Ben provided the orientation to the narrative: Ben D-2 Theyre skits Ive written. Its kind of a side thing. Im kind of a frustrated playwright or screenwriter. So, its a combin ation of things. Sometimes I use some parts of existing documents; sometimes its all me. I try to take on a period and create something thats going to characterize it. From this seemingly sensible lesson plan that might appear in the agenda books of social studies teachers across the county, Ben dives into th e controversy with the t opics that he selects for his skits. By selecting topics that will raise awareness of cri tical issues and then expecting that students will play an organic role in acting out these issues in front of a group of their peers, he accentuates the contentious nature of the lesson. Not surprisingly, Ben was then able to relate a story about a student who had resisted the sk it lesson plan in the complicating action segment of the narrative: Ben D-3 I had one that was loosely based on the Amistad incident and a Black kid, actually maybe more than just one over the years, but definitely I remember one kid who just refused to even be in the room for it. Sh e said, my mom just says that I shouldnt be around when you folks are talking slavery or something like that. I was totally flummoxed. Id never had to deal with that.

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125 As with the students in Adams narrative about the lesson surrounding The Bell Curve the issue of race was the trigger to the conflict in the classroom, and in both cases, the students involved in the incident objected to their mere exposure to the i ssue. In his evaluation of the narrative, Ben reflected on his efforts to re duce the possibility of student resistance: Ben D-4 Im pretty careful there. I dont require all of the group members to act. They can do the background work, write the paper, I just control who does what. I have to do that because otherwise I hear about it. There are so ma ny kids on IEPs and special accommodations these days, that I dont dare require them to do something that might take some effort, right? I cover my butt at all times. While Ben felt that he took proper precautions to cover his butt--so common an expression in faculty lounges today that it is often shortened to th e acronym C.Y.B. for convenience--he still expressed co ncern about the future use of his skits in the coda to the narrative: It is a worry, though. Whether treated in a historical or contemporary context, the issue of race is so raw in the American body po litic today that teachers who attempt to raise critical awareness of the reality of race in American society run the risk of engendering student resistance. Cathy: World Religions Journal Cathy reflected similar concerns about the in clusion of religious i ssues in her classroom instruction in her narrative Story D--World Religions Journal. However, while Adam and Ben have the opportunity to avoid the delicate issue of race in their c ourses, religious issues are, by definition, the core of her electiv e course in World Religions at Orange Park College Preparation School. In the abstract to her narrative, Cathy de scribed one of her efforts to encourage students to reflect on their religio us worldviews: Well, in my Religi ons classes, Ive for a long time done weekend journals, you know, reflective journals. I guess thats pretty inno vative, right? Cathys narrative structure was significantly different from those of Adam and Ben in that it was imbued with controversy and student resistance from beginning to end. In her orientation to the narrative,

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126 she explained that the journal is a strategy calculated to elic it candid responses from students who are more taciturn in the classroom setting: Cathy D-2 There are some students who just won t discuss the issues in class but you get them at home and they write up a storm and then Ill take a piece or two and either have them read them in class or Ill read them out anonymously and well wrangle over their ideas that way. Though she has had some significant success with this approach, Cathy nonetheless expressed frustration with her students inability to deal honestly with the issues at the center of the course: Cathy D-2 There are occasionally some topics that they will challenge, or some will challenge, for example, if I ask them to c onsider reincarnation, so me will say, I dont believe in that. Its not Christian. And Ill sa y, I know it isnt, but remember what I said on the first day of class--were here to talk about ideas, even ideas you dont like. Its fair game for them. Cathy related in the complicating action sec tion of the narrative that the students will often specify on their written work: Do not r ead this! Its usually in block letters and underlined. She continued this thought by describi ng one incident in partic ular that challenged her objectives in using j ournaling with students: Cathy D-3 I suppose the issue that Ive had the most heat on recently is that I gave them a question about Christianity, well about Judaism, I suppose, it was about the Book of Genesis and the story of Adams Rib. It wa s, lets see, something like Discuss the gender stereotypes involved in the story of Adams Rib. Asked about the student response, Cathy commente d, Lets see, I dont want to write about that, Thats a stupid question. That kind of thing. At the same time, Cathy did admit some successes with individual students: Cathy D-3 I had this student, this little girl, but she wrote this beautif ul journal entry for me on Adams Rib where she essentially said that her faith had saved her and she didnt want any misgivings about one element of the Bible to destroy that. It was very emotional for her, she admitted that she took the Bible literally, believed that every word was the literal word of God as she said it and she didnt want to think of it as sexist, even though she came close to saying that it indeed was. And she quoted an Alexander Pope poem, as I remember, that was a lovely touch. And I just wrote on her paper that she

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127 might come to understand that the Bible is a historical docum ent and reflects the beliefs of those who wrote it. This statement underscores an exemplary ap proach toward nudging her students forward in their understandings of historical document s and connecting them to their contemporary views. In her evaluation segment, Cathy reflected on these successes: Cathy D-4 The responses to all of those questio ns were pretty good though, I have to say. They complain but most of them come through in the end with something interesting, just so I know that theyre still out there thinking. Cathy stated that this tendency for the mo st interesting journaling emanating from those students who are most recalcitrant in attempting thes e assignments is especially true of the girls in her class: its the ones who dont speak up in class, usually girls, who have the most interesting things to say in their journals, so Ill write on their papers--I always respond to them . In the end, Cathy was more sanguine in he r reflections than were Adam and Ben, perhaps reflecting the wisdom of her many years of expe rience in the classroom. Asked whether she was able to coax the student at the center of her narrative to speak more in class, she provided an equivocal resolution statement: Cathy D-5 I couldnt pry anything else out of he r on the subject, even though I read her piece out in front of the class. Even the Pope which I loved. But nothing. She just sat at the back of the class with a slightly annoyed look on her face. Despite this student response, which is fam iliar to any high school social studies teacher, it is clear from the tenor of her comments that Cathy will continue to use journaling, including on controversial topics, in her cl assroom practice in the future. Donna: The Jena Six Donna continued this theme of teachers being caught off guard by student responses to lessons, particularly those relate d to controversial contemporary i ssues, in her narrative Story C-The Jena Six. In the abstract to the narrative, Donna discusse d her reasoning for choosing to

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128 introduce the case of six African Americans from Jena, Louisiana who were arrested after a physical altercation that stem med from their reaction to a noose having been hung on a tree overlooking a popular seating area on the high school campus. Donna reported that, One thing I did recently was to bring in an article about th e Jena Six case for my Government class. In the orientation section of the narrativ e, she explained how the choice of material affected an already tense situation in her classroom: Donna C-2 I brought in an article that I found in Rolling Stone magazine. Some kids, mainly the music kids read it and Ive always found that the political articles are pretty good, theres usually at least one big investigative piece and that was true of this one. It was about four or five pages long, pretty dens e. I should have given them more time with it. But I brought in copies for discussion a nd I broke them up into groups, like a Jigsaw, to discuss different parts of the article. In this statement, Donna exhibited the ability to reflect on the natu re of her preparation and design of the lesson and concluded that more scaffolding might have helped her students--I should have given them more time with it (the article). During the c ourse of the group work section of the lesson, a furious reaction to the article erupted in the classroom. As Donna described it: I was just monito ring the work as usual and it just exploded with noise. Donna continued in the complicating action segment of the narrative to deta il her response to the escalating situation: Donna C-3 It just started with something relatively simple and small. One white student had noticed that the author had used a lowe rcase w for the word white and a capital B for Black in the article. And he had ye lled across the room to another friend and mentioned it and it spread on and on. So, at a certain point, I had to rein them in and bring it back to a big group discussion a nd air the different views. One black student offered to manage the discussion but I told he r that I thought it was a really bad idea. But the atmosphere was electric in the classroom. El ectric. It just seemed as if the atmosphere in the room, just everything, was really tens e and I worried about how it would go if there wasnt an objective person leading the discussion. It is interesting here that Donna sees her role in the cl assroom as the only objective mediator and thus rejected the students offer of assistance. In the evaluation section of the

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129 narrative, she assessed her own pe rformance in reducing the conflict in the room: I tried to do that as best as I could. I suppose I was a little de fensive because I had brought the article in in the first place and I found myself defending my choice, my curriculum choices. In spite of selecting an article from a magazine that Donna felt would appeal to her students intrinsic interest in music, she regretted her choice of material. Th is defensive tone continued in the resolution section: Donna C-5 Im from Yulee, which is a really sma ll, rural, provincial place, so I thought I understood race issues in this area, but ma ybe not. I just think they instinctively identified with whiteness. At the same time they kept qualifying their comments by saying things such as Im not saying that racism is alright and those white kids were wrong to do what they did. But they felt that the article made all white students out to be racist or perhaps it was that the South is still racist. In an effort to continue the discussion of race and yet lower the tension level in the classroom, Donna decided to introduce a student project. Yet, despite her be st intentions, her students responded in a similar fashion to those in Adams Government class: Donna C-6 I got some really good work from them, but I have to say that I never quite got back to the raw honesty of that first da y of discussion. Something was a little closed down, I think they sort of censored themselves. Thus, after the initial burst of discussi on around a simple, and yet crucial, linguistic debate--whether a capital letter signifies respect and privilege--Donnas students reverted to a tense silence regarding the topic of contemporary race relations. While her effort to address this topic in the context of a school-related story with which her stude nts could organically relate is admirable, her failure to scaffold discussions in her class left her students to replicate the age-old polarized pattern of either an inappropriate a nd unstructured free-fo r-all or the complete absence of discussion.

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130 Eric: The Cold War In his narrative Story D--The Cold War, Eric presented an interesting twist on this theme of unexpected reactions to controversial material. Eric de signed a lesson for his course on Economics that focused on some primary documents from the Marxist economic tradition that Eric expected to be regarded by his students as controversial. In the or ientation section of his narrative, Eric explained that these preconceptions were largely based on his childhood experiences during the Cold War c onflict between the United States and its arch-rival the Soviet Union: Eric D-2 The Cold War was a big part of my up bringing. My dad built a bomb shelter in the backyard and there were shelters a ll over the neighborhood. My school was an official shelter, had the signs up everywhere. So, I grew up with an instinctual hatred of anything that smacked of communism, because the Reds were all out to get us. We read that sort of thing in the papers every day about the Red Menace. He continued this theme by speaking about his own visceral response to reading documents such as Marxs Das Kapital and Lenins What is to be Done?: So, I always assume that although Im going sl ant it heavily in a di rection away from communist ideology--whenever I read these documents they remind me of Kruschev banging his shoe on the lectern at the UN and saying that th ey would bury us--that there will be complaints. Eric was unapologetic about his e fforts to slant the material in a certain direction, assuming that communism is a closed issue in the minds of his students. Yet, to his surprise, his students responded with either indifference to or even approval for the ideas included in the readings. In the complicating action section of the narrative, Eric attributed this surprising reaction to his students youth and the reality that they came to political consciousness in a post-Cold War era: Eric D-3. So when I give them the Marx to read and its full of all of this stuff about how socialism is going to help the working man, it kind of makes sense to them in a really dumb way. And the end of the discussion, I always take a straw poll--Are there any Marxists in the room?--and I always ge t one or two punks who raise their hands. Amazing. That would have never happened in th e fifties or sixties and my old man would kick their asses if he was still around.

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131 Eric made the assumption in this statement that the appeal of socialism is on a simplistic and immature level--a really dumb way--while discounting the possibility that his working class students might actually relate to Marxs ideas in an organi c sense, having not been exposed to a fog of McCarthyite propaga nda in their schooling. This inability to understand how his students establish their own identities and interpre t school materials through their own lenses is echoed in another anecdote th at Eric related in the resolution to the narrative: Eric D-5. There was even a club, well, informal group that started up a few years back with a Chinese-American kid who was big on hi s own heritage and he had a lot of stuff, clothes and posters and books around from hi s trips home to see family and he got a small group of friends to wear the Mao caps a nd the khaki jackets. It was pretty funny for a while but the older teachers like me werent laughing that much. Rather than understanding the Asian students need to express his ethnic pride, Eric placed blame for the students innocent display on his parents: In the end, if you have no living history of these periods and your parents arent stressing certain things with you, it wont be there, the historical understandi ng will just be absent. The issue of living and dead history is indeed a crucial one for social studies teachers. However, Erics assumption that there is a consensus surrounding historical issues livi ng or dead indicated his own homogeneous background and denied the diverse backgrounds of his own students. Frank: Abstract Art In a fascinating narrative Story D-Abstract Art, Frank displayed similar misconceptions about his students. As a social st udies teacher in an arts academy, he made the assumption that his students would be more tolerant and open to viewing and discussing modern art. In the abstract to the narrative, Frank disc ussed his exemplary practi ce of trying to tie his American history curriculum--in the specific case, the Post-war Era--to his students interest in the arts: Ive done this lecture on Abstract Expressionist ar t for years now, it actually started with a set of slides that I picked up when I was in New York one y ear. I try to use them to tie in

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132 to the discussion of post-war politics. He expand ed on the context of his teaching practice in the orientation segment of the narrative: Frank D-2 You know, when you teach at a school like this you kind of have to tailor what you do to fit the interests of the students, and Ive got a lot of kids who come into class with paint-spattered jeans on, so I know I cant just talk about the Marshall Plan and think that theyre going to get into it. Ive got to bring the cultural history in as well. Much like Eric, Frank had preconceptions a bout the manner in which his students with paint-spattered jeans on would interpret the sl ides of Jackson Pollock and Alexander Calder paintings that he presented to them in his lecture: Frank D-2 I show a set of these slid es of the usual favorites a nd usually the kids are just like cool, look at trippy pictures In fact, I usually have to struggle to point out that the work was really controversial when it was fi rst exhibited because these kids have been exposed to so much crazier stuff; theyre the kind of kids whose parents have taken them to New York to MOMA. In the complicating action section of the na rrative, however, Frank indicated how these assumptions were disturbed by an incident in a recent class: Frank D-3 Anyway for some reason there was th is one kid last year who was super cranky and demanding all year, always had his hand in the air and sure enough, I was showing this slide of, I think, a Pollock. And he just stuck his hand in the air and I called on him. And he just said, Thats just a mess. I could do better than that. I challenged him to articulate what he meant by a mess, and he said that it was fuzzy and out of proportion, that there werent a ny features to it that we re specific or concrete. To his credit, Frank responded well to this in terruption: And that just kicked off this great discussion about what people value in art, whether an artist should always strive for a photographic copy. I dont think anyone changed th e kids mind, though. But thats okay. It is clear from this response that Frank enjoys a nd looks forward to these teachable moments that deviate from the routine script that he has cons tructed for the lesson. In the evaluation section of the narrative, Frank expanded on this point: Frank D-4 Id always prefer to have that kind of discussion than to have students just sitting there silent as mice, ev en if they disagree with me.

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133 In this narrative, Frank admitted to having preconceptions about the student reception of course material based on his experiences in the classroom. At the same time, however, he indicated his willingness to allow for those rare situations in which students confound his expectations. Gina: Teaching Buddhism Ginas narrative Story E--Teaching Buddhism is linked to the narratives of her fellow participants in her stated desire to attempt to tie the abstract curriculu m to students real-life experiences. In the abstract to the narrative, Gi na described her intent ions for the lesson in question: Gina E-1 So, I thought I would try to show stude nts how to use some of these ideas, rather than just treating them as if they were just some dry, abstract thing. So when I got to teaching about Buddhism, I thought, Why not teach them how to meditate? Thats something that Ive been doing for years as a pers onal thing, as a part of my daily routine. It is particularly interesting that in this statement, Gina echoed the goals of many social constructivist-oriented educators in attempting to create an educational community in which the group creates meaning from a sensory experience. In the orientation segment, Gina expanded on the relationship between these conceptions devel oped during her teacher tr aining experience and her current practice: Gina E-2 Ive done this unit on Asian religions and philosophies for years now and when I started out I was just full of these ideas that Id read in my teacher training classes, so I tried them all out. Even when I didnt get a lot of s upport from the school or other teachers around here. Well, I guess the fi rst thing I did was burn some incense in the room, and maybe I had some music going. I thought Id just burn a little at the beginning of the day and then put it out in case there were some kids with allergies or something. All of this seems to be exemplary teacher practice; however, Gina explained that her innovative teaching methods caused friction within her school: I had some custodians up in my room in about five minutes looking for some electrical failure and when I told them what Id

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134 done they just gave me a look and then it wa s all over the school. She expanded on this narrative in the comp licating action piece: Gina E-3 When the kids came in, they of course were like, Whats that smell? So anyway that was a disaster. I havent tried that again since. Then the second time I did it, the next year, I had one parent who called about it. In fact I think it was the same guy who had spoken up at the Open House, asking how I was going to deal with prehistory, I think he was worried about the issue of Creation vs. Evolution. In other words, the disaster involving her lesson design, stemmi ng from her thoughtful decision to create an enriching environment for students, inadvertently caused problems for Gina in terms of her relationship w ith both the school staff and her students, and it led her to compromise her approach toward future lessons. However, even this retreat was insufficient in terms of satisfying the school community: Gina E-3 He wanted to schedule an appointment and I had Janine, my department head, sit in that time, because I had this feeling th at it might get a little heated. And it did. He basically came in and accused me of trying to recruit his daughter to a religious cult. I tried to, say, detail how it f it into the curriculum, I had a c opy of the standards there, and I pointed out the place where comparativ e religions is and Eastern philosophy and explained how I try to do as much hands-on kinesthetic work as possible, I remember having to define that for him, a nd I could just tell that he wasn t swayed at all. Janine was real great in coming in helping me out and backing me up because I was feeling really emotional and charged up. The support that Gina received from her depart ment head appeared to be a key element of this section of the narrative, a nd she rebounded from the experience with a commitment to teach in the right way. She expressed this determination in the evaluation se ction of the narrative: Gina E-4 I was determined that I was going to t each in the right way and that I wasnt just going to cave in to the pressure of fitting into a school. It just seems silly to just talk about it and not do it, not show the kids the way that it works and that it might, for some of them, help them out in their lives. Ginas commitment in this regard was explic itly connected in her narrative to a genuine concern for her students and the conditions of th eir schooling: Dont forget, these kids are in seven classes a day, theyve got afterschool activities like you wouldnt believe, dont get home until 9: 00 at night and then have 2 hours of

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135 homework to do on top of all of that. So, I thought that showing them how to relax with different meditation techniques might help them out. At the same time, however, Gina was clear in th e effect that her determination had had on the relationships that she developed within the school. She addressed the issue of her reputation with her colleagues, for example, in the resolution segment: Gina E-5 I was getting all these jo kes in the faculty lounge, people calling me Smoky and that sort of thing as if I was smoking pot in my room. Which is ridiculous. But thats the kind of narrow-mindedness that you get am ong teachers sometimes. Dont get me wrong, I get along with a lot of people here but I cant say that I ha ve that many friends among, not real friends, theyre just the kind of people who smile and nod in the hallways but I cant really count on them If I need a sub, I just go th rough the main office, I dont even try to get favors of people in the department, which is kind of sad because Ive done plenty of people plenty of favors over the y ears and they should know who I am by now. At the end of this fascinating narrative, Gina redo ubled her efforts to teach in the right way, that is, in a manner consis tent with her social constructi vist teaching philosophy and her teacher training experience, despite the social pressures she faces from her immediate school community. Conclusion Many of the teachers interviewed for this project expressed the sentiment that their experiences with teaching controversy have b een generally positive and have led to their reflecting on their teaching and learning practices. This corresponds with the view of Kammen (2006) who answered his own rhetorical question--whether controve rsy is necessarily a negative condition, an undesirable phenomenon to be avoided at all costs--by stating unequivocally, Not at all: Conflict can certainly be stressful, push peopl e into serious situations, and agitate civil society. Yet conflict can also be enlightening and educational, at least in retrospect especially when individuals modify their mind-se ts or, better still, have a change. (p. xii, authors emphasis)

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136 The context of modern schooling has certain ly placed undue pressure on social studies teachers. Many of the participants, for example, re ferred to curricular time pressure as a concern when developing syllabi and lesson plans for their courses. Eric expressed this sentiment within the unique context of teaching at Riverview Arts Academy: We all feel under the gun time pressure wise because in this school we lose more time than most becau se there are a lot of compulsory attendance assemblies at the end of the school year . Thus, content coverage appears to place more stress on these teachers th an do instances of outright violations of teachers academic freedom. In the context of the contemporary culture wars in schools, teachers experiences with controversial subject matter are certainly fraught with tension and fear In discussing these experiences, the participants were remarkably consistent in describing conflicts arising from discussions of race relations and religious ideas. Yet, there was also refreshing optimism among the participants in this research project that, while deal ing with ideological conflicts among students, parents and administrators, to say not hing of the wider media community, is stressful in the moment the experiences have in fact made th em better teachers. Cathy, for instance, commented on the outcomes of a journal assignm ent that had caused consternation among her more religious students: They complain but most of them come through in the end with something interesting, just so I know that theyre still out there th inking. In the context of contemporary secondary social st udies practice, theref ore, the change of heart mentioned by Kammen appears to involve a genu ine desire on the part of pract itioners to learn from rash choices, poorly designed lessons, o ff-hand comments and the like. Th e reflective nature of their comments doubtless illustrates an in trinsic interest in improving their craft, even among those reaching the ends of their careers.

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137 At the same time, it is striking that none of participants expressed a desire to walk boldly back into the treacherous waters of controversy and indeed imagined that part of their learning process in constructing meanings from their expe riences with handling controversial incidents in their classrooms has been the goal of avoiding sim ilar incidents in the future. In reflecting on an incident in which his innovative design for a Worl d History survey had led a parent conference, for example, Ben resolved to avoid future conf licts by making sure to not do that again. Im back to doing the straight survey. This is disheartening and yet enti rely understandable. No teacher wants to feel the tension that Adam felt as he left school after a stressful day and none would rebuke him for his comment that, I dont n eed this, I dont need to come from school and not be able to sleep because of some stupid lesson . In the next chapter, I review the second set of interviews that I conducte d with these participants in which I asked them to comment on a group of curriculum pieces that have encountered resistance.

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138 CHAPTER 6 FINDINGS: TEACHERS POSITI ONS TOWARD C ONTROVERSY Introduction Social studies teachers over the durations of their careers come to adopt different positions toward the material that they are aske d to teach. As Barton and Levstik (2004) noted, some of these come from internal sources, including personal backgr ound, education, content knowledge and philosophical, religious or polit ical worldviews. Grant (2003), for example, described the stereotypical content-focused secondar y social studies teacher who fell in love with history in grade school and conti nues to teach in the manner that he or she was taught: These teachers stand in front of the class, deliver ready-made lectures, and assign textbook and workbook pages. In doing so, such teachers em body a particular stance toward knowledge, learning, and teaching (pp. 39-40). Evans (1989) further identified five approaches toward teaching history that stem from these elements in a teachers personal background: that of storyteller, scientific histor ian, relativist/reformer, cosm ic philosopher, and eclectic. Evans commented on the influence of these perspectives on teaching methodologies and repertoire: Interview data suggest that pedagogy may rela te strongly to concep tion of history. The idealist tells stories, the scie ntific historian promotes ope n-ended thinking about history, the reformer mixes methods to promote student questioning and to relate past to present, the cosmic philosopher challenges students with cosmic interpretati ons, and the eclectic opts for variety to build student interest. (p. 237) As social studies teachers begin the proce ss of developing lessons and unit plans, for example, they are guided in very personal ways by these internal factors and the positions that arise from them. In Chapter 4, I surveyed a wide variety of these conceptions of controversy that stem from these internal factors.

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139 At the same time, social studies teachers are equally influenced by external factors, including social pressu re within the school community, a se nse of the political climate in the surrounding community and knowledge of the pow er dynamics within education. Barton and Levstik (2004) noted the impact of this subtle social pressure on teacher practice. They commented: The first is that teachers hope to fit in: They want to be accepted as competent professionals by fellow teachers, administrato rs, and parents. Doing so means acting in ways similar to those around them; if everyone else covers the curriculum and maintains quiet, orderly classrooms, devoid of controversy then new teachers will be highly motivated to do the same, regard less of what they may have learned about th e nature of history or methods of teaching the subject. (p. 254, authors emphasis) The imperatives of standards reform in the current period have adde d to this tendency toward conformity that corresponds with the t eachers knowledge of the culture of the school. Apple (2000) commented on the incr easing trend toward disempower ing classroom teachers with the introduction of pre-package d, teacher proof materials: Rather than moving in the dire ction of increased autonomy, in all too many instances the daily lives of teachers in classrooms in many nations are becoming ever more controlled, ever more subject to administrative logics that seek to tighten the reins on the processes of teaching and curriculum. (p. 114) In the past 10 years, the primacy of the teacher s role in determining curriculum has also been challenged by a complex network of national political organizations, media outlets and parents groups. In the following section, I will provide a brief de scription of three cases that exemplify these trends. Three Cases Fahrenheit 9/11 This new effort to restrict the academic freedom of public ed ucators is perfectly illustrated in the response to the use of Acad emy-award winning film maker Michael Moores 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11. Moores provocative documentary looked at the Bush

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140 administrations policy following the September 11, 2001 attacks that subsequently led to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Th e critically acclaimed and assa iled film was destined to garner media attention and to become a lighten ing rod for partisan debate in a Presidential election year, unsurprisingly garnering a furious respons e from conservative media pundits even before the official release of the film. In May 2004, for example, a public relations firm connected to the Republican Party formed a group called Move America Forward in order to pressure theater owners across the country not to show the film (Berkowitz, 2005). Throughout the promotional campaign surrounding Fahrenheit Moore urged the use of his film as a pedagogical tool for teachers, further inflaming his critics, who saw the film as purely propagandistic. A storm of protest followed the decision by the National Education Association (NEA) to present the film at its annual confer ence in the summer of 20 04 (Archibald, 2004). As the October release of the Fahrenheit DVD approached, Moore posted a Teachers Guide for using the film in high school and college classr ooms on his website, including sample critical thinking questions that teachers could use with their classes (Moore, 2004). Activists supporting the two major political candidates in the Presid ential election seemed pr imed for a media battle over the film. Commentators sympat hetic to the Bush administrati on warned their readers to be ever watchful of materials being used in the classr oom. Eric Pratt, for example, in an article titled Fahrenheit 9/11 in the Classroom ? for the conservative weblog American Daily commented: With kids going back to school around Labor Day, parents should make a renewed effort to keep tabs on what their children are being taugh t (Pratt, 2004). Conservative parents groups took up the call. Within days of the DVD release of the film on October 5, stor ies began to surface in the blogosphere about incidents in which high school teachers and community college professors had been disciplined for having the temerity to s how the film to their students. On October 8, a

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141 parent of a student at Pathways Learning Center, an alternative high school in Beaumont, Texas, complained that his son had been compelled to watch Fahrenheit in his social studies class. After several complaints from parents, FahrenHYPE 9/11, a film attacking the Moore film, was also presented to students (Beaumont Students Watch, 2004). On October 20, Suzanne Miller, an English teacher at Central High School in Knoxvill e, Tennessee, was officially reprimanded after presenting Fahrenheit to her senior-level Engl ish class. She was subsequently removed from the classroom and placed on unpaid, administra tive duty for 2 months (Knoxville Teacher Reassigned, 2004). During the same week, official s at Kearsarge Regional High School in North Sutton, New Hampshire cancelled a screening of Fahrenheit that had been sche duled as an afterschool activity by English teacher Kevin Lee and film studies teacher Deborah Barry. When the teachers expressed reluctance to show Fahrenhype 9/11 because of curricular time pressures, district superintendent Tom Brennan cancelle d the session, openly admitting that parental pressure had forced his hand on the issue: We didnt want to get into a co ntroversy. That wasnt the point (Conaboy, 2004). On October 29, the Frid ay before the 2004 Presidential election, Judy Baker, a teacher at Jackson High School in Washington state, showed Fahrenheit to a small group of students. Baker, having heard of the earlier incidents, followed her own districts policy by obtaining the principals permission as well as release forms signed by parents of the students involved in the activity. Responding to the local Snohomish County Republican partys complaints, however, Jackson High School principa l Terry Cheshire ordered Baker to either balance the presentation of Fahrenheit or not show the film at all. We have a policy that if we deal with controversial issues we need to show both sides, he claimed (Slager, 2004). In one of the most chilling cases invol ving violations of academic fr eedom, an instructor at RowanCabarrus Community College (RCCC) in Concord, North Carolina was suspended with pay for four days after showing Fahrenheit in class during the week be fore the Presidential election.

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142 School officials claimed that Da vis March, an instructor in E nglish composition for more than twenty years at Rowan-Cabarrus, had violated school policy and disobeyed specific orders in a memorandum explicitly instructi ng faculty to remain non-partis an during the election campaign. In an extraordinary act of censorship, RCCC ad ministrators appeared in Marchs classroom while the film was being presented and escorted him from the campus grounds (Smith-Arrants, 2004). Each of the incidents seen in isolation doesnt appear to be significant; yet, viewed as a whole, an eerily similar pattern begins to emerge that suggests systematic, coordinated political action to stifle Fahrenheit 9/11 s distribution and intended impact in the classroom. The State of the Union in Colorado On January 31, 2006, President George W. Bush delivered his sixth annual address to Congress, a duty specified in the Constituti on. In the speech, Bush (2006) outlined the achievements of his administration over the course of the previous year, ma ny of them related to foreign policy. Bush, for example, spoke at length about the progress made in the United States intervention in Iraq: No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and oppositi on is radical Islam--the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an id eology of terror and death. The following day, Jay Bennish, a high school geography teacher in Aurora, Colorado, was preparing to introduce a lesson on the eff ects of globalization po licy on the environment when one of his students, Sean Allen, asked him for his views of the Presidents speech. As the discussion continued, Bennish s poke candidly about his views of the Bush administration and U.S. foreign policy, unaware that Allen was su rreptitiously audiorecording the class (Teacher Probed Over Bush Remarks, 2006). Allen, who claime d that it was his habit to record all of his classes for study purposes, later made seve ral appearances on th e cable news show Hannity and

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143 Colmes and his parents subsequently sold the recording to a local radio station (850 KOA). In the brief excerpt repeated ad nauseum by media outlets in the weeks that followed, Bennish is heard comparing the Bush administration to the Nazi regime: Now Im not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same. Obviously theyre not, okay? But there are some eery similarities to the tones that they use (Bennish, cited in Vaughn & Doligosa, 2006). Bennish was also heard concurring with another student who responded to Bennishs question Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth? by stating that, We are. Later he encouraged students to imagine th at other nations might s ee the United States and its allies as terrorists, sugge sting that to many Native Americans [the American] flag is no different from the Nazi flag (O verland Teacher Controversy, 2006). Bennish, who had taught at Overland High School since 2000, was placed on administrative leave by the Cherry Creek School Di strict superintendent Monte Moses during the media furor that ensued. In his decision, Moses po inted to a district polic y that required teachers to present varying viewpoints when tackling controversial subjects Bennish then approached the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), whose a ttorney David Lane represented him during his period on leave. Lane contended that Bennishs First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being jeopardized (Overland Students Walk Out, 2006). Bennish later appeared on NBCs Today show, emphasizing in an interview with co-host Matt Lauer the support that he had received from students and parents at Overland High. Afte r a months leave, Bennish was reinstated on March 10, with Moses stating that, Bennish doesnt deserve to be praised, nor does he deserve to be fired and that Jay Benni sh has promise as a teacher, but his practice and deportment need growth and refinement. Reflecting on his experiences during the incident, Bennish was sanguine about his role in the classroom:

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144 You know my job as a teacher is to challenge st udents to think critica lly about issues that are affecting our world and our societ y. And you know the process of cognitive dissonance is one way to activat e their minds and to get them to think about these various things. (Bennish, cited in Vaughn & Doligosa, 2006) As this incident shows, embodying a stan ce in which one answers with candor the questions posed by curious students in a manner intended to provoke a response carries with it significant risks for teachers. Many classroom teachers, including several of the participants in this study, choose instead to avoid controversy a nd to question the ability of teachers in the current political climate to play the kind of advocacy role that teachers such as Jay Bennish offer their students. Voices of the Peoples History In a third case, Prentice Chandler, a high school teacher in northern Alabama, engaged in a struggle with parent s and administrators in the Athe ns High School community during the 2006/2007 school year over his decision to use primary sources included in the companion volume to Howard Zinns A Peoples History of the United States (1980). Chandler (2006) explained his rationale for the use of these documen ts in his U.S. History courses at Athens: I had envisioned the class based on the writings of contemporary social studies theorists: multiple points of view, allowing multiple voices in the classroom, less teacher directed and focusing on primary documents (p. 354). In order to facilita te this approach, Chandler applied for and received a grant in order to purchase a classroom set of the Voices of the Peoples History of the United States primary source reader (Zinn & Arnove 2004). Chandler specified that the Voices reader allowed him to present students with alterna tive histories (that) contrast with the official history that one would find in typical history books (p. 352) He further described the response of his students to his plan as overwhelmingly fa vorable: The students seemed to be excited about the prospect of learning a different kind of history, one that d eals with oppressed people

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145 of the world, in contrast to the usual accounts of presidents, diplomats, treaties and wars (p. 352). Despite the auspicious preparation process, Chandler encountered difficulty from the start of his ambitious project. Chandl er (2006) recalled that, the fi rst night that the books went home with my students, I received a phone call from one set of parents who demanded to know why I had chosen these books for my class (p. 354). Ch andler patiently responded to these parents, explaining to them his intentions for the class an d providing a justification for the use of the Zinn material. The parents, however, were unm oved in their objection to the use of the Voices reader. Chandler detailed the aftermath of his conversation with the parents: Over the next week, the parents pressured th e superintendent into removing these books from this advanced, college-prep track c ourse because of what they considered inappropriate content. For the remainder of the semest er, 60 copies of Zinns social history sat on my shelves unused. (p. 354) While he continued to engender controve rsy among a few parents by using selected excerpts in his classroom instru ction, Chandler (2006) was supporte d by an increasingly active group of students. He described the scene in his classroom: Upon telling my students that we would be doing book work as opposed to discussing primary documents readings, most of the 25 st udents brought their te xtbooks to the front of the room and put them in a pile. They we re not refusing to do work because they were being disrespectful or disobedient; they were simply refusing to do something that they knew was not as valuable as reading a nd discussing primary documents. (p. 355) Chandler (2006) noted the irony that this student action took place a day after the class had read Henry David Thoreaus famous essa y on Civil Disobedience. While it did not conform to his original plan, its clear that Chandlers students ove r the course of a year in which they saw the culture wars in Americas schools at close hand learned some extremely valuable lessons about the nuts and bo lts of community activism in their social studies class.

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146 Teachers Views Two weeks after the initial in terview sessions, I met with the 7 teacher-participants in this study to present them with the cases outlined above and to engage them in conversations about their views of these cases. The na rratives that emerged from thes e conversations were extremely enlightening in establishing the individual positions of these teachers toward the social studies curriculum and particularly in relation to the us e of controversial extra-curricular materials. Adam: Theyre Nuts! When I mentioned Michael Moores documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 Adam emitted a spontaneous utterance Oh God! Asked to explain this response, Adam pr ovided the abstract to his colorful narrative Story D--T heyre Nuts! Well, I just cant believe any teacher in their right mind would use that in the class, thats just crazy. In this statement, Adam indicated again his ideal of the prudent teacher who scrupulous ly avoids controversy and his image of the crazy teacher who dives into controversy by em ploying controversial me thods and materials. Adam supplied further elaboration on this point in the orientation se ction of the narrative: Adam D-2. Well, let me be clear and honest from th e start. I dont real ly appreciate Mike Moores stuff. I just think hes a provocateur. Hes not really in the business of being fair in his presentation. Hes tryi ng to push it with every frame and make a propagandistic point. Im not the kind of conservative who goes out of his way to track down the most extreme, in your face, stuff. I dont like Ann Coulter, I dont listen to Rush, I dont watch a whole lot of Fox News. This equation of Michael Moore with provoc ateurs of the right such as columnist Ann Coulter and radio host Rush Limbaugh that Adam repeated here was common among the criticism of Moores work (Toplin, 2006). However, be yond the negative view of Moores political views, Adam provided a more searchin g critique of the teachers who would choose to use his work in their classroom instruction. In the complicating action se gment of the narrative, Adam addressed the issue of community standards:

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147 Adam D-3. Youve got to know the climate that youre dealing with and the material that youre dealing with. Obviously in a place like this youre going to have trouble with a movie like Fahrenheit 9/11 in a community with so many military people. Youre sticking it in their face when you show someth ing that says that what theyre doing is worthless or worse, thats its making American people less safe. Like many critics of Fahrenheit 9/11 Adam assumed that his use of Moores work would create a firestorm of protest am ong parents connected to the United States military service, this despite a lengthy segment in the film in which Moore sympathetically interviews Lila Lipscomb, the mother of an army sergeant who was killed in Karbala, Iraq in 2003. Th at said, the structure of Adams narrative shifted in a dramatic and interesting manner in the evaluation section. Here, he presented a defense of teachers from an almost populist, teacher-centered position: Adam D-4. When it comes to teachers, Im a people person. I side first with my fellow teachers, because Ive been here so long a nd I know what teachers go through, so theyre first, kids maybe next, pare nts and administrators way down the order. So, even if I disagreed with what a teacher did, theyre just trying to do what they think is best, and just trying to survive in a really ha rd job, so Id cut them some slack. This stance of siding with his fellow teachers is in stark contrast to his earlier, harsher comments, in which he excoriated those who would use controversy as nuts. He expanded on this more empathetic tone in the resoluti on segment. Asked how he would handle such a controversy as an administrator, Adam averred: Adam D-5. If I was an administrator, Id put a brick wall around the school, I wouldnt cave in to pressure, Id protec t my teachers. But thats probably why Id never make an administrator. I care too much about teachers. Adam thus concluded at the end of the narr ative by expressing th at teachers should only be disciplined for outright abuses of students having sex with the students or hitting the students but not for engaging students with cont roversial materials. He may well question their teaching strategies, but in the end Adam identif ied himself strongly with his colleagues and is willing to forgive them what he cons iders ill-conceived transgressions.

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148 Adam continued this theme of empathy for hi s fellow teachers in a narrative titled Story E--Howl, drawing parallels between Prentice Chandlers use of the Voices reader and his colleagues use of Allen Ginsbergs epic poem Howl in his English class. Once again, though, Adam linked the failure of the lesson with a la ck of understanding of the school community. In the orientation section of the narrative, he expl ained the culture of his friends school and the implications for his use of beat poetry in the classroom: Adam E-2. There wasnt a lot of support for hi m among the students, certainly not the parents, so he was just run out of there, which is crazy because hes a great teacher and the kids love him here. Hes actually pretty conservative, a straight up Republican guy, which makes the thing so funny. Adam continued by speaking about the importa nce of teachers finding a good fit in their school placements: Maybe this is just a better environment for him, a little more intellectual. In this comment, Adam was implicitly suggesting that Prentice Chandler had misperceived the support that he could expect at a high school in northern Alabama. When reminded that Chandler did indeed receive significant backing from stude nts and parents, Adam conceded the point, but returns to his anecdote about his English teach er friend in the complicating action segment: Adam E-3. I know he got some heat from the ad ministration, for sure. They didnt like what hed done, for sure. Didnt think it ( Howl ) was appropriate for a ninth grade group because of the language. In the end, the narrative comes to a reso lution by Adam offering to help his friend transfer to another school. When he asked me how Chandler resolved hi s situation, I mentioned that he had recently completed his Ph.D. and had taken up a position at Athens State University in Alabama, hes unsurprised, as this confirms his thesis that teachers must strive to find an appropriate venue that will support their teaching styles: Adam E-4. So I was teaching over here and I told him that I could probably get him an interview with Janet over here if he wanted to transfer. Maybe this is just a better environment for him, a little more intellectual.

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149 Yet, in his coda to the piece, Adam reserved his optimism, admitting that even at Orange Park College Preparation School he had had cause for concern: But you still have to be careful even here. While Adam was confident throughout his various narratives that a prudent approach that takes into account the standa rds and values of the surroundi ng community will allow social studies teachers to be successful, this final comment betrayed hi s essential uneasiness about the power dynamics in public education. Ben: Truth, Consequences, and War Ben again exemplified the position of accur acy in a narrative responding to the cases presented to him. He established this position in the abstract to Story E--Truth, Consequences and War by suggesting that his objection to using Fahrenheit 9/11 in the classroom is that there is too much opinion in Mi chael Moores movie. Thats the problem with it. I just think that there are better resources out there. In this statement, he based his practice on a dichotomy between opinion and fact abnegating the possibility of multiple perspectives in social studies teaching and learning. Following this principle, Ben described a PBS Frontline documentary that he had used as an alternative to more controversial material on the Iraq War. In the orientation segment of the narrative, he detailed the lesson: Ben E-2 I do a current events thing on Fridays a nd I often use videos as part of that because it just seems to be the way to kick off a discussion with these kids. There are a bunch of videos that are availabl e in the library here, thats a useful resource and then I have a few DVDs that Ive bought. For a few years I was using this Frontline special on Iraq called something like Tru th, Consequences and War. Asked about the response of students to this documentary feature, Ben spoke in positive terms: The kids were really into it. It defini tely got their attention. At the same time, he admitted that even this more balanced presentation engendered a contentious response among a few students: Of course there we re one or two conservative kids kids with parents involved in the war, who took it personally. Theyre going to th ink that any debate is wrong, that you just get

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150 behind the troops no matter what. In the evalua tion of the narrative, however, Ben provided a rationale for using the Frontline piece: Ben E-4 And PBS is usually pretty left-wing but th is one was really fair. It just laid out the arguments pro and con very well. It reli ed on official reports and the speeches of administration officials like Rumsfeld. It didnt try to sway people one way or another. It just said, okay, heres the ar gument for war, heres how much its going to cost, is it worth it? Ben, a self-defined conservative, began th is comment with an interesting qualifying statement, PBS is usually pretty left wing, before describing the fair elements of the documentary. Here, Ben indicated that the use of official reports and speeches of administration officials are, in his mind, more objective and factua l than the sources included in Michael Moores film. This view is then reinforced in the resolution section: And in the end, the Frontline video was based on fact, based on research, not on opinion, so they couldnt really take it apart. In other words, the complaints of c onservative students, who mi ght have preferred to avoid the discussion altogether, are stymied by th e presentation of research in the film. Ben discounted the possibility, however, that speeches by administration figures, such as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, might i ndeed jibe with the view s of his conservative students. Ben added a brief coda to the piece in which he again stated his goal of engaging his students in a debate on a controvers ial issue: The only way that this thing (the Iraq intervention) is going to work is if the nati on is behind it and that takes kn owledge and information. We cant hide whats going on. Hi s pro-war stance was laid bare in this brief coda. Ben felt that an intervention such as that in Iraq can only be successful on the foundati on of a unified national effort. This in turn required periodic review and debate, the essence of social studies teaching and learning.

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151 Cathy: Stick to the Script Cathy returned to her themes of teacher e xperience and preparati on in two narratives in which she expressed her opini on about the cases involving Fahrenheit 9/11 and Jay Bennish and displayed a position of professionalism. In Story E--R Rated, she related an anecdote about an incident that happened at Orange Park College Preparatio n School. Cathy indicated in the abstract of the narrative that th e crux of the controversy was the use of extra-curricular materials that were age-inappropriate for the group involve d: Well, I guess the major sticking point was that hed used an R rated movie without getting permission. Cathy continued this thought by explaining the district regulations re garding the use of films in class: Cathy E-2 You need that for anything over a G rating. Thats why as I say I tell young teachers to stick with the materials that are available in the librar y, that are district approved. I know that young teachers arent goi ng be able to lecture every day and dont have ready-made lessons planned for the w hole year, they need some help, but buying something and bringing it in is a mistake in my opinion. What he needed to do is to contact the parents ahead of time. In this statement, Cathy quickly embodied the persona of the department head who dispenses advice to younger, more callow colleagues. She maintained this tone as she described the complicating action of the narrative: Cathy E-3 I mean, he had put together what so unded like an intere sting lesson. I never saw a lesson plan because he wasnt in my department, but it sounded good, what I heard was sound. But he went in there without the proper preparation and thats always dangerous. Here, Cathy made the assumption that the parents who challenged the use of Fahrenheit 9/11 were doing so because they had not been informed ahead of the lesson. Yet, when she was challenged on this point, she conceded that, the re (was) something politi cal in the response to what he did. She also allowed that she might well have been sanctioned for her use of certain materials without permission ove r the years and that many others had also done so. In the evaluation section of the narrative, she commented:

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152 Cathy E-4 I do it too. Ive got some Shakespearean things from the BBC that have nudity in them and probably have an R rati ng but Ive worked to build a reputation over the years so that parents dont question what Im doing. They know me and trust me. Thats not ever going to be tr ue for a first year teacher. When preparation failed, therefore Cathy re lied upon the status that she had achieved over her many years at her school. The tone of th is last comment, as well as the resolution segment in which she expressed that she felt bad about the incident, suggested that she acknowledged the contemporary context of public schooling and that young teachers are in a more precarious position than are many veteran practitioners. This sense of empathy for her colleagues and regret for the sorry c ontext of public school teaching today pervaded Cathys second narrative Story F--Stick to the Script. Responding to the case of Jay Bennish, Cathy provided an abstr act that spoke to the arbitrary nature of curricular challenges: Weve all sa id things that if they were isolated in a 30 second clip the way theyve done with this guy, they would look pretty unflattering. So what you need to do is stick to the script. That phrase stick to the scri pt is redolent of curri culum frameworks, and yet Cathy was careful to distance herself from th is paradigm, commenting that what she was referring to was merely good teaching practice: Cathy F-1. What I mean is that you have a le sson plan, you put toge ther your materials and you have notes for your material. If youre going to do a lectur e, you have notes. In this schema, a teachers notes are a scrip t that, if followed closely, can prevent a teacher from engaging in extemporaneous comm entaries that might get him or her into hot water. As a means of explaining this view, Cathy related a story about a former colleague who went off the script during a session of his Advanced Placement Psychology class: Cathy F-3. What happened was that the guy who did AP Psych. did this unit on IQ testing and most of it was pret ty sound but then he tried to make some connections with IQ testing and the Gifted program and he said some things that he shouldnt have said. Like questioning the whole basis of the Gifted program on IQ testing.

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153 Asked for the specific comments involved, Cath y recalled: I think I remember that he used the word bogus and that just enraged some of the parents. Return ing to the orientation section of the narrative, Ca thy explained why this verbal transgression was especially controversial within the context of her school: The Gifted program has a lot of clout here and I think it does some valuable work. Asked if she was satisfied with the outcome of the incident, Cathy presented the evaluati on segment of the narrative: Cathy F-4. I suppose when you make someone angry, the right thing is to apologize, but I just wish that people didnt get so angry a bout little things all the time. I dont think he wanted to insult the kids in his class or their parents who had made the decision to have them tested at a young age. Thats just what happened. So, yes, we should be accountable. Accountability, in the context of Cathys narrative, means publicly apologizing to the offended parties, a resolution w ith which she expresses approval At the same time, she voiced regret again that this policy led to the loss of a valued colleague: Cathy F-5. It eventually blew over, but you neve r recover from something like that. The kids know that theyve got you then and it neve r ends. So in the end he moved to another school where he could start over. It is with a profound sense of loss then that Cathy supplied a brief c oda to the narrative: I think we lose a lot of good, effective teachers because were so damned sensitive all of the time. While she was confident in the efficacy of her own teaching practices of meticulous preparation of lessons and building alliances w ithin the school community, she also had the humility to understand that some of her colleagues have not been allowed to survive in teaching long enough to gain this experien ce and to build such alliances. Donna: Violation of Trust Donna, the one teacher who identified herself as apolitical in her initial interview session, exemplified the student focus position in two narr atives responding to the cases presented to her during the second interview session. In a very pers onal narrative Story D--Violation of Trust,

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154 Donna explained the reasons behind her reluctan ce to admit her political allegiances to her students, despite frequent entreaties from them to do so. In the abstract to the narrative, Donna commented that: Donna D-1 I would never say that in front of a class, and not because I would get into trouble, which I probably would, but because it w ould be a violation of trust. Im not sure that I could ever ge t that trust back. In this statement, Donna indicated that building relationshi ps of trust is of utmost importance to her teaching practice. This pos ition came from an understanding that she had developed over the years about the role that teachers play in their students lives. In the orientation segment of the narrative, she elaborated on this understanding: Donna D-2 Well, you have to know as a teacher that kids will ask you anything, just anything. And most of it is innocent, they just want to find out as much about you as they can, as youre willing to let them know. Becau se theyre curious, theyre at that stage where theyre still just sponges for information, taking ever ything in, and youre just this huge part of their lives. Asked why this is the case, Donna comment ed that, You may actually be the only adult who cares about them, thats the scary thi ng. This understanding al so reflects Donnas background in counseling and social work. She extended this argument by stating that, They may come from households where either the adults arent around or they arent talking to the kids because theyre too busy or they dont care. When I asked her for an example of an issue that she would be unwilling to discuss with her students, Donna illustrated this position by talking about her support of reproductive rights: Donna D-3 For example, I have a lot of ki ds who are pro-life and they care tremendously about the issue. And Im pro-c hoice and I care about it too because I remember a time when abortion was still illegal and having an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy was a disaster, a scandal. I know Im dating myself with that. But I think thats one of the big advances for my generation th at we made abortion safe, legal and rare. Donna imagined that her students who did not share her opinion on an issue about which they have intense emotional fee lings would be disappoint ed to find out that a teacher whom they

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155 had, until that point, trusted, did not agree with them. Donna refine d this view in her evaluation piece: Because you realize that you can very quickly lose that trust, you can disappoint them. Thus, what frightened Donna the most in this incidence was not the challenge from the world outside of the classroom, including controversies in the communities or the threat of the loss of her employment, but rather the possibility of losing a delicate balance of trust that she had worked diligently to build. Donna expanded on her ability to disguise her political inclinations and the biases that might be evident in the material she chooses for her lessons in a second narrative Story E--I Dont Announce It. Responding to the case in volving Prentice Chandlers use of the Voices of the Peoples History of the United States reader, Donna admitted that she too had used Howard Zinns work, albeit in a slightly different form: I use Zinns work at seve ral points in my World History survey, particularly in the unit on the Age of Discovery. Th ats the strongest part of the book. Asked to elaborate on the means with which she employs the Zinn material, Donna supplied the orientation se gment of the narrative: Donna E-2 I like to use primary sources for read ing exercises. I probably do one or two during a two week unit. Ill lecture one day on a broad period and then Ill try to focus their attention on one specific issue. So, then Ill pull a piece out of a variety of reference books that I have around. Asked how her students respond to the material in the Zinn text, Donna admitted that she does not announce it. In the complicating action piece of the narrative, Donna described her use of the Zinn text in conjunction wi th the district-sanctioned textbook: Donna E-3 The Glencoe Spielvogel text is the one that weve adopted in this district. So thats the one that gets a ssigned to the students, and it s not bad. I think Spielvogels learned a trick or two over the years. I thi nk these textbook writers have been influenced by some of the criticisms. But theyre still pr etty bland and theres probably too much in them, so the impact is diluted. Whereas Zinn s book is like bam, it hits them over the head.

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156 In this statement, Donna betrayed her preferen ce for the Zinn text but, at the same time, excused herself for using the diluted material in the Glencoe text due to its official adoption by the Duval County school district. Instead of assigning a set of Zinn books, as Chandler did with his students in Alabama, Donna furtively uses pr imary sources culled from Zinns work in order to add interest to her reading assignments. She described this approach in the evaluation of the narrative: Donna E-4 Using the Zinn? No, well, I should ad mit that I dont announce that thats where its from. What I tend to do is just take pieces, excerpts from the book and then create my own lessons from that. Donnas assumption in pursuing this agenda of inoffensiveness is that using primary sources that have an association with a radi cal scholar will allow her to avoid any potential controversy. Once again, the re lationships that she has develo ped with her students was of paramount importance to Donna. In the resolution segment of the narrative, she commented that, The kids are curious about what I think of some of the more radical readings from, say, trade union leaders but I keep my vi ews to myself, I dont get on th e soapbox. Here, Donna was at pains to point out that her decision not to announce th e origin of the material s that she uses in the classroom stems from her relationships with her students and the desire not to breach their trust rather than the fear that these materials w ill cause controversy within the school or wider community. In a brief coda to the piece, Donna stated: I dont know that it would cause any trouble in this kind of school, but you never know. The presumption underlying this final statement is that Zinns work would be unfam iliar or uncontroversial in the context of the Riverside Arts Academy community; at the same tim e, she is unwilling to take the chance that it might prove so as it did in the Prentice Chandler case.

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157 Eric: It Just Isnt Accurate In a narrative titled Story E--It Just Isnt Accurate, Eric affirmed his identity as a conservative teacher who places a premium on the search for hi storical accuracy and truth. Responding to the cases involving the use of Michael Moores Fahrenheit 9/11 Eric constructed an abstract in which he stated that his main object ion with the film is that, it wasnt accurate. He just isnt accurate in what he talks about in th ose movies. Disdaining the conception of multiple perspectives of history, Eric co ntinued his deconstruction of Moor es technique in the orientation segment of the narrative: Eric E-2. Right, now I was teaching at the time of Columbine, actually on the day and I remember how scared people were, how scared the kids were after it happened. Then there were these loser kids who thought that it was funny to dress up like the Trenchcoat Mafia, with black clothes and make-up, just to scare people delib erately. And here is Michael Moore saying that schoo ls are being unfair to thes e kids and that going to school sucks. In this fascinating statement, Eric measured Moores treatment of the atmosphere in secondary schools following the tragic school s hooting incident at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999 in Bowling for Columbine against his own memory of the period. Yet, rather than appreciating th at Moore is presenting one valid perspective of the events--that school administrations were unfai rly targeting students in order to appease fearful parents-against his own equally valid pers pective--that a few students were exploiting the fears raised by the incident in a undisciplined, opportunistic manne r--Eric presumed that his is the accurate view and Moores is merely one of propagandistic ex pediency. In the complicating action section of the narrative, he supplied evidence to support his claims: Listen, theres a guy out there who runs a website called Moorewatch or something th ats just about showing the mistakes in his (Moores) work. When I reminded him that the founder of Moorewatch.com has been a prominent conservative critic of Moores work in recent years, Eric countered that, Sure, but he

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158 does his research and its well researched and footnoted. The narrative structure and tone shifted dramatically as Eric responded to a quest ion about his feelings about the cases in which teachers were disciplined for using the film. In the evaluation section of the narrative, Eric expressed empathy for the teachers involved: Eric E-4 Listen, I show Schindlers List a nd so do some others around here. Were always showing war movies--Gettysburg, Saving Private Ryan you name it--and theres some brutal stuff in t hose and theyre all R rated but theyre seen as patriotic so people get away with it. In this statement, Eric indi cated his view that disciplining teachers for the use of an R rated film while other teachers within the same institution are allowed to use similarly-rated materials deemed patriotic betrays the political machinations underpinning these incidents. He continued by mentioning a teacher in English (w ho) showed Pride and Prejudice and got into trouble because there are some racy scenes in it as a counterbalance to this view. Finally he concluded the narrative with a br ief comment that showed his loyalty toward his colleagues: We need leverage to be able to show what we need to in class, within reason. Thus, in the space of a short narrative, Eric traveled a long distance from an unequi vocal position that privileged accuracy and truth to a more nuanced view that indicates a depth of empathy toward fellow practitioners. Frank: Rally Round the Flag These challenges and the frustrations emanating from them form the backdrop of Franks narrative Story E--Rally Round the Flag. In the abstract to the narrative, Frank presented an overview of the incident in which he attempte d to encourage student community involvement by announcing an event initiated by a student Christ ian organization: What happened was that I was asked to read out an announcement for the Rally Round the Flag ev ent. Anticipating my

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159 questions about the nature of his advocacy, Fran k quickly provided the orientation segment of the narrative: Frank E-2 Now, Ive always made it a point to announce any event on campus, regardless of what it is. Yes, even then. Maybe especially if I dont agree with it. Because you have to be fair and consiste nt if youre going to gain the students trust. Anyway, this group at the school that has a Bible study session several times a week has an event at the flagpole in front of the school once a year in October. Frank displayed an admirable and complex sens e of fairness, which in this case was not premised on avoidance of issues or a bla nd, neutral treatment. Ra ther, Frank indicated throughout the narrative structure that he encourages students to be active members of their community, despite his disagreement with the spec ific cause behind the even t. He continued this thread by describing how he designs his classroo m to be an organizational locus for student groups: Frank E-2 So, these students in FCA came to me a few days before the event because they knew that I had a bulletin board right ne xt to the front wall wh ere I posted a lot of posters for things like the drama clubs ev ents, any sports events on campus, charity events, that kind of thing. I thi nk it promotes civic engagement. It is clear from this statement that students frequently approach Frank with such requests precisely because he is the kind of instructor who promotes this kind of activism. In the complicating action segment, he also revealed a reflective nature abou t his teaching practice: Frank E-3 I mentioned in passing that I didnt sh are the groups view s and wouldnt be joining them at the flag because I thought it was a Constitutional violation. So, there was one of the FCA girls in that class and sh e wasnt happy. She said, You dont do that for the other events. And I t hought. You know, shes right. Here, Frank engaged in a t houghtful practice while in the midst of a busy school day and changed his approach the next da y: Anyway, I decided to just read it out without any comment the next day. Despite this exemplary practice, Franks narrative was instructive in showing how this generosity of spirit occasionally poses problems for him. On the day in question, Frank decided to allow a few students part icipating in the event to enter class late without a tardy pass,

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160 a decision that provoked a complaint from one student: Then there was one guy who said, why do they get to come in late? And I said that they were involved in a school event. Almost immediately, Frank realized that he had committed an error of judgment, which he detailed in the evaluation segment: Frank E-4 Well, that was the wrong thing to sa y because it specifically isnt a school event but a student-initiated one. Th ats the only way that its at all legal. So at that point I probably should have sent them all down to administration to get tardy passes. In this statement, Frank again showed his capacity for reflecting upon his methods, particularly when it comes to building relationships with students. In the resolution section of the narrative, Frank disclosed the de tails of a contentious meeti ng with a school board member: Frank E-5 So, the next problem was that the st udent who was upset and questioned my decision is the son of a school board memb er, so the next thing I know Im getting a phone call from this woman. And then the next day she comes into my class while Im teaching. Asked how this conflict was resolved, Frank co mmented that, I just basically had to eat crow over it. She said that I needed to remember that a public school coul dnt advocate religious practices and I said yes, maam. Franks use of the colloquial phrase to eat crow as well as his overly quaint and servile response of yes, ma-am to the school board member indicated his ironic sense of resignation over his understanding of his place in the hierarchy of the school community. At the same time, his one word coda to the piece--whatever --suggested that he had not taken this incident to heart and will perhap s continue to exercise his independent judgment regardless of the immediate consequences. Gina: I Set the Agenda In two related narratives, Gina represented a position of dogmatism in which she maintained control over the subjects discussed in her classes. Asked to respond to the Jay Bennish case, she expressed sympathy for teachers w ho have been disciplined in similar cases as

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161 she frequently voices her opinion about political matters. In the abstract to Story F--I Set the Agenda, she developed this theme: Im alwa ys shooting my mouth off with my kids. If someone was taping my classes, they could ha ve a ton of evidence that would make Sean Hannity mad. Gina quickly followed this startling confession with an expl anation of the context of the remark: Gina F-2. I usually go in every day and do a short piece to open up class, sometimes its just what did you do over the w eekend, but a lot of times its a news item, something that theyll have heard something about but us ually have just developed only a knee-jerk response to it. In this statement, Gina foreshadowed he r methodological choices, es pecially relating to student involvement in lessons. Gina supplied a brief example of the kind of knee-jerk response that she sees among her st udents: So, if its Don Imus, th eyll just say, whats the big deal or he should be fired but they dont have a sophisticated vi ew of it. Asked if she allowed students to choose topics or supply items for discussion, Gina indicated her view that her students are not knowledgeable enou gh about current events to be able to play this role effectively: Gina F-3. Lets be honest, these kids are not reading a newspaper, most dont watch the news on TV, even the local news, unless ma ybe its the sports, th eyre certainly not reading books on sociology or law, so no, thats my job to set the agenda. Rather than inspiring her students to take an active interest in their world, Gina accepts that they will not be interested enough in the news of the day to read a daily newspaper. She also ignores the division between old media and new media and the reality that many of her students may indeed be paying attention to news stories but are gaining their information about current events from online sources. These sources ar e not without their inac curacies and pose new challenges for teachers; however, th ese pedagogical issues seem en tirely lost on Gina. Ironically, Gina had, throughout her interview sessions, clai med that she pursues innovative teaching

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162 methods on the basis of her progres sive worldview. She returned to this theme in the evaluation segment of the narrative: Gina F-4. Im a big believer in making connections with kids, and I think you have to be honest with them in order to do it. There s no point hiding who you are because the kids always know anyway. They pa y attention to everything. This sentiment was, of course, admirable in any teacher. However, instead of making connections with her students by including them in her methods, Gina interpreted progressive pedagogy to mean a license to share her political views with her students in an authoritarian fashion. The consequences of this contradictory me thod are brought to light in a final narrative that Gina provided in response to the Prentice Chandler case. As with her previous narrative, she began this story with a stark pronouncement about her place in the classroom: When it comes down to it, I try my best but I dont think I make much of a difference in the end, I dont think I have much influence. This was the voice of a practitioner who assume d that students would merely drift in and out of her classroom and he r life without any of her influence rubbing off on them. In the orientation section of th e narrative, she expanded on this thought: Gina G-2 Here I am, Im a middle-aged woman, theyre forced to come to me five times a week for classes. If they werent forced, ha lf of them wouldnt s how up. Im definitely not cool. I just th ink their peers have much more influence on them than we do. In this statement, Gina returned to her previous theme of the cultural gulf between teachers and students. She related this to th e subject of public advisory messages in the complicating action sect ion of the narrative: Gina G-3 You know those anti-drug messages? Wh at we should be saying in those is not Just Say No but Oh, go ahead and do it--its no big deal, because its the forbidden fruit element of taking drugs that makes it so cool and tempting to them. At this point in the narrative, Gina returned to the Chandler case e xpressing her view that parents who complain about the indoctrination of her students do not understand the relative lack

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163 of influence that teachers have over their students: If they realized how li ttle these kids actually listen to us, they wouldnt worry about what we as k the kids to read; they dont read much of it anyway. In the evaluation section of the na rrative, Gina continued this plaintive tone: Gina G-4 I do my best to make it fun, but Im under no illusions that theyd rather be at the beach and there are some days when Id ra ther be at the beach too, if Im telling the truth. Gina then rounded off this tragic dialogue by si gnaling her intentions to continue to beat my head against the wall by assigning readings that will challenge her students: They may not read them but what other choice do I have When asked if she thought that including controversial topics would stimul ate her students interest in the subject of World History, she supplied a brief coda: Not reall y, no. This somewhat jaundiced response may merely reflect a temporary mood; however, over seven narratives drawn from two separa te interview sessions separated by several weeks, Gina had indica ted again and again that her approach of dogmatically forcing her progressive views on her students and ignori ng their input had not brought her the returns on her investment that she had expected. Conclusions When teachers tell stories, they tend to emphasize fascinating details about their experiences in the classroom, events that have occurred in their teachi ng careers and comments that students and parents have made about their teaching practice. These narratives reflect, in microcosm, the totality of their background, feelings about the world around them and experiences inside and outside of the clas sroom. Evans (1989) commented on the complex interplay between these elements: Teacher conceptions of history seem prof oundly related to teacher background, teacher belief, and teacher knowledge. Among the factors mentioned by informants: previous teachers, college professors, family, books, and life experiences, though home and school factors seemed most important. In particular, political a nd religious background seem to

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164 play an especially important role, though the importance of each of these factors may vary considerably. (p. 236) In the course of these narratives document ed above, the 7 participants in this study revealed complicated and sometime s contradictory stances toward th e content material that they are charged with teaching. This relationship b ecomes even murkier when it involves conscious and unconscious decisions to enter ar eas of controversy in the field. Many of the respondents, for example, felt a close bond with their students and thus pursued a student-focus approach to exploring controversial i ssues. Ben, for example, spoke about how he had tried to incl ude more student-centered exercise s over the years, in describing his integration of skits on contr oversial topics such as witchcraft and slaver y into his curriculum. This position presumes that these issues will be fa r less controversial if discussions and activities are student-led rather than cen tered around direct instruction. Another common strategy reveal ed in these conversations was one of stressing accuracy and fact in the presentation of controversial ma terial, a position that seems intimately connected to the historical paradigm within which many of these teachers operate. In his critique of Michael Moores work, for example, Eric stated that, He just isnt accurate in wh at he talks about in those movies. Controversy exists in the classrooms of teachers who operate under this guise of accuracy and yet the notion of multiple perspec tives often gives way to the primacy of one accurate view most often ar ticulated by the instructor. Several of the teachers interviewed fo r this project displayed a position of inoffensiveness, stating a deliberate intention to avoid offending students in their classes. This has become a more pressing concern for social studies teachers in the past generation as public school classrooms have become increasingly divers e spaces. For example, in her discussions of religious issues in her World Religions elective course, Cathy commented that, Ive got to be

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165 conscious of not offending anyone, because Ive got in a typical class, a Southern Baptist kid next to a Hindu kid next to a Pentecostal kid. Wh ile sensitivity is indeed paramount in teaching today, this position seems to preclude the possibilit y of candidly addressing issues of interest to students in an open forum. Given the context of teaching in an era of he ightened sensitivity, it is not surprising that a position of fear pervaded many of the conversations I had with te achers for this study. Several teachers were aware of national and local incident s, such as the ones pr ofiled earlier in this chapter, in which teachers had been disciplined for taking risks with their instructional practice. In a fascinating narrative, Gina described the cu rrent practice of social studies instruction as a minefield. She commented that, I don't start ou t expecting to do contro versial work every day, I don't want to get fired . Despite participan ts claims to the contrary, fear seems to be a significant factor when it comes to decisions ab out how to present controversial public issues. Finally, a handful of the teachers who participated in this study indicated a position of curriculum focus, often hiding behind curricular issues and time pressures as they presented rationales for not including more controversial teaching in their practice. When challenged by a student to include more materi al on Black History, for example, Frank responded that, I dont have enough time to take a month or even a week out to satisfy every different interest group and still prepare them for this test, and that s my main job. This position appears to be particularly common among those teachers whose principal teach ing load involves Advanced Placement courses; however, in an age of high-st akes testing, the focus on narrow curricular matters at the expense of more enriching discus sions is something that afflicts all teachers. In the following chapter, I attempt to synthesize the findings from this study, concentrating on the three main areas of conve rgence--conceptions, experiences, and positions--

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166 that sprang from the original research questions and the myriad factors a ffecting these three main areas of inquiry.

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167 CHAPTER 7 TOWARD A NEW MODEL OF CONTRO VER SY IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES Introduction As the unique and fascinating narratives that emerged from the conversations detailed in the previous three chapters indi cate, teachers approach the pro cess of lesson planning in highly individual and personal ways. These teachers reflected upon their own educational backgrounds, content knowledge, supplementary interests a nd understanding of pedagogy. At the same time, however, this complex process is influenced by the environments in which they teach. In describing how trends and ideas can spread in a similar manner to that of contagious diseases, Gladwell (2000) identified a factor he referred to as The Power of Context. He commented: Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions a nd circumstances of the times and places in which they occur. In Baltimore, syphilis spre ads far more in the summer than in the winter. Hush Puppies took off because they we re being worn by kids in the cutting-edge precincts of the East Village--an environment th at helped others to look at the shoes in a new light. (p. 139) Seen in the light of the field of education and school settings Gladwells Power of Context would suggest that the environment in which soci al studies teachers practi ce can be an important factor in terms of their decisions to use controversial content mate rial in their regular instruction. Put simply, certain environments seem to support these decisions while others discourage them. In the narratives that form the heart of this study, three broad categ ories emerged: (a) the conceptions that teachers have of what constitutes controversy in the field of social studies; (b) the experiences that they encountered in using c ontroversy in their teachi ng; and (c) the positions that they take toward using controversy as a re sult of these experiences. Within each category, each teacher exhibits complex in tersections of myriad environm ental elements. In the following chapter, I will detail how thes e environmental elements emerged from the teacher narratives conducted for this study.

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168 Conceptions The narratives that emerged from the initia l set of interviews c onducted with 7 social studies teachers currently practicing in the Jack sonville, Florida area suggest that there are a wide range of historical and contemporary issues that have proven controversia l in the northern Florida communities served by the Duval County P ublic school district (D CPS). Table 7-1 shows a breakdown of these issues mentioned by the teachers participating in this study. While there are clearly an abundance of issu es that have proven controversial in the social studies classrooms of northern Florida, a handful of themes appear to be more significant than others. The Bush Administration It is not surprising that th e topic of the Bush administ rations policies, including the PATRIOT Act, the firing of U.S. attorneys in 2005, extraordinary rendition, its nominations to the Supreme Court, and, most notably, its Iraq policy, have proven highly controversial in the classrooms of Duval County public schools. Florida was a high-pr ofile swing state in both the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, and as menti oned earlier, operatives on both sides of the partisan divide were especially concerned a bout the coverage of th ese issues in Florida classrooms. Thus, any reference by Florida social studies teachers to the Bush administration and its policies during these periods was scrutinized by students, pa rents and the wider community for signs of partisanship. Each of the teacher-participa nts in this study made reference to the Bush administrations policies in their various narratives thus underscoring these points. In Story D--Theyre Nuts, for example, Adam criticized Michael Moores Fahrenheit 9/11 for its sensationalistic approach to the issues of the Bush administration and its response to the 9/11 at tacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon:

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169 Hes just trying to sell tick ets or books by saying outrage ous things about the Bush administration, so its not enough to say that the Bush policy about the Iraq War was wrong--which Id agree with and most conser vatives would agree with--hes got to trade in all of these 9/11 conspiracy theories about Bin Laden and the Saudi royal family and then the Caspian oil deals. Its just too much. In this statement, Adam indicated that the Bush administration is a convenient and easy target for those on the left side of the political spectrum and that left intellectuals such as Moore are guilty of piling on as the approval numbers for the Bush administration have plummeted in recent years. The virtual cottage industry of books criticizing the Bush administration that cluttered the New York Times bestseller list during the last Pr esidential campaign year (Clarke, 2004; Dean, 2004; Suskind, 2004) would seem to s upport Adams point. In a similar vein, Cathy recalled in Story E--R Rating a co lleague who was disciplined for using Fahrenheit 9/11 due to the heightened sensitivity of the community to these issues during th e fall of 2004: He made it easy for those people who were looking for an ex cuse to punish someone for getting partisan about the Presidential election. Cathy clearl y felt that teachers facing the context of a contentious political climate needed to take unusu al care in the prepara tion and presentation of their lessons. At the same time, some teachers expressed their enthusiasm for engaging students in the upcoming Presidential campaign. Eric, for exampl e, in Story B--Republicans vs. Democrats spoke about his plans for his spri ng semester course in American Government: Im planning to do some debates with the students. Have them choose candidates and deba te different issues from the stances of their chosen candidates. Eric commented further about the candid stance that he takes toward these issues: I make no bones about my own opinions, the students know from day one that Im a Republican, die hard conservati ve, voted for Bush twice, but that doesnt mean that students cant criticize Bush in my classes, and they sure do, and I criticize him too sometimes.

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170 In this passage, Eric exhibited his willingness to allow open debate in his classroom. Gina also showed a willingness to engage her student s in current events disc ussions about the Bush administrations policies, albeit through the slightly passive form of a bulletin board collage of headlines. When questioned about a headline cri tical of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Gina described an interesting exchange: I geared up for a big fight with him about my right to bring items in from home and trying to enrich the curriculum and blah de bl ah blah, but then he ju st smiled, kind of like Gotcha! He just wanted to see if he could get a reaction from me. This incident and Ginas comment perhaps best exemplifies the terra in upon which social studies teachers operate when di scussing the current administration: if theyre courageous and willing to entertain the opinions of their student s, they can certainly address these issues, but they must take undue caution in doing so lest they face criticism--or wors e--from their immediate school communities. Religion Religious issues also proved especially contentious in Jacksonville area secondary schools. Duval County is home to a large Southern Baptist congregation, as well as many smaller fundamentalist and evangelical Protestant denomin ations who actively campaign for a return to the kind of explicit religious in struction banned by the Supreme C ourt in landmark decisions in cases such as Engel vs. Vitale (1962). Many school di stricts, including DCPS have thus retreated behind a wall of silence on religi ous topics rather than addressi ng the plurality of philosophical, ethical, and moral concerns that ar e at the core of religious traditi ons in a spirit of open, critical inquiry. At the same time, DCPS schools adhere closely to the Lemon Test that emerged from the Supreme Courts decision in the Lemon vs. Kurtzman (1971) case that permits student initiated religious observances such as the before -school ritual observed by Frank in Story E-Rally Round the Flag.

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171 Bens comments in his narrative Story D--St udent Skit were typical of the responses from the participants in this study. Addressing hi s strategy of using original skits in order to stimulate student interest and understanding of hist orical eras in his Worl d History classes, Ben stated that he habitually anticipates contr oversy arising from a skit concerning the French religious wars that includes several florid passa ges of anti-Catholic rhetoric: So every year, Im waiting for something to happen, be cause there is plenty of inflammatory stuff in it. While many of the respondents have the option to avoi d confronting controvers ial religious issues, Cathy, who teaches an elective course in World Relig ions, is forced to deal with these topics in the daily routine of her instruc tion. In Story A--Raised Catho lic, Cathy commented about her efforts to teach in an inoffensive manner: So, sure, Ive got to be conscious of not o ffending anyone, because Ive got in a typical class, a Southern Baptist kid next to a Hindu kid next to a Pentecostal kid. But at the same time, I tell them from the start that were going to dig deeply into the doctrines and beliefs of these different faiths so that theyve got to be willing to do that. In her response, Cathy demonstrated that her approach is la rgely governed by her understanding of the unusually dive rse student population of Ora nge Park College Preparation School. She admitted that her students are not always able to rise to her challenge of digging deeply into these issues: Ive had students that ju st shut down in the middle of the course. This comment lent testimony to the extraordinary di fficulties facing social studies teachers who choose to address in their inst ruction religious issues so personal to their students. In her fascinating narrative, Story A--Church vs. State, Donna illustrated the importance of school context in relation to issu es of controversy. She stated that while many teachers in other DCPS schools might expect to fi nd support for their efforts to blur the lines between religious instruction and public education, she has also en countered challenges from her more liberal students at Riverside Arts Academy:

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172 Here, though, the students and ev en their parents are pretty di verse and much more liberal than in most schools in the area. Its just the arts school focus, it changes everything. So, Ive had kids question choices that wouldnt be a pr oblem in other schools. Donna provided an example of this unusual context when she detailed an incident in which a student complained about her us e of an album of Christmas music: I had for years brought in a copy of the El vis Presley Christmas album, you know with Blue Christmas and I had a kid complain that it was Christian music and that I shouldnt be playing it. He was Jewish and I guess I hadnt thought of it. As a result of the students intervention, Donna was forced to reflect upon what, in her mind, had been a seemingly innocuous inclus ion of classic music in an effo rt to create a warm, inviting atmosphere in the classroom for her students. In the end, the cultu ral gulf between teachers and students from both sides of the Church vs. Stat e argument reflects the cu lture wars in schools. Race Issues involving race also operate on an extremely delicate ground in diverse northern Florida public schools. Many comment ators have noted the radioac tive nature of the discussion of race during the recent Presiden tial primary season, in which the campaigns of both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have faced criticism for injecti ng race into the debate (Sirota, 2008; Williams, 2008). While many Americans would lik e to think that the United States became a color blind society after the passage of the Civil Rights Ac t in 1964, the work of several educators has focused attention on the continuing racial divide that exists within public schooling. Kozol (2005), for example, posited that the de jure segregation in schools ended by the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 has, in the adve nt of white flight to suburban neighborhoods, been replaced with a de facto segregation in many school districts. Levitt and Dubner (2005) reported that the average White student attends a public school with a black student population of 6%, while the average Black student attends a public school with a black student population of 60%. Tatum (1997) furthe r analyzed the implications of the self-

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173 segregation practices of many Afri can American students within wh at such students interpret as the white space of public schools. Five of the respondents included in this st udy mentioned race relations as an extremely controversial issue for their st udents. In Story C--The Bell Curve, Adam offered concrete evidence of the precarious ground upon which so cial studies teachers stand when addressing these issues with their classes. Following He rrnstein and Murrays (1994 ) provocative exercise, Adam created a worksheet that prompted students to reflect upon the de mographic realities of their most intimate relationships with their peers. Not surprisingly, he encountered resistance to this plan: I had purposely put it (race) at the bottom of the column of a lot of other items, Im not an idiot, you know. So the first kid who notices it says, Hey, you cant ask us that! And I said, Why not? So that started a whol e discussion the basic point of which was whether or not even asking que stions about race was racist. In his narrative, Adam expressed shock in th e response from the stude nts: I was pretty astonished the whole class wanted to ignore the issue of race because they think theyre color blind in this generation, that it doesnt matter anymore. Ben reinforced this testimony about the difficulty of engaging students in even historical discus sions that involve race such as the slave trade in his narrative Story D--S tudent Skit. He related an anecdote about a classroom incident in which he had asked a group to act out an original skit based on the 1839 Amistad slave rebellion: I had one that was loosely based on the Amista d incident and a Black kid, actually maybe more than just one over the years, but defin itely I remember one kid who just refused to even be in the room for it. She said, my Mom just says that I shouldnt be around when you folks are talking slavery or something like that. Thus, within the overheated pol itical climate of 2008, students in American high schools view even sympathetic historical discussions that invol ve race as offensive and potentially degrading.

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174 Despite these student protestations of colo rblindness, however, the teachers in this study mentioned several incidents in which racial tensions and resentment boiled over in their classrooms. In Story B--Questioning Slavery, for instance, Cathy detail ed the regular practice by individual white students in he r World History classes of cha llenging the ways in which the slave trade has been characterized in mainstream historical texts. She re called that, There will be some quiet little kid wholl sa y, Are we sure that this wasnt exaggerated? Cathy related that her typical response in the face of these incidences of overt r acist challenges to her curriculum was to shut it down by requiring students to provide the research to back up their assertions on the spot. Donna recalled in Story D--The Jena Six how a near melee had broken out in her classroom over a simple misunderstandi ng about the use of capital ization in an article that shed used to explore the case of the Jena Six: It just started with something relatively simple and small. One white student had noticed th at the author had used a lowercase w for the word white and a capital B fo r Black in the article. The sh eer abundance of these anecdotes in the testimony of these teachers speaks to th e explosive nature of race as a contemporary discussion point in todays social studies classrooms. Iraq Given the large number of military personne l stationed in the J acksonville area, any references to the ongoing occupation of Iraq by United States military forces are fraught with controversy. Duval County, Florida is home to the Naval Ai r Station, Jacksonville, which employs 23,000 civilian and active duty personnel on its southside Jack sonville base. While there are certainly elements of the Bush admi nistrations policies th at are unpopular among these military families; including the st op-loss practice of continually re-deploying troops that are due for domestic leave, the treatment of veterans of the deployment at Veterans Administration facilities, and the in adequate materiel provided to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; the tradition of

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175 following the orders of a civilian leadership has meant that overt criticis m of the occupation is anathema within military circles. This taboo ha s been reinforced by the Bush administrations conflation of emotional support for the troops and hopes for their safe ty--naturally, a quite widespread sentiment among the American populace --with support for their policies, including narrow elements of policy such as the recent expansion of troop deployments commonly known as The Surge. The teachers interviewed for this project experienced these tre nds at first hand. For example, Ben commented on the tendency of student s from military families to reject the need for any discussion of the issues surrounding the interven tions in Iraq and Afghanistan in Story E--Truth Consequences and War: Of course there were one or two conservative kids, kids with parents involved in the war, who took it personally. Theyre going to think that any debate is wrong, that you just get behind the troops no matter what, and I get that. Ironically Ben noted that, as a supporter of these policies, I get that and I have the (Support the Troops yellow ribbon) decal on my car. At the same time, he felt strongly that, in order for the policies to be successful, an info rmed American public needed to unify behind them. Thus, Ben felt justified in using materials such as the PBS Frontline documentary that provided, to his satisfaction, fair and factual coverage of the issu es involved: But you have to have more than that. The only way that this thing is going to work is if the nation is behind it and that takes knowledge and information. In Story B--History as History, Frank presented a contrasting narrative in which he represented curricular time pressures in a positiv e light. Noting that he rarely reached further than the Reagan administration of the 1980s in his survey of American history, Frank stated that this was an advantage as it prevented students from making what he cons idered inappropriate historical parallels between events such as the U.S. military interventions in Vietnam and Iraq:

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176 Im not sure that the students put together the periods like Vi etnam and Iraq and I'm not sure I want them too. Theres a lot of talk about that but it's more complicated than that. Asked to explain his aversion to draw ing connections betw een historical and contemporary issues, Frank conceded that, Yes, Vietnam was a disaster and Iraq is a disaster but they're really different. Yet, he concluded that th is is a rather facile comparison that hides the underlying dissimilarities. In the end, he expr essed the desire in his students for what he considers a more nuanced view: I want students to understand Vietnam for Vi etnam, to understand why we got involved and the mistakes that were made there, but not necessarily to extrapolate from that to be against Iraq. I think it's conceivable to think that Vietnam was a bad idea and that Iraq is noble, or vice versa. Thus, rather than Bens policy of openly a ddressing contemporary issues in a history class as a means of gaining critical understand ings of historical issues, Frank preferred the advantage of avoiding these discussions by presen ting a historical survey that stopped short of and actively avoided contemporary topics. Abortion The conservative Bible-Belt politics mentione d above also make discussion of abortion and reproductive rights in gene ral quite complicated in Jacksonville area social studies classrooms. In recent years, abortion, along with gay rights--also men tioned as an issue of controversy by several participan ts--and gun control have been utilized by political candidates and campaigns as wedge issues in order to divide constituencies that might otherwise be likely to vote as a bloc around their economic interests rath er than more narrow social concerns. Public education, too, has become a political football in local political races. While the current Abstinence Only policy mandated by No Child Left Behind proscribes altogether the discussion

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177 of abortion and contraception in h ealth classes, social studies t eachers still retain the, albeit limited, ability to discuss these topics as public policy issues in their classes. The participants in this study were well aw are of this complicated context. Adam, for example, listed abortion as one of three issues th at he was advised by a senior colleague to stay away from in a self-evidently titled narrative Story A--Stay Away from Abortion. While he expressed the tendency to avoid controversial public po licy issues as a young teacher, he also noted that he has included them in his more recent instruction of Am erican Government. He asked rhetorically: How can I talk about m odern government and (the) modern judiciary without discussing these issues? In Story A--Church vs. State, Donna concurred with these concerns: You might have a more conservative environm ent in most schools, particularly in the neighborhood schools where if youre a liberal minded teacher like me you have to be careful not to talk too openly about abortion or sex or whatnot. At the same time, she expressed more concer n about disturbing the delicate relationships that shed established with her students, particularly with th ose who hold opposing views to her own on the issue of abortion, than with wider co mmunity standards. In Story D--Violation of Trust, she admitted that these concerns weigh on her mind when considering the presentation of her views: It has to, yes, it does. Because you realize that you can very quickly lose that trust, you can disappoint them. For example, I have a lo t of kids who are pro-life and they care tremendously about the issue. And Im pro-choice and I care about it too. Upon reflection, Donna concluded that, I woul d never say that in front of a class, and not because I would get into trouble, which I prob ably would, but because it would be a violation of trust. Im not sure that I could ever get that trust back. In the end, Donna implicitly understood that her relationship with her students is by far the most important in regard to her

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178 teaching practice. In the narratives discussed in the following section, this understanding filters through the conversations with all 7 participants. Experiences When analyzing the narratives that addresse d the experiences that individual teachers had encountered with the use of controversial public issues in their classrooms--the question at the center of this study--several common categories emerged. These categories corresponded with the various players within the school community th at had a role in the in cidents described. Table 7-2 includes a visual display of these categories. It is instructive to note in the following discussion that these factors mentioned below begin with the most intimate and personal teach ing relationship--that with students--and then build out gradually in concentric circles to include wider and wider areas of the community. Students Students in traditional school settings were t ypically conceived of as passive vessels with which to fill up with expert knowledg e and as polite subordinates to the paterfamilias authority in the home and the in loco parentis authority of the teacher in the classroom. In contrast, students of the past two genera tions have gained an immeas urable amount of freedom and independence. In 1969, for example, the S upreme Court decision in the landmark Tinker vs. Des Moines case stipulated that students rights to free expression--in the specific case, the right to display a black armband adorned with a peace symbol in a protest of the United States military intervention in Vietnam--did not end at the scho olhouse gates. While these rights were recently challenged by the decision in favor of an Al askan school districts suspension of a group of students who displayed a banner reading Bong Hits for Jesus in the Morse vs. Frederick case (2007), it is indisputable that high school students in 2008 feel more confident in voicing their

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179 opinions inside and outside of the classroom than did their counterparts fifty or a hundred years ago. In nearly all of the incidents involving controversy in the classroom described by the teachers participating in this study, students provided the spark that initiate d the conflict. Indeed, in those instances in which their parents or the wider community become involved in a discussion of a teachers practice, their views are filtered through the lens of the information provided to them by the students who first witnes sed the incident. Severa l teachers referred to this new sense of power felt by their students. Gi na, for example, remembered an incident in Story B--Going, Gone, Gonzo in which she was caught off guard by a student challenge of an item that she had posted on the bulletin board in he r classroom that referenced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalezs status : I put it up and something like the next day, a student who usually is barely awake asked a question, Why is that there? Ironically, as Gina later related, the student was not terribly upset by the item but rather merely wanted to get a reaction from Gina: I geared up for a big fight and he just smiled, kind of like Gotcha! Despite the humor involved in this anecdote, it clearly in dicated the tremendous ps ychological power that students often exert in their relati onships with their teachers today. In Story C--Renaissance to Modern, Be ns plans for an innovative World History survey that allowed him to give more atten tion to non-European topics was undermined by the introduction of a new student who had previously attended a class with a more traditional scope and sequence of topics. This incident was ev entually resolved in a meeting involving administrators and parents. Ben commented on the details of the meeting: I had to meet with the VP and the departme nt chair. I guess the kid had gone home and told his mom and shed called them to say that her kid was confused. I dont blame her because Im sure it was confusing to him. It was just an unfortunate situation.

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180 In this statement, Ben confirmed that the m eeting had itself been initiated when the kid had gone home and complained of confusion. Admirably, Ben harbored no resentment and recognized the conflict as an unfor tunate situation that could be resolved with a little extra work after school with the student. Of all the teachers interviewed, Fra nk perhaps demonstrated the most successful relationships with his stude nts. In Story A--GSA, for instance, Frank recalled how one of the first ye ars I was here, a group of student s asked me to sponsor the Gay Straight Alliance chapter here at Riverview. In his classroom instruct ion too, Frank indicated his inclination to orient his hist orical material to the students own interests. In Story D-Abstract Art, Frank explained the rationale fo r including a presentation of modern art in his U.S. History class: When you teach at a school like this you kind of have to tailor what you do to fit the interests of the students, and Ive got a lot of kids who come into class with paintspattered jeans on, so I know I cant just ta lk about the Marshall Plan and think that theyre going to get into it. Ive got to bring the cultural history in as well. At the same time, however, Frank was sometimes surprised by the reaction of his students to his lessons. In the same narrative, for example, Frank mentioned one student who had complained about the selection of Jackson Pollocks work: he just said, Thats just a mess. I could do better than that. This exchange suggested that even the most sensitive and studentcentered teacher has a great deal of work to do in maintaining successful relationships with groups of students who feel incr easingly confident about speaki ng their minds and challenging the ideas that teachers bring into social studies classrooms. Colleagues Many educators over the years (Goodlad, 1984; Sizer, 1992) spoke eloquently about the isolation facing most teachers who spend hours in the classroom with students each school day with little chance to engage in collaborative activities with their fellow teach ers. Indeed, save the

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181 brief greetings in the morning and rushed lunc hes in the faculty loung e at mid-day, teachers rarely have the opportunity to speak with their colleagues. Yet, as flee ting as these encounters may be, teachers reputations within a school are largely based on the views of others teachers. Apple (2000) addressed the common dynamic in which a young teacher, flush with idealism from a program of teacher training and practicum experiences, meets with the disapproval or outright resistance of more es tablished faculty members. The participants in this study consistently mentioned the issue of collegiality, or lack thereof, in their teaching lives. Adam, for example, remembered the not-so-subtle social pressure implied in the advice that he had received from a veteran teacher in the department. In Story A-Dont Mention Abortion, he recalled: And I worr y a little about addressing them because one of the warnings I got when I fi rst started teaching was stay away from abortion, stay away from homosexuality because somebodys gonna complain. And so far nobodys complained. For a young teacher entering the field, this kind of advice can have a devastating effect on his or her confidence in the ab ility to conduct critic al lessons. Despite his claims otherwise, its clear from his comments--I st ill feel antsy because I know that one day theres gonna be that phone call--that his colleagues words have had an effect on his practice. No teacher relishes the prospect of facing a phone call from an angry pa rent and thus many choos e to avoid taking risks with their instructional practi ces. Bens narrative Story B--Tough Adjustment testified to another aspect of the reality of public school teaching that make s life particularly difficult for first-year teachers: the lack of effective mentoring programs. A ssigned to teach in a rotation of different classrooms, a situation known to many fi rst-year teachers, Ben remarked on the lack of sensitivity and support disp layed by his colleagues: A lot of the teachers would see me in the hallway and theyd say things they thought were funny--Travel Much?--or something st upid like that. Sometimes theyd ask how

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182 things were going but they really didnt want to hear about it, so Id just keep moving and chalk off the days. This response from veteran teachers thus turn ed what could have been a more fruitful experience into a rite-of-passage in which Ben cha lk(ed) off the days. In Story A--Church vs. State, Donna related a surprising narrative regarding pressure pla ced on her by a fellow teacher advocating on behalf of a student who was caught plagiarizing a paper for Donnas class. She commented: I remember one kid who I caught plagiarizing a paper, a term paper, and maybe I could have been more careful with the assignment to prevent that kind of thing, but I had the kid dead on it. It was straight from Wikipedia, word for word. And because she had some work in the spring show, well, you know where this is going. Finally, Gina addressed the re sistance that she encountered from her colleagues at Orange Park College Preparation School to a lesson in which she attempted to use a demonstration of meditation techniques as a mean s of enriching the students u nderstanding of Buddhism. In Story E--Teaching Buddhism, she described the response to her lesson: I was getting all these jokes in the faculty lounge, people calling me Smokey and that sort of thing as if I was smoking pot in my room. Which is ridiculous. But thats the kind of narrow-mindedness that you get among teachers sometimes. In a subsequent parent conference triggered by her meditation lessons, Gina was supported by her department head. However, she rela ted that, she (the department head) told me that I probably shouldnt do the meditation exercise again in the future, as if I had done something wrong. These comments from veteran practitioners spoke volumes to the influence that even casual comments made by colleagues can have on teacher confidence and the use of unconventional and potentially controversial teaching materials and content. Parents Parents and organized parent groups have played a central ro le in recent challenges to teacher autonomy and academic freedom. Ro ss and Marker (2005) noted the irony that

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183 conservative mothers have often been on the front lines of this new movement to challenge the practices of (predominantly) fema le teachers. They commented th at, despite the association of womens politics with progressive struggles fo r suffrage, reproductive rights, and the Equal Rights Amendment, that, Today, the movement has a new identity (p. 144). Apple (2001) surmised that this new dynamic is largely due to the character of religiously conservative families. According to the dictates of the church es that dominate the thinking of these families, it is a womans proper role to take care of rais ing children and, by extension, their education. Indeed the capture of this role by secular schoo ls and teachers is often the primary source of tension in these cases. Many of the respondents in this project recogni zed this shiftin g reality in their comments about their experiences in parent conferences. Cathy, for example, related an instance in which a fellow colleague was forced to recant some intemperate comments made a bout IQ testing and the Gifted Program at her school. In Story F--Stick to the Script, she recalled: (T)hey had a big meeting of all the Gifted pa rents and students and this guy had to walk the plank. He had to apologize, to do the mea culpa in front of all of these angry parents. It eventually blew over, but you neve r recover from something like that. The kids know that theyve got you then and it never ends. So in the end he moved to another school where he could start over. As a result of such incidents, Cathy developed a supervisory position toward younger teachers in which she admonished them for st raying away from their lesson plans. As she commented: So what you need to do is stick to th e script. What I mean is that you have a lesson plan, you put together your materials and you have notes for your material. In Story E--Rally Round the Flag, Frank provided an anecdote about his struggle with a particularly powerful parent over the issue of whether students should have been allowed to come late to his class from a religious ritual. Frank remembered receivi ng a phone call from a school board member whose son was a member of on e of Franks classes:

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184 (T)he next problem was that the student who was upset and questioned my decision is the son of a school board member, so the next thi ng I know Im getting a phone call from this woman. And then the next day she come s into my class while Im teaching. Realizing upon reflection that he had badl y misrepresented a secular institution, Frank recalled that, I just basically had to eat crow over it. Social st udies teachers such as Frank are aware that the power dynamics, particularly involving well-connected parents, of public education mean that the only prope r response to a challenge of this kind is, as Frank related, yes maam. While the participants in this study confirmed that the normal channels of communication between parents and t eachers were still very much in place, a layer of tension has been added to this communication as a result of th e culture wars. Curriculum One of the central components of standards reform in the past 25 years has been the primacy of curriculum frameworks. Constructed by federal and state departments of education, occasionally in consultation with classroom practi tioners, these detailed content guidelines are in turn disseminated to local districts for im plementation in individual schools. While the frameworks paradigm has addressed the pressi ng problem of scope and sequence in order to avoid the irritating tendency of schools to cover iden tical material in several history classes, it has also severely constrained cr eativity and added a pressing time concern to teachers planning processes. Within the domain of standards refo rm, therefore, the organic assessment of students by concerned educators has been replaced by an inauthentic accountability buttressed by a regime of high stakes testing. Several of the teacher-participants who provided narrative responses for this study addressed this current state of affairs. In hi s narrative Story B--Cut and Paste Job, Adam lamented the loss of instructional time to the battery of tests now admi nistered in his school:

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185 Weve lost a lot of time to testing. We now ha ve a pre-test at the beginning of the year, and a post-test at the end of the year. And thats in additi on to PSAT if you teach ninth grade and AP tests and IB tests and its just endless. So weve lost time for regular instruction and Ive had to adjust so that I get through as much material as possible. Its tough and I have to admit that I dont get to as much as I used to. Just cant. Asked whether this testing regime affects th e depth of instructional detail that he is allowed, Adam commented that, Its got to. Ben added a fascinating narrative to this testimony. In Story C--Renaissance to Modern, he exalted about the freedom that he felt when he reduced his World History survey from one th at covered Prehistory to the current world to one that began at the period of the Italian Renaissance: I immediately noticed that I had the freedom to do units on the Ottoman Empire that I hadnt been able to do before, and I could get further in the survey. I ended up with a unit on contemporary conflicts in the 90s that year. It was amazing. Unfortunately, this schema created problems of coordination with other contemporaneous classes in the school. As Ben commented: the pr oblem is that I had some students who switched from another class into mine. I get this kid in my class and of course, hes been doing the Hellenistic Period with his othe r class and were already doing th e Scientific Revolution, some few thousand years later. In Bens case, a contro versy erupted due to his lack of discipline in regard to conforming to the frameworks, resu lting in a humiliating parent conference and an admonishment from the administ ration. Finally, Frank related an interesting anecdote regarding his Advanced Placement courses. In Story C--Tim e Pressure, he noted that, in recent years, students had begun to complain about the brevity a nd lack of depth in the survey of American history: You know, I have had a few complaints recent ly. Some kids have complained that we skip pretty quickly over the material at times, its the only way that I can cover everything, to be honest, I just at times have to assign text r eadings and then test them on it in order to catch up. So there is some bellyaching about that.

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186 This general criticism led to specific in cidents in which students challenged Franks curricular choices during Black History Month in February. Asked how he addressed this query, Frank admitted that he couldnt satisfy each students demands: I dont have enough time to take a month, or even a week, out to satisfy every different interest group. It is clear from these responses that the breakneck pace with which soci al studies teachers must cover material in an age of accountability measured by success on high stak es tests means that there is little time or support for their innovations in the classroom. Positions On the basis of the structural and positionali ty analysis conducted on the narratives that emerged from my conversations with 7 social studies teachers currently teaching in Duval County Public high schools, I identified a va riety of positions that teachers commonly take toward the use of controversial subject matter in their instructional prac tice. These positions are not exclusive; many of the partic ipants displayed the salient characteristics of more than one position, occasionally within the sa me narrative. Indeed, the cont radictory nature of some the positions attests to the complex nature of teaching in the social studies today. Table 7-3 contains a visual representation of these positions. As Table 7.3 indicates, the teachers involved in this study presented a wide variety of nuanced stances; however, several common positions emerged from the discussions. Student Focus As I previously noted in Chapter 6, the t eachers that I interviewed were inordinately concerned with the relationships that they had built with their students. This emphasis in their instruction was displayed in a position that I have labeled student focus. The strategic presumption underlining this approach is that te achers can avoid the appearance of bias in the discussion of controversial i ssues by allowing students to engage in discussion without

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187 interference or intervention on thei r part. This is the intention behind Erics statement in Story F--He Doesnt Do Himself Any Favors, I like to just lob an issue out there for the kids to wrestle with. It is, of course, convenient for th ese teachers who employ this tactic that studentcentered approaches correspond with current ideas and research within progressive teacher training. Adam embodied this approach in Story A--Stay Away from Abor tion, in his careful instructions to students before a discussion: Ive always pref aced these discussions by saying, Look, were analyzing the issues, were talking about different si des of different arguments, were not actually having the arguments. The teacher who most consistently voiced this position was Frank, who indicated several studentcentered practices in hi s narratives, including posting notices announcing student activities in hi s classroom. In Story D--Abstract Art, he displayed this position in descri bing a lesson in which students were encouraged to respond to modern art pieces in a free-write exercise. Fr ank recalled a discussion that sprang from one students visceral reaction to a Jackson Pollock painting: And that just kicked off this great discussion about what people value in art, wh ether an artist should always strive for a photographic copy. I dont think anyone change d the kids mind, though. But thats okay. Franks reaction is a perfect encapsula tion of the student focus position. Franks presumption that this position would allow him to avoid challenges to his practice, however, was undermined by his testimony in Story E--Rally Round the Flag. In this case, Frank is upbraided by a member of the school board whose son had challenged Fra nks tacit support for a religious observance before school. Reflecting on this experien ce, Frank commented: I learned my lesson that day. I wont sell the students out but I wont go out on a limb either. This incident shows in stark relief that the student focus position, despite its obvious admirable qualities, is not in itself a sufficient strategy for protec ting teachers academic freedom.

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188 Accuracy Another thread that ran through many of th e narratives collected during this project involved historical accuracy and fact, often defined in a narrow sense and contrasted with the progressive notion of multiple perspectives. Th is is undoubtedly due to the participants own training within the historical pa radigm, with its concentration on archival evidence and primary source material. In his rejection of the use of Michael Moores documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 in Story D--Theyre Nuts! Adam commented, I dont really ap preciate Mike Moores stuff. I just think hes a provocateur. Hes not really in the business of being fair in his presentation. Hes trying to push it with every frame and make a propagandistic point. In the context of the accuracy position, Adam judged Fahrenheit which he derided for its acceptance of what he considered conspiracy theori es, to be a work of propaganda rather than a fair and accurate historical record suitable for us e in a social studies cl assroom. In stating his preference for a PBS Frontline documentary over that of Fahrenheit in Story E--Truth, Consequences and War, Ben concurred with Ad am on the need for historical fact in the presentation of controversial mate rial: It just laid out the arguments pro and con very well. It relied on official reports and the speeches of ad ministration officials like Rumsfeld. In this framework, official reports and spee ches gain a particular cachet as part of the hegemonic record of events. Cathy best exemplified this position in her narrative Story B--Questioning Slavery. Responding to a student contribution to a discus sion about the legacy of slavery that she considered both outrageous and outside the parameters of polite conversation on race, Cathy explained her criteria for a ppropriate classroom debate: I tell them that they have to back up what theyre saying or it wont be allowed in my class, in our discussion pit, thats what I like to call it. If they cant produce some evidence, some empirical eviden ce, of the truth of what theyre saying, then I dont allow it. It doesnt get an airing.

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189 It is clear from this statement that Cat hy considers discussion without the support of empirical evidence intolerable and that student engagement in such idle speculation will lead to their exclusion from the conversation. Cathy expanded on her conclusions stemming from this emphasis on historical accuracy and fact in Story C--The Seven Years War is Still the Seven Years War. In her justification of her practice of leaving her World Hist ory survey intact year after year, in contrast to her friend and colleagues dramatic practice of burning her notes each summer, Cathy declared that, I rationalize it that the history hasnt changed, the Seven Years War is still the Seven Years War, right? Wh en I pressed her on this comment, she responded that, the topics havent changed much and I re sist the revisionist stan ces that have become popular. In this schema, histor y is static, with ev idence pointing toward clear and unambiguous conclusions about unchanging events, while atte mpts by younger teachers and scholars to present different perspectives is dismi ssed as historical revisionism. Inoffensiveness A position of inoffensiveness pervaded many of the conversations with the teachers in this study. Many of the participan ts stated a preference for a voiding discussions that they interpreted as promoting controversy, not because of fear of loss of employment, but rather due to their own conceptions of social studies teach ing. It was with no sense of irony, for example, that Adam stated in his narrative detailing a lesson based on the explosive book on race and intelligence, The Bell Curve that, I dont go out of my way to be controversial. In a similar vein, Gina commented in Story E--Social Studies is a Minefield, th at, I don't start out expecting to do controversial work. It is tempting to interpret these statements as expressions of the chilling effect that challenges to academic freedom have had on these teachers. Yet, the narratives provided for this study do not support this conclusion. When the inoffensiveness position is voiced, it is done so out of concern for students more often than our of concern for job

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190 security. For example, in Story D--World Relig ions Journal, Cathy described her main concern in preventing sectarian discussions regarding re ligion in her classroom as one of guarding her diverse student population from potential harm Donna epitomized this position in several narratives. In Story D-Violation of Trust, Donna explained her deci sion to keep her prochoice views private: I think thats one of the big advances for my generation that we made abortion safe, legal and rare. But I would never say that in front of a class, and not because I would get into trouble, which I probably would, but because it would be a violation of trust. In this conception, teachers expressed their concern that they woul d lose authority and respect with their classes if th ey were to explore in a candid manner controversial issues or reveal opinions that they conceive of as risky or contrary to those shared by a predominance of their students. When these teachers have been challenged by students to justify a curricular choice, therefore, it has been in situations in which they have been caught off guard, such as Donnas use of an Elvis Presley album of Christmas music, not when they have consciously waded into a controversial topic with eyes open. Fear While the fear of loss of employment was not uppermost in the minds of the teachers in this study, it is clear from their narratives that it forms an important backdrop to their decisions about lesson planning. Frank, for example, recalled his calculations when approached by a group of students about sponsoring a nascent branch of the Gay Straight Alliance at Riverside Arts Academy in Story A--GSA: When I was first asked, I didn't have professional status and I was still single, so I told them thanks but no tha nks. In this statement, Frank indicated that his reasoning for turning down the offer was based solely on his lack of job security. Adam described the lessons that he t ook from the advice that he rece ived from a veteran colleague during his first year of teaching in Story A--Stay Away from A bortion: I worry a little about

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191 addressing them because one of the warnings I go t when I first started teaching was stay away from abortion, stay away from homosexuali ty because somebodys gonna complain. Adam admitted that this sense of fear creates stre ss that has an influence on his choices in the classroom. After a lesson in his American Govern ment course collapsed amidst accusations of racist intent on his part, he recounted his reaction: I havent used it again, I just felt like it was a hassle. I did the same lesson for two classes that day and it was pretty much the same st ory in both and I went home that night and I was still really tensed up fr om the whole thing and I thought I dont need this, I dont need to come from school and not be able to sleep because of some stupid lesson, jackass. Of all the respondents, Gina most clearly identified herself with the position of fear. Asked for her views on controversy in the field in the social st udies, Gina described it as a minefield in her first narrative. Gina expressed th is position in terms of a critique of an overly sensitive and litigious society in which citizens can be driven to action by the smallest and most seemingly trivial incident: There are just so many different issues and perspectives out there that people really care about and when it comes to their kids, parents can be really intense, I guess is the right word. Despite her reference to concerned parents in Story A--Social Studies is a Minefield, it was clear from the unique pattern of her narrativ es in which she spontaneously dived into the complicating action of incidents that Gina is most worried about the respons es of her students to her instructional choices. In Story B--Going, G one, Gonzo, for example, Gina remembered a time in which she was challenged by a student fo r posting a headline perceived as critical of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Alth ough most teachers, like stand-up comedians, learn to weather this kind of heckling from stude nts, the profusion of such incidents in Ginas classroom has led to her walk on eggshells ar ound her students and has increased the gulf in cultural understanding between them.

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192 Curriculum Focus Finally, 5 of the participants displayed char acteristics of a positi on that is focused on curricular matters. This curriculum focus position is the flip side of the student focus position so common among the teachers interviewed for this pr oject in that it is an attempt to deflect criticism for controversial choices onto the curriculum itself. For instance, the most common response to a curricular challenge among these teachers appeared to be the phrase, its in the curriculum. Indeed, many of the teachers quest ioned how they could adequately cover the material in their courses without delving into so me controversial subjects In Story E-Teaching Buddhism, for example, Gina discussed her rationale for including a demonstration of meditation practices in a unit on Eastern philo sophies: So, I thought I would try to show students how to use some of these ideas, rather than just treating them as if they were just some dry, abstract thing. In this case, Gina imagined that this choice was beyond reproach as it fit so neatly into the curriculum in her course in Worl d History. This turned out to be a naive hope as she was ridiculed for the choice by stude nts, parents and colleagues alike. At the same time, several teachers offere d up the time pressures created by standards reform as an excuse for not doing more to enrich the curricula of their classes. When a student complained about the lack of material for Bl ack History Month, Frank claimed, I dont have enough time to take a month, or even a week, out to satisfy every different interest group and still prepare them for this test, and thats my main job. The curricular narrowing and focus on academics in the current accountability regime was a common theme among these teachers. In his narrative Story C--It Gets Very Vocational, Eric commen ted on a course outline for an elective in Economics that included some practical instruction on household budgeting, checkbook management and job interviewing that was rejected by a department head as too vocational in focus:

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193 (H)e looked at the project work and he sai d, thats what we do in business math. In other words, that was something for the dumb kids. So, he wanted for me to stay away from those areas that might smack of vocational education like home ec. or business math. The pressing demands of an overstuffed and yet na rrowly-focused social studies curriculum that is increasingly tied to the demands of high stak es testing, therefore, bot h creates pressures and excuses for those social studies teachers contem plating the inclusion of controversial subject matter in their instruction. Conclusions Teaching at the beginning of the 21st century involves juggling an unprecedented number of challenges for social studies teachers. Eggers, Malthroup, and Calegari (2005) estimated that the average teacher makes more than a thousand d ecisions in an hour during the course of a busy school day. The curricular challenge s discussed in this project merely add to the pressure of an already overstressed and underpaid secondary social studies faculty. Figure 7-1 gives a visual representation of the complexity of this scenario. Based both on internal factors such as pe rsonal background, educat ional experience, and political or religious affiliati on, as well as external factors such as knowledge of the school community, these teachers developed some clear ideas about the issues that are the most potentially explosive ones in the social studies. These unde rstandings cause many of these teachers to be especially and, it can be argued, unduly, cautious in their treatment of the Bush administration, religion, race, the occupation of Ir aq, and abortion. At the same time, the data from this project suggest that, in the normal course of their teaching pr actice, social studies teachers are often caught unwittingly wading into c ontroversial waters with their classes. These experiences have led the teachers inte rviewed to develop ve ry clear ideas about their positions in the educational hierarc hy and about the relationships, both positive and

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194 negative, that they developed in their tenures as teachers. The most important of these appears to be with students, with whom teachers spend th e bulk of their working lives. While teaching can be isolating, the narratives emerging from the in terviews in this project also indicated that colleagues can be important allies for teachers but can also exercise a great deal of social pressure on those who are perceived to be acting outside the boundaries of the dominant discourse. Parents, the curriculum, the wider community, and the media also play an important role in these teachers lives. As a result of these understandings, teachers develop complex and often contradictory positions toward teaching controversial material in the social studies. A focus on students can either propel teachers (for example, Frank) to take on risky projects inside and outside of the classroom or dissuade teachers (for example, Donna) from expressing candid views with students. The common paradigm of historical acc uracy leads many teachers to stress one factual perspective over a multiplicity of viewpoints, even among their students. Teachers often respond to the external pressures of the j ob with positions of inoffensivene ss and fear that serve to stifle their decision-making. Finally, the stresses of standards reform frustrates many teachers who would prefer to introduce controvers y within their curricula but feel as if it might be a luxury in an already overstuffed course outline. This model reflects the lives of ordinary s econdary social studies teachers who struggle every day to engage their students with interes ting and important conten t in the context of a society that is becoming rapidly more diverse, le ss traditional, more global and less monolithic in its outlook. These trends have not been without their antagonisms as the American populace has historically struggled to keep pace with rapid social changes--18th century industrialization, 19th century immigration, or 20th century integration, as examples--that is has encountered. These are, thus, uncomfortable times for many Americans rocked by these fundamental changes, and it

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195 is in these times that those with whom we ar e most familiar are too often scapegoated for the wrenching dislocations experienced while a so ciety is engaged in massive modernization projects. As Adam, Ben, Cathy, Donna, Eric, Fran k, and Gina have memorably testified, it is social studies teachers who are caught in the crosshairs of the culture wars today.

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196 Table 7-1. Controversial Issues Issue Adam Ben Cathy Donna Eric Frank Gina Bush D E E D B, E, F A, B, C B, F Religion A D A, D A E E Race B, C D B C C A, F Iraq A E E E B Abortion A A, D A, C GLBT A A A D 9/11 D E E Sex ed. A A Slavery B C Drugs G Economy C Sexism F Holocaust B Testing F Colonialism E Communism D Vietnam B WWI B Modern art C, D Beat poetry E NCLB C Death pen. C Ecology C Schiavo C Note The letters correspond with the narratives in which the factors were mentioned.

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197 Table 7-2. Experiences with Controversy Experience Adam Ben Cathy Donna Eric Frank Gina Students A, B, C, E A, B, C, D, E A, B, D, F B, C, D, E A, B, C, E, F A, B, D, C, E B, C, D, E, F, G Colleagues A, D, E B, C, F C, E, F C A, E E Parents A, C A D, E, F A A, E Curriculum B C C, F E C C Community D A A A, C A Admin. D, E A, C, F D, E Media D E A, F A, B, F Testing C C B IEPs E School board E Note The letters correspond with the narratives in which the factors were mentioned.

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198 Table 7-3. Positions Toward Controversy Stance Adam Ben Cathy Donna Eric Frank Gina Student focus A, C D A, D D C C, D, E B, D, E Accuracy D E B, D B, E B Inoffensiveness F A, B D, E A Fear C, D F A A, B Curriculum focus B D C C E Professionalism E, F D F Condescension B A, D F, G Candor A B A, E Avoidance C D F Conservatism D A, E Dogmatism C F Neutrality A Note The letters correspond with the narratives in which the factors were mentioned.

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199 Figure 7-1. Controversy in the classroom: A model

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200 CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSIONS Introduction In his latest novel, Richard Russo (2007) re lated a story in which Mr. Berg, an eccentric social studies teacher in a small high school in an upstate New York town, greets his students on the first day of school with a So cratic exercise. Asked a simple question by a student about the classrooms remote location from the schools main administrative build ing--how come were meeting in here ?--Mr. Berg avoids a quick and definitiv e answer in favor of using the pupils question as the launching pad for a class discussion. Which answer would you like? he responds with a twinkle in his eye. For instance, I could tell you Ive selected this room so we could listen to loud jazz without disturbing other classes, and that would be true, t hough it would not be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. (p. 299) In an amusing series of exercises, Mr. Be rg proceeds to shock the assembled students by smoking a cigarette, playing a record on an old phonograph machine, sittin g cross-legged on his desk and referring to the schools pr incipal as fat and lazy. Only then does he reveal the true answer to the students initial question: Of course the real reason I selected this room may have nothing to do with cigarettes. Maybe Ive located us all the way he re not so much because we could do things as say things. Things we might not want to say over there Things we might not want overheard. (p. 301, emphasis in original) The Bridge of Sighs is set in a historical moment, post-war America, and yet Russo (2007) here spoke to the challenges that have dogged American teachers throughout the ages and the ingenious yet often shortsighted solutions to these problems that they have devised. Mr. Berg, in Russos narrative, represents the archetype of the teacher as king of his castle, where behind a closed classroom door, with only the captive audience of his passive students, he can take risks with subject matter and pedagogy. The fi ndings of this dissertat ion research project

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201 suggest that this world of teaching is rapidly disappearing and that, far from fostering creativity and innovation, isolation makes the use of controve rsial material more risky and consequently less likely to occur. The standards reform movement, premised on the notion of the accountability of students, teachers, and schools, makes it highly unlikely that any teacher can survive for very long in a school by merely hiding away in a corner in which he or she can teach, with little regard to curricul um frameworks, things we might not want overheard. For better or worse, teachers and education in the 21st centu ry have been placed under a spotlight and this context calls for more openness and collaboration. During the first waves of the recent attacks on the social stud ies curriculum in the 1980s, the focus of conservative anger tended to be aimed at school boards and administrations who deigned to introduce progressive curriculum packages that included multicultural treatments of history (Cornbleth & Waugh, 1995; Na sh et al., 1997). Classroom teachers, once spared criticism due to their image as saints are now, however, often cast as the sinners of this drama. Condon and Wolff (1996) provided an excellent exampl e of this shift in thinking. Written as a Parents Legal Handbook and Action Guide Condon and Wolffs work revealed the unique perspective that many conservative parents groups take toward public school teachers. In a chapter titled, What They Teach, Condon and Wolff offered an swers to sample questions such as Can teachers use dirty words in class? Will there be more use of television in classroom? and Our sons fourth grade teacher recen tly showed a film about abortion. Shouldnt he be fired for this? (pp. 67-68). The presumption behind these questions appears to sugge st to parents that they pay close attention to the stories th at their children bring home wi th them from school and exert immediate pressure on those teachers and school administrators who are following paths with which they may have philosophical disagreement s. The narratives that emerged from the interviews in this project show th at parents, and their children, ha ve taken this advice to heart.

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202 Moreover, in a society in which the smallest fr agments of discourse ca n be magnified under the microscope of a 24 hour media cycle, social studies teachers are forced to take undue caution in their lesson choices, even in th eir words, in the classroom. It is tempting to assume, therefore, that wh at we as educators are witnessing is a culture war waged primarily between conservative, reli gious parents and liber al, secular teachers. However, this polarized analysis does not square with the data collected during this project. The findings reported above indicate a much more complex model of the educational community at work, with teachers entering the scheme holding a range of sometimes contradictory personal and pedagogical views and then buffeted by a va riety of external factors such as their relationships with students, colleagues, and parents. Nor does it seem to be the case that there is widespread disaffection for public education amo ng students, parents, a nd the wider community. While the overheated rhetoric of groups such as the Reverend James Dobsons Focus on the Family of teachers as an enemy within may grab the headlines, the reality is that most parents feel more than satisfied with the educations that their children are receiving in public schools (Apple, 2001). In her practical guide for teacher s involved in censorship cases, Brinkley (1999) cited a 1996 USA Today poll showing that fully 75% of pare nts felt that thei r childrens schools met high academic standards and that 83% would recommend these schools to a friend. Furthermore, she has reported that: Using an A-F standard scale, USA Today reported grades--all within a positive B+ to B range--given by more than 1,000 public school students and their parents for the following categories: teachers, principal/admin istration, equipment and facilities, school bus, the way that students treat each other, and atmosphere (p. 53) Brinkleys work reinforces the findings in this project that challenges to the curricular choices of social studies teachers come from sma ll but vocal groups on both the right and the left side of the political spectrum, with conservative students and parents challenging lesson choices

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203 interpreted as anti-patriotic or anti-religious and liberal student s and parents objecting to lesson choices interpreted as overtly religious or racist in tone. The findings of this study also support the research (Daly, Sc hall, & Skeele, 2001; DelFattore, 1993) that suggested that, in recent y ears, students and parents who have traditionally objected to the instruction that occurred in mainstream Amer ican high schools have begun to turn their attention away from textbooks and curr iculum frameworks and specifically toward the supplementary materials used by teachers. The ar ena of extra-curricular materials is ripe for struggle as teachers, including thos e in this study, have in recent years used a wide variety of books, newspaper and magazine arti cles, videotapes, slides, and PowerPoint presentations to liven up the often stultifying cla ssroom material offered them by their administrations. Teachers private classroom libraries have become a partic ular focus of concern. For example, DelFattore documented a case in Bay County, Florida, in whic h one parent commented that the appearance of a teachers classroom was like walking into a B. Dalton with desks. There are books just lining the walls (p. 104). Far from reacting to th is kind of atmosphere of intellectual inquiry with satisfaction and admiration for teachers, tho ugh, some parents see them as the equivalent of brainwashing svengalis with subversive reading material at a mere arms length. As a result of this view, any use of extra-curricular material s, that is, materials th at fall outside of the parameters of state or district sanctioned and mandated frameworks, is treated with suspicion by parents, and increasingly by admi nistrators as well. What were once referred to as enrichment activities, such as documentary films, musical c lips or in-depth readings, are now viewed as, at best, distractions and, at worst, blatant attempts on the part of ac tivist teachers to indoctrinate students in either their secular, humanist or re ligious, conservative worldview (Charen, 2004). As DelFattore remarked:

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204 Some districts also discourage teachers from going beyond what is in state-approved or district-approved textbooks--and they are wi thin their rights to do so. These districts may be trying to maintain uniformity of instru ction, or they may fear parental protests about teacher-made materials not submitte d for district approval. (pp. 124-125) Many of the teachers interviewed for this proj ect reported similar incidents in which they were surprised to find their efforts to enrich the curriculum through supplementary materials challenged by students, parents and even their co lleagues. Stick to th e script, in Cathys memorable words, appears to be the order of the day for many social studies teachers. The most surprising finding of this study is that, despite the recent evidence in the media to the contrary, the traditional channels of communication within a school community are still very much intact. When students are upset about th eir teachers curricular choices or statements in class, they invariably raise the issues with their teachers, often on the spot. This undoubtedly makes for uncomfortable moments in the classroom for teachers, and yet it at least offers them opportunities to respond to challenges and to defe nd themselves and their lesson choices. When students are frustrated in these efforts, they cu stomarily take these frustrations home to their parents who, in turn, question the teachers direct ly. In those few cases in the study that involved administrators, the issues were either of an extr emely serious nature or came as the result of an unsatisfying parent-teacher conference. Therefore, the cases in which these age-old modes of communication have been circumvented, as they were in the Fahrenheit 9/11 Jay Bennish, and Prentice Chandler cases, are dramatic because of their rarity. When the participants in this project mentioned the media, it was in connection to the teachers own critiques of the role that media played in their students lives, not of the in vasive role that they played in their own lives. In the end, what gave these teachers pause for thought before launching into a lesson on a potentially controversial topic app eared to be the fear that they would lose authority and respect

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205 in the eyes of their students, their colleague s and within the school community; the concerns about having to justify their actions in the court of media opinion a ppear rather remote. Implications Though the focus of this dissertation resear ch project was on vete ran practitioners, the findings of this study have important implications for teacher training programs and those working with pre-service teachers. The Nationa l Commission on Teaching and Americas Future (NCTAF; 2007) documented a shocking rate of teacher attrition in the United States. The NCTAF brief reported that fully one third of Amer icas teachers leave the fi eld within their first 3 years and that half leave within their first 5 years of service. In urban areas, the rate of attrition has risen to nearly 17% in recent years. The report concluded that this loss of new teachers could cost public education as much as $7.3 billion in recruitment and training resources. It is, thus, vital, for teacher educators to identify the elemen ts that lead to the deve lopment of a successful teaching practice as well as those that hinder the efforts of pre-service and novice teachers. It is my firm conviction that the narratives emerging from the data collected in interviews centering around the conceptions, experiences and stances rega rding the use of contr oversial material, can provide just such a template fo r effective teacher training progra ms on controversy in the social studies in the future. The participants in this study acted as veritable canaries in the coalmines of social studies practice, reporting on the most c ontentious subjects in the field. These conceptions of what is controversial in the educ ational community were drawn from th eir organic relationships with the communities in which they teach rather than from a purely theoretical understanding of the issues. They were in turn informed by expe riences working with the bewildering cast of characters on display in their schools. Among these, the research subjects were unanimous in characterizing the relationships w ith students as their most importa nt concern. At the same time,

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206 they explained the need to develop early trusti ng connections with colleagues, parents and other individuals in the community. These experiences, both positive and negative greatly influenced the stances that each individual took toward teachi ng in general and especially toward their use of controversial subject matter. The spirit motivating this project, therefore, is that the veteran social studies practitioners who participated in this study, as well as millions of others across the country, toil each day in a good-faith effort to provide meaningful educationa l experiences for their students. The critiques of the specific methods and materials employed by the teacher-participants who gave testimony included in this dissertation certainly does not negate this sentiment. Each participant has managed to survive and even thrive, even as th e possibilities for critical and innovative teaching practices have narrowed under th e current standards reform regime. In their own inimitable fashions, these teachers took car e to create atmospheres in wh ich free inquiry could flourish. This reality is often overlooked by critiques of contemporary school culture that focus on the revolutionary potentials of pre-service teachers to transform schooling practices (McLaren; 2002; Postman & Weingartner, 1969; Sizer, 1992). Yet, in order to pursue effective strategies toward teacher training in the future, colleges of educa tion must listen carefully to the kinds of voices and stories that emerged from this project as they are the auth entic tribunes of the practice. How then are novice and pre-service social studies teachers to establish a successful teaching practice within a new school setting in or der to pursue this innovative agenda? First, the findings of this project suggested that it is of utmost importa nce for teachers to begin early developing lasting, positive relations hips with their students. While each participant indicated in his or her narratives unique and different means of establishing trust with students, all of them attested to the crucial nature of this project. Donna, for exampl e, commented on the centrality of the teacher in the lives of st udents: You may actually be the only adult who cares about them,

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207 thats the scary thing youre just this huge presence in th eir lives. If nurtured, these relationships have the possibility of leading to a solid reputation for these teachers within the school community. Cathy testified to the importan ce of the development of a positive reputation over the years of a lengthy teaching career, admitting that, I get away with a lot that a 22 year old teacher wouldnt, you know. In other words, veteran teachers who are valued members of a school community can afford to take risks in their teaching that would be unwise for novice practitioners. In the case of extraordinary curricular challenges such as that weathered by Jay Bennish in Littleton, Colorado, this trust may ultima tely allow teachers to save their jobs and to survive within a school placement (Vaughn & Doligosa, 2006). Each of the teacher-participa nts spoke to the vital role th at scaffolding of discussions plays in developing lessons, especi ally those that contain controve rsial topics. Gina, for instance, detailed in several narratives a daily practice in which discussion of current events was central to her classroom routine. She mentioned that, I usually go in every day and do a short piece to open up class, sometimes its just what did you do over the weekend, but a lot of times its a news item. As B. G. Davis (2001) noted, this ro utine begins on the first day of class with a variety of ice breaker exercise s, including having students intr oduce themselves to the class, share an entertaining anecdote about themselves or exchange information for later use: The first day of class sets the tone for the rest of the term. It is natural for both students and instructors to feel an ticipation, excitement, anxiet y, and uncertainty. To pique students interest and antici pation, convey your enthusiasm for the material and stimulate students curiosity about topics that will be covered in the term. To reduce students anxiety and uncertainty, try to create a relaxed, open clas sroom environment conducive to inquiry and participation, a nd let students know what you wi ll expect from them and what they can expect from you and the course. (p. 20) These ice-breaker activities are a vital part of scaffolding successful discussions for the future. Whereas an open, positive posture can create an atmosphere of free inquiry among students, a first impression that is hostile will inevitably close down discussion or, worse, breed

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208 an atmosphere of tension rife with antagoni sms among students or between students and their teacher. Of course, every teacher has his or her unique style and means of relating to students; however, adopting a hard-edged persona from the beginning of a school year, as in the Dont Smile Til Thanksgiving adage, is rarely efficaci ous if ones goal is to open up a dialogue with students. Barton and Levstik (2005) underscored the n eed to teach students effective ways of speaking in class discussions: It might seem that the last thing your students need is help with talking, but students really need exactly that if they are to participate in the kind of reasoned discussion of controversial issues that we have in mind (p. 137). They stressed that this requires the teacher to take the time out of content instruction to estab lish clear rules for discussion, and to reinforce these rules at every stage of the course. This appears to be Adams design as he instructs his students that, were analyzing the issues, were ta lking about different sides of different arguments, were not actually having the arguments. Stressing the vital distinction between notions of arguments as heated exchan ges and arguments as reasoned statements in a discussion, in the manner in which Adam does here is an important step in this scaffolding process. Donna also reinforced this lesson in her humble reflections about an article that she had used to investigate the case of the Jena 6: It was about four or five pages long, pretty dense. I should have given them more time with it. In other words, Donna had learned through this experience with her students that even a minima l scaffolding effort ahead of the lesson might have eased some of the tensions that erupted during th e actual instruction. This job of creating the conditions for effective discussions of contro versial topics such as, in this case, race relations, thus, continues throughout each day and involves each aspect of the course from syllabus design to grading rubric.

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209 While each teacher in this study displaye d a variety of sometimes contradictory approaches toward student invol vement, each teacher presumed th at students should play active roles in the process of discussi ng controversial topics. Gina, for example, while lamenting the lack of student interest in topi cs of importance to her such as the death penalty, recognized that students must also take so me responsibility in order to facilitate the discus sion process: I always try to get students to lead the discussions becau se its no good if its just me up there talking at them. Hess (2002) pointed out th at, all students should be expect ed to prepare for discussions and that discussions should be planned well in advance to allow for thorough preparation (p. 37). While the hectic pace of the school year oc casionally forces teachers to make last-minute lesson decisions, Hesss guidance he re cannot be stressed enough. In reflecting on his students explosive reaction to a lesson that he had de signed around an exercise from Herrnstein and Murrays The Bell Curve (1994), Adam realized that the le sson might have gone more smoothly if he had given students advance notice of the nature of the assignment: I kind of sprang it on them at the last minute. It might have been be tter to announce what we were going to do a day ahead and maybe give them something to read fo r homework. These reflections on the nature of scaffolding by veteran practitioners have much to offer pre-service and novice teachers in the social studies. Several of the teachers interviewed indicated that student-centered approaches were at the heart of their practices. A good ex ample of this student focus st ance was Bens regular use of skits in order to involve his Wo rld History students in the topi cs under discussion. Ben realized the risks of this approach: Im pretty careful I have to do that because otherwise I hear about it. Although Bens historical skits had occasio nally incurred some student resistance, he concluded that they had largely been successful in providing an entertaining and creative outlet for his students: It works well, especially if Iv e got some drama kids in class; they even will

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210 say scene at the end of a skit, its pretty funny, they get into it. It was illuminating to see that even those teachers who described themselves as o ld school such as Frank had integrated some more cooperative methods into their largely direct instruction routines. In a U.S. History lesson on post-war culture, for example, Fra nk deliberately focused on a subject, abstract art, that he felt might appeal to the large number of visual arts students in his class. Furthermore, instead of merely lecturing to his students about the art work s on display, he encouraged them to voice their opinions about the images. Frank recounted that this approach ultimately led to an exciting dialogue: that just kicked off this great discussion about what people value in art, whether an artist should always strive fo r a photographic copy. What is in structful to note here is that cooperative, student-centered pedagogy has gradually seeped into the instructiona l routines of even those such as Frank who profess to teach in the manner in which they were taught many years before. This is a testament to the ongoing influence of teacher training in stimulating positive change in American schools. Many of the respondents in this study s poke to the obvious reality that teaching, especially in the contemporary context of American schools, is one of the most stressful occupations that a young person could possibility choose. Nieto (2003) commented that, Even under the best of circumstances, teaching is a demanding job, and most teachers do not work under the best of circumstances. The enthusiasm and idealism that bring them to teaching dissipate quickly for many (p. 3). There is al so ample evidence that the past 25 years of increasing standardization of curriculum, loss of tenure stat us and focus on state-mandated testing procedures has sapped th e profession of many of what Gr eene (1995) referred to as the psychic rewards that encouraged many of us to enter the teaching professi on in the first place. Yet, there are glimmers of hope within the narratives of the teachers interviewed for this project for an organic resurgence of teaching and learning in Americas schools. If a new wave of pre-

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211 service and novice social studies teachers follows their lead pursues a critical agenda, based on the solid foundation of positive al liances built with students, that includes exciting discussions about the vital, controversial issues of the da y, the future for American public education can indeed look bright. Future Investigations The findings and conclusions that emerged from this research project reinforce my understanding of the complex and challenging nature of social studies te aching. The stories that the participants told me during the course of this study simultaneous ly represent age-old concerns on the part of teachers fo r their job secur ity as well as fears that belong to a particular time and place. By labeling the current period a new McCarthyism, Schrecker (2005) intriguingly opened the door to fu rther investigations into the para llels between historical periods of reaction and the contemporary issues of standards reform and curricular challenges. This insight has led me in my doctoral studies to res earch the effects of anti -Communism on social studies teaching in Florida pub lic schools (Dahlgren, 2005). I look forward to collaborating with educational historians in an effort to contribute to th e scholarship on these issues. I am also convinced that investigations of the experiences of teachers in other areas of the country would educe some important insights in to the unique pressures facing teaching in, for example, the Pacific Northwest or Northeastern states. As an active member of the National Council for the Social Studies standing committee on Academic Freedom, I am in contact with educators from the across the country who are at tuned to the issues of teaching controversy. These connections will undoubtedly provide me with further evidence of challenges to academic freedom and may lead toward fruitf ul collaborations in the future. While the influence of the media on the teachers interviewed for this project was somewhat less significant than expected, I antici pate that the pervasiveness of the media reach

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212 into the lives of Americans will continue to play an increasing role in future challenges to academic freedom. Researchers (Berliner & Bi ddle, 1995; Bracey, 2002) already found that a complex web of broadcast and print media have pa rticipated in isolated cases such as those detailed in Chapter 6. Research that takes a de tailed look at the ways in which media outlets frame the debate on educational is sues is, therefore, imperative. I am aware that this project reflects a part icular time and place, the cultural conflicts of the first decade of the 21st centu ry. I am of the firm conviction th at the educational system in the United States, which has been mired in the dogma of standards reform for 25 years, is on the verge of an epochal change in direction. This ch ange will, of necessity, come from below, from the grassroots activism of those at the heart of the educational community--teachers, students, and parents--rather than from the ossified educ ational bureaucracy. Thes e changes will obviously affect the context of social stud ies teaching and learning and, yet, will not entirely obviate the need for struggles for academic freedom in the future. Conclusions The findings of this study regarding the experiences of secondary social studies teachers with the conscious and, often unwitting, use of controversial public issue content in their classrooms finally, and most importantly, suggest th at there is the perception on the part of many of the actors in the educational community that teachers continue to exert tremendous influence over their students. Some researchers have ch allenged this common pe rception. Daly et al. (2001), for instance, argued that challenges to teacher autonomy frequently stem from a misinterpretation, or at the very least, an outdated conception, of the teachers role. It is the assumption on the part of many of those leading the current round of censo rship efforts against social studies instructors that schooling still amounts to what Freire (1970) called the banking concept of teaching. As a consequence of this traditional notion, Daly et al. argued:

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213 (T)hen teachers become controlling figures who can communicate their worldviews along with the multiplication tables. This understanding of learning can be particularly troubling to those who worry that the lives and minds of children are being molded by those who espouse an ideology they do not share. (pp. 3-4) Students and parents who subscribe to this vi ew are, thus, more likely to be on the alert for curricular choices that, in the words of Savage (2003), Have to do with the way radicals are wo rking to control your mind. Thats Ritalin, revised textbooks, ultra-intolera nce, socialist indoctrination, deconstruction of patriotism, censorship of conservative ideas, and a host of other mental gymnastics they expect students to perform until theyr e completely lost. (p. 182) In this scheme, any attempt to in troduce controversial issues, even in an open, democratic forum, equals indoctrination of students. Though they do not share these conclusions, an other set of educators, including Thornton (1991), insisted that teachers do in fact continue to play a major gatekeeping role, framing the content of courses through their preparation of course syll abi and their daily decisions about lessons. Indeed, Grant (2003) commented that, teachers do not make these decisions in a vacuum, but they do exercise considerable autono my over the kinds of le arning experiences their students have (p. 29). In other words, teachers do not have the latitude of a Mr. Berg, squirreled away in an outlying classroom; however, they con tinue, even within the c ontext of the standards reform regime, to make the key choices about th e ways in which the required content in their courses will be presented. The means of provi ding an atmosphere in which teachers feel emboldened to challenge their students to discuss important public issues is, thus, the key issue that emerges from the data of this project. This dissertation project bu ilds upon the past and current work on teaching controversy in the field of social studies. Edu cators have begun this discussion about the means with which to effectively present controversial subject matter in the social studies classroom, as evidenced by Dawson-Salass (2004) thoughtful and provocativ e work. Dawson-Salas, a young teacher in

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214 Minnesota, spoke eloquently of the fears on the part of teachers new to the field about butting heads with administration figures or parents over controversial te aching methods or materials. In the end, however, she counseled courage, conc luding that, Engaging my students in social justice issues is at the heart of my teaching. I have learned that developing curriculum is a longterm process that often happens very slowly. Bu t I wouldnt do it any other way. Only through a concerted struggle will progressive educators be able to continue their work in improving public education for the benefit of all of our students.

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215 APPENDIX A IRB PROPOSAL 1. Title of Project: A stud y of secondary social studies teachers experiences with teaching controversial public issues in the classroom 2. Principal Investigator: Robert Dahlgren, Doctoral Candidate, School of Teaching and Learning, [personal information not displayed] 3. Supervisor: Dr. Elizabeth Yeager 4. Dates of Proposed Research: November 1, 2007 to October 31, 2008 5. Source of Funding for the Protocol: None 6. Scientific Purpose of the Inve stigation: To investigate the e xperiences of high school social studies teachers in teaching c ontroversial public issues in secondary-level public school classrooms in Florida. 7. Describe the Research Methodolog y: Researcher will ask up to eight social studies teachers that have completed at least five years of t eaching practice in secondary level public schools in Florida to participate in archival collection a nd two interview sessions th at will be conducted on site. Researcher will analyze teachers curric ular documents that ar e brought to interview sessions. Interviews will last one hour per session ; these sessions will be conducted face to face in the individual teachers cla ssrooms after school hours. Interv iews will be recorded and transcribed. (See inte rview questions attached). In addition, researcher wi ll collect a variety of curriculum documents from teachers including syllabi, lesson plans and supplementary lesson materials. 8. Potential Benefits and Anticipated Risks: Th is investigation will a dd to the understanding of the experiences of secondary social studies t eachers in using controversial extra-curricular materials in the classroom. It can promote di scussions related to the pressures placed on secondary social studies teachers in a period of increased accountability and standardization of curriculum. At the same time, the subjects will be asked to speak candidly about school district policy regarding academic freedom. Thus, the most st ringent measures of c onfidentiality will be implemented during the proposed study. Transcripts of all interview sessions will be provided to subjects for clarification and appr oval. All confidential material will be stored in a locked drawer in researchers office. 9. Describe How Participants Will Be Recruite d, the Number and Age of Participants, and Proposed Compensation: The principal investigator will recruit between 6 and 8 participants from a pool of social studies teachers in Duva l County public secondary schools. Participants will range from 25 to 65 years of age and between 5 and 35 years of practice. No compensation will be given. (See attached recruitment materials.)

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216 10. Describe the Informed Consent Process: An informed consent form will be provided to participants prior to the interview process. Par ticipation is completely voluntary. (See attached informed consent form.) _____________________________________________________________________ Principal Investigators Signature _____________________________________________________________________ Supervisors Signature I approve this protocol fo r submission to the UFIRB: _____________________________________________________________________ Dept. Chair Date

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217 APPENDIX B RECRUITMENT EMAIL SCRIPT Dear Participant: I am a doctoral candidate in So cial Studies Education at the University of Florida. I am currently in the mi dst of gathering data for a res earch project on the experience of social studies teachers in secondary-level Flor ida public schools with teaching current events issues. What Id like to do is to collect curricul ar material from you that represents lessons that you deem potentially controversial in your co mmunity and to interview you and some other area teachers. This would entail two one-hour interview sessions. No comp ensation is available, but we would appreciate your participation.

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218 APPENDIX C INTERVIEW PROTOCOL Initial Inte rview 1. Describe your own educational background. 2. What do you consider the most controversial i ssues in teaching social studies at the high school level? 3. What in your experience makes these issu es controversial w ithin your community? 4. Give me an example of a recent lesson that youve taught that contained what you consider controversial material. 5. What was your experience when pres enting this material to students? 6. Describe any experiences youve had in which students or thei r parents have criticized the content of a lesson th at youve taught. 7. Looking at the curriculum piece that youve bro ught to the session, describe your intention in designing the lesson. 8. What do you perceive as potentially cont roversial about this lesson content? 9. Is there anything you would like to add? Follow-up Interview 1. This extra-curricular content material has prove n controversial in the fi eld. What is your level of familiarity with it? 2. What, if anything, would make this content mate rial potentially controversial in your school or community? 3. What, if any, value would this material have in your own curriculum? 4. What, if any, concerns would you have in using this content material? 5. What do you perceive as potentially controversial about this material, especially as it relates to your school and wider community? 6. What, if any, official policies in your school, would relate to your potential use of this content material? 7. Is there anything you would like to add? Member Check 1. After reviewing the initial anal ysis of the data collected in this project, do you have any concerns about the way that you r views have been presented? 2. Do you have any further comments about the analysis of the data collected?

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219 APPENDIX D TRANSCRIPTION CONVENTIONS The following transcription conventions have been excerpted from Silverman (2002). The examples printed embody an effort to have the spelling of the words roughly indicate how the words were produced. Often this involves a depa rture from standard ortholography. Otherwise: () Empty parentheses indicate talk too obscure to transcribe. Words or letters inside such parentheses indicate the tr anscribers best estimate of what is being said. hhh The letter h is used to indicate hearable aspiration, its length roughly proportional to the number of hs indicated. If preceded by a dot, the aspiration is an in-breath. Aspiration internal to a word is enclosed in parentheses. Otherwis e hs may indicate anything from ordina ry breathing to sighi ng to laughing, etc. [ Left-side brackets indicate wh ere overlapping talk begins. ] Right-side brackets indicate where overlappi ng talk ends, or marks alignments within a continuing stream of overlapping talk. Talk appearing within degree signs is lowe r in volume relative to surrounding talk. > < Greater than and less than symbols enclose talk that is noticeably faster than the surrounding talk. ((nods)) Words in double parentheses indicate tr anscribers comments, not transcriptions. (0.8) Numbers in parentheses indi cate periods of silence, in te nths of a second. A dot inside parentheses indicates a paus e of less than 0.2 seconds. ::: A series of colons indicate a lengthening of the sound just preceding them, proportional to the number of colons. A hyphen indicates stress or emphasis (for example, Id ne-ever do that). Underlining indicates stress or emphasis ( for example, he says). dr^ink A hat or circumflex accent symbol indicates a marked pitch rise. = An equal sign (ordinarily at the end of one line and the start of an ensuing one) indicate a latched relationship--no s ilence at all between them.

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234 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Robert Lawrence Dahlgren was born on January 11, 1964 in Naples, Italy, the second son of W ayne and Emily Dahlgren. Robert is curre ntly a doctoral candidate in Social Studies Education in the School of Teaching and Learning of the College of Educa tion at the University of Florida. Robert began his career in education as a so cial studies teacher, teaching World History, American Government, and Humanities at Peab ody Veterans Memorial High School in Peabody, Massachusetts. During his time at Peabody, he also taught in the Graduate Education Department at Simmons College in Boston. Following a brief s tint teaching English and American Studies at Miyazaki University in Miyazaki, Japan, Robert continued his so cial studies teaching at Paxon School for Advanced Studies in Jacksonville, Florida. A graduate of Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Germany and England, Robert was graduated by Lake nheath High School in 1982. He subs equently earned a Bachelor of Science degree in print journa lism with a minor in political science at Boston University in 1986 and a Master of Arts in Teachi ng degree from Simmon s College in 1997. Robert is the author of severa l professional journal articles in the field of Social Studies Education. He has presented his scholarship at numerous local, state, and national education conferences, including the National Council for the Social Studies and History of Education Society annual meetings. In the fall of 2008, Robert will take up a pos ition as Assistant Profe ssor of Social Studies Education at the State University of New York at Fredonia. His career goals include continuing to mentor pre-service social studies teachers, publishing scholarship on the challenges to the academic freedom of secondary social studies teach ers, and advocating progressive social change within educational policy.







of the world, in contrast to the usual accounts of presidents, diplomats, treaties and wars" (p.

352).

Despite the auspicious preparation process, Chandler encountered difficulty from the start

of his ambitious project. Chandler (2006) recalled that, "the first night that the books went home

with my students, I received a phone call from one set of parents who demanded to know why I

had chosen these books for my class" (p. 354). Chandler patiently responded to these parents,

explaining to them his intentions for the class and providing a justification for the use of the Zinn

material. The parents, however, were unmoved in their objection to the use of the Voices reader.

Chandler detailed the aftermath of his conversation with the parents:

Over the next week, the parents pressured the superintendent into removing these books
from this advanced, college-prep track course because of what they considered
'inappropriate content.' For the remainder of the semester, 60 copies of Zinn's social
history sat on my shelves unused. (p. 354)

While he continued to engender controversy among a few parents by using selected

excerpts in his classroom instruction, Chandler (2006) was supported by an increasingly active

group of students. He described the scene in his classroom:

Upon telling my students that we would be doing 'book work' as opposed to discussing
primary documents readings, most of the 25 students brought their textbooks to the front
of the room and put them in a pile. They were not refusing to do work because they were
being disrespectful or disobedient; they were simply refusing to do something that they
knew was not as valuable as reading and discussing primary documents. (p. 355)

Chandler (2006) noted the irony that this student action took place a day after the class

had read Henry David Thoreau's famous essay on "Civil Disobedience." While it did not

conform to his original plan, it's clear that Chandler's students over the course of a year in which

they saw the culture wars in America's schools at close hand learned some extremely valuable

lessons about the nuts and bolts of community activism in their social studies class.









things were going but they really didn't want to hear about it, so I'd just keep moving and
chalk off the days.

This response from veteran teachers thus turned what could have been a more fruitful

experience into a rite-of-passage in which Ben "chalk(ed) off the days." In "Story A--Church vs.

State," Donna related a surprising narrative regarding pressure placed on her by a fellow teacher

advocating on behalf of a student who was caught plagiarizing a paper for Donna's class. She

commented:

I remember one kid who I caught plagiarizing a paper, a term paper, and maybe I could
have been more careful with the assignment to prevent that kind of thing, but I had the
kid dead on it. It was straight from Wikipedia, word for word. And because she had some
work in the spring show, well, you know where this is going.

Finally, Gina addressed the resistance that she encountered from her colleagues at Orange

Park College Preparation School to a lesson in which she attempted to use a demonstration of

meditation techniques as a means of enriching the students understanding of Buddhism. In

"Story E--Teaching Buddhism," she described the response to her lesson:

I was getting all these jokes in the faculty lounge, people calling me "Smokey" and that
sort of thing as if I was smoking pot in my room. Which is ridiculous. But that's the kind
of narrow-mindedness that you get among teachers sometimes.

In a subsequent parent conference triggered by her meditation lessons, Gina was

supported by her department head. However, she related that, "she (the department head) told me

that I probably shouldn't do the meditation exercise again in the future, as if I had done

something wrong." These comments from veteran practitioners spoke volumes to the influence

that even casual comments made by colleagues can have on teacher confidence and the use of

unconventional and potentially controversial teaching materials and content.

Parents

Parents and organized parent groups have played a central role in recent challenges to

teacher autonomy and academic freedom. Ross and Marker (2005) noted the irony that









Recent years have seen the rise of organizations such as the Students for Academic

Freedom (SAF) and its K-12 adjunct Parents and Students for Academic Freedom (PSAF) that

call for the implementation of an Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) on college and secondary

school campuses. Its principal organizer David Horowitz, a former 1960s-era student radical

turned neo-conservative media pundit, has made frequent appearances on talk radio and cable

news programs advocating for the ABOR, which has been offered as legislation in some 23

states (McKenna, 2006). As Jacobson (2006) reported, these efforts have been upended in states

such as Pennsylvania after thoroughgoing investigative research has failed to produce evidence

to support Horowitz's contention that schools and universities are increasingly run by radical

ideologues. In December 2003, the American Association of University Professors issued a

statement condemning the ABOR project as "Orwellian" and a "grave threat to the fundamental

principles of academic freedom" (AAUP, 2003, p. 2).

These set-backs have not slowed SAF's advocacy; indeed, through the organization's

website, Horowitz and his supporters openly encourage students to audio-record lectures and

report professors who engage political topics deemed controversial by the organization--the Iraq

war, for example--to university administrations. SAF's mission statement (2004) instructs

students to:

Note and object to events that abuse the academic nature of the university. These include
one-sided faculty political teach-ins, one-sided faculty conferences and one-sided faculty
lecture series that are inappropriately partisan events in an academic setting. Make a list
of these events and demand reforms from the appropriate university authorities to ensure
representation of diverse viewpoints. (p. 3)

Despite the organization's claims that the ABOR merely "codifies the principles of free

speech and free inquiry first introduced by the American Association of University Professors

nearly a century ago" (SAF, 2004, p. 1), SAF and its adjuncts offer a radical new conception of

academic freedom that pits the freedom of students against their professors and teachers in an










LIST OF FIGURES


Figure


7-1 Controversy in the classroom: A model........................... ..... ................. 199


page









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ..............................................................................................................4

L IS T O F T A B L E S ..................................................................................................... ........... 10

LIST O F FIG U R E S .................................... .. .... .............. .................. .............. 11

ABSTRAC T ................................................. ............... 12

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ............... .............................. ............................. 14

State ent of the Problem .................. ............................... ....... ................. 15
Purpose of the Study ............... ...................................................... 22
T he N nature of C controversy ................................................................... .....................23
Teachers' Stances ...................................................... ............ 26
R research Questions ............................................... 31
C onclu sions.......... .......................................................... 3 1

2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ............................................... ............................. 34

Introdu action ...................................................................................................34
A cadem ic Freedom : A H historical Sketch ........................................ .......... ...............35
Conceptions of A cadem ic Freedom ................................... ...........................................38
Twentieth Century Struggles for Academic Freedom................. ............... ..............43
Legal Conceptions of A cadem ic Freedom ...........................................................................50
The C ontem porary Culture W ars................................................. ................................ 53
C o n clu sio n ................... ...................6...................1..........

3 R E SE A R C H M E TH O D S ..................................................................... .... ........................64

In tro d u ctio n ................... ...................6...................4..........
R e search P ersp ectiv es....................................................................................................... 6 6
Qualitative Research ....................... ..... ....... 66
C onstructivism ........................... ................................. ............................68
R research Settings ......... ..................................... ............................70
Participating Schools ......................................................... ........ 72
Selection of Participants .......................................................... ........ ........74
Pilot Project ...................................... .. .. .... ...........74
Sampling Procedures and Criteria............................ ................................. 74
D description of P participants .......................................................................... .....................75
D ata C o lle ctio n ................................................................................................................. 7 8
In terv iew s .................................................................7 9
In terv iew P ro c e ss....................................................................................................... 8 0


6









Some districts also discourage teachers from going beyond what is in state-approved or
district-approved textbooks--and they are within their rights to do so. These districts
may be trying to maintain uniformity of instruction, or they may fear parental protests
about teacher-made materials not submitted for district approval. (pp. 124-125)

Many of the teachers interviewed for this project reported similar incidents in which they

were surprised to find their efforts to enrich the curriculum through supplementary materials

challenged by students, parents and even their colleagues. "Stick to the script," in Cathy's

memorable words, appears to be the order of the day for many social studies teachers.

The most surprising finding of this study is that, despite the recent evidence in the media

to the contrary, the traditional channels of communication within a school community are still

very much intact. When students are upset about their teachers' curricular choices or statements

in class, they invariably raise the issues with their teachers, often on the spot. This undoubtedly

makes for uncomfortable moments in the classroom for teachers, and yet it at least offers them

opportunities to respond to challenges and to defend themselves and their lesson choices. When

students are frustrated in these efforts, they customarily take these frustrations home to their

parents who, in turn, question the teachers directly. In those few cases in the study that involved

administrators, the issues were either of an extremely serious nature or came as the result of an

unsatisfying parent-teacher conference. Therefore, the cases in which these age-old modes of

communication have been circumvented, as they were in the Fahrenheit 9 11, Jay Bennish, and

Prentice Chandler cases, are dramatic because of their rarity. When the participants in this

project mentioned the media, it was in connection to the teachers' own critiques of the role that

media played in their students' lives, not of the invasive role that they played in their own lives.

In the end, what gave these teachers pause for thought before launching into a lesson on a

potentially controversial topic appeared to be the fear that they would lose authority and respect









APPENDIX A
IRB PROPOSAL

1. Title of Project: A study of secondary social studies teachers' experiences with teaching
controversial public issues in the classroom

2. Principal Investigator: Robert Dahlgren, Doctoral Candidate, School of Teaching and
Learning, [personal information not displayed]

3. Supervisor: Dr. Elizabeth Yeager

4. Dates of Proposed Research: November 1, 2007 to October 31, 2008

5. Source of Funding for the Protocol: None

6. Scientific Purpose of the Investigation: To investigate the experiences of high school social
studies teachers in teaching controversial public issues in secondary-level public school
classrooms in Florida.

7. Describe the Research Methodology: Researcher will ask up to eight social studies teachers
that have completed at least five years of teaching practice in secondary level public schools in
Florida to participate in archival collection and two interview sessions that will be conducted on
site. Researcher will analyze teachers' curricular documents that are brought to interview
sessions. Interviews will last one hour per session; these sessions will be conducted face to face
in the individual teachers' classrooms after school hours. Interviews will be recorded and
transcribed. (See interview questions attached). In addition, researcher will collect a variety of
curriculum documents from teachers including syllabi, lesson plans and supplementary lesson
materials.

8. Potential Benefits and Anticipated Risks: This investigation will add to the understanding of
the experiences of secondary social studies teachers in using controversial extra-curricular
materials in the classroom. It can promote discussions related to the pressures placed on
secondary social studies teachers in a period of increased accountability and standardization of
curriculum. At the same time, the subjects will be asked to speak candidly about school district
policy regarding academic freedom. Thus, the most stringent measures of confidentiality will be
implemented during the proposed study. Transcripts of all interview sessions will be provided to
subjects for clarification and approval. All confidential material will be stored in a locked drawer
in researcher's office.

9. Describe How Participants Will Be Recruited, the Number and Age of Participants, and
Proposed Compensation: The principal investigator will recruit between 6 and 8 participants
from a pool of social studies teachers in Duval County public secondary schools. Participants
will range from 25 to 65 years of age and between 5 and 35 years of practice. No compensation
will be given. (See attached recruitment materials.)









Giroux, H. (1987). Introduction. In P. Freire & D. Macedo (Eds.), Literacy: Reading the word
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Eric: The Cold War

In his narrative "Story D--The Cold War," Eric presented an interesting twist on this

theme of unexpected reactions to controversial material. Eric designed a lesson for his course on

Economics that focused on some primary documents from the Marxist economic tradition that

Eric expected to be regarded by his students as controversial. In the orientation section of his

narrative, Eric explained that these preconceptions were largely based on his childhood

experiences during the Cold War conflict between the United States and its arch-rival the Soviet

Union:

Eric D-2. The Cold War was a big part of my upbringing. My dad built a bomb shelter in
the backyard and there were shelters all over the neighborhood. My school was an
official shelter, had the signs up everywhere. So, I grew up with an instinctual hatred of
anything that smacked of communism, because the Reds were all out to get us. We read
that sort of thing in the papers every day about the "Red Menace."

He continued this theme by speaking about his own visceral response to reading

documents such as Marx's Das Kapital and Lenin's "What is to be Done?":

So, I always assume that although I'm going slant it heavily in a direction away from
communist ideology--whenever I read these documents they remind me of Kruschev
banging his shoe on the lectern at the UN and saying that they would bury us--that there
will be complaints.

Eric was unapologetic about his efforts to "slant" the material in a certain direction, assuming

that communism is a closed issue in the minds of his students. Yet, to his surprise, his students

responded with either indifference to or even approval for the ideas included in the readings. In

the complicating action section of the narrative, Eric attributed this surprising reaction to his

students' youth and the reality that they came to political consciousness in a post-Cold War era:

Eric D-3. So when I give them the Marx to read and it's full of all of this stuff about how
socialism is going to help the working man, it kind of makes sense to them in a really
dumb way. And the end of the discussion, I always take a straw poll--"Are there any
Marxists in the room?"--and I always get one or two punks who raise their hands.
Amazing. That would have never happened in the fifties or sixties and my old man would
kick their asses if he was still around.









that's the scary thing you're just this huge presence in their lives." If nurtured, these

relationships have the possibility of leading to a solid reputation for these teachers within the

school community. Cathy testified to the importance of the development of a positive reputation

over the years of a lengthy teaching career, admitting that, "I get away with a lot that a 22 year

old teacher wouldn't, you know." In other words, veteran teachers who are valued members of a

school community can afford to take risks in their teaching that would be unwise for novice

practitioners. In the case of extraordinary curricular challenges such as that weathered by Jay

Bennish in Littleton, Colorado, this trust may ultimately allow teachers to save their jobs and to

survive within a school placement (Vaughn & Doligosa, 2006).

Each of the teacher-participants spoke to the vital role that scaffolding of discussions

plays in developing lessons, especially those that contain controversial topics. Gina, for instance,

detailed in several narratives a daily practice in which discussion of current events was central to

her classroom routine. She mentioned that, "I usually go in every day and do a short piece to

open up class, sometimes it's just 'what did you do over the weekend,' but a lot of times it's a

news item." As B. G. Davis (2001) noted, this routine begins on the first day of class with a

variety of ice breaker exercises, including having students introduce themselves to the class,

share an entertaining anecdote about themselves or exchange information for later use:

The first day of class sets the tone for the rest of the term. It is natural for both students
and instructors to feel anticipation, excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty. To pique
students' interest and anticipation, convey your enthusiasm for the material and stimulate
students' curiosity about topics that will be covered in the term. To reduce students'
anxiety and uncertainty, try to create a relaxed, open classroom environment conducive to
inquiry and participation, and let students know what you will expect from them and
what they can expect from you and the course. (p. 20)

These ice-breaker activities are a vital part of scaffolding successful discussions for the

future. Whereas an open, positive posture can create an atmosphere of free inquiry among

students, a first impression that is hostile will inevitably close down discussion or, worse, breed























Table 7-2. Experiences with

Experience Adam

Students A, B, C,
E


Controversy

Ben Cathy

A, B, C, A, B, D,
D,E F


Colleagues A, D, E B, C, F C, E, F C A, E E

Parents A, C A D, E, F A A, E

Curriculum B C C, F E C C

Community D A A A, C A

Admin. D, E A, C, F D, E

Media D E A, F A, B, F

Testing C C B

IEPs E

School board E

Note. The letters correspond with the narratives in which the factors were mentioned.


Donna

B, C, D,
E


Eric

A, B, C,
E, F


Frank

A, B, D,
C, E


Gina

B, C, D,
E, F, G









and my mother and father Wayne and Em Dahlgren, who have all given me inspiration in my

years in education. My brother Steve Dahlgren and his wife Melanie and son Eric have always

been there for me. I resisted the urge to teach for many years before my dear wife Karen Carter

brought me back into the fold, and it is therefore to her that this dissertation is dedicated.









It is clear from this statement that Cathy considers discussion without the support of

"empirical evidence" intolerable and that student engagement in such idle speculation will lead

to their exclusion from the conversation. Cathy expanded on her conclusions stemming from this

emphasis on historical accuracy and fact in "Story C--The Seven Years' War is Still the Seven

Years' War." In her justification of her practice of leaving her World History survey intact year

after year, in contrast to her friend and colleague's dramatic practice of burning her notes each

summer, Cathy declared that, "I rationalize it that the history hasn't changed, the Seven Years'

War is still the Seven Years' War, right?" When I pressed her on this comment, she responded

that, "the topics haven't changed much and I resist the revisionist stances that have become

popular." In this schema, history is static, with evidence pointing toward clear and unambiguous

conclusions about unchanging events, while attempts by younger teachers and scholars to present

different perspectives is dismissed as historical revisionism.

Inoffensiveness

A position of inoffensiveness pervaded many of the conversations with the teachers in

this study. Many of the participants stated a preference for avoiding discussions that they

interpreted as promoting controversy, not because of fear of loss of employment, but rather due

to their own conceptions of social studies teaching. It was with no sense of irony, for example,

that Adam stated in his narrative detailing a lesson based on the explosive book on race and

intelligence, The Bell Curve, that, "I don't go out of my way to be controversial." In a similar

vein, Gina commented in "Story E--Social Studies is a Minefield," that, "I don't start out

expecting to do controversial work." It is tempting to interpret these statements as expressions of

the chilling effect that challenges to academic freedom have had on these teachers. Yet, the

narratives provided for this study do not support this conclusion. When the inoffensiveness

position is voiced, it is done so out of concern for students more often than our of concern forjob









Presidential election. Second, challenges did not follow the typical pattern of a parent contacting

the individual teacher or school administrator; rather the first phone call went to a local or

national media outlet, typically one connected to the Republican Party. Therefore, and finally, a

political agenda emerged; that is, education seemed to have become a wedge issue very much

like stem cell research, gun ownership, or gay marriage. It seemed to me a ripe issue for

investigation.

Statement of the Problem

Social studies educators who wish to have the freedom to address controversial public

issues in their classrooms face a gigantic conundrum at the beginning of a new millennium. On

the one hand, the scholarship related to the issue is clear in the proposition that discussing public

controversies in the classroom has a particular imperative within a democratic society. Kelly

(1986) argued that, "schools, particularly those publicly financed and state supported, in a

democracy have a moral responsibility to develop in their charges the understandings,

competencies and commitments to be effective citizens" (p. 116). These include the abilities to

make reasoned decisions about controversial public issues based on evidence and to debate these

positions in a reasonable, if passionate, manner. Engle and Ochoa (1988) testified that "citizen

problem-solvers in a democracy are best educated by the continuous inclusion in their schooling

of real-life situations that require the making of informed and morally-responsible decisions (p.

27). Gutman (1999) concurred that societies in which the people are presumed sovereign require

an educated citizenry with certain abilities and practices such as critical thinking skills and

regular engagement in public debate. She commented:

When citizens rule in a democracy, they determine, among other things, how future
citizens will be educated. Democratic education is therefore a political as well as an
educational ideal. Education not only sets the stage for democratic politics, it plays a
central role in it. (p. 3)









categorizing, or confirming results with participants, peer debriefing, negative case analysis,

structural corroboration, and referential material adequacy.

During the course of developing this project, I became convinced that the methods

common to constructivist research can provide a path toward providing validity in a qualitative

research design. By noting the patterns in the data, the researcher can begin to weave a rich

narrative pattern of descriptions from the fieldwork experience. Through this process, important

qualitative details emerge from the data. Maykut and Morehouse (1994) stressed the

development of propositional statements as a result of gathering and analyzing data from field

work.

In order to make sense of a vast array of field notes, audio tapes, and archival documents

that I collected during this project, I converted this raw data into an easily digested form through

a process of coding and unitizing. I followed Maykut and Morehouse's (1994) recommendation

of using index cards and large sheets of paper in order to quickly and easily recognize the

patterns emerging from this raw data. Finally, this methodology involved a high level of

trustworthiness due to an audit trail, including a detailed researcher's journal, member checks in

which I asked the 7 project participants for their input in the analysis of the interview and

archival data, and the triangulation of multiple methods of data collection and analysis.

Limitations

As I reflected upon the findings and conclusions that have emerged from the data at the

center of this investigation, I noticed several significant limitations. First, despite my firm

conviction that the Jacksonville, Florida area represents a microcosm of the United States in the

21st century due to its sprawling ex-urban landscape and surrounding rural areas, it is

undoubtedly the case that Duval County is a specific context for study. Given this reality, the

conclusions drawn from data produced in interviews with 7 secondary social studies teachers









Berkowitz, B. (2005, February 9). Michael Moore's conservative counterpart. Retrieved
February 11, 2005, from http://www.alternet.org/rights/21217/

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Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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democracy and impoverished the souls of today's students. New York: Simon & Shuster.

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methods. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America. New York: Basic Books.

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Carleton, D. E. (1985). Red scare! Right wing hysteria, fifties fanaticism and their legacy in
Texas. Austin, TX: Texas Monthly Press.

Caute, D. (1978). The great fear: The anti-communist purge under Truman and Eisenhower.
New York: Simon & Shuster.

Chandler, P. T. (2006). Academic freedom: A teacher's struggle to include "other" voices in
history. Social Education, 70(6), 354-357.

Charen, M. (2004). Do gooders: How liberals hurt those they claim to help (and the rest of us).
London: Sentinel Press.

Cheney, L. (1994, October 20). The end of history. The Wall Street Journal, A22E









(1938) commented: "(T)he subject matter consists of bodies of information and skills that have

been worked out in the past; therefore, the chief business of the school is to transmit them to the

new generation" (p. 17). This short, prescient statement stands as an effective antidote to the

prescriptions of contemporary advocates of canonical cultural literacy such as Hirsch (1988) and

Ravitch (2003). The more pernicious variety of threats to freedom of education, for Dewey

(1936), stemmed from the attempts to "close the minds, mouths, and ears of students and

teachers alike to all that is not consonant with the practices and beliefs of the privileged class that

represents the economic and political status quo" (p. 377). As the 20th century progressed,

educators saw Dewey's worst fears in this regard confirmed as education more and more became

shackled to the imperatives of this elite and the marketplace that is their primary arena.

Twentieth Century Struggles for Academic Freedom

As the 20th century dawned and produced a series of global conflagrations, education

became gradually more tied to the needs of the national security state. This began to appear with

the advent of the involvement of the United States in the First World War. Spring (1992) detailed

the efforts of the Wilson administration's Committee for Public Information (CPI) in disciplining

teachers accused of making anti-war statements. The CPI, established a mere 2 weeks after the

declaration of war against the Central Powers, included a number of notable educators, including

Guy Stanton Ford, dean of the University of Minnesota's graduate school, and the social

efficiency advocate William Bagley, who was chosen to edit the CPI's primary organ National

School Service (NSS). Under Bagley's leadership, the NSS distributed pro-war propaganda to

the public school system by delivering issues directly to individual schools. As Spring (1992)

described it, "(t)he major part of each issue of the NSS was devoted to detailed lessons for

elementary and high school classes designed to teach patriotism, the evils of the enemy, and the









she frequently voices her opinion about political matters. In the abstract to "Story F--I Set the

Agenda," she developed this theme: "I'm always shooting my mouth off with my kids. If

someone was taping my classes, they could have a ton of evidence that would make Sean

Hannity mad." Gina quickly followed this startling confession with an explanation of the context

of the remark:

Gina F-2. I usually go in every day and do a short piece to open up class, sometimes it's
just 'what did you do over the weekend,' but a lot of times it's a news item, something
that they'll have heard something about but usually have just developed only a knee-jerk
response to it.

In this statement, Gina foreshadowed her methodological choices, especially relating to

student involvement in lessons. Gina supplied a brief example of the kind of "knee-jerk

response" that she sees among her students: "So, if it's Don Imus, they'll just say, 'what's the big

deal' or 'he should be fired' but they don't have a sophisticated view of it." Asked if she allowed

students to choose topics or supply items for discussion, Gina indicated her view that her

students are not knowledgeable enough about current events to be able to play this role

effectively:

Gina F-3. Let's be honest, these kids are not reading a newspaper, most don't watch the
news on TV, even the local news, unless maybe it's the sports, they're certainly not
reading books on sociology or law, so no, that's my job to set the agenda.

Rather than inspiring her students to take an active interest in their world, Gina accepts

that they will not be interested enough in the news of the day to read a daily newspaper. She also

ignores the division between old media and new media and the reality that many of her students

may indeed be paying attention to news stories but are gaining their information about current

events from online sources. These sources are not without their inaccuracies and pose new

challenges for teachers; however, these pedagogical issues seem entirely lost on Gina. Ironically,

Gina had, throughout her interview sessions, claimed that she pursues "innovative" teaching









government regulation, tax policy, and race relations among the most important political issues

in contemporary American society.

My second participant, Ben, is a 32 year old Asian male. A self-described Navy Brat

from New Jersey, he now teaches World History at Southside High School in Jacksonville. After

his father was transferred to NAS Jacksonville Naval Station, Ben attended a high school in St.

John's County. Upon graduation, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Master's in

Education at a university in Jacksonville. Ben has 10 years of teaching experience in DCPS

schools. He described himself as conservative and is concerned about a number of social issues

including affirmative action admissions policies.

My third participant, Cathy, is a 62 year old White female. With 37 years of teaching

experience behind her, she is currently the Social Studies Department head and teaches

Advanced Placement European History and World Religions at Orange Park College Preparation

School in Jacksonville. Originally from the Pensacola, Florida area, she received her Bachelor's

and Master's degrees in History from a university in central Florida. Cathy has 37 years of

service and will retire from OPCPS at the conclusion of the 2008/2009 school year. She

described herself as an old liberal feminist and commented that she "remembers the second wave

of feminism, you know, Gloria Steinem and all those women, well."

My fourth participant, Donna, is a 52 year old White female. A Florida native, she

teaches World History and Humanities at Riverview Arts Academy in Jacksonville. After

starting at local college near where she attended high school in central Florida, she returned to

the Jacksonville area with her mother and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at a local

university. She has since completed her Master's degree in Social Studies Education and has

twenty years teaching experience. Donna called herself apolitical and admitted that she is "a little

cynical about politics."









Minnesota, spoke eloquently of the fears on the part of teachers new to the field about butting

heads with administration figures or parents over controversial teaching methods or materials. In

the end, however, she counseled courage, concluding that, "Engaging my students in social

justice issues is at the heart of my teaching. I have learned that developing curriculum is a long-

term process that often happens very slowly. But I wouldn't do it any other way." Only through a

concerted struggle will progressive educators be able to continue their work in improving public

education for the benefit of all of our students.









behind the troops no matter what." In the evaluation of the narrative, however, Ben provided a

rationale for using the Frontline piece:

Ben E-4. And PBS is usually pretty left-wing but this one was really fair. It just laid out
the arguments pro and con very well. It relied on official reports and the speeches of
administration officials like Rumsfeld. It didn't try to sway people one way or another. It
just said, okay, here's the argument for war, here's how much it's going to cost, is it
worth it?

Ben, a self-defined conservative, began this comment with an interesting qualifying

statement, "PBS is usually pretty left wing," before describing the fair elements of the

documentary. Here, Ben indicated that the use of "official reports" and "speeches of

administration officials" are, in his mind, more objective and factual than the sources included in

Michael Moore's film. This view is then reinforced in the resolution section: "And in the end, the

Frontline video was based on fact, based on research, not on opinion, so they couldn't really take

it apart." In other words, the complaints of conservative students, who might have preferred to

avoid the discussion altogether, are stymied by the presentation of research in the film. Ben

discounted the possibility, however, that speeches by administration figures, such as former

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, might indeed jibe with the views of his conservative

students. Ben added a brief coda to the piece in which he again stated his goal of engaging his

students in a debate on a controversial issue: "The only way that this thing (the Iraq intervention)

is going to work is if the nation is behind it and that takes knowledge and information. We can't

hide what's going on." His pro-war stance was laid bare in this brief coda. Ben felt that an

intervention such as that in Iraq can only be successful on the foundation of a unified national

effort. This in turn required periodic review and debate, the essence of social studies teaching

and learning.









CHAPTER 6
FINDINGS: TEACHERS' POSITIONS TOWARD CONTROVERSY

Introduction

Social studies teachers over the durations of their careers come to adopt different

positions toward the material that they are asked to teach. As Barton and Levstik (2004) noted,

some of these come from internal sources, including personal background, education, content

knowledge and philosophical, religious or political worldviews. Grant (2003), for example,

described the stereotypical content-focused secondary social studies teacher who fell in love with

history in grade school and continues to teach in the manner that he or she was taught: "These

teachers stand in front of the class, deliver ready-made lectures, and assign textbook and

workbook pages. In doing so, such teachers embody a particular stance toward knowledge,

learning, and teaching" (pp. 39-40). Evans (1989) further identified five approaches toward

teaching history that stem from these elements in a teacher's personal background: that of

"storyteller," "scientific historian," "relativist/reformer," "cosmic philosopher," and "eclectic."

Evans commented on the influence of these perspectives on teaching methodologies and

repertoire:

Interview data suggest that pedagogy may relate strongly to conception of history. The
idealist tells stories, the scientific historian promotes open-ended thinking about history,
the reformer mixes methods to promote student questioning and to relate past to present,
the cosmic philosopher challenges students with cosmic interpretations, and the eclectic
opts for variety to build student interest. (p. 237)

As social studies teachers begin the process of developing lessons and unit plans, for

example, they are guided in very personal ways by these internal factors and the positions that

arise from them. In Chapter 4, I surveyed a wide variety of these conceptions of controversy that

stem from these internal factors.









Colmes and his parents subsequently sold the recording to a local radio station (850 KOA). In the

brief excerpt repeated ad nauseum by media outlets in the weeks that followed, Bennish is heard

comparing the Bush administration to the Nazi regime: "Now I'm not saying that Bush and

Hitler are exactly the same. Obviously they're not, okay? But there are some eery similarities to

the tones that they use" (Bennish, cited in Vaughn & Doligosa, 2006).

Bennish was also heard concurring with another student who responded to Bennish's

question "Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth?" by stating that, "We

are." Later he encouraged students to imagine that other nations might see the United States and

its allies as "terrorists," suggesting that "to many Native Americans [the American] flag is no

different from the Nazi flag" (Overland Teacher Controversy, 2006).

Bennish, who had taught at Overland High School since 2000, was placed on

administrative leave by the Cherry Creek School District superintendent Monte Moses during the

media furor that ensued. In his decision, Moses pointed to a district policy that required teachers

to present varying viewpoints when tackling controversial subjects. Bennish then approached the

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), whose attorney David Lane represented him during his

period on leave. Lane contended that Bennish's First Amendment right to freedom of speech was

being jeopardized (Overland Students Walk Out, 2006). Bennish later appeared on NBC's Today

show, emphasizing in an interview with co-host Matt Lauer the support that he had received

from students and parents at Overland High. After a month's leave, Bennish was reinstated on

March 10, with Moses stating that, "Bennish doesn't deserve to be praised, nor does he deserve

to be fired" and that "Jay Bennish has promise as a teacher, but his practice and deportment need

growth and refinement." Reflecting on his experiences during the incident, Bennish was

sanguine about his role in the classroom:









CHAPTER 5
FINDINGS: TEACHERS' EXPERIENCES WITH CONTROVERSY

Introduction

The issue of teachers' positions toward subject matter is a central concern in teaching and

learning practices in the social studies today. Yet, constructivism as a paradigm, and those who

conduct research within it, explicitly reject the idea that knowledge is impartial. Indeed, as

Kincheloe (2005) pointed out, this is precisely what distinguishes constructivism from more

traditional, positivistic ways of knowing. He commented that, "An epistemology of

constructivism has maintained that nothing represents a neutral perspective, in the process

shaking the epistemological foundations of modernist Cartesian grand narratives. Indeed, no

truly objective way of seeing exists" (p. 8).

In the constructive worldview, different individuals in the educational community,

whether they be teachers, students, administrators, parents, or those in the wider community, will

view the subject matter of a social studies classroom in a variety of ways. Kincheloe (2005) used

the analogy of a sports event to imagine how "a German bank teller, an Igbo tribes person, a

Texas rancher and a woman from a small village in China close to the Mongolian border might

describe a major league baseball game" (p. 9). When posed in this clear-cut manner, it should be

apparent that an approach the privileges multiple perspectives--what in constructivist literature is

referred to as bricolage--is the most appropriate one, especially in today's diverse classroom.

However, the history of American schooling has not followed this pattern. As I

mentioned in my review of the literature, educators throughout the history of American schools

have viewed the social studies curriculum through the lenses of the dominant imperatives of

schooling of the day. For example, colonial educators saw schooling and its curriculum as a

means of perpetuating the values, often religious, of the Old World of Europe in the New World









the imposition of unhealthy pressure to cover content in a superficial manner, serving as a
constraint on meaningful teaching and learning. (p. 283)

Spring (2002) traced the political agendas of groups from the religious right to the

Greens, pointing out that while religious discussions tend to be extremely volatile among parents

in southern Bible Belt states, the primary motivation for activism in schools in the Pacific

Northwest is more likely to be the engagement of students in environmental issues. Spring

commented: "Educational disputes range across a political spectrum, from the agendas of the

crusading religious right to the separatist feeling of Afrocentrists and Indiocentrists" (p. vii).

Spring delineated the agendas of four distinct groups--Compassionate Conservatives, Neo-

conservatives, New Democrats and The Green Party Left.

Spring (2002) defined the first category as those who are equally motivated by morality

and standardized testing with regard to student performance. The archetype of this movement is

former Texas football coach Rod Paige, whom President George W. Bush appointed Secretary of

Education in 2001. Paige, like many other functionaries in the Bush administration, had long-

standing ties with the Christian Coalition and other religious conservative organizations that have

used grassroots school board advocacy as a means of affecting change in what they see as a

school curriculum overrun with secular humanist ideals. Spring summarized the efforts of these

activists: "Therefore, the opposition to educational and government bureaucrats and the desire to

return power to the people is based on the assumption that this will restore traditional values to

education" (p. 24). In focusing on localized struggles, these religiously-inclined activists have

made tremendous strides toward influencing the social studies curriculum.

The Neo-conservative movement, as Spring (2002) noted, originated with the

proliferation of conservative think tanks that sprang up in the wake of Ronald Reagan's first

electoral triumph in 1980. Organizations such as the Manhattan Institute and the Olin Foundation









Ogren, C. A. (2005). The American state normal school: An institution of great good. New York:
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December 10, 2004, from http://www.wishtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=2585726
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Overland students walk out in support of teacher. (2006, March 2). CBS4 Denver Online.
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for social studies teachers. Theory and Research in Social Research, 32(2), 138-152.

Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative research methods and evaluation (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.

Pilkington, E. (2006, October 10). Texas teacher sacked in row over gallery nudes. The
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http://ProtestWarrior.com/mission.php

Rainey, W. H. (1938). Report of the president. In The University of Chicago, President's
Reports, 1892-1902. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published
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Rauch, J. (1995). Kindly inquisitors: The new attacks on free thought. Chicago: University of
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by a corporatist educational leadership is a qualitatively new and complex web of conservative

national religious and political lobbying operations, corporate media and parents' groups. The

two wings of this movement, often working in concert with each other in the past decade, have

created an agenda of routine and monotony on the one hand and fear and reprisals on the other.

As Yeager (2005) noted, this agenda of standardization has viewed what she has referred to as

wise teaching practices, including critical discussion in the social studies, as extraneous at best

and positively dangerous at worst. She commented, "Teaching in public schools today, in the

context of the 'shell game' that is high-stakes testing, must be completely frustrating: alternately

pressured and frenetic, unimaginative and stifling" (p. 1).

At the same time, though, America's public school teachers retain a good deal of control

and autonomy over the course of events in their classrooms. While the age of teachers as

captains of their ships, sequestered in their classrooms may have gone by the wayside in an age

of accountability, classroom practitioners continue to make key decisions about how to present

topics, what materials to use, and how to assess student performance. Thornton (1991) referred

to this as the gatekeeping role, in which teachers make significant decisions over what students

in their classes study and learn on a daily, if not hourly, basis. The following chapter details the

data derived from a series of interview sessions concerning social studies teachers' views of what

constitutes controversy in their field today. These conversations reveal a profound sense of

ambivalence toward the gatekeeping role; on the one hand it is viewed as a burdensome

responsibility without the consequent freedoms normally associated with it, and on the other

hand, it is fraught with potential for contentious conversations inside and outside the educational

communities in which they make their daily living.









APPENDIX D
TRANSCRIPTION CONVENTIONS

The following transcription conventions have been excerpted from Silverman (2002). The
examples printed embody an effort to have the spelling of the words roughly indicate how the
words were produced. Often this involves a departure from standard ortholography. Otherwise:

() Empty parentheses indicate talk too obscure to transcribe. Words or letters inside such
parentheses indicate the transcriber's best estimate of what is being said.

hhh The letter "h" is used to indicate hearable aspiration, its length roughly proportional to
the number of 'h's indicated. If preceded by a dot, the aspiration is an in-breath.
Aspiration internal to a word is enclosed in parentheses. Otherwise "h"s may indicate
anything from ordinary breathing to sighing to laughing, etc.

[ Left-side brackets indicate where overlapping talk begins.

] Right-side brackets indicate where overlapping talk ends, or marks alignments within a
continuing stream of overlapping talk.

o Talk appearing within degree signs is lower in volume relative to surrounding talk.

> < "Greater than" and "less than" symbols enclose talk that is noticeably faster than the
surrounding talk.

((nods)) Words in double parentheses indicate transcriber's comments, not transcriptions.

(0.8) Numbers in parentheses indicate periods of silence, in tenths of a second. A dot inside
parentheses indicates a pause of less than 0.2 seconds.

A series of colons indicate a lengthening of the sound just preceding them, proportional
to the number of colons.

A hyphen indicates stress or emphasis (for example, "I'd ne-ever do that").

Underlining indicates stress or emphasis (for example, "he says").

drAink A "hat" or circumflex accent symbol indicates a marked pitch rise.

An equal sign (ordinarily at the end of one line and the start of an ensuing one) indicate
a 'latched' relationship--no silence at all between them.









Cathy B-1. I don't shy away from any of it. I'm not trying to stick it in their faces, but
how can you teach European history without dealing with the Crusades, the Inquisition,
the Reformation, Columbus, the Holocaust, all of these things that have plenty of
debating points to them?

Cathy focused the narrative on her unit encompassing the European slave trade with West

Africa, during which she admitted that she witnessed a pattern in which "there is one student

who questions slavery" on a regular basis. She explained this complicating action:

Cathy B-3. But then there will be some quiet little kid who'll say, "Are we sure that this
wasn't exaggerated." And there's usually a shocked pause in the class and then pure
chaos. Sometimes I have to referee these battles. I tell them that they have to back up
what they're saying or it won't be allowed in my class, in our discussion pit, that's what I
like to call it.

The image of the referee here seems an especially apt one for a teacher such as Cathy,

who values neutrality above all else. Again Cathy raised the issue of experience, contrasting her

matter-of-fact position toward what her students consider an outrageous outburst. Asked how she

handles such incidents in the classroom, she evaluated her methods:

Cathy B-4. If they can't produce some evidence, some empirical evidence, of the truth of
what they're saying, then I don't allow it. It doesn't get an airing. I don't allow idle
speculation that can hurt people, because we have plenty of Black students in this school
and they're just sitting there looking shocked when something like that happens. I'm
worried about the effect that some accusation or something is going to have on them.

Again, it is illuminating that Cathy sees part of her role in the classroom as that of an

ersatz ombudsman, clearly establishing the parameters of what constitutes useful inquiry and

what amounts to idle speculation that can potentially harm students in a diverse school setting.

Asked whether these students with controversial viewpoints are able to marshal sufficient

evidence to her satisfaction, Cathy commented:

Cathy B-5. No, they usually pull something out of thin air that they've heard from a
parent or friend or something, at best it's something they've pulled off the Internet from a
white supremacist website.









He's just trying to sell tickets or books by saying outrageous things about the Bush
administration, so it's not enough to say that the Bush policy about the Iraq War was
wrong--which I'd agree with and most conservatives would agree with--he's got to trade
in all of these 9/11 conspiracy theories about Bin Laden and the Saudi royal family and
then the Caspian oil deals. It's just too much.

In this statement, Adam indicated that the Bush administration is a convenient and easy

target for those on the left side of the political spectrum and that left intellectuals such as Moore

are guilty of "piling on" as the approval numbers for the Bush administration have plummeted in

recent years. The virtual cottage industry of books criticizing the Bush administration that

cluttered the New York Times bestseller list during the last Presidential campaign year (Clarke,

2004; Dean, 2004; Suskind, 2004) would seem to support Adam's point. In a similar vein, Cathy

recalled in "Story E--'R' Rating" a colleague who was disciplined for using Fahrenheit 9/11 due

to the heightened sensitivity of the community to these issues during the fall of 2004: "He made

it easy for those people who were looking for an excuse to punish someone for getting partisan

about the Presidential election." Cathy clearly felt that teachers facing the context of a

contentious political climate needed to take unusual care in the preparation and presentation of

their lessons.

At the same time, some teachers expressed their enthusiasm for engaging students in the

upcoming Presidential campaign. Eric, for example, in "Story B--Republicans vs. Democrats"

spoke about his plans for his spring semester course in American Government: "I'm planning to

do some debates with the students. Have them choose candidates and debate different issues

from the stances of their chosen candidates." Eric commented further about the candid stance

that he takes toward these issues:

I make no bones about my own opinions, the students know from day one that I'm a
Republican, die hard conservative, voted for Bush twice, but that doesn't mean that
students can't criticize Bush in my classes, and they sure do, and I criticize him too
sometimes.









a more "vocational course" such as Business Math for lower-level students: "I do some of that,

but it gets very vocational." In the complicating action segment of the narrative, he related an

experience that led him toward his current thinking about the Economics course:

Eric C-3. The first job that I had in Delaware, I got tossed an upper level elective course
like this one in economics and I started out with a course outline that had a lot of
activities like the ones that you talked about, dealing with a household budget. checkbook
management, and so on, and I ran it by the department head and you know what he said?
He looked at the project work and he said, "That's what we do in Business Math." In
other words, that was something for the dumb kids.

In his evaluation of the narrative, Eric suggested that he had internalized the message

communicated by the department head and the school community in Delaware about the

contradiction between practical-based lessons and high academic standards: "It was all about

tracking for sure and what the kids were supposed to need, at least in terms of the way that the

school defined that." His choice of the conditional phrase "at least in terms of" indicates a certain

level of discomfort with school policy evident in his first teaching job, and yet at the same time,

Eric's current syllabus suggests that he has made his peace with the dichotomy between the

vocational and the academic curriculum.

Gina: Sociology

In discussing her curricular choices for her elective course in Sociology in her narrative

"Story D--Sociology," Gina employed a striking narrative pattern that began with the resolution

to the narrative: "The problem is that some of the kids, no, most of the kids are pretty provincial

so they immediately gravitate toward something that fits in with their ethnicity because that's

easy to do." Asked to explain this comment, she stated that the requirements of the course are

"fairly flexible because no one really looks at the materials that we use to teach the elective

courses, they just kind of give us a textbook and let us go." In the orientation section of the

narrative, she expanded on her views about student-driven course work:









is in these times that those with whom we are most familiar are too often scapegoated for the

wrenching dislocations experienced while a society is engaged in massive modernization

projects. As Adam, Ben, Cathy, Donna, Eric, Frank, and Gina have memorably testified, it is

social studies teachers who are caught in the crosshairs of the culture wars today.









APPENDIX B
RECRUITMENT EMAIL SCRIPT

Dear Participant: I am a doctoral candidate in Social Studies Education at the University of
Florida. I am currently in the midst of gathering data for a research project on the experience of
social studies teachers in secondary-level Florida public schools with teaching current events
issues. What I'd like to do is to collect curricular material from you that represents lessons that
you deem potentially "controversial" in your community and to interview you and some other
area teachers. This would entail two one-hour interview sessions. No compensation is available,
but we would appreciate your participation.









Thornton, S. (1991). Teacher as curricular-instructional gatekeeper in the social studies. In J.
Shaver (Ed.), Handbook of research on social studies teaching and learning (pp. 237-
248). New York: Macmillan.

Tinker vs. Des Moines. (1969). Majority decision. Retrieved July 5, 2007, from
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=393&invol=503

Toplin, R. B. (2006). Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11: How one film divided a nation.
Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.

Tyack, D. B. (1974). The one best system: A history ofAmerican urban education. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.

Tyack, D. B. (2003). Seeking common ground: Public schools in a diverse society. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.

United Nations Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights. (1948). Retrieved July 5, 2007, from
http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html

United States Census Bureau. (2000). Summary of U.S. population profile. Retrieved December
18, 2007, from http://www.census.gov/main/www/cen2000.html

VanSledright, B. A. (1997). And Santayana lives on: Students' views on the purposes for
studying American history. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 29. 529-557.

Vaughn, K., & Doligosa, F. (2006, March 2). High school in turmoil over teacher's remarks
about Bush. Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved April 24, 2006, from http://www
.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN 15 4508688,00.html

Williams, J. (2008, April 3). Obama and King. The Wall Street Journal. A-13.

Wineburg, S., & Wilson, S. (1991). Subject matter knowledge in the teaching of history. In J.
Brophy (Ed.). Advances in research on teaching (vol. 3, pp. 305-347). Greenwich, CT:
JAI.

Yeager, E. A. (2005). Introduction: The "wisdom of practice" in a challenging context of
standards and high-stakes testing. In E. A. Yeager & O. L. Davis, Jr. (Eds.), Wise studies
teaching in an age of high-stakes testing: Essays on classroom practices and possibilities
(pp. 1-9). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Zimmerman, J. (2002). Whose America?: Culture wars in the public schools. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.

Zinn, H. (1980). A people's history of the United States. New York: Harper & Row.

Zinn, H., & Arnove, A. (Eds.) (2004) Voices of the people 's history of the United States. New
York: Seven Stories Press.









Kelly put forward the contention that there need not be a contradiction implied with committed

impartiality: "To acknowledge that there are certain clear-cut cases of abuse of teacher self-

disclosure is not to assert, at least successfully, that all teacher self-disclosure is clearly violative

of impartiality" (p. 131). In the end, Kelly's advocacy for this position at least opened the door to

the possibility of teacher advocacy and self-disclosure of views within a democratic classroom

space. In this dissertation research project, I expand on Kelly's theoretical model of teachers'

stances and develop a more practical model of teachers' positions toward teaching controversial

content.

In his work on teaching about environmental issues in the context of social studies classes

in the United Kingdom, Hicks (2007) extended Kelly's discussion to address an additional

platform of stances--the cognitive and affective perspectives. Kelly contended that most social

studies teachers who attempt to teach about issues such as climate change do so from the

cognitive perspective, attempting to raise the consciousness of their students. He commented:

"How do educators approach the matter of teaching about global issues? The initial response is

often a desire to alert learners to the nature and importance of the problem, whether to do with

environment, development, rights or conflict" (p. 75). This approach might involve presenting

different perspectives on the issue of climate change--Hicks referred to neoliberal,

neoconservative, and radical perspectives--and having students research and debate these

perspectives in a classroom forum.

At the same time that Hicks (2007) felt that teachers using the cognitive approach have

employed "an excellent learner-centered approach for investigating global issues," he continued

to feel that "what is often missing is the affective dimension" (p. 75). From this perspective, the

goal of instruction shifts from a mere cognitive understanding of a social problem to creating a

sense of personal feelings of responsibility and empowerment around the issue that might lead to









APPENDIX C
INTERVIEW PROTOCOL

Initial Interview
1. Describe your own educational background.
2. What do you consider the most controversial issues in teaching social studies at the high
school level?
3. What in your experience makes these issues controversial within your community?
4. Give me an example of a recent lesson that you've taught that contained what you consider
controversial material.
5. What was your experience when presenting this material to students?
6. Describe any experiences you've had in which students or their parents have criticized the
content of a lesson that you've taught.
7. Looking at the curriculum piece that you've brought to the session, describe your intention in
designing the lesson.
8. What do you perceive as potentially controversial about this lesson content?
9. Is there anything you would like to add?

Follow-up Interview
1. This extra-curricular content material has proven controversial in the field. What is your level
of familiarity with it?
2. What, if anything, would make this content material potentially controversial in your school or
community?
3. What, if any, value would this material have in your own curriculum?
4. What, if any, concerns would you have in using this content material?
5. What do you perceive as potentially controversial about this material, especially as it relates to
your school and wider community?
6. What, if any, official policies in your school, would relate to your potential use of this content
material?
7. Is there anything you would like to add?

Member Check
1. After reviewing the initial analysis of the data collected in this project, do you have any
concerns about the way that your views have been presented?
2. Do you have any further comments about the analysis of the data collected?









decision to bring in Christmas music to add to the festivities around the days before the winter

holidays:

Donna A-3. So, I've had kids question choices that wouldn't be a problem in other
schools. For example, I had for years brought in a copy of the Elvis Presley Christmas
album, you know, with "Blue Christmas" and I had a kid complain that it was Christian
music and that I shouldn't be playing it. He was Jewish and I guess I hadn't thought of it.

In evaluating her choice of extra-curricular materials, Donna expressed surprise in the

student's response as she had considered the record:

A classic that I grew up with and my kids grew up with and it just seemed warm and
friendly to have it going in the classroom in those days before the holidays when all the
kids are ready to get out of school and have fun.

In the end, her resolution to the narrative provoked her to think about her role in the

classroom. As an older teacher, she ruminated on the cultural gulf that has widened over the

years between her and her students:

Donna A-5. I guess as I get a little older, it seems that I get further away from what these
kids are about. They don't listen to my kind of music anymore and I sure don't listen to
theirs.

The vehemence of her final comment indicated in her rising crescendo, "I sure don't

listen to theirs," shows a distance from youth culture that belies her expressed desire to reach the

students in her classes. In the coda, she commented: "So, I've had to rethink some things." There

is sadness to her voice in commenting that perhaps her once close connection to her students has

been lost over the years. Thus, a position of distance has crept into Donna's practice as a

consequence of her understanding of the widening cultural gap between teachers and students.

Eric: Republicans and Democrats

In a narrative titled "Story B--Republicans vs. Democrats," Eric began by critiquing the

quality of contemporary journalistic standards. Asked for an example of controversial content in

the social studies, he provided an abstract in which he envisions that the partisan conflict









(T)he next problem was that the student who was upset and questioned my decision is the
son of a school board member, so the next thing I know I'm getting a phone call from this
woman. And then the next day she comes into my class while I'm teaching.

Realizing upon reflection that he had badly misrepresented a secular institution, Frank

recalled that, "I just basically had to eat crow over it." Social studies teachers such as Frank are

aware that the power dynamics, particularly involving well-connected parents, of public

education mean that the only proper response to a challenge of this kind is, as Frank related, "yes

ma'am." While the participants in this study confirmed that the normal channels of

communication between parents and teachers were still very much in place, a layer of tension has

been added to this communication as a result of the culture wars.

Curriculum

One of the central components of standards reform in the past 25 years has been the

primacy of curriculum frameworks. Constructed by federal and state departments of education,

occasionally in consultation with classroom practitioners, these detailed content guidelines are in

turn disseminated to local districts for implementation in individual schools. While the

frameworks paradigm has addressed the pressing problem of scope and sequence in order to

avoid the irritating tendency of schools to cover identical material in several history classes, it

has also severely constrained creativity and added a pressing time concern to teachers' planning

processes. Within the domain of standards reform, therefore, the organic assessment of students

by concerned educators has been replaced by an inauthentic accountability buttressed by a

regime of high stakes testing.

Several of the teacher-participants who provided narrative responses for this study

addressed this current state of affairs. In his narrative "Story B--Cut and Paste Job," Adam

lamented the loss of instructional time to the battery of tests now administered in his school:









Eric made the assumption in this statement that the appeal of socialism is on a simplistic

and immature level--"a really dumb way"--while discounting the possibility that his working

class students might actually relate to Marx's ideas in an organic sense, having not been exposed

to a fog of McCarthyite propaganda in their schooling. This inability to understand how his

students establish their own identities and interpret school materials through their own lenses is

echoed in another anecdote that Eric related in the resolution to the narrative:

Eric D-5. There was even a club, well, informal group that started up a few years back
with a Chinese-American kid who was big on his own heritage and he had a lot of stuff,
clothes and posters and books around from his trips home to see family and he got a
small group of friends to wear the Mao caps and the khaki jackets. It was pretty funny for
a while but the older teachers like me weren't laughing that much.

Rather than understanding the Asian student's need to express his ethnic pride, Eric

placed blame for the student's innocent display on his parents: "In the end, if you have no living

history of these periods and your parents aren't stressing certain things with you, it won't be

there, the historical understanding will just be absent." The issue of living and dead history is

indeed a crucial one for social studies teachers. However, Eric's assumption that there is a

consensus surrounding historical issues living or dead indicated his own homogeneous

background and denied the diverse backgrounds of his own students.

Frank: Abstract Art

In a fascinating narrative "Story D--Abstract Art," Frank displayed similar

misconceptions about his students. As a social studies teacher in an arts academy, he made the

assumption that his students would be more tolerant and open to viewing and discussing modem

art. In the abstract to the narrative, Frank discussed his exemplary practice of trying to tie his

American history curriculum--in the specific case, the Post-war Era--to his students' interest in

the arts: "I've done this lecture on Abstract Expressionist art for years now, it actually started

with a set of slides that I picked up when I was in New York one year. I try to use them to tie in









Gina: Social Studies is a Minefield

In contrast to the approach that emerged from the narrative structure contained in Frank's

stories, Gina viewed it as inevitable that controversy will be part of social studies instruction.

This perspective is highlighted in the abstract to "Story A--Social Studies is a Minefield." Asked

what is controversial in the field, Gina responded candidly:

Gina A-1. Sure, well, what isn't? I mean, I don't start out expecting to do controversial
work every day, I don't want to get fired, but social studies is a minefield, right?

This metaphor appeared especially appropriate in Gina's specific setting of Orange Park

College Preparation School, which she described in the orientation segment of the narrative as a

school in which "parents can be really intense, I guess is the right word, concerned." As did Eric,

Gina laid much of the blame for this intense atmosphere at the feet of the media. In the

complicating action section of the narrative, Gina claimed that parents are often provoked into

action against specific teachers and schools they might otherwise trust because of the salacious

coverage of such incidents in the local media:

Gina A-3. And it seems as if people are easily set off these days anyway, you see that
every day on TV and in the papers, there are always people willing to complain and get
upset about things.

In an interesting structural element, Gina then provided a coda that expressed her view

that the climate in education has changed significantly during her time of service: "I know I

sound old talking like this, but I really think that things have changed." This was then followed

by an evaluation segment in which Gina transitioned from her critique of the media into a lament

about the overly litigious nature of contemporary American society:

Gina A-4. And it's not just the people here in Jacksonville, it's everywhere. I mean, you
constantly see in the Florida Times Union where someone is suing someone else for
wrecking their coat in the dry cleaners or some such. I mean, what's that all about?









the search for archival materials is crucial in order to consider the variety of positions that

teachers take toward the lesson construction process.

Interviews

Numerous scholars (Eisner, 1995; Holstein, 2002; Lincoln & Guba, 1985) have testified

to the nature and importance of interviewing in qualitative research. Maykut and Morehouse

(1994) described the interview as "a conversation with a purpose" (p. 79). In the constructivist

paradigm, that purpose is to elicit responses from individuals or groups of subjects, such as, in

the case of this project, social studies teachers, in order to ascertain how they construct meaning

from their teaching experiences. As Holstein and Gubrium (2003) remarked, interviews can

range from the casual, often taking place within participant observation scenarios, to the formal;

the interviewers' stances often mirror this variety of scenarios. However, certain principles are

regarded as standard throughout the arena of qualitative research. As Hatch (2002) discussed,

"While the researcher's stance in relation to his or her data may be different across different

qualitative paradigms, the basics of doing observation, interviewing, and unobtrusive data

collection are similar" (p. 71). These basics that Hatch referred to include creating a research

protocol that outlines the details of the design and purpose of the project, obtaining the proper

approvals from the sponsoring institution, establishing trust with the participants and

constructing an interview protocol that encourages the participants to speak openly about their

experiences within a naturalistic setting.

Whether casual or formal, the interview is shaped by the needs of the researcher; in the

end, as Maykut and Morehouse (1994) stressed, "participants agree to be interviewed to help the

researcher pursue his or her focus of inquiry" (p. 80). The interviewer approaches the subjects in

the spirit of open inquiry, allowing the subjects to understand the research interests that guide the

project. This agenda requires a structured protocol (with the obvious exception of those projects









following the orders of a civilian leadership has meant that overt criticism of the occupation is

anathema within military circles. This taboo has been reinforced by the Bush administration's

conflation of emotional support for the troops and hopes for their safety--naturally, a quite

widespread sentiment among the American populace--with support for their policies, including

narrow elements of policy such as the recent expansion of troop deployments commonly known

as "The Surge."

The teachers interviewed for this project experienced these trends at first hand. For

example, Ben commented on the tendency of students from military families to reject the need

for any discussion of the issues surrounding the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan in "Story

E--Truth Consequences and War:"

Of course there were one or two conservative kids, kids with parents involved in the war,
who took it personally. They're going to think that any debate is wrong, that you just get
behind the troops no matter what, and I get that.

Ironically Ben noted that, as a supporter of these policies, "I get that and I have the

(Support the Troops yellow ribbon) decal on my car." At the same time, he felt strongly that, in

order for the policies to be successful, an informed American public needed to unify behind

them. Thus, Ben felt justified in using materials such as the PBS Frontline documentary that

provided, to his satisfaction, fair and factual coverage of the issues involved: "But you have to

have more than that. The only way that this thing is going to work is if the nation is behind it and

that takes knowledge and information."

In "Story B--History as History," Frank presented a contrasting narrative in which he

represented curricular time pressures in a positive light. Noting that he rarely reached further

than the Reagan administration of the 1980s in his survey of American history, Frank stated that

this was an advantage as it prevented students from making what he considered inappropriate

historical parallels between events such as the U.S. military interventions in Vietnam and Iraq:









qualitative researching today. In the research process that I describe in the following chapters, it

is my intention to use these insights in order to avoid these pitfalls and to take advantage of the

potential for rewarding collaboration with teacher-participants.









You know my job as a teacher is to challenge students to think critically about issues that
are affecting our world and our society. And you know the process of cognitive
dissonance is one way to activate their minds and to get them to think about these various
things. (Bennish, cited in Vaughn & Doligosa, 2006)

As this incident shows, embodying a stance in which one answers with candor the

questions posed by curious students in a manner intended to provoke a response carries with it

significant risks for teachers. Many classroom teachers, including several of the participants in

this study, choose instead to avoid controversy and to question the ability of teachers in the

current political climate to play the kind of advocacy role that teachers such as Jay Bennish offer

their students.

Voices of the People's History

In a third case, Prentice Chandler, a high school teacher in northern Alabama, engaged in

a struggle with parents and administrators in the Athens High School community during the

2006/2007 school year over his decision to use primary sources included in the companion

volume to Howard Zinn's A People 's History of the United States (1980). Chandler (2006)

explained his rationale for the use of these documents in his U.S. History courses at Athens: "I

had envisioned the class based on the writings of contemporary social studies theorists: multiple

points of view, allowing multiple voices in the classroom, less teacher directed and focusing on

primary documents" (p. 354). In order to facilitate this approach, Chandler applied for and

received a grant in order to purchase a classroom set of the Voices of the People 's History of the

United States primary source reader (Zinn & Arnove, 2004). Chandler specified that the Voices

reader allowed him to present students with "alternative histories (that) contrast with the official

history that one would find in typical history books" (p. 352) He further described the response

of his students to his plan as overwhelmingly favorable: "The students seemed to be excited

about the prospect of learning a 'different' kind of history, one that deals with oppressed people









10. Describe the Informed Consent Process: An informed consent form will be provided to
participants prior to the interview process. Participation is completely voluntary. (See attached
informed consent form.)



Principal Investigator's Signature


Supervisor's Signature



I approve this protocol for submission to the UFIRB:


Dept. Chair


Date









into the lives of Americans will continue to play an increasing role in future challenges to

academic freedom. Researchers (Berliner & Biddle, 1995; Bracey, 2002) already found that a

complex web of broadcast and print media have participated in isolated cases such as those

detailed in Chapter 6. Research that takes a detailed look at the ways in which media outlets

frame the debate on educational issues is, therefore, imperative.

I am aware that this project reflects a particular time and place, the cultural conflicts of

the first decade of the 21st century. I am of the firm conviction that the educational system in the

United States, which has been mired in the dogma of standards reform for 25 years, is on the

verge of an epochal change in direction. This change will, of necessity, come from below, from

the grassroots activism of those at the heart of the educational community--teachers, students,

and parents--rather than from the ossified educational bureaucracy. These changes will obviously

affect the context of social studies teaching and learning and, yet, will not entirely obviate the

need for struggles for academic freedom in the future.

Conclusions

The findings of this study regarding the experiences of secondary social studies teachers

with the conscious and, often unwitting, use of controversial public issue content in their

classrooms finally, and most importantly, suggest that there is the perception on the part of many

of the actors in the educational community that teachers continue to exert tremendous influence

over their students. Some researchers have challenged this common perception. Daly et al.

(2001), for instance, argued that challenges to teacher autonomy frequently stem from a

misinterpretation, or at the very least, an outdated conception, of the teacher's role. It is the

assumption on the part of many of those leading the current round of censorship efforts against

social studies instructors that schooling still amounts to what Freire (1970) called the banking

concept of teaching. As a consequence of this traditional notion, Daly et al. argued:









"I'm not sure that the students put together the periods like Vietnam and Iraq and I'm not sure I

want them too. There's a lot of talk about that but it's more complicated than that."

Asked to explain his aversion to drawing connections between historical and

contemporary issues, Frank conceded that, "Yes, Vietnam was a disaster and Iraq is a disaster

but they're really different." Yet, he concluded that this is a rather facile comparison that hides

the underlying dissimilarities. In the end, he expressed the desire in his students for what he

considers a more nuanced view:

I want students to understand Vietnam for Vietnam, to understand why we got involved
and the mistakes that were made there, but not necessarily to extrapolate from that to be
against Iraq. I think it's conceivable to think that Vietnam was a bad idea and that Iraq is
noble, or vice versa.

Thus, rather than Ben's policy of openly addressing contemporary issues in a history

class as a means of gaining critical understandings of historical issues, Frank preferred the

advantage of avoiding these discussions by presenting a historical survey that stopped short of

and actively avoided contemporary topics.

Abortion

The conservative Bible-Belt politics mentioned above also make discussion of abortion

and reproductive rights in general quite complicated in Jacksonville area social studies

classrooms. In recent years, abortion, along with gay rights--also mentioned as an issue of

controversy by several participants--and gun control have been utilized by political candidates

and campaigns as wedge issues in order to divide constituencies that might otherwise be likely to

vote as a bloc around their economic interests rather than more narrow social concerns. Public

education, too, has become a political football in local political races. While the current

Abstinence Only policy mandated by No Child Left Behind proscribes altogether the discussion









In this passage, Eric exhibited his willingness to allow open debate in his classroom. Gina

also showed a willingness to engage her students in current events discussions about the Bush

administration's policies, albeit through the slightly passive form of a bulletin board collage of

headlines. When questioned about a headline critical of former Attorney General Alberto

Gonzalez, Gina described an interesting exchange:

I geared up for a big fight with him about my right to bring items in from home and
trying to enrich the curriculum and blah de blah blah, but then he just smiled, kind of like
"Gotcha!" He just wanted to see if he could get a reaction from me.

This incident and Gina's comment perhaps best exemplifies the terrain upon which social

studies teachers operate when discussing the current administration: if they're courageous and

willing to entertain the opinions of their students, they can certainly address these issues, but

they must take undue caution in doing so lest they face criticism--or worse--from their immediate

school communities.

Religion

Religious issues also proved especially contentious in Jacksonville area secondary

schools. Duval County is home to a large Southern Baptist congregation, as well as many smaller

fundamentalist and evangelical Protestant denominations who actively campaign for a return to

the kind of explicit religious instruction banned by the Supreme Court in landmark decisions in

cases such as Engel vs. Vitale (1962). Many school districts, including DCPS have thus retreated

behind a wall of silence on religious topics rather than addressing the plurality of philosophical,

ethical, and moral concerns that are at the core of religious traditions in a spirit of open, critical

inquiry. At the same time, DCPS schools adhere closely to the "Lemon Test" that emerged from

the Supreme Court's decision in the Lemon vs. Kurtzman (1971) case that permits student

initiated religious observances such as the before-school ritual observed by Frank in "Story E--

Rally Round the Flag."









of the colonies. For revolutionary figures, such as Thomas Jefferson and Noah Webster, the role

of schools was to unite a fragile republic by means of a transmission of patriotic virtues into

passive Republican machines. Nineteenth century common school reformers such as Horace

Mann and Catherine Beecher utilized the curriculum in order to instill the liberal values of

middle-class Protestantism in a massive wave of immigrant families and their children, whom

reformers found lacking in their sense of work ethic. In all of these cases, the assumptions

underscoring these efforts were that the curricula were impartial; however, underneath this

facade of neutrality, the imperatives of those who possessed social capital were able to dictate

the terms of what the cultural capital offered in the classroom (Rury, 2005).

In the following chapter, I explore the views of 7 social studies teachers currently

teaching in the Jacksonville, Florida area, as they consider their positions toward the content

material on offer in their classrooms.

Curricular Choices

At the initial interview session, I asked the 7 teacher-participants to bring some work

products from their teaching practice, including one sample course syllabus and one sample plan

for a lesson that they perceived as controversial. During these interviews, I asked them to speak

to the potentially controversial elements of these materials. The narratives that emerged from

these conversations illustrate the individual responses to the myriad challenges and pressures

facing secondary social studies teachers today. Moreover, my analysis of these narratives,

informed by Bamberg's (2004) positionality thesis, points toward the very personal positions

taken by these individuals toward the use of controversial subject matter. These positions are the

subject of Chapter 6.









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Teachers and Controversy

At the outset of each interview, I asked each teacher-participant to respond to the

question of what he or she perceived as controversial in the field of social studies teaching and

learning today. The narratives that emerged from each conversation illustrated the ways in which

each teacher views his or her subject matter, revealing the positionality or identity of each

teacher vis-a-vis his or her content, as indicated by Bamberg (2004).

Adam: Stay Away from Abortion

In a narrative that I titled "Story A--Stay Away from Abortion," Adam indicated in his

narrative structure several uniquely evocative patterns that speak to his view of controversy in

the field of social studies. His narrative began, intriguingly, not with the traditional abstract, or

overview, of the content of the narrative. Rather, he announced spontaneously that, "my

department head told me to stay away from them (controversial subjects)." It is only when I

prompted him that Adam supplied the abstract and orientation elements that provided much of

the context of the narrative:

Adam A-1. The two big topics I've worried about, well, three, but I'll put the first two
together. The first two are homosexuality and abortion, which invariably come up in the
Government class, especially if you're going to look at, well especially with AP, not so
much Honors, especially when you look into civil rights and how courts operate and how
precedents are set because you have a number of decisions that affect those, you know. ..

Adam indicated here that the Honors track survey of American History is likely to

produce more opportunities for the discussion of controversial social issues such as

homosexuality and abortion than is the Advanced Placement U.S. History survey, in which he is

pressured by time to "stick with the history."

Adam commented that the two most potentially controversial topics that might come up

in his American Government and U.S. History curriculum are "abortion and homosexuality." In

the orientation section, Adam commented about the contemporary relevance of these issues:









Hess (2007) more recently extended this basic definition in order to delineate public

issues as either open or closed. By these distinctions, she meant merely that some issues, such as

stem cell research, gay marriage, or gun control produce positions on both pro and con sides that

advocates of either stripe could reasonably claim, and are thus open to debate. On the other hand,

issues such as women's suffrage or the morality of lynching practices are conversely closed; that

is, there is only one position--that is, in favor of women's suffrage and against lynching--that

appears to be reasonable in polite society. Furthermore, she speculated that the majority of

teachers would only countenance a discussion of open issues, while they would view a student's

advocacy for the wrong side of a closed discussion as a breach of the norms of classroom

etiquette and would likely treat the matter as a routine disciplinary incident, effectively shutting

down the discussion.

Hess (2007) qualified these conceptions of controversy by stating that issues in the social

studies can shift from open to closed (and even back to open again) depending upon the

prevailing political winds of the time. For example, she imagined a period shortly after the

Second World War, in which many social studies teachers may well have viewed the internment

of Japanese-American citizens as a closed matter upon which most patriotic American citizens

would agree on the expediency of the policy. As the war faded into memory, it eventually

became an open issue that could be used efficaciously as a means of critical discussion, while

today the consensus among teachers is that it should be a closed matter that constitutes a national

disgrace. At the same time, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Malkin (2004) re-opened this

discussion, arguing for a return to the post-war consensus that the internment of a group of

people thought to have sympathies with a nation's enemies was, and is, legitimate in a time of

war. Indeed the idea of torture and its relationship to Constitutional law is an example of an issue

that has shifted from closed, due to a long tradition of Enlightenment ideals surrounding human









try to do more group stuff, they complain, especially the AP students. They just want
content that they can use for the test.

It is noticeable that when speaking of the general course design, Adam couched his

choices in terms of the needs of the institution; when discussing his own pedagogical choices,

however, he reflected on the needs and preferences of his students. He further contrasted the

profiles of his Advanced Placement (AP) students, whom he viewed as more concerned about

learning content for the cumulative AP examination, and his Government students, who might be

more open to more "experimental methods:"

Adam B-5. Well, they're more in tune with doing group work but still it's not really my
style. I might do more experimental stuff with them but not as much as you might or
others might do.

It is only in this resolution section that Adam referred to his own preferences, expressing

that cooperative methods are not "my style." This sublimation of one's own needs and psychic

rewards in the educational process is typical of the secondary social studies teacher's position

toward the social studies curriculum today. Adam perfectly exemplified the common notion of

adapting to the imperatives of the dominant power structure within schooling.

Ben: Renaissance to Modern

Ben echoed Adam's concerns about the need to conform to curriculum frameworks

structures when designing his World History survey. In "Story C--Renaissance to Modern," Ben

employed a similar narrative structure to address the content coverage issues involved in

teaching a traditional survey covering the totality of human history from Ancient Mesopotamia

to the contemporary world:

Ben C-2. Some schools have gone to a system in which they're doing Ancient and
Classical Civilizations in the middle grades and then letting us start with the fall of Rome.
That helps. Ideally, we should be doing Renaissance to Modern, don't you think? Well,
as you can see here, I'm spending the first half of the year--almost 18 weeks--just getting
up through the Middle Ages. That means that it's a constant struggle to get to the end of
the survey.









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http://www.dreamsbeginhere.org/static/ourschools/schoolinfo/index.asp









rights, to a very lively open issue in the Bush era, in which various methods of torture have been

re-interpreted as enhanced interrogation techniques.

Hess's provocative and interesting operational conception of controversy also requires

the proviso that ideological disagreements will vary in different educational settings and

contexts. What is controversial in a rural, Midwestern school district may be perfectly acceptable

or even encouraged in an urban, northeastern school district. Cornbleth and Waugh's (1995)

discussion of the high-profile cases of the California and New York social studies curriculum

packages developed in the 1990s reinforces this point. While parents and educators in California

felt confident enough to push for a social studies curriculum that would speak to the obvious

diversity of California's public schools, a similarly-themed Curriculum of Inclusion in New

York state was soundly defeated after prominent local conservative media outlets such as the

New York Post rallied parents to oppose the curriculum. On the basis of these experiences,

Cornbleth and Waugh ruefully concluded,

Despite the fact that teachers in the 1990s, particularly in urban areas, were becoming
more aware of the inadequacy of curriculum and materials carried over from a halcyon
time when white students were a majority, it is clear that teachers alone cannot effect the
kinds of changes that are needed in the classroom. (p. 180)

It is certainly the case, as Corbleth and Waugh (1995) pointed out, that the entire

community must be involved in order to agitate for social change in schools, yet one can note a

certain pessimism in their words, particularly about the ability of teachers to be part of that

change agenda. By contrast, I will argue throughout this dissertation that the failure of reform

efforts such as those in New York and California does not negate the possibility of success in the

future; however, it does point toward the need for a bottom-up, grassroots strategy that begins in

the classroom with the needs and voices of actual classroom practitioners.









they explained the need to develop early trusting connections with colleagues, parents and other

individuals in the community. These experiences, both positive and negative, greatly influenced

the stances that each individual took toward teaching in general and especially toward their use

of controversial subject matter.

The spirit motivating this project, therefore, is that the veteran social studies practitioners

who participated in this study, as well as millions of others across the country, toil each day in a

good-faith effort to provide meaningful educational experiences for their students. The critiques

of the specific methods and materials employed by the teacher-participants who gave testimony

included in this dissertation certainly does not negate this sentiment. Each participant has

managed to survive and even thrive, even as the possibilities for critical and innovative teaching

practices have narrowed under the current standards reform regime. In their own inimitable

fashions, these teachers took care to create atmospheres in which free inquiry could flourish.

This reality is often overlooked by critiques of contemporary school culture that focus on the

revolutionary potentials of pre-service teachers to transform schooling practices (McLaren; 2002;

Postman & Weingartner, 1969; Sizer, 1992). Yet, in order to pursue effective strategies toward

teacher training in the future, colleges of education must listen carefully to the kinds of voices

and stories that emerged from this project as they are the authentic tribunes of the practice.

How then are novice and pre-service social studies teachers to establish a successful

teaching practice within a new school setting in order to pursue this innovative agenda? First, the

findings of this project suggested that it is of utmost importance for teachers to begin early

developing lasting, positive relationships with their students. While each participant indicated in

his or her narratives unique and different means of establishing trust with students, all of them

attested to the crucial nature of this project. Donna, for example, commented on the centrality of

the teacher in the lives of students: "You may actually be the only adult who cares about them,









Nonetheless, in order for this strategy to succeed, teachers need a sophisticated

understanding of the political forces that operate within educational circles today. Kincheloe

(2005) raised the critical issue of the power relationships within education that have perennially

defined the outer limits of what is appropriate to discuss in a social studies classroom in a public

high school. He asked, "Why are some constructions of educational reality embraced and

officially legitimized by the dominant culture while others are repressed?" (p. 34). It is clear

from a survey of the history of curricular organization that the subjects taught in public schools

reflect the values of the power elite in society and education (Fitzgerald, 1979, Loewen, 1995;

Zinn, 1980). For example, the perceived national security crisis provoked by the launching of the

Sputnik satellite in 1957 paved the way for revamping mathematics and science curricula (Gutek,

2000). Berliner and Biddle (1995) pointed out that educational leaders in the 1980s and 1990s

accommodated the needs of the corporate sector because of a perceived crisis in American

economic competitiveness with Germany and Japan.

This issue of conceptions of controversy within the social studies curriculum therefore

provides the first major category of interest in this current dissertation project.

Teachers' Stances

While researchers in the social studies, especially those operating under cognitive

constructivist understandings, appreciate the bewildering variety of approaches that teachers take

toward their content, studies suggest that there are some common stances among teachers in

regard to the use of controversial subject matter in the classroom. In his review of the literature

concerning the debate over the role that teachers should assume in the discussion of controversial

issues, Kelly (1986) presented the most sophisticated critique of the perspectives common to

social studies practitioners. He identified these stances as that of "exclusive neutrality,"

"exclusive partiality," "neutral impartiality" and "committed impartiality" (p. 113).









European, 27% of African American, 4% of Latin American, nearly 3% of Asian, and less than

1% of Native American and Pacific Islander backgrounds. Slightly more than 3% of the

population were listed as mixed race or of other racial category. More than 90% speak English,

4% speak Spanish, 1% speak Tagalog (a language native to the Philippines) as a first language, a

demographic feature largely due to the presence in the southern extension of the St. John's River

of the NAS Jacksonville naval air station.

According to the same census data (United States Census Bureau, 2000), there are

303,747 households out of which a third have children under the age of 18 living with them, 46%

are married couples living together, slightly more than 15% have a female householder with no

husband present, and a third are non-families. Twenty six percent of all households are made up

of individuals, and nearly 8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The

average household size is 2.51, and the average family size is 3.06. The median income for a

household in the county is $40,703, and the median income for a family is $47,689. Males have a

median income of $32,954 versus $26,015 for females. The per capital income for the county is

$20,753. Roughly 9% of families and nearly 12% of the population are below the official federal

poverty line, including 16% of those under the age of 8 and nearly 12% of those aged 65 or over

(United States Census Bureau).

The politics of Duval County reflect its deeply segregated history. While the largely

African American inner-city population on the western end of Jacksonville typically votes for

Democratic Party representatives to the U.S. Congress such as Congresswoman Corrine Brown,

the larger county reflects more conservative political and religious perspectives and has in recent

Presidential elections become one of the most reliable large counties for Republican candidates.

In 2004, for example, President George W. Bush received nearly 58% of the popular vote in the

county, as opposed to the just over 41% received by his opponent Senator John Kerry (Duval









Many social studies researchers have spoken over the years about the efficacy of teaching

methods that incorporate controversial subject matter and materials (Banks, 1990; Grant, 2003;

VanSledright, 1997). Barton and Levstik (2005) noted in their work with elementary school

students that, "High quality academic discussions not only prepare students for participation in

democratic debate and negotiation, they also support important aspects of historical thinking,

including better understanding of historical agency" (p. 139). Hahn and Tocci (1990) showed

that engaging students in debates on provocative issues in history has the effect of stimulating

their interest in the electoral process. Furthermore, Oakes and Lipton (2007) found that students

in social studies classes eagerly look forward to debates on hot-button topics. They commented

that the happiest classrooms are those presided over by a teacher "who deals openly with his (sic)

values of treating others with respect and dignity, and who frequently engages students in

democratic participation and decision making" (p. 194). Claire and Holden (2007) remarked that,

"the controversial issues with which children wish to engage are potentially far more dangerous

and they need education and strategies for managing them without violence" (p. 6). The National

Council for the Social Studies (2007) recently updated its statement on academic freedom and

the teaching of controversy, remarking that social studies teaching "involves controversial issues,

and thus, the necessity of academic freedom for social studies teachers and students" (p. 282).

From this brief survey of the research in teaching and learning, one might then imagine that

teaching controversial public issues would be a standard practice in secondary social studies

classrooms.

On the other hand, however, the political leaderships of even those societies, such as the

United States, long committed to representative democratic structures have often exhibited

nervousness over this potential for educators and education to stimulate individual enlightenment

and even grassroots political action. Rury (2005) noted that disenfranchised groups, such as









In this orientation segment, Ben admitted that in teaching this unwieldy World History

survey, "a lot gets left out" and that, "for most teachers that means that anything beyond Western

Europe and the United States gets tossed out--Latin America, Asia, Africa most of all because

most teachers have been trained on European history and they feel comfortable with that." In

other words, the pressures of the traditional survey have created an unfortunate dynamic in

which students and future teachers are trained in the context of a Eurocentric historical focus that

excludes the stories of non-Europeans. Once Ben had laid out the context for his curricular

decisions, he discussed the possibilities for teaching the traditional survey in more inventive

ways. Asked if he had ever attempted to teach half of the survey rather than trying to cover the

totality of human history, Ben admitted:

Ben C-1. Well, I tried that one year--and this was before the End of Course exams came
in. So, one year I got it into my head that I'd just start with the Renaissance and move
forward from there. After all, I've had friends who taught the survey backwards, so what
I was doing wasn't that radical. I was just assuming that the middle school teachers were
doing their jobs, which I think they are for the most part.

In his evaluation of this method, Ben extolled the virtues of this abbreviated survey:

I immediately noticed that I had the freedom to do units on the Ottoman Empire that I
hadn't been able to do before, and I could get further in the survey. I ended up with a unit
on contemporary conflicts in the 90s that year. It was amazing.

Yet, despite these advantages, there is a complicating factor created by the institutional demands

of the school. In this section of the narrative, Ben described a situation in which a new student

was introduced to his class:

Ben C-3. But the problem is that I had some students who switched from another class
into another. I get this kid in my class and of course, he's been doing the Hellenistic
Period with his other class and we're already doing the Scientific Revolution, some few
thousand years later. I tried my best to catch him up but it was hard for him. So, I got
called in for that.

Ben further elaborated on this theme in the resolution to the narrative, describing the

events of a meeting with the vice principal, department chair and the parents involved: "Well, I









This messianic belief in the school and the teacher actually worked to the disadvantage of
both, because it raised unrealistic expectations. It also put the schools squarely in the
political arena, thereby encouraging ideologues of every stripe to try to impose their
social, religious, cultural and political agendas on the schools. (p. 459)

In this florid statement, one can see the major patterns of the history of the competing

notions of academic freedom and its discontents. Ravitch (2000) also inadvertently unmasked the

agenda of neo-liberal and neo-conservative educators who control much of the infrastructure of

public schooling in the 21st century.

While there is a lengthy history stretching from the mid 19th century to the present of

teachers freely advocating for themselves and their students in the classroom, this is, as I have

argued, a contested legacy. Conceptions of intellectual autonomy developed early in the nation's

universities, and yet the ways in which teachers' roles have been understood in the history of

public schooling have precluded their being afforded the same rights as those of university

faculty. This insight should not suggest, however, that those working in academia have received

unassailable rights to academic freedom free from challenges. These rights have fluctuated

wildly from period to period, reflecting dramatic pendulum swings between periods in which

educators assumed themselves to be involved in fundamental social change followed by periods

of conservative retrenchment and even social reaction. Neo-liberal and neo-conservative

educators continue to disparage the idea of a politicized classroom. The lesson of this long and

labyrinthine history is that continual vigilance and struggle is necessary in order to maintain the

rights of teachers and academic faculty to pursue their own agendas in the classroom. In his

classic work "On Liberty," Mill (1859/2003) expressed in no uncertain terms the necessity for

this bold struggle and the dangers that its loss might entail:

Who can compute what the world loses in the multitude of promising intellects combined
with timid characters, who dare not follow out any bold, vigorous, independent train of
thought, lest it should land them in something which would admit of being considered
irreligious or immoral? ... No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize that as









suggest that this world of teaching is rapidly disappearing and that, far from fostering creativity

and innovation, isolation makes the use of controversial material more risky and consequently

less likely to occur. The standards reform movement, premised on the notion of the

accountability of students, teachers, and schools, makes it highly unlikely that any teacher can

survive for very long in a school by merely hiding away in a corner in which he or she can teach,

with little regard to curriculum frameworks, things we might not want overheard. For better or

worse, teachers and education in the 21st century have been placed under a spotlight and this

context calls for more openness and collaboration.

During the first waves of the recent attacks on the social studies curriculum in the 1980s,

the focus of conservative anger tended to be aimed at school boards and administrations who

deigned to introduce progressive curriculum packages that included multicultural treatments of

history (Cornbleth & Waugh, 1995; Nash et al., 1997). Classroom teachers, once spared criticism

due to their image as saints are now, however, often cast as the sinners of this drama. Condon

and Wolff (1996) provided an excellent example of this shift in thinking. Written as a Parent's

Legal Handbook andAction Guide, Condon and Wolff s work revealed the unique perspective

that many conservative parents' groups take toward public school teachers. In a chapter titled,

"What They Teach," Condon and Wolff offered answers to sample questions such as "Can

teachers use dirty words in class?" "Will there be more use of television in classroom?" and "Our

son's fourth grade teacher recently showed a film about abortion. Shouldn't he be fired for this?"

(pp. 67-68). The presumption behind these questions appears to suggest to parents that they pay

close attention to the stories that their children bring home with them from school and exert

immediate pressure on those teachers and school administrators who are following paths with

which they may have philosophical disagreements. The narratives that emerged from the

interviews in this project show that parents, and their children, have taken this advice to heart.









development of the university from the twelfth century" (Hofstadter & Metzger, 1955, p. 3). As

Stone (1996) reported, the late 19th century represented a period of genuine revolution in

American higher education. During this time, universities such as Cornell, Johns Hopkins,

Stanford, and Chicago were founded with the mission of implementing dramatic reforms, such as

the introduction of an elective course system, graduate instruction and scientific courses. Stone

noted that, "New academic goals were embraced. To criticize and augment as well as to preserve

the tradition became an accepted function of higher education" (p. 64).

Nineteenth century debates about academic freedom in universities were energized by the

discussion of two issues--academia's response to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and the

influence of the German university. Stone (1996) argued that the gradual acceptance of

Darwinism led to challenging the institutional control of the clergy in universities: "In the attack

on clerical control of universities, the most effective weapon was the contention that the clergy

were simply incompetent in science" (p. 347). No less dramatic was the effect of Prussian

conceptions of academic freedom on the American university. Reflecting on his numerous

pilgrimages to German universities of the day, for example, William Rainey Harper (1892/1938),

the first president of the University of Chicago, remarked:

When for any reason the administration of a university or the instruction in any of its
departments is changed by an influence from without, or any effort is made to dislodge an
officer or a professor because the political sentiment or the religious sentiment of the
majority has undergone a change, at that moment the institution has ceased to be a
university. (p. xxiii)

This comment reflected the one major distinction between Prussian and American conceptions of

academic freedom. As Stone (1996) stated:

The German conception of academic freedom distinguished sharply between freedom
within and freedom outside the university. Within the walls of the academy, the German
conception allowed wide latitude of utterance. But outside the university, the same degree
of freedom was not condoned. (p. 67)









agreed to meet with the student twice a week after school to catch him up and I had to agree to

some accommodations around testing and grading. I didn't mind that." While Ben concluded that

this was a fair compromise, he affirmed his intention to try to avoid this kind of situation in the

future by making "sure to not do that again. I'm back to doing the straight survey." The coda of

the piece then related the lesson that Ben learned from this incident:

Ben C-6. You're dead meat if you don't keep up with the pace of the survey and what's
covered on the test. They've gotten to the point where they look at each question and do a
statistical review of each teacher's performance on those items. So, if I say skipped
teaching about the Byzantines and all my students failed those items, they'd know for
sure.

At the end of his narrative, therefore, Ben had resolved to drop his experimentation with the

traditional historical survey, which he had found useful in freeing time for more topics and

covering more contemporary issues, because of the curricular pressures attached to teaching

World History.

Cathy: The Seven Years' War is Still the Seven Years' War

Cathy, the most veteran teacher among the participants, began her narrative with an

apology for the stale quality of the syllabus for her Advanced Placement European History

course. In "Story C--The Seven Years' War is Still the Seven Years' War," Cathy allowed that,

"I've been doing it all the time that I've been here and longer in other schools, so it's (the

syllabus is) pretty dusty." In the complicating action portion of the narrative, Cathy contrasted

her approach with that of a junior colleague, who had adopted the dramatic practice of destroying

all of her materials at the end of the school year in an effort to prevent boredom and intellectual

atrophy:

Cathy C-3. I used to have a close friend who taught here a few years back who had a
ritual in which she literally burned her notes from the previous year on the last day of
school. She made a big deal about too. She'd invite friends like me over for a barbecue
and she'd throw the notes on the grill. And then she'd spend most of the summer putting
the course together, and she did APUSH, so I don't know how she did it.









While each teacher in this study displayed a variety of sometimes contradictory

approaches toward student involvement, each teacher presumed that students should play active

roles in the process of discussing controversial topics. Gina, for example, while lamenting the

lack of student interest in topics of importance to her such as the death penalty, recognized that

students must also take some responsibility in order to facilitate the discussion process: "I always

try to get students to lead the discussions because it's no good if it's just me up there talking at

them." Hess (2002) pointed out that, "all students should be expected to prepare for discussions

and that discussions should be planned well in advance to allow for thorough preparation" (p.

37). While the hectic pace of the school year occasionally forces teachers to make last-minute

lesson decisions, Hess's guidance here cannot be stressed enough. In reflecting on his students'

explosive reaction to a lesson that he had designed around an exercise from Herrnstein and

Murray's The Bell Curve (1994), Adam realized that the lesson might have gone more smoothly

if he had given students advance notice of the nature of the assignment: "I kind of sprang it on

them at the last minute. It might have been better to announce what we were going to do a day

ahead and maybe give them something to read for homework." These reflections on the nature of

scaffolding by veteran practitioners have much to offer pre-service and novice teachers in the

social studies.

Several of the teachers interviewed indicated that student-centered approaches were at the

heart of their practices. A good example of this student focus stance was Ben's regular use of

skits in order to involve his World History students in the topics under discussion. Ben realized

the risks of this approach: "I'm pretty careful ... I have to do that because otherwise I hear about

it." Although Ben's historical skits had occasionally incurred some student resistance, he

concluded that they had largely been successful in providing an entertaining and creative outlet

for his students: "It works well, especially if I've got some drama kids in class; they even will









education: "Imagine an outline for the teaching of American history in which George

Washington makes only a fleeting appearance and is never described as our first president" (p.

A22E). Nash, a respected historian, and his colleagues in turn accused Cheney of deliberate

obfuscation in suggesting that the frameworks were to be used in classroom settings rather than

as guidelines for teaching. After several rounds in the national media and in the halls of the U.S.

Senate, which in 1995 censured the frameworks by a vote of 99-1, Nash offered to re-draft the

frameworks in a manner that might be pleasing to everyone involved. The final draft was, in the

estimation of Evans (2004), "a watered-down version designed not to offend. It had the desired

impact, blunting the criticism of the earlier volumes and receiving a much more positive

reception" (p. 168). Indeed, Ravitch (2003) praised the final version for removing "the most

politically charged language" (p. 137). What exactly did conservatives object to in the original

draft of the National History standards? Ravitch explained that it was its vision of a United States

with its origins in multiculturalism:

The defining mark of the UCLA standards was their claim that American history began
as the meeting of three worlds: African, Amerindian and European. This was a rejection
of the traditional interpretation, which had traced the origins of the American nation to
the English influence on American language, law, government, religion, culture, and
institutions. (pp. 137-138)

This incident must be seen in the context of a series of culture wars over the historical

canon in the Reagan/Bush years, including the controversy over architect Maya Lin's design for

the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, the publication of Martin Bernal's two-

volume study on the Egyptian influence on ancient Athens, Black Athena, the 500th anniversary

commemoration of Columbus's voyage to the Americas, and the Smithsonian Institute's

exhibition "The West as America." These campaigns have taken on more urgency in the periods

surrounding Presidential election campaigns, at which point public education has often been used

as a wedge issue to stimulate the activism of the conservative base.









foundations bent on influencing policy, such as the Fordham Foundation, the Lynde and
Harry Bradley Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and others. (pp. 523-524)

The most well-established of these today include Citizens for Excellence in Education, Phyllis

Schlafly's Eagle Forum, and the Concerned Women of America led by Beverly LaHaye, wife of

Tim LaHaye, who has become a media star in religious, conservative circles with his apocalyptic

Left Behind book series.

Conservative organizations oriented toward, in David Horowitz's (2006) ironic words,

taking "politics out of schools" (p. 371), abound in the culture of education today. Another

online organization influenced by Horowitz's group Parents and Students for Academic Freedom

(PSAF), ProtestWarrior.com, has created 160 high school chapters, arming students with "ammo

that strikes at the intellectual solar plexus of the Left" (ProtestWarrior.com, 2006, p. 1). Another

organization known as the Christian Copts of California distributed 5,000 booklets in several

states denouncing a seventh-grade World History curriculum program as an "attempt to engrave

Islam in the minds ... of children" (MacDonald, 2005, p. 2).

Organizations such as PSAF and its affiliates have had a noticeable effect, as Horowitz

(2007) himself was quick to claim. In November 2004, for example, a journalism teacher in

Indianapolis was suspended after a group of parents criticized his decision to publish a

controversial story in the Franklin Central High School newspaper about a classmate's arrest on

murder charges (Olsen, 2004). A month later, a drama teacher in Paradise Valley, Arizona was

fired after a parent complaint about a skit her students wrote and performed about the Holocaust

(Madrid, 2004). In Grand Rapids, Michigan, an English teacher was suspended with pay for

assigning a collection of stories, "Athletic Shorts," that included what parents described as racial

slurs (Book With Racial .\,m 2005). In April 2006, Sidney McGee, an art teacher from Frisco,

Texas, was fired after parent complaints about the nude art that her 5th grade class viewed while









As with the students in Adam's narrative about the lesson surrounding The Bell Curve,

the issue of race was the trigger to the conflict in the classroom, and in both cases, the students

involved in the incident objected to their mere exposure to the issue. In his evaluation of the

narrative, Ben reflected on his efforts to reduce the possibility of student resistance:

Ben D-4. I'm pretty careful there. I don't require all of the group members to act. They
can do the background work, write the paper, I just control who does what. I have to do
that because otherwise I hear about it. There are so many kids on IEPs and special
accommodations these days, that I don't dare require them to do something that might
take some effort, right? I cover my butt at all times.

While Ben felt that he took proper precautions to "cover his butt"--so common an

expression in faculty lounges today that it is often shortened to the acronym "C.Y.B." for

convenience--he still expressed concern about the future use of his skits in the coda to the

narrative: "It is a worry, though." Whether treated in a historical or contemporary context, the

issue of race is so raw in the American body politic today that teachers who attempt to raise

critical awareness of the reality of race in American society run the risk of engendering student

resistance.

Cathy: World Religions Journal

Cathy reflected similar concerns about the inclusion of religious issues in her classroom

instruction in her narrative "Story D--World Religions Journal." However, while Adam and Ben

have the opportunity to avoid the delicate issue of race in their courses, religious issues are, by

definition, the core of her elective course in World Religions at Orange Park College Preparation

School. In the abstract to her narrative, Cathy described one of her efforts to encourage students

to reflect on their religious worldviews: "Well, in my Religions classes, I've for a long time done

weekend journals, you know, reflective journals. I guess that's pretty innovative, right?" Cathy's

narrative structure was significantly different from those of Adam and Ben in that it was imbued

with controversy and student resistance from beginning to end. In her orientation to the narrative,









terms are not flagrant authoritarians but rather display exclusive partiality in more unconscious

ways. These tactics include, for example, selection of texts that merely represent one side of a

controversial topic or inviting exceptional students who are known to represent a particular view

close to that of the teacher to speak in front of the class or participate in a debate. In addressing

the reasons that teachers might employ these strategies, Kelly focused on their critique of

contemporary culture, which, by offering endless individual options to students, seems to obviate

the role of guidance: "In short, in a culture where knowledge can confuse more than clarify,

contaminate more than liberate, some believe that students need to be shielded from systematic

exposure to potentially harmful alternative perspectives" (p. 117). Teachers of this school of

thought are likely to consider their students too naive or unschooled to be able to make meaning

for themselves when it comes to the vital issues of the day.

Kelly (1986) referred to the third and most popular stance toward controversy among

teachers as neutral impartiality. In this approach, teachers present a wide variety of materials

regarding contentious issues for students to debate. At the same time, they remain scrupulous in

their neutral distance from the material, even at the risk of seeming evasive to students curious

about their views on the topics. Kelly described the method:

Overall, the teacher seeks to promote a classroom atmosphere where complexity of
understanding, tolerance for ambiguity and responsiveness to constructive criticism are
extended and where genuine dissent--the right to express an opposing view without
ridicule, coercion or censure--flourishes. Challenging but achievable, this ideal of
impartiality suggests a collaborative and passionate, if not conflict free, search for truth.
(pp. 121-122)

Teachers pursue this method by employing an exemplary variety of modes, including

guest speakers, library research, role playing and small group discussions. Kelly (1986) noted

that this neutral impartiality seems to many pre-service and novice practitioners to adhere to the

best practices within the field. Yet he critiqued the model for its cold rationality: "despite its









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of everything. New York: William Morrow.

Libin, K. (2007, May 24). Forcing an inconvenient truth. National Post. Retrieved May 26, 2007,
from http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=28443

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Locke, J. (1995). A letter concerning toleration. In I. Kramnick (Ed.), The portable
enlightenment reader (pp. 81-90). New York: Penguin Books. (Original work published
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Loewen, J. (1995). Lies our teachers told us. New York: Simon & Shuster.

MacDonald, G. J. (2005, June 6). Conservatives see liberal bias in class, and mobilize. Christian
Science Monitor. Retrieved June 7, 2005, from http://www.csmonitor.com/
2005/0606/p01s03-legn.htm

Madrid, O. (2004, December 10). Fired PV drama teacher reaches settlement. West Valley
Republic. Retrieved December 10, 2004, from http://www.azcentral.com/
community/westvalley/articles/1210srteacher04Z 1 .html

Malkin, M. (2004). In defense of internment: The World War II round-up and what it means for
America's war on terror. New York: Regnery.

Maykut, P., & Morehouse, R. (1994). Beginning qualitative research: A philosophic and
practical guide. London, UK: Falmer.

McKenna, B. (2006, March/April ). Beware the new thought police. AFT On Campus, 10-13.

McLaren, P. (2003). Life in schools: An introduction to critical pedagogy in the foundations of
education. (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook.
(2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.









Numerous scholars have stressed the importance of research questions as a framing

mechanism in qualitative research designs. Maykut and Morehouse (1994) underscored that "the

questions that we ask will always to some degree determine the answers we find" (p. 43). Thus,

in contrast to research questions in quantitative studies, which tend to revolve around identifying

sets of variables and seeking an understanding of the relationship, or correlation, between them,

research questions in qualitative studies attempt to produce data that will be thick, that is, rich in

its descriptive detail and value. Glesne (1998) remarked that these questions often spring from a

review of the literature. She advised "In working out the research statement, begin by jotting

down questions about your topic, generated by your reading of the literature and your own

experience" (p. 24). Following this astute advice, therefore, the research statement and questions

that form the core of this dissertation research project, stem from personal experiences with

challenges to academic freedom as well as a reading of the literature on the stances of social

studies teachers toward the teaching of controversial public issues.

Some have warned, however, that this seemingly common-sense approach can escape

researchers, particularly those entering the field, who may take the importance of research

questions for granted. For example, Hatch (2002) spoke to his experiences mentoring novice

researchers:

When I meet with students at various stages of the research process, I always remind
them to refer back to their research questions. New researchers almost always feel
overwhelmed when they first enter the field. There is so much going on, that they can
barely take it all in, let alone make a record of it. Asking if research questions have
been answered provides a way to judge if enough has been done. (p. 42)

There have certainly been moments in the research process where I have felt the sense of

being overwhelmed by the data and, thus, the remarks of veteran qualitative researchers and the

guidance of my dissertation committee have been invaluable in this regard. Research questions

thus begin with what Creswell (1998) described as "a how or a what so that initial forays into the









A archival C collection ................. .................................... ................ .............83
D ata A n aly sis ................................................................................................. ...............8 4
Subjectivity Statem ent ...................................................... ............ ..... ........87
A N ote on V validity .............................................89
L im itatio n s ................... ...................9...................0..........
C onclu sions.......... ..........................................................92

4 FINDINGS: CONTROVERSIAL CONTENT IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES TODAY.........95

In tro d u c tio n ....................................................................................................................... 9 5
T teachers and C controversy ............................................................................ ....................97
A dam : Stay Aw ay from Abortion .................................. .........................................97
C athy: I'm an O ld H and ...................... .................. .............. ...... ........ .. 98
D onna: Church vs. State .................. ....................................... ..... 101
Eric: R republicans and D em ocrats ............................................................ ...............102
Frank: GSA...............................................104
Gina: Social Studies is a M infield .............. ......... ................ ....... ...............107
C onclusions.....................................................................109

5 FINDINGS: TEACHERS' EXPERIENCES WITH CONTROVERSY.......................111

In tro d u c tio n ..................................................................................................................... 1 1 1
C urricular C choices ................................112.............................
A dam : C ut and P aste Job .......... ................................................................. ......... 113
B en: R renaissance to M odem ........................... ........ .... ... .............. ...... 114
Cathy: The Seven Years' War is Still the Seven Years' War ....................... ...............116
D onna: They N eed Structure ............................................................................. ...... 117
Eric: It G ets V ery V ocational ....................................................................... 119
G ina: Sociology ............................................................................................. ............ 120
C controversial L essons ................................................. .... ........ ....... .121
Adam : The Bell Curve................................. .. .. ........ .. ............122
B e n : S tu d en t S k it ..................................................................................................... 12 4
Cathy: W orld Religions Journal ................................................................... 125
Donna: The Jena Six............................... ....... .. ......... .............127
Eric: The Cold W ar .................................... ..... ....... ............. 130
Frank: Abstract Art ............. .. ...... ....... .......................... .. ...... 131
G ina: T teaching B uddhism ............. ................ ................ ..................... ............... 133
C conclusion ......... ..... .... ........... ..........................................135

6 FINDINGS: TEACHERS' POSITIONS TOWARD CONTROVERSY...........................138

In tro d u ctio n ................... ...................1.............................8
T h ree C a se s......... .............................................................13 9
F ahrenheit 9 11 ...................................................................................................... 139
The "State of the Union" in Colorado ................................ ....................142
V oices of the People's H history ........... ................. ......... ............................. 144
T teacher' s V iew s ........................................................................................... ......146
Adam : They're Nuts! ........... .......................................... .......... 146

7









cautious, however; in the words of Donna, "You have to be careful not to talk too openly about

abortion or sex or whatnot." While each teacher has negotiated his or her own position toward

controversial subject matter, these encounters seem to have provoked common responses of

either avoidance of a distant neutrality.

Finally, all of the participants spoke eloquently about the social pressures placed upon

them by the educational community, by the students, parents, and even the colleagues with

which they work side by side in terms of their responses to their experiences in the classroom.

Frank's memory of the faculty lounge incident in which "one of the old guys in the math

department said something like, 'Gay Straight Alliance? Who's the sponsor of that group?'" is a

testament to these kinds of pressures and how they relate to the decisions to take on risks in their

teaching practices in and out of the classroom. It also testifies to the need for teachers entering a

new school to build alliances with like minded colleagues.

In the next chapter, I analyze the curricular materials selected by my teacher-participants

to represent their teaching of controversial public issues. I then look at the narratives that

emerged from our conversations about the lessons contained within these curricular materials.









questions about the nature of his advocacy, Frank quickly provided the orientation segment of

the narrative:

Frank E-2. Now, I've always made it a point to announce any event on campus,
regardless of what it is. Yes, even then. Maybe especially if I don't agree with it. Because
you have to be fair and consistent if you're going to gain the students' trust. Anyway, this
group at the school that has a Bible study session several times a week has an event at the
flagpole in front of the school once a year in October.

Frank displayed an admirable and complex sense of fairness, which in this case was not

premised on avoidance of issues or a bland, neutral treatment. Rather, Frank indicated

throughout the narrative structure that he encourages students to be active members of their

community, despite his disagreement with the specific cause behind the event. He continued this

thread by describing how he designs his classroom to be an organizational locus for student

groups:

Frank E-2. So, these students in FCA came to me a few days before the event because
they knew that I had a bulletin board right next to the front wall where I posted a lot of
posters for things like the drama club's events, any sports events on campus, charity
events, that kind of thing. I think it promotes civic engagement.
It is clear from this statement that students frequently approach Frank with such requests

precisely because he is the kind of instructor who promotes this kind of activism. In the

complicating action segment, he also revealed a reflective nature about his teaching practice:

Frank E-3. I mentioned in passing that I didn't share the group's views and wouldn't be
joining them at the flag because I thought it was a Constitutional violation. So, there was
one of the FCA girls in that class and she wasn't happy. She said, "You don't do that for
the other events." And I thought. "You know, she's right."

Here, Frank engaged in a thoughtful practice while in the midst of a busy school day and

changed his approach the next day: "Anyway, I decided to just read it out without any comment

the next day." Despite this exemplary practice, Frank's narrative was instructive in showing how

this generosity of spirit occasionally poses problems for him. On the day in question, Frank

decided to allow a few students participating in the event to enter class late without a tardy pass,









administration's policy following the September 11, 2001 attacks that subsequently led to the

invasion and occupation of Iraq. The critically acclaimed and assailed film was destined to

garner media attention and to become a lightening rod for partisan debate in a Presidential

election year, unsurprisingly garnering a furious response from conservative media pundits even

before the official release of the film. In May 2004, for example, a public relations firm

connected to the Republican Party formed a group called "Move America Forward" in order to

pressure theater owners across the country not to show the film (Berkowitz, 2005). Throughout

the promotional campaign surrounding Fahrenheit, Moore urged the use of his film as a

pedagogical tool for teachers, further inflaming his critics, who saw the film as purely

propagandistic. A storm of protest followed the decision by the National Education Association

(NEA) to present the film at its annual conference in the summer of 2004 (Archibald, 2004). As

the October release of the Fahrenheit DVD approached, Moore posted a "Teacher's Guide" for

using the film in high school and college classrooms on his website, including sample critical

thinking questions that teachers could use with their classes (Moore, 2004). Activists supporting

the two major political candidates in the Presidential election seemed primed for a media battle

over the film. Commentators sympathetic to the Bush administration warned their readers to be

ever watchful of materials being used in the classroom. Eric Pratt, for example, in an article titled

"Fahrenheit 9/11 in the Classroom?" for the conservative weblog American Daily commented:

"With kids going back to school around Labor Day, parents should make a renewed effort to

keep tabs on what their children are being taught" (Pratt, 2004). Conservative parents' groups

took up the call.

Within days of the DVD release of the film on October 5, stories began to surface in the

"blogosphere" about incidents in which high school teachers and community college professors

had been disciplined for having the temerity to show the film to their students. On October 8, a









of abortion and contraception in health classes, social studies teachers still retain the, albeit

limited, ability to discuss these topics as public policy issues in their classes.

The participants in this study were well aware of this complicated context. Adam, for

example, listed abortion as one of three issues that he was advised by a senior colleague to "stay

away from" in a self-evidently titled narrative "Story A--Stay Away from Abortion." While he

expressed the tendency to avoid controversial public policy issues as a young teacher, he also

noted that he has included them in his more recent instruction of American Government. He

asked rhetorically: "How can I talk about modern government and (the) modem judiciary

without discussing these issues?" In "Story A--Church vs. State," Donna concurred with these

concerns:

You might have a more conservative environment in most schools, particularly in the
neighborhood schools where if you're a liberal minded teacher like me you have to be
careful not to talk too openly about abortion or sex or whatnot.

At the same time, she expressed more concern about disturbing the delicate relationships

that she'd established with her students, particularly with those who hold opposing views to her

own on the issue of abortion, than with wider community standards. In "Story D--Violation of

Trust," she admitted that these concerns weigh on her mind when considering the presentation of

her views:

It has to, yes, it does. Because you realize that you can very quickly lose that trust, you
can disappoint them. For example, I have a lot of kids who are pro-life and they care
tremendously about the issue. And I'm pro-choice and I care about it too.

Upon reflection, Donna concluded that, "I would never say that in front of a class, and

not because I would get into trouble, which I probably would, but because it would be a violation

of trust. I'm not sure that I could ever get that trust back." In the end, Donna implicitly

understood that her relationship with her students is by far the most important in regard to her









does his research and it's well researched and footnoted." The narrative structure and tone

shifted dramatically as Eric responded to a question about his feelings about the cases in which

teachers were disciplined for using the film. In the evaluation section of the narrative, Eric

expressed empathy for the teachers involved:

Eric E-4. Listen, I show 'Schindler's List" and so do some others around here. We're
always showing war movies--"Gettysburg," "Saving Private Ryan" you name it--and
there's some brutal stuff in those and they're all "R" rated but they're seen as patriotic so
people get away with it.

In this statement, Eric indicated his view that disciplining teachers for the use of an "R"

rated film while other teachers within the same institution are allowed to use similarly-rated

materials deemed patriotic betrays the political machinations underpinning these incidents. He

continued by mentioning "a teacher in English (who) showed 'Pride and Prejudice' and got into

trouble because there are some racy scenes in it" as a counterbalance to this view. Finally he

concluded the narrative with a brief comment that showed his loyalty toward his colleagues: "We

need leverage to be able to show what we need to in class, within reason." Thus, in the space of a

short narrative, Eric traveled a long distance from an unequivocal position that privileged

accuracy and truth to a more nuanced view that indicates a depth of empathy toward fellow

practitioners.

Frank: Rally Round the Flag

These challenges and the frustrations emanating from them form the backdrop of Frank's

narrative "Story E--Rally Round the Flag." In the abstract to the narrative, Frank presented an

overview of the incident in which he attempted to encourage student community involvement by

announcing an event initiated by a student Christian organization: "What happened was that I

was asked to read out an announcement for the Rally Round the Flag event." Anticipating my










Given this context, it is not surprising that Niemi and Niemi (2007) found that, "teachers convey

their political opinions in the classroom in expected and unexpected ways" (p. 39). In their

research, they found four patterns in this regard:

1) giving a direct opinion about politics and government; 2) giving advice to students
about theirs and others' political behavior; 3) expressing exasperation or frustration with
the political system and politicians as well as name-calling of politicians and other
government officials; and 4) commenting on government as it relates to their own
classroom and/or school. (p. 39)

This dire situation, thus, calls for a research agenda that examines the experiences of veteran

social studies teachers and the conceptions and stances toward teaching controversial subject

matter that stem from these experiences.

Purpose of the Study

A profound paradox confronts researchers in social studies education today: at the same

time that the field is flourishing in the halls of higher education, the relevance of research in

American public schools is waning. The unfortunate result of a century-long attack on

progressive modes of teaching and learning is a significant gap between research and practice.

This is especially true in the social studies, which as Barton and Levstik (2004) suggested, is a

field that has all but disappeared at the elementary level and is still dominated at the secondary

level by content-driven history courses and traditional, teacher-centered pedagogical methods.

They commented on this dispiriting educational arena.

Lawmakers argue that schools should teach to the test, and schools argue they should
teach the way they think best. Researchers criticize teachers for not using primary
sources, teachers criticize students for not wanting to learn, and students criticize
textbooks for being deadly boring. What a mess. (p. 1)

As Patterson and Luft (2004) noted, the teaching and learning process is itself a

construction and thus it is inevitable that most social studies teachers conceive of it in ways that

often mimic and model the processes that they encountered in their own schooling experiences.









studies curricula, and especially toward the controversial content areas, over their many years of

service.

Adam: The Bell Curve

In his narrative "Story C--The Bell Curve," Adam described a lesson that he built around

a suggestion made by Herrnstein and Murray (1994) in The Bell Curve, a book that led to furious

scholarly exchanges (Fraser, 1995; Jacoby & Glauberman, 1995; Kincheloe, Steinberg, &

Glesson, 1996) surrounding the authors' claims that American class structure represented a

natural meritocracy based on intelligence and consequent career success or failure. In the

orientation section of the narrative, Adam addressed the controversial nature of the lesson:

Adam C-2. Well, you said controversial and that book was hot. It's cooled off now, in
fact I don't think anyone even remembers it, definitely the kids I work with have never
read it, never heard of it, for sure.

Asked to describe the design of the lesson, Adam detailed how he took the basic kernel of

an idea from Herrnstein and Murray and built it into a lesson:

Adam C-2. What I did was to create a worksheet that had the basic set-up on top. They
(Herrnstein and Murray) start the first chapter by asking readers to think of their twelve
closest friends. In the book, they wanted people to list the educational achievement of
friends and they do that to talk about their idea of a "cognitive elite." Well, so after we
read and discussed this short piece here, then I had them list their friends names and then
I had them sort them by a number of different categories.

Adam continued the orientation section of the narrative by addressing how his students'

status within the prestigious International Baccalaureate magnet program at Orange Park College

Preparation School--"a cognitive elite within the school"--and the relative diversity of the group

made the lesson even more explosive.

Adam C-2. They all are in high school but I wanted to find out how many had close
friends in other schools, how many had close friends in the IB track vs. the Honors
track--this was an IB heavy class on Government, so most of them associated with other
IB kids because they travel together all day long and they're all smart kids that their
parents probably approve of. Then I had them categorize by age, gender, all sorts of other
sociological categories including race.









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In an epistemological sense, constructivism--and its twin paradigm constructionism--in

its most common forms rests upon the assumption that learners construct knowledge as they

attempt to make sense of their experiences in the everyday world. As Driscoll (1994) noted

"Learners, therefore, are not empty vessels waiting to be filled, but rather active organisms

seeking meaning" (p. 360). More succinctly put by Kafai and Resnick (1996): "Children don't

get ideas, they make ideas" (p. 1, emphasis in original). This process is in operation regardless of

what is being learned and thus, for educators influenced by the constructivist paradigm, virtually

any subject can be valuable, any moment a teachable moment. As students progressively make

meaning from the environment around them, they learn to develop, expand and test out mental

patterns until one emerges that suits the particular task at hand. This set of assumptions about

learning in turn leads to the development of specific types of research interests and teaching and

learning practices that necessarily go hand in hand with one another. For example, Larochelle

and Bednarz (1989) commented that "as constructivism implies that knowledge is always

knowledge that a person constructs, it has prompted the development of didactic situations which

stress the need to encourage greater participation by students in their appropriation of scholarly

knowledge" (p. 3).

This insight leads researchers interested in pursuing a constructivist orientation to

establish a research agenda that focuses on the creation of learning environments that will likely

produce a social or collaborative meaning-making process. For example, Wineburg and Wilson

(1991) profiled the work of two teachers who acted as facilitators of student learning rather than

as experts imparting wisdom to students in their American History courses. For these reasons, a

constructivist theoretical perspective provides this research project, the aim of which is to present

current social studies practitioners with the opportunity to share the meaning-making processes









CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH METHODS

Introduction

The importance of establishing a clear philosophical and theoretical foundation for the

implementation of new methods in the social studies lies in the need for an effective, robust and

flexible pedagogical practice. Indeed, the two goals are inseparable. As Kincheloe (2005) argued,

"The teaching and learning process is intimately connected to the research act" (p. 3). Once the

teacher-researcher in the social studies has accepted the assumptions underlying the

constructivist paradigm based on a reading of the literature and research, for example, he or she

begins to reflect upon and change the goal of instruction from one of imparting a vast store of

historical facts to a passive student audience to one of encouraging students to engage with a

variety of disciplines in an effort to develop deeper, more critical perspectives. The constructivist

framework presumes that knowledge is produced within an educational community from the

experiences that are made available by the lessons at hand. Grant (2003) explained constructivist

teaching and learning priorities in the following terms:

Taking constructivism to school means that knowledge is viewed as complex and
multifaceted, that something may be lost when ideas are reduced to elementary pieces,
that teaching is about creating opportunities for students to think about work through big
ideas, and that learning is more about understanding than simply memorizing those ideas.
(p. 84)

This process is fostered by authentic and real-world environments and culturally and

socially relevant subject material as opposed to remote and abstract environments driven by text

or testing priorities. These real-world experiences are imbued with the richness of culture, the

complexity of communication within social groups and the ubiquity of problem solving. Social

studies instruction also benefits most when meaning construction takes place within the

framework of the learner's prior knowledge and experience. Hopkins (1994) noted that









a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead ...
There is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides. It is when they attend
only one that errors harden into prejudices and truth itself ceases to have the effect of
truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood. (p. 99)

In the chapters that follow, I will detail the course of a research project that considered

the real voices of veteran social studies teachers, voices that express fears and reservations about

their roles as advocates in the classroom and yet at the same time bum with the desire to carry

forward Mill's shining sentiments penned some 250 years ago.









narratives from the data in a much more intensive manner. Finally, I coded the narratives, using a

method described by Bamberg (2004) that is intended to probe the identities of the subjects

involved. Specifically, I analyzed and compared the structure of each narrative in an attempt to

understand what elements of the narratives were used in order to assert a positionality as a

classroom practitioner. This method of focusing on the positioning of individual teachers within

their storytelling roles allowed me to conceptualize the subjects' identities as impinged by both

the person-to-world and world-to-person positions. For example, some participants indicated that

their choices came from stances toward the material or political positions developed over the

years (person-to-world position), whereas others indicated that they felt constrained from time to

time by the context of curriculum narrowing or stress on testing procedures (world-to-person

position). This form of narrative analysis allowed me to note patterns in teachers' testimonies;

for example, that those focused on curricular matters tended to begin with and focus on a lengthy

orientation segment in their narratives. This provided me with an ideal vantage point in which to

investigate a group of social studies teachers' choices with regard to lessons and curriculum as

they relate to their various positions on the issue of the use of controversy in their teaching

practices.

Subjectivity Statement

I approached this study looking through the prism of perspectives borne of both

theoretical understandings and personal experiences, including as a classroom practitioner with 7

years of teaching experience in Massachusetts and Florida public schools. As a progressive

social studies teacher and teacher educator, I share the convictions about intellectual autonomy

common to my field, documented in the National Council for the Social Studies statement

(1969), that "the teacher is free to present in the field of his or her professional competence

his/her own opinions or convictions and with them the premises from which they are derived."









advantage of revealing patterns of meaning-making that are associated with the epistemological

subjectivity of the constructivist paradigm. Bernard (2000) described this procedure: "In

judgment sampling, you decide the purpose you want informants (or communities) to serve, and

you go out to find some" (p. 176). I have followed Bernard's criteria for using purposeful

sampling following the determinations that I have made concerning the purpose of the study's

participants within the project, and I sought them out according to the following criteria:

1. Each participant is a full-time public school teacher.

2. Each participant is currently employed full time in a Duval County public school.

3. Each participant has a minimum of 5 years of classroom teaching experience.

4. Each participant is currently teaching at the secondary-level.

5. Each participant is currently teaching in the social studies.

Once I had gained the appropriate permissions to conduct this study from Jill Johnson,

the director of communications DCPS, she provided me with a list of 24 potential participants.

From this potential pool, I first eliminated any participant that did not fit the criteria listed above

and selected 7 individuals from three area high schools. I am confident that this purposeful

sampling procedure produced a sample of participants that provided with a thicker set of

narratives about classroom experiences from which to draw my analysis.

Description of Participants

My first participant, Adam, is a 35 year old White male. Born and raised in Chicago, he

now teaches Advanced Placement U.S. History, Government and Economics at Orange Park

College Preparation School in Jacksonville. After his family's relocation to Jacksonville, he was

graduated from a magnet high school. He attended a university in South Carolina and earned a

Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. He has 12 years of teaching experience in South

Carolina, Florida and Illinois. Adam described himself as a conservative-libertarian and listed









conservative mothers have often been on the front lines of this new movement to challenge the

practices of (predominantly) female teachers. They commented that, despite the association of

women's politics with progressive struggles for suffrage, reproductive rights, and the Equal

Rights Amendment, that, "Today, 'the movement' has a new identity" (p. 144). Apple (2001)

surmised that this new dynamic is largely due to the character of religiously conservative

families. According to the dictates of the churches that dominate the thinking of these families, it

is a woman's proper role to take care of raising children and, by extension, their education.

Indeed the capture of this role by secular schools and teachers is often the primary source of

tension in these cases.

Many of the respondents in this project recognized this shifting reality in their comments

about their experiences in parent conferences. Cathy, for example, related an instance in which a

fellow colleague was forced to recant some intemperate comments made about IQ testing and the

"Gifted Program" at her school. In "Story F--Stick to the Script," she recalled:

(T)hey had a big meeting of all the Gifted parents and students and this guy had to walk
the plank. ... He had to apologize, to do the mea culpa in front of all of these angry
parents. It eventually blew over, but you never recover from something like that. The kids
know that they've got you then and it never ends. So in the end he moved to another
school where he could start over.

As a result of such incidents, Cathy developed a supervisory position toward younger

teachers in which she admonished them for straying away from their lesson plans. As she

commented: "So what you need to do is stick to the script. What I mean is that you have a lesson

plan, you put together your materials and you have notes for your material." In "Story E--Rally

Round the Flag," Frank provided an anecdote about his struggle with a particularly powerful

parent over the issue of whether students should have been allowed to come late to his class from

a religious ritual. Frank remembered receiving a phone call from a school board member whose

son was a member of one of Frank's classes:










This final exhortation, repeated twice indicated Gina's level of frustration with regard to these

interactions with students and their parents.

Conclusions

The narratives that emerged from these interviews illustrate that the experiences that

social studies teachers at the secondary level have had, and, more importantly, the meanings that

they have constructed from these experiences, with teaching controversy have led to the

development of a variety of very individual positions toward their roles as teachers. These begin

with their own organic conceptions of what constitutes controversy within the school and wider

community. All 7 teacher-participants interviewed were able to readily detail these experiences

and to make meaning from them, as expressed in fascinating narrative structures. As Adam

recalled, conversations with veteran colleagues had an important role to play in developing his

approach as a novice teacher. "My department head told me to stay away from them

(controversial subjects)." As researchers have suggested (Apple, 2001; Barton & Levstik, 2004;

Grant, 2005), pre-service and novice practitioners are often given the advice from veteran

teachers to leave behind the idealism and theoretical understandings that they gained from their

teacher training experiences. What is particularly fascinating in these conversations is that these

pieces of advice, offered to them early in their careers, are internalized to the point at which they

are still extremely vivid in their memories many decades later.

All of the teacher-participants were equally able to recall immediately experiences in

which their curricular decisions were challenged. These conflicts ranged in severity from

relatively mild and innocuous incidents, such as the mock indignation expressed by a student in

response to Gina's posting of the headline relating to Alberto Gonzalez, to more serious

censorious incidents. The profusion of these incidents leads all of the teachers interviewed to be









In this current climate of political and social reaction, those toiling in the trenches of classroom

practice might then be forgiven for questioning the necessity for and relevance of research in

their daily struggles. However, as I hope to support in this dissertation project, it is precisely

within the current political mood in education that research can and must play a role in clarifying

the needs and goals of teachers. In this dissertation research project, I hope to provide the

rationale for research that situates itself on the solid theoretical ground of the constructivist

tradition and seeks to empathize with and provide documentary evidence of the day-to-day

reality of teachers' experiences.

The Nature of Controversy

This dissertation research project builds upon the existing body of scholarship on the

conceptions of and stances toward controversy common among social studies teachers. Hess

(2002) provided an invaluable definition of controversial public issues (CPI) as those that are

currently under discussion, that take place in the public sphere of debate, and that are contested

among different groups within society. Central to this scheme is the premise that CPI discussions

involve unresolved questions of public policy. Good examples of these in today's educational

sphere include debates over the reintroduction of school prayer, the inclusion of Creationism or

Intelligent Design ideas in science classes, and the appropriateness of sexual education

instruction; in other words, the equivalent of wedge issues in national political campaigns. Hess

listed three attributes of a CPI: (a) that the controversy is live; that is, that there is an on-going

and vigorous debate concerning the issue at hand; (b) a variety of segments of the population

inform the debate from a multiplicity of perspectives, each looking at the issue through a specific

cultural, political and/or social lens; and (c) there is a profound gulf between these positions

among the participants in the debate about the CPI.









almost binary opposition. Indeed, Horowitz (2006) compiled a list of what he referred to as "The

101 Most Dangerous Academics," largely profiled by SAF members and supporters. Not

coincidentally, one of those included on Horowitz's list--University of Colorado ethnic studies

professor Ward Churchill--was recently fired by university regents after a lengthy controversy

involving his comments about the 9/11 attacks. Horowitz (2007) subsequently made the curious

defense that his earlier book's provocative subtitle was a publisher's choice that he opposed:

To be fair, the subtitle of the book was a provocation and the response somewhat
predictable, even though "dangerous" was not a claim actually made in the book. The
subtitle was added to my original title by the publisher long after I had finished the
manuscript. (p. 81)

Horowitz presumably failed to see the irony that this mea culpa appeared in a chapter of his

latest book Indoctrination U. titled "Dangerous Professors."

Horowitz (2007) more recently turned his attention toward K-12 public schools and

teacher training programs, which he described as "a political movement that had targeted the

educational system as a Gramscian platform to advance its agenda. ." (p. 104). Horowitz saved

most of his ire for what he terms the social justice movement, which he charged with violating its

professional obligations to its students by promoting the idea that "American society is

inherently 'oppressive' and 'systematically racist, 'sexist' and classistt' and thus discriminates

institutionally against women, nonwhites, working Americans and the poor" (p. 107). Horowitz

concluded:

The leftist political agenda of social justice educators undermines this traditional vision
of the role of the American public school system. The historical ideal of public schooling
as a means of assimilating all children, and particularly the children of recent immigrants,
into a common civic and democratic culture is now under assault by education professors
advocating social justice and class conflict and deriding the ideal of a common civic
culture as nothing more than capitalist hegemony. (p. 110)

In this brief statement of purpose, Horowitz laid bare the political inclinations behind his

conception of academic freedom. While making the pretense of neutrality and objectivity,









to the discussion of post-war politics." He expanded on the context of his teaching practice in the

orientation segment of the narrative:

Frank D-2. You know, when you teach at a school like this you kind of have to tailor
what you do to fit the interests of the students, and I've got a lot of kids who come into
class with paint-spattered jeans on, so I know I can't just talk about the Marshall Plan and
think that they're going to get into it. I've got to bring the cultural history in as well.

Much like Eric, Frank had preconceptions about the manner in which his students "with

paint-spattered jeans on" would interpret the slides of Jackson Pollock and Alexander Calder

paintings that he presented to them in his lecture:

Frank D-2. I show a set of these slides of the usual favorites and usually the kids are just
like "cool, look at trippy pictures." In fact, I usually have to struggle to point out that the
work was really controversial when it was first exhibited because these kids have been
exposed to so much crazier stuff; they're the kind of kids whose parents have taken them
to New York to MOMA.

In the complicating action section of the narrative, however, Frank indicated how these

assumptions were disturbed by an incident in a recent class:

Frank D-3. Anyway for some reason there was this one kid last year who was super
cranky and demanding all year, always had his hand in the air and sure enough, I was
showing this slide of, I think, a Pollock. And he just stuck his hand in the air and I called
on him. And he just said, "That's just a mess. I could do better than that." I challenged
him to articulate what he meant by a "mess," and he said that it was fuzzy and out of
proportion, that there weren't any features to it that were specific or concrete.

To his credit, Frank responded well to this interruption: "And that just kicked off this

great discussion about what people value in art, whether an artist should always strive for a

photographic copy. I don't think anyone changed the kid's mind, though. But that's okay." It is

clear from this response that Frank enjoys and looks forward to these teachable moments that

deviate from the routine script that he has constructed for the lesson. In the evaluation section of

the narrative, Frank expanded on this point:

Frank D-4. I'd always prefer to have that kind of discussion than to have students just
sitting there silent as mice, even if they disagree with me.



































For Karen









social issues, problem solving, and critical thinking, came under intense scrutiny and criticism.

Zimmerman (2002) reported that many of these attacks were launched by civic organizations

such as the American Legion and the Chambers of Commerce, who feared the influence that

Rugg's critical stress on issues of economic inequality would have on children suffering the

effects of the Depression: "The attack on the Rugg books was swift and sudden, steam rolling

across the country even more rapidly than the texts had done" (p. 67). Rugg and his books were,

not surprisingly, labeled Communist and Rugg himself a Fifth Columnist. A shell-shocked Rugg

(1931) defended himself and his conception of a unified course of social studies against what he

termed a manufactured crisis, writing that students needed to "utilize facts, meanings,

generalizations, and historical movement. Whenever history is needed to understand the present,

history is presented .... The same thing has been done with economic and social facts and

principles" (pp. vi-vii). Despite the mass removal of Rugg's books from the shelves of American

classrooms in this period, Evans (2004) remarked on the lasting legacy of Rugg's approach:

Rugg's influence on the social studies was quite extensive, despite the attacks, which
would lead to a discontinuation of the textbook series. Workbooks for the series
continued to sell well after the attacks, an indication that the books were still being used
for some time in schools well into the 1940s. Despite, and perhaps partly because of, the
lasting fame generated by public uproar over his textbook series, Rugg's achievement
remains to this day the high point of progressive reform in the social studies. (p. 65)

In perhaps the apogee of attacks on academic freedom in the history of the United States,

Cold War anti-communism on American universities and high school campuses saw scores of

educators subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Caute

(1978), Kille (2004) and Sanders (1979) further chronicled the cases of academics that were fired

for suspected acts of subversion during the 1950s in New York, Nevada and Washington states

respectively. Less has been written, however, on the effect of the censorious mood of this period

on secondary-level teachers. Schrecker (1986) dated the beginning of this period of reaction to









In this statement, Ben confirmed that the meeting had itself been initiated when "the kid

had gone home" and complained of confusion. Admirably, Ben harbored no resentment and

recognized the conflict as "an unfortunate situation" that could be resolved with a little extra

work after school with the student. Of all the teachers interviewed, Frank perhaps demonstrated

the most successful relationships with his students. In "Story A--GSA," for instance, Frank

recalled how "one of the first years I was here, a group of students asked me to sponsor the Gay

Straight Alliance chapter here at Riverview." In his classroom instruction too, Frank indicated

his inclination to orient his historical material to the students' own interests. In "Story D--

Abstract Art," Frank explained the rationale for including a presentation of modern art in his

U.S. History class:

When you teach at a school like this you kind of have to tailor what you do to fit the
interests of the students, and I've got a lot of kids who come into class with paint-
spattered jeans on, so I know I can't just talk about the Marshall Plan and think that
they're going to get into it. I've got to bring the cultural history in as well.

At the same time, however, Frank was sometimes surprised by the reaction of his

students to his lessons. In the same narrative, for example, Frank mentioned one student who had

complained about the selection of Jackson Pollock's work: "he just said, 'That's just a mess. I

could do better than that.'" This exchange suggested that even the most sensitive and student-

centered teacher has a great deal of work to do in maintaining successful relationships with

groups of students who feel increasingly confident about speaking their minds and challenging

the ideas that teachers bring into social studies classrooms.

Colleagues

Many educators over the years (Goodlad, 1984; Sizer, 1992) spoke eloquently about the

isolation facing most teachers who spend hours in the classroom with students each school day

with little chance to engage in collaborative activities with their fellow teachers. Indeed, save the









of influence that teachers have over their students: "If they realized how little these kids actually

listen to us, they wouldn't worry about what we ask the kids to read; they don't read much of it

anyway." In the evaluation section of the narrative, Gina continued this plaintive tone:

Gina G-4. I do my best to make it fun, but I'm under no illusions that they'd rather be at
the beach and there are some days when I'd rather be at the beach too, if I'm telling the
truth.

Gina then rounded off this tragic dialogue by signaling her intentions to continue to "beat

my head against the wall" by assigning readings that will challenge her students: "They may not

read them but what other choice do I have." When asked if she thought that including

controversial topics would stimulate her students' interest in the subject of World History, she

supplied a brief coda: "Not really, no." This somewhat jaundiced response may merely reflect a

temporary mood; however, over seven narratives drawn from two separate interview sessions

separated by several weeks, Gina had indicated again and again that her approach of

dogmatically forcing her progressive views on her students and ignoring their input had not

brought her the returns on her investment that she had expected.

Conclusions

When teachers tell stories, they tend to emphasize fascinating details about their

experiences in the classroom, events that have occurred in their teaching careers and comments

that students and parents have made about their teaching practice. These narratives reflect, in

microcosm, the totality of their background, feelings about the world around them and

experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Evans (1989) commented on the complex

interplay between these elements:

Teacher conceptions of history seem profoundly related to teacher background, teacher
belief, and teacher knowledge. Among the factors mentioned by informants: previous
teachers, college professors, family, books, and life experiences, though home and school
factors seemed most important. In particular, political and religious background seem to









the New York City public school system were fired in 1948 and 1949 after investigations into

their acts of subversion or ties to the Communist Party (CP).

The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), as Schrecker (1998)

detailed, grew out of earlier committees, such as the Dies Committee, that responded to the

growth of the CP during the years of the Great Depression. In 1946, HUAC became a permanent

standing committee with a broad mandate to investigate charges of Communist subversion

within public institutions. This corresponded with an era in which committee members and its

supporters issued sensational charges that supporters of the Soviet Union existed within the top

levels of the federal government. The 1950 conviction of high-ranking U.S. State Department

official Alger Hiss only served to stoke these fears among the American populace; Hiss was

convicted for perjuring himself during testimony in hearings responding to the accusations made

by writer Whittaker Chambers that Hiss was a Soviet spy. The successful prosecution of Hiss

established a pattern of public hearings held between 1951 and 1954, in which noted individuals

in public life from writers to Hollywood producers were subpoenaed and called before HUAC in

order to testify about their subversive activities. As Sanders (1979) noted, those who refused to

appear or answer questions before the committee--often citing the Fifth Amendment protection

against self-incrimination--were charged with contempt of Congress and held to large fines or

imprisonment.

University faculty members were often targets of these investigations. For example,

Schrecker (1986) outlined the case of Johns Hopkins University professor Owen Lattimore, a

recognized expert in the field of China affairs, who was brought before the committee in 1952 as

a result of having been named a Communist conspirator by ex-CP member Louis Budenz. After

a lengthy hearing, the final HUAC report found that Lattimore was a "conscious articulate

instrument of the Soviet conspiracy" and cited him for perjury (Schrecker, 1986, p. 166). In the









As Bogdan and Biklin (1982) noted, "a good part of the work (of interviewing) involves

building a relationship, getting to know each other, and putting the subject at ease" (p. 135).

Toward that end, I designed the initial interview session to begin with questions that would allow

the participants to talk freely about their educational backgrounds:

1. Describe your own educational background.

2. What do you consider the most controversial issues in teaching social studies at
the high school level?

3. What in your experience makes these issues controversial within your
community?

4. Give me an example of a recent lesson that you have taught that contained what
you consider controversial material.

5. What was your experience when presenting this material to students?

6. Describe any experiences you have had in which students or their parents have
criticized the content of a lesson that you have taught.

7. Looking at the curriculum piece that you have brought to the session, describe
your intention in designing the lesson.

8. What do you perceive as potentially controversial about this lesson content?

9. Is there anything you would like to add?

In these initial interview sessions, it was notable that the veteran practitioners had

experienced far more than the novice practitioners I had previously interviewed and had stronger

opinions about the use of controversial content material. Cathy, for example, related several

interesting anecdotes about parent conferences in which she had participated both as a teacher

and as a department head. The data from these conversations will be presented in Chapter 4.

In the second, follow-up interview session, I selected three extra-curricular pieces that

had proven controversial in my survey of the academic freedom cases in the literature: Michael

Moore's documentary film about the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq conflict Fahrenheit 9 11;

President George W. Bush's 2006 "State of the Union" address to Congress; and the companion









during progressive eras thus has been conceived of as a more expansive endeavor, encompassing

the fields of economics, sociology, psychology, and the study of law.

The conservatism reinforced at the administrative and policy-making levels by a 25 year

program, launched during the Reagan administration, focused on narrowing the curriculum,

standardizing the routines of schooling and increasingly wresting authority over the classroom

from teachers. Apple (2001), for example, surveyed the deleterious influence of pre-packaged,

teacher-proof curricula, such as the Whittle Corporation's Channel One, which robs classroom

teachers and students of 10 minutes of lesson time each school day. Aronowitz and Giroux

(2003) identified this trend as having originated in the Commission for Excellence in

Education's A Nation at Risk report (1983), which re-established the social efficiency-oriented

agenda, first developed by the administrative progressive movement, which disdains the role of

teacher as researcher, intellectual and professional:

The call for excellence and improved student creativity has been accompanied by policy
suggestions that further erode the power teachers have over the conditions of their work
while simultaneously proposing that administrators and teachers look outside of their
schools for improvements and needed reforms. The result is that many of the educational
reforms appear to reduce teachers to the status of low-level employees or civil servants
whose main function is to implement reforms decided by experts in the upper levels of
state and educational bureaucracies. (p. 23)

Gatto (2000) further argued that these conservative trends were continued in the 1990s by the

corporate-oriented, neo-liberal Clinton administration, which began the trend toward state-

mandated high-stakes testing regimes.

Conservative education activists have, in a few cases, transcended mere rhetoric

concerning curricular matters and lobbied successfully with school administrations for

disciplinary action against individual teachers. As Evans (2003) noted,

... the present and recent wave of attacks are coming from persons with powerful
connections receiving substantial financial support from well-heeled conservative









LIST OF TABLES

Table page

7-1 Controversial Issues ................ .................. ........................... ......... 196

7-2 Experiences w ith Controversy .................................... ............................................. 197

7-3 Positions Tow ard Controversy................................................ ............................. 198









Adam: Cut and Paste Job

In a narrative titled "Story B--Cut and Paste Job," Adam candidly addressed the process

surrounding the creation of the syllabus for his course in American Government at Orange Park

College Preparation School (OPCPS). In a revealing narrative gambit, Adam began, not with an

abstract or overview of the narrative, but rather by orienting the narrative in the context of

curricular time pressures. He first described the decision to present the syllabus for the

Government course rather than that for his Advanced Placement U.S. History course, which he

referred to as, "restricted by the needs of the AP and the College Board." Adam elaborated on

the pressures placed on him by the testing regimen at his school:

Adam B-2. But mostly it's that over the past few years, as you probably found, we've
lost a lot of time to testing. We now have a pre-test at the beginning of the year, and a
post-test at the end of the year. And that's in addition to PSAT if you teach ninth grade
and AP tests and IB tests and it's just endless. So we've lost time for regular instruction
and I've had to adjust so that I get through as much material as possible. It's tough and I
have to admit that I don't get to as much as I used to. Just can't.

This dilemma involving coverage of material in an era of mandated testing is a common

one for secondary social studies teachers and Adam's unique narrative structure indicates a

rationale for a programmatic trend in his instruction practices. Once this rationale had been

provided, Adam returned to the abstract of the narrative in which he indicated that, "To be

honest, since I've been doing this for a long time, it's usually kind of a cut and paste job from the

previous year's material." In other words, Adam begins his preparation of the next year's course

from the shell of the previous year's instruction and adds very little to it. Adam further

questioned the need to provide fresh material for each year of instruction by describing his "old

school" teaching style:

Adam B-4. I'm kind of old school, I guess even though I don't like to think of myself as
a dinosaur or anything but I do mostly direct instruction or lecture or whatever you want
to call it because that seems to give students the structure that they need. In fact, when I









With some reframing and fine-tuning, Adam's lesson might well be successful in the

future; yet, the experience of having his lesson called into question by his students, and

particularly the shocking accusation made against him of racism, had clearly chastened Adam

from approaching the same lesson, or perhaps the topics at the heart of the lesson, ever again.

Ben: Student Skit

Ben continued this theme of student resistance to lessons in his narrative "Story D--

Student Skit." In the abstract to the narrative, Ben explained his preference for using student-

centered activities in his classroom instruction: "I've tried to include more student-centered

exercises over the years, so one of the ways that I've included students more is through skits."

Asked about the source of the skits, Ben provided the orientation to the narrative:

Ben D-2. They're skits I've written. It's kind of a side thing. I'm kind of a frustrated
playwright or screenwriter. So, it's a combination of things. Sometimes I use some parts
of existing documents; sometimes it's all me. I try to take on a period and create
something that's going to characterize it.

From this seemingly sensible lesson plan that might appear in the agenda books of social

studies teachers across the county, Ben dives into the controversy with the topics that he selects

for his skits. By selecting topics that will raise awareness of critical issues and then expecting

that students will play an organic role in acting out these issues in front of a group of their peers,

he accentuates the contentious nature of the lesson. Not surprisingly, Ben was then able to relate

a story about a student who had resisted the skit lesson plan in the complicating action segment

of the narrative:

Ben D-3. I had one that was loosely based on the Amistad incident and a Black kid,
actually maybe more than just one over the years, but definitely I remember one kid who
just refused to even be in the room for it. She said, 'my mom just says that I shouldn't be
around when you folks are talking slavery' or something like that. I was totally
flummoxed. I'd never had to deal with that.









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teach-ins of 1965. In P. M. Spacks (Ed.), Advocacy in the classroom: Problems and
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Kaestle, C. F. (1983). Pillars of the republic: Common schools andAmerican society, 1780-
1860. New York: Hill & Wang.

Kafai, Y. B., & Resnick, M. (Eds.). (1996). Introduction. In Constructionism in practice:
Dei'ui.,',. thinking and learning in a digital world (pp. 1-8). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates.

Kammen, M. (2006). Visual shock: A history of art controversies in American culture. New
York: Vintage Books.

Kelly, T. E. (1986). Discussing controversial issues: Four perspectives on the teacher's role.
Theory and Research in Social Education, 14(2), 113-138.

Kille, J. D. (2004). Academic freedom imperiled: The McCarthy era at the University ofNevada.
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Kimball, R. (1998) Tenured radicals: How politics has corrupted our higher education (2nd
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Kincheloe, J. L., Steinberg, S. R., & Gresson, A. D. (Eds.). (1996). Measured lies: The bell curve
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Kincheloe, J. L. (2005). Critical constructivism. New York: Peter Lang.

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Kozol, J. (2005). .sh, /uu of the nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America. New
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Kors, A. C., & Silverglate, H. A. (1999). The shadow university: The betrayal of liberty on
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approval, I contacted Jill Johnson in order to receive official approval to conduct research within

DCPS schools. I then proceeded to contact participants using a recruitment email included in

Appendix B. The 7 individuals profiled above met with me for an initial interview in November,

2007. Before beginning the interview session, each individual signed the informed consent form

included in Appendix C. These interviews lasted approximately 60 minutes and consisted of

conversations about their conceptions of controversy and their experiences dealing with

controversial subject matter in the classroom (see Appendix C). In early December, 2007, I

returned to Jacksonville and interviewed each participant about his or her views about using a

group of curricular pieces that have proven controversial in the field (see Appendix D). These

interviews lasted approximately 60 minutes. In addition, I collected one syllabus and one lesson

plan detailing a lesson that the participants had deemed controversial during the initial interview

session.

Data Collection

The purpose of data collection in qualitative research is to begin to make meanings of the

data. Connell, Lynch, and Waring (2001) noted that, "from the beginning of data collection, the

qualitative analyst is beginning to decide what things mean, noting regularities, patterns,

explanations, possible configurations, causal flows and propositions" (p. 3). At the outset of this

project, it became clear that interview and archival collection strategies would be the ideal data

collection foundation for a study centered on the voices of classroom practitioners in the social

studies. There were a number of reasons for this decision. First, the individual interview is well-

suited to the cognitive constructivist research perspective in that it allows participants to discuss

candidly their experiences in the classroom. Second, the interview strategy is a technique that

allows for delving into the ways in which individual teachers construct the meanings of their

experiences in retrospect, whether these experiences are generally positive or negative. Finally,









service and novice social studies teachers follows their lead pursues a critical agenda, based on

the solid foundation of positive alliances built with students, that includes exciting discussions

about the vital, controversial issues of the day, the future for American public education can

indeed look bright.

Future Investigations

The findings and conclusions that emerged from this research project reinforce my

understanding of the complex and challenging nature of social studies teaching. The stories that

the participants told me during the course of this study simultaneously represent age-old

concerns on the part of teachers for their job security as well as fears that belong to a particular

time and place. By labeling the current period a new McCarthyism, Schrecker (2005)

intriguingly opened the door to further investigations into the parallels between historical periods

of reaction and the contemporary issues of standards reform and curricular challenges. This

insight has led me in my doctoral studies to research the effects of anti-Communism on social

studies teaching in Florida public schools (Dahlgren, 2005). I look forward to collaborating with

educational historians in an effort to contribute to the scholarship on these issues.

I am also convinced that investigations of the experiences of teachers in other areas of the

country would educe some important insights into the unique pressures facing teaching in, for

example, the Pacific Northwest or Northeastern states. As an active member of the National

Council for the Social Studies' standing committee on Academic Freedom, I am in contact with

educators from the across the country who are attuned to the issues of teaching controversy.

These connections will undoubtedly provide me with further evidence of challenges to academic

freedom and may lead toward fruitful collaborations in the future.

While the influence of the media on the teachers interviewed for this project was

somewhat less significant than expected, I anticipate that the pervasiveness of the media reach









brief greetings in the morning and rushed lunches in the faculty lounge at mid-day, teachers

rarely have the opportunity to speak with their colleagues. Yet, as fleeting as these encounters

may be, teachers' reputations within a school are largely based on the views of others teachers.

Apple (2000) addressed the common dynamic in which a young teacher, flush with idealism

from a program of teacher training and practicum experiences, meets with the disapproval or

outright resistance of more established faculty members.

The participants in this study consistently mentioned the issue of collegiality, or lack

thereof, in their teaching lives. Adam, for example, remembered the not-so-subtle social pressure

implied in the advice that he had received from a veteran teacher in the department. In "Story A--

Don't Mention Abortion," he recalled: "And I worry a little about addressing them because one

of the warnings I got when I first started teaching was 'stay away from abortion, stay away from

homosexuality' because somebody's gonna complain. And so far nobody's complained."

For a young teacher entering the field, this kind of advice can have a devastating effect

on his or her confidence in the ability to conduct critical lessons. Despite his claims otherwise,

it's clear from his comments--"I still feel antsy because I know that one day there's gonna be that

phone call"--that his colleague's words have had an effect on his practice. No teacher relishes the

prospect of facing a phone call from an angry parent and thus many choose to avoid taking risks

with their instructional practices. Ben's narrative "Story B--Tough Adjustment" testified to

another aspect of the reality of public school teaching that makes life particularly difficult for

first-year teachers: the lack of effective mentoring programs. Assigned to teach in a rotation of

different classrooms, a situation known to many first-year teachers, Ben remarked on the lack of

sensitivity and support displayed by his colleagues:

A lot of the teachers would see me in the hallway and they'd say things they thought
were funny--"Travel Much?"--or something stupid like that. Sometimes they'd ask how









needs of the project. I guarded against this temptation by conducting individual interviews in

natural settings.

Finally, as a former teacher in the Duval County Public School system, I feel a close

bond with the faculty of the schools in the district. After working in the district as a social studies

teacher for 3 years, I have a natural empathy for the conditions of work that the subjects from

DCPS face on a daily basis. It is impossible for me to remove from my memory experiences of

teaching in unconventional classroom spaces, proctoring state mandated FCAT examinations and

attending teacher recertification seminars. Given all of these subjective factors, it is imperative

that I, as a researcher, follow the formal procedures indicated in the project protocol and resist

the temptation to interpret the results of the project entirely through these filters.

A Note on Validity

Issues related to validity are crucial in any research study. Morse, Barrett, Mayan, Olson,

and Spiers (2002) commented that, "Without rigor, research is worthless, becomes fiction, and

loses its utility." This is particularly the case when it comes to qualitative research. As Gergen

and Gergen (2000) noted, the persistent attack on the objective standards at the heart of

quantitative methodologies based on positivistic paradigms by proponents of post-positivistic,

and particularly postmodernist, theoretical models, "has led to substantial skepticism concerning

the epistemological foundations of scientific practices" (p. 1026). This skepticism has produced

what Denzin and Lincoln (1994) called a crisis of validity. They raised the insightful question,

"How are qualitative studies to be evaluated in the poststructural moment?" (p. 11). Guba and

Lincoln (1981) clarified thinking within the field replacing reliability and validity with the

parallel concept of trustworthiness, containing four aspects: credibility, transferability,

dependability, and confirmability. Within these were specific methodological strategies for

demonstrating qualitative rigor, such as the audit trail, member checks when coding,









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We've lost a lot of time to testing. We now have a pre-test at the beginning of the year,
and a post-test at the end of the year. And that's in addition to PSAT if you teach ninth
grade and AP tests and IB tests and it's just endless. So we've lost time for regular
instruction and I've had to adjust so that I get through as much material as possible. It's
tough and I have to admit that I don't get to as much as I used to. Just can't.

Asked whether this testing regime affects the depth of instructional detail that he is

allowed, Adam commented that, "It's got to." Ben added a fascinating narrative to this

testimony. In "Story C--Renaissance to Modem," he exalted about the freedom that he felt when

he reduced his World History survey from one that covered Prehistory to the current world to

one that began at the period of the Italian Renaissance:

I immediately noticed that I had the freedom to do units on the Ottoman Empire that I
hadn't been able to do before, and I could get further in the survey. I ended up with a unit
on contemporary conflicts in the 90s that year. It was amazing.

Unfortunately, this schema created problems of coordination with other contemporaneous

classes in the school. As Ben commented: "the problem is that I had some students who switched

from another class into mine. ... I get this kid in my class and of course, he's been doing the

Hellenistic Period with his other class and we're already doing the Scientific Revolution, some

few thousand years later." In Ben's case, a controversy erupted due to his lack of discipline in

regard to conforming to the frameworks, resulting in a humiliating parent conference and an

admonishment from the administration. Finally, Frank related an interesting anecdote regarding

his Advanced Placement courses. In "Story C--Time Pressure," he noted that, in recent years,

students had begun to complain about the brevity and lack of depth in the survey of American

history:

You know, I have had a few complaints recently. Some kids have complained that we
skip pretty quickly over the material at times, it's the only way that I can cover
everything, to be honest, I just at times have to assign text readings and then test them on
it in order to catch up. So there is some bellyaching about that.









from the right. He commented, "As part of the existing political assault on public services and

social justice in general, schools are increasingly being subordinated to the imperatives of

neoconservative and right-wing interests that would make them adjuncts of the workplace or the

church" (p. 26).

In addition to maintaining a critical focus, it is important not to over-generalize about the

intentions of these movements or to demonize their participants. Apple's (2001) nuanced

interpretation of the motives of religious parents is especially helpful. He noted, for example,

that trends toward home schooling are linked to:

What are often accurate concerns about public schooling--its overly bureaucratic nature,
its lack of curriculum coherence, its disconnection from the lives, hopes, and cultures of
many of its communities, and more--here often connected to more deep-seated and
intimate worries. (pp. 173-174)

However, Apple was careful to note that what parents often fail to take into account is the fact

that the degradation of public education is by neo-liberal and neo-conservative design. Over the

course of the past 20 years, there has been a concerted, consistent effort to impoverish public

schools and to create an atmosphere in which parents quite logically lose faith in their

community's schools (Bracey, 2002). This has culminated in the bipartisan-sponsored No Child

Left Behind legislation, which explicitly targets schools characterized as under performing for

takeover by private educational consortia, such as the Edison School Project founded by Channel

One entrepreneur Chris Whittle.

Conclusion

At the beginning of a new millennium, Ravitch (2000) summed up what she portrayed as

the sorry legacy of a century of progressive educational reform:

Throughout the twentieth century, progressives claimed that the schools had the power
and responsibility to reconstruct society. They took their cue from John Dewey, who in
1897 had proclaimed that the school was the primary means of social reform and the
teacher was "the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God."









At the same time, social studies teachers are equally influenced by external factors,

including social pressure within the school community, a sense of the political climate in the

surrounding community and knowledge of the power dynamics within education. Barton and

Levstik (2004) noted the impact of this subtle social pressure on teacher practice. They

commented:

The first is that teachers hope to fit in: They want to be accepted as competent
professionals by fellow teachers, administrators, and parents. Doing so means acting in
ways similar to those around them; if everyone else covers the curriculum and maintains
quiet, orderly classrooms, devoid of controversy, then new teachers will be highly
motivated to do the same, regardless of what they may have learned about the nature of
history or methods of teaching the subject. (p. 254, author's emphasis)

The imperatives of standards reform in the current period have added to this tendency

toward conformity that corresponds with the teacher's knowledge of the culture of the school.

Apple (2000) commented on the increasing trend toward disempowering classroom teachers with

the introduction of pre-packaged, teacher proof materials:

Rather than moving in the direction of increased autonomy, in all too many instances the
daily lives of teachers in classrooms in many nations are becoming ever more controlled,
ever more subject to administrative logics that seek to tighten the reins on the processes
of teaching and curriculum. (p. 114)

In the past 10 years, the primacy of the teachers' role in determining curriculum has also been

challenged by a complex network of national political organizations, media outlets and parents'

groups. In the following section, I will provide a brief description of three cases that exemplify

these trends.

Three Cases

Fahrenheit 9/11

This new effort to restrict the academic freedom of public educators is perfectly

illustrated in the response to the use of Academy-award winning film maker Michael Moore's

2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore's provocative documentary looked at the Bush









questioning the necessity for and relevance of research in their daily struggles. However, it is

precisely within the current political mood in education that research can and must play a role in

clarifying the needs and goals of teachers. In this study, I hope to provide the rationale for

research that situates itself on the solid theoretical ground of the constructivist tradition and seeks

to empathize with and provide documentary evidence of the day-to-day reality of teachers'

experiences. The insights gained from this process, therefore, can provide a template for an

innovative teacher training process that focuses on the possibilities of student investigation of

issues of controversy.









today shows that these imperatives must be confronted openly and honestly in order for progress

to be made toward the goals of organic teaching and learning.

Academic Freedom: A Historical Sketch

Academic freedom has long been regarded as part of the liberal democratic tradition and

as a sacrosanct principle in the halls of academia. Philosophers such as John Locke, whose

"Letter Concerning Toleration" (1689/1995) argued that states should have no control over the

religious beliefs and observances of men and that tolerance should be extended to

nonconformists and pagans, and Denis Diderot (1753) spoke eloquently to the Enlightenment

conceptions of intellectual autonomy as a vital concern for pluralistic democracy. Much of

American Constitutional law regarding the freedoms of religion, press, speech, and assembly has

been an outgrowth of Locke's theoretical framework. John Stuart Mill (1859/2003) further

expressed the need within such a society for engagement in multiple points of view, even

deliberate falsehoods, without fear of suppression:

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the
human race, posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the
opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the
opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a
benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision
with error. (p. 100)

In the modern era, these philosophical statements have been inscribed in proclamations

such as Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights (1948), which

declared that, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes

freedom to hold opinions, without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and

ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." In the United States, the right to academic

freedom for university faculty was formally validated by organizations such as the American

Association of University Professors (AAUP), which, in its founding manifesto, stated that,









shifting public opinion in the 1990s, with some real consequences. Levine (1996) commented on

the lasting influence of the P.C. Wars:

Those who oppose current developments in higher education .. have not been able to
halt the continued evolution of a more eclectic, open, culturally diverse, and relevant
curriculum through the persuasiveness of their case and their scholarship, but they have
been exceedingly skillful in casting aspersions on and perverting the meaning of those
developments. (p. 171)

Indeed, those such as Horowitz (2007) involved in the current campaigns to include

Academic Bills of Rights in the codes of universities across the country have attested to the

influence that they have drawn from these earlier campaigns against political correctness.

The Contemporary Culture Wars

It is no coincidence that a parallel struggle emerged in the 1990s around attempts to draft

frameworks for what had been identified by the first Bush administration's America 2000 policy

as the core subjects. What began as a well-intentioned and yet naive attempt to resolve such nuts

and bolts issues as scope and sequence and core topics among history teachers quickly

mushroomed into what Evans (2004) described accurately as "the runaway train of standards

reform" (p. 149). The first salvo in this battle was launched in 1994 against the attempt, led by a

group of scholars around the University of California-Los Angeles, to construct a new national

framework for history instruction. This episode was documented by a group of participants,

Nash, Crabtree, and Dunn (1997):

In the predawn hours of October 20, 1994, Gary B. Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and other
Californians helping to develop the National History standards were rattled out of their
slumber. East Coast friends, having scanned their morning copies of The Wall Street
Journal, were phoning, the three-hour time difference forgotten in their stunned reaction
to Lynne Cheney's editorial page article attacking the standards. The banner headline
pronounced "The End of History." (p. 3)

In the Wall Street Journal piece, Cheney (1994), a former chairperson of the National

Endowment for the Humanities, painted a bleak portrait of the future of traditional history









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2008 Robert L. Dahlgren









methods on the basis of her progressive worldview. She returned to this theme in the evaluation

segment of the narrative:

Gina F-4. I'm a big believer in making connections with kids, and I think you have to be
honest with them in order to do it. There's no point hiding who you are because the kids
always know anyway. They pay attention to everything.

This sentiment was, of course, admirable in any teacher. However, instead of making

connections with her students by including them in her methods, Gina interpreted progressive

pedagogy to mean a license to share her political views with her students in an authoritarian

fashion.

The consequences of this contradictory method are brought to light in a final narrative

that Gina provided in response to the Prentice Chandler case. As with her previous narrative, she

began this story with a stark pronouncement about her place in the classroom: "When it comes

down to it, I try my best but I don't think I make much of a difference in the end, I don't think I

have much influence." This was the voice of a practitioner who assumed that students would

merely drift in and out of her classroom and her life without any of her influence rubbing off on

them. In the orientation section of the narrative, she expanded on this thought:

Gina G-2. Here I am, I'm a middle-aged woman, they're forced to come to me five times
a week for classes. If they weren't forced, half of them wouldn't show up. I'm definitely
not 'cool.' I just think their peers have much more influence on them than we do.

In this statement, Gina returned to her previous theme of the cultural gulf between

teachers and students. She related this to the subject of public advisory messages in the

complicating action section of the narrative:

Gina G-3. You know those anti-drug messages? What we should be saying in those is
not 'Just Say No' but 'Oh, go ahead and do it--it's no big deal,' because it's the forbidden
fruit element of taking drugs that makes it so cool and tempting to them.

At this point in the narrative, Gina returned to the Chandler case expressing her view that

parents who complain about the indoctrination of her students do not understand the relative lack









addressing them because one of the warnings I got when I first started teaching was 'stay away

from abortion, stay away from homosexuality' because somebody's gonna complain." Adam

admitted that this sense of fear creates stress that has an influence on his choices in the

classroom. After a lesson in his American Government course collapsed amidst accusations of

racist intent on his part, he recounted his reaction:

I haven't used it again, I just felt like it was a hassle. I did the same lesson for two classes
that day and it was pretty much the same story in both and I went home that night and I
was still really tensed up from the whole thing and I thought "I don't need this, I don't
need to come from school and not be able to sleep because of some stupid lesson,
jackass."

Of all the respondents, Gina most clearly identified herself with the position of fear.

Asked for her views on controversy in the field in the social studies, Gina described it as a

minefield in her first narrative. Gina expressed this position in terms of a critique of an overly

sensitive and litigious society in which citizens can be driven to action by the smallest and most

seemingly trivial incident: "There are just so many different issues and perspectives out there

that people really care about and when it comes to their kids, parents can be really intense, I

guess is the right word."

Despite her reference to concerned parents in "Story A--Social Studies is a Minefield," it

was clear from the unique pattern of her narratives in which she spontaneously dived into the

complicating action of incidents that Gina is most worried about the responses of her students to

her instructional choices. In "Story B--Going, Gone, Gonzo," for example, Gina remembered a

time in which she was challenged by a student for posting a headline perceived as critical of

former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Although most teachers, like stand-up comedians,

learn to weather this kind of heckling from students, the profusion of such incidents in Gina's

classroom has led to her walk on eggshells around her students and has increased the gulf in

cultural understanding between them.









Moreover, in a society in which the smallest fragments of discourse can be magnified under the

microscope of a 24 hour media cycle, social studies teachers are forced to take undue caution in

their lesson choices, even in their words, in the classroom.

It is tempting to assume, therefore, that what we as educators are witnessing is a culture

war waged primarily between conservative, religious parents and liberal, secular teachers.

However, this polarized analysis does not square with the data collected during this project. The

findings reported above indicate a much more complex model of the educational community at

work, with teachers entering the scheme holding a range of sometimes contradictory personal

and pedagogical views and then buffeted by a variety of external factors such as their

relationships with students, colleagues, and parents. Nor does it seem to be the case that there is

widespread disaffection for public education among students, parents, and the wider community.

While the overheated rhetoric of groups such as the Reverend James Dobson's "Focus on the

Family" of teachers as an enemy within may grab the headlines, the reality is that most parents

feel more than satisfied with the educations that their children are receiving in public schools

(Apple, 2001). In her practical guide for teachers involved in censorship cases, Brinkley (1999)

cited a 1996 USA Today poll showing that fully 75% of parents felt that their children's schools

met high academic standards and that 83% would recommend these schools to a friend.

Furthermore, she has reported that:

Using an A-F standard scale, USA Today reported "grades"--all within a positive B+ to B
range--given by more than 1,000 public school students and their parents for the
following categories: teachers, principal/administration, equipment and facilities, school
bus, the way that students treat each other, and atmosphere (p. 53)

Brinkley's work reinforces the findings in this project that challenges to the curricular

choices of social studies teachers come from small but vocal groups on both the right and the left

side of the political spectrum, with conservative students and parents challenging lesson choices









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B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H .............................................................................. ....................234





















































9









socialize during lunch periods. Given the growth of the Mandarin area in Jacksonville, SHS has

faced the issue of severe overcrowding and is the second largest high school in the Duval County

school system. The school's Vision Statement asserts that its aim is to "develop knowledgeable,

confident, and self-reliant lifelong learners ready to assume civic responsibility and who possess

skills necessary to function successfully in an increasingly competitive global society" (Duval

County Public Schools, 2007). As a neighborhood school, SHS, reflects the demographics of the

Mandarin area of the city, which is home to a disproportionately large Asian community.

According to the DCPS website, 51% of SHS students describe themselves as Caucasian, 19% as

Asian American, 13% as African American, 7% as Latin American, and 6% as mixed race or

other (Duval County Public Schools, 2007).

Riverview Arts Academy (RAA) is an arts magnet high school located on the St. John's

River in downtown Jacksonville. The school first opened in the 1930s as a traditional school for

African American students. RAA became an arts-focused magnet public high school in 1985 and

has been rated one of top arts high schools in America by Newsweek magazine. The school's

design utilizes a variety of colors, a tin design, with a number of unique campus features such as

a rotunda, sculpture garden, art gallery, and theater. Students at Riverview take traditional high

school courses in the four core curricular areas, while concurrently attending arts classes as part

of a specific arts program. The arts areas in which a student may major include Creative Writing,

Dance, Instrumental Music, Musical/Technical Theatre, Film/TV, Visual Arts, Piano, and Vocal

Music. Students are accepted to the school on the basis of auditions offered in the spring of each

school year. A number of Advanced Placement and honors classes are also offered in numerous

academic areas. According to the DCPS website, 64% of RAA students described themselves as

Caucasian, 15% as African American, 8% as Asian American-Pacific Islander, 3% as Latin

American, and 2% as mixed race/other (Duval County Public Schools, 2007).









Adam D-3. You've got to know the climate that you're dealing with and the material that
you're dealing with. Obviously in a place like this you're going to have trouble with a
movie like Fahrenheit 9/11 in a community with so many military people. You're
sticking it in their face when you show something that says that what they're doing is
worthless or worse, that's it's making American people less safe.

Like many critics of Fahrenheit 9 11, Adam assumed that his use of Moore's work would

create a firestorm of protest among parents connected to the United States military service, this

despite a lengthy segment in the film in which Moore sympathetically interviews Lila Lipscomb,

the mother of an army sergeant who was killed in Karbala, Iraq in 2003. That said, the structure

of Adam's narrative shifted in a dramatic and interesting manner in the evaluation section. Here,

he presented a defense of teachers from an almost populist, teacher-centered position:

Adam D-4. When it comes to teachers, I'm a people person. I side first with my fellow
teachers, because I've been here so long and I know what teachers go through, so they're
first, kids maybe next, parents and administrators way down the order. So, even if I
disagreed with what a teacher did, they're just trying to do what they think is best, and
just trying to survive in a really hard job, so I'd cut them some slack.

This stance of siding with his fellow teachers is in stark contrast to his earlier, harsher

comments, in which he excoriated those who would use controversy as "nuts." He expanded on

this more empathetic tone in the resolution segment. Asked how he would handle such a

controversy as an administrator, Adam averred:

Adam D-5. If I was an administrator, I'd put a brick wall around the school, I wouldn't
cave in to pressure, I'd protect my teachers. But that's probably why I'd never make an
administrator. I care too much about teachers.

Adam thus concluded at the end of the narrative by expressing that teachers should only

be disciplined for outright abuses of students "having sex with the students or hitting the

students" but not for engaging students with controversial materials. He may well question their

teaching strategies, but in the end Adam identified himself strongly with his colleagues and is

willing to forgive them what he considers ill-conceived transgressions.









Ben: Truth, Consequences, and War ........................................................................ 149
C athy : Stick to th e S cript................................................................................ ....... 15 1
Donna: Violation of Trust ... .... ............................................................... 153
Eric: It Just Isn't Accurate .........................................................................157
F rank : R ally R ound the F lag .............................................. ...................................... 158
Gina: I Set the Agenda ....................................... .......... ..............160
C onclu sions..... .........................................................163

7 TOWARD A NEW MODEL OF CONTROVERSY IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES ............167

Intro du action .............. ..... .......... ...................67..........
C on ception s ..............................................................16 8
T he B u sh A dm inistration ....................................................................... ..................168
R e lig io n ...............................................................17 0
R a c e .............. ..... ............ ...................................... ............................... ............ 1 7 2
Iraq ............. ......... .............................................174
A b o rtio n .................................................................................................................... 1 7 6
E x p erien ces ................... ...................1...................7.........8
S tu d en ts ...............................................................17 8
C o lleag u e s ...............................................................18 0
P a re n ts .......... ...................................................................1 8 2
C u rricu lu m ................................................................................ 184
P ositions..................................................................... 186
S tu d e n t F o cu s ........................................................................................................... 1 8 6
A c c u ra c y ................................................................................................................... 1 8 8
In o ffen siv en e ss .....................................................................................................1 8 9
F e a r ................... ...................1...................9.........0
C curriculum F ocus ................................................................................................ ........ 192
C onclu sions..... .........................................................193

8 C O N C L U S IO N S ............................................................................................................. 2 0 0

In tro du ctio n ................... ...................2.............................0
Im p lic atio n s ..................................................................................................................... 2 0 5
F u tu re In v estig atio n s .................................................................. ..................................2 1 1
C onclu sions..... .........................................................2 12

APPENDIX

A IR B P R O P O S A L ............................................................................................................. 2 15

B RECRUITMENT EMAIL SCRIPT......................................... ......... 217

C IN TER V IEW PR O TO C O L ............................................................................... 218

D TRANSCRIPTION CONVENTIONS .................................................219




8









Adam continued this theme of empathy for his fellow teachers in a narrative titled "Story

E--Howl," drawing parallels between Prentice Chandler's use of the Voices reader and his

colleague's use of Allen Ginsberg's epic poem Howl in his English class. Once again, though,

Adam linked the failure of the lesson with a lack of understanding of the school community. In

the orientation section of the narrative, he explained the culture of his friend's school and the

implications for his use of beat poetry in the classroom:

Adam E-2. There wasn't a lot of support for him among the students, certainly not the
parents, so he was just run out of there, which is crazy because he's a great teacher and
the kids love him here. He's actually pretty conservative, a straight up Republican guy,
which makes the thing so funny.

Adam continued by speaking about the importance of teachers finding a good fit in their

school placements: "Maybe this is just a better environment for him, a little more intellectual." In

this comment, Adam was implicitly suggesting that Prentice Chandler had misperceived the

support that he could expect at a high school in northern Alabama. When reminded that Chandler

did indeed receive significant backing from students and parents, Adam conceded the point, but

returns to his anecdote about his English teacher friend in the complicating action segment:

Adam E-3. I know he got some heat from the administration, for sure. They didn't like
what he'd done, for sure. Didn't think it (Howl) was appropriate for a ninth grade group
because of the language.

In the end, the narrative comes to a resolution by Adam offering to help his friend

transfer to another school. When he asked me how Chandler resolved his situation, I mentioned

that he had recently completed his Ph.D. and had taken up a position at Athens State University

in Alabama, he's unsurprised, as this confirms his thesis that teachers must strive to find an

appropriate venue that will support their teaching styles:

Adam E-4. So I was teaching over here and I told him that I could probably get him an
interview with Janet over here if he wanted to transfer. Maybe this is just a better
environment for him, a little more intellectual.









EXPERIENCES OF SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHERS WITH TEACHING
CONTROVERSIAL PUBLIC ISSUES IN THE CLASSROOM


















By

ROBERT L. DAHLGREN


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2008









Further, I reject the positivistic premise that there is an objective and absolute truth about the

past that can be retrieved and passed on to a passive group of students. Rather, it has long been

my contention that good teaching in the social studies begins with assisting students in finding

ways to do history, that is, to coach them in the skills of researching and evaluating the multiple

perspectives that exist in historical scholarship (Barton & Levstik, 2004).

My reading of critical theory has also left me with the firm belief that the critical tradition

with its roots in Western Marxist philosophy and its pedagogical conclusions have created for

educators a vital conceptual framework for studying the effects of society and culture on schools.

Many educators in the past 30 years have found this body of critical literature an invaluable tool

in terms of analyzing the power structures that often form the basis of the public education

system and may or may not be replicated and reproduced within schools. Teachers in today's

schools are often frustrated by what they see as cynicism on the part of their students. From

contemporary critical theorists and pedagogues such as Apple, Giroux, Kohn, McLaren, Wink,

and many others, we can see the creative opportunities that exist in today's schools for

fundamental change. The ideas of critical pedagogy are far from hegemonic today and certainly

garner derision from conservative quarters; and yet, they are alive with possibilities for an

educational system of tomorrow. These ideas imbue my own research with precisely these

opportunities for social change.

As this study builds upon my previous research, including a number of case studies of

incidents of censorship of teacher practice in K-12 schools, which has suggested a new period of

challenges to the academic freedom of public school teachers and to the image of public

education in general, I entered this project with a certain predisposition toward the data

(Dahlgren, in press). It is inevitable from the manner in which I designed the interview protocol

that the subjects ascertained this bias and perhaps provided convenient answers to fulfill the data









At this point in the narrative, Adam admitted that he purposely designed the lesson for its

maximum effect on students, who rewarded him for his efforts when the situation in his

classroom "blew up." In the complicating action segment of the narrative, Adam described the

reaction of his students to the assignment:

Adam C-3. So the first kid who notices it says, "Hey, you can't ask us that!" And I said,
"Why not?" So that started a whole discussion the basic point of which was whether or
not even asking questions about race was racist. I was pretty astonished. I guess I knew I
might be treading in deep waters, but I assumed it would be because some parent would
be familiar with the book.

Here, Adam expressed surprise not in that the lesson was perceived as controversial, but

rather by the direction of the challenge. He interpreted his students' reaction to the assignment as

one of avoidance: "It was just that the whole class wanted to ignore the issue of race because

they think they're color blind in this generation, that it doesn't matter any more." When asked if

he revisited the topic with another lesson design, Adam provided the resolution to the narrative:

Adam C-5. Yeah, but the discussion had really skewed it because then I don't think I got
honest answers. And what I got was a kind of rosy colored view of everything, everyone
is friends with each other and there are no problems, no divisions at all, you know. And
that's just not the truth.

In evaluating the incident, Adam admitted that he did not achieve the objectives that he

had had for the lesson--to encourage students to speak truthfully and candidly about issues of

race and class from a place of intimate knowledge--but he assigned blame on the students for not

being open to explore the basis of their friendships rather than exploring the issues that were

raised by the design of the lesson itself. Asked if he would revisit the lesson, Adam supplied a

somber coda to the piece:

Adam C-6. I did the same lesson for two classes that day and it was pretty much the
same story in both and I went home that night and I was still really tensed up from the
whole thing and I thought I don't need this, I don't need to come from school and not be
able to sleep because of some stupid lesson, jackass.









aftermath of the hearings, Lattimore was allowed to keep his position, but his reputation was

severely damaged. Dozens of academics faced a similar fate before the HUAC hearings were

brought to an abrupt end in 1954 as a result of the damage to McCarthy and the committee's

reputation in the popular media. While the focus of HUAC was clearly on America's

professoriate, Foster (2000) noted that America's classroom teachers did not escape the attention

of the witch-hunters. He commented that teachers, unlike academics, had little if any formal

protection: "At mid-century, more than half of all teachers in the United States were untenured;

their job insecurity was prevalent, and their professional status was low. To advocate

communism in this climate was to invite almost certain dismissal" (p. 19).

As the reactionary 1950s turned the corner into the radical 1960s, America's teachers

were faced with a new challenge--how to respond to students who were taking on sometimes

revolutionary, new views and expected their mentors to share in their enthusiasm for activism in

the realm of civil rights and opposition to the United States military intervention in Vietnam.

Some intellectuals were attracted to the first stirring of, for example, the Berkeley Free Speech

Movement, while others, even those prominent in the Old Left, recoiled at what they saw as the

juvenility and bad manners of the new activism. Jehn (1996) recalled that, as the Johnson

administration dramatically expanded the bombing campaign in Vietnam, many academics

joined hands with students at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and other radicalized

campuses to organize a series of impromptu teach-ins. In these actions, activist professors and

students were energized by the examples of the 1930s sit-down strikes that led to the formation

of the Congress of Industrial Organization, as well as the more recent acts of civil disobedience

at lunch counters in Woolworth's stores throughout the South. At the same time, however, Jehn

reported that activists were divided in terms of the nature of their protest: moderates pressured by

Columbia University president Grayson Kirk's argument that academics "should hesitate before









Accuracy

Another thread that ran through many of the narratives collected during this project

involved historical accuracy and fact, often defined in a narrow sense and contrasted with the

progressive notion of multiple perspectives. This is undoubtedly due to the participants' own

training within the historical paradigm, with its concentration on archival evidence and primary

source material. In his rejection of the use of Michael Moore's documentary film Fahrenheit

9/11 in "Story D--They're Nuts!" Adam commented, "I don't really appreciate Mike Moore's

stuff. I just think he's a provocateur. He's not really in the business of being fair in his

presentation. He's trying to push it with every frame and make a propagandistic point."

In the context of the accuracy position, Adam judged Fahrenheit, which he derided for its

acceptance of what he considered conspiracy theories, to be a work of propaganda rather than a

fair and accurate historical record suitable for use in a social studies classroom. In stating his

preference for a PBS Frontline documentary over that of Fahrenheit in "Story E--Truth,

Consequences and War," Ben concurred with Adam on the need for historical fact in the

presentation of controversial material: "It just laid out the arguments pro and con very well. It

relied on official reports and the speeches of administration officials like Rumsfeld." In this

framework, official reports and speeches gain a particular cachet as part of the hegemonic record

of events. Cathy best exemplified this position in her narrative "Story B--Questioning Slavery."

Responding to a student contribution to a discussion about the legacy of slavery that she

considered both outrageous and outside the parameters of polite conversation on race, Cathy

explained her criteria for appropriate classroom debate:

I tell them that they have to back up what they're saying or it won't be allowed in my
class, in our discussion pit, that's what I like to call it. If they can't produce some
evidence, some empirical evidence, of the truth of what they're saying, then I don't allow
it. It doesn't get an airing.



























Race




Bushbmls


SbRbmeds


COB----



pgluents ^


Figure 7-1. Controversy in the classroom: A model


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uamffo= IS


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(1994) as descriptive coding the most accessible method. After the transcription process, I re-

read the transcripts several times, correcting for mistakes and identifying message units. I then

divided the transcript broadly into large sections based on major topics and then into more

specific subtopics, as demonstrated in the following example:

Lines Topics

1-12 Introduction
13-27 Education
28-39 Teaching experience
39-62 Lesson preparation
63-91 Economics class

This process led me to focus more intently on the narratives emerging from the data that

spoke to the research questions and could prove valuable to the project. In the course of open

coding, I determined that there were three major themes--conceptions, experiences, and

positions--that would drive the organization of the dissertation.

After this process, I conducted a structural narrative analysis procedure based on the

approach of Labov and Waletzsky (1967). In their work, Labov and Waletzsky identified six

major elements that defined a standard narrative structure: (a) an abstract, which summarizes the

main themes of the narrative; (b) an orientation, which explains the context of the setting of the

narrative; (c) a complicating action, in which the narrative is plunged into new territory, often

involving conflict; (d) an evaluation, in which the narrator provides an assessment of the

meaning of the narrative and his or her action within it; (e) a resolution, which provides the

conclusion to the narrative; and (f) a coda, an occasional element that provides a final comment

to the narrative. This involved printing out portions of the transcript and cutting and pasting each

constituent element onto large sheets of paper.

This structural analysis process, though somewhat rigid, assisted me in placing the

narratives selected for analysis in an organized form. In addition, it allowed me to scrutinize the

86









CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Introduction

The social studies teacher's stance toward the content material used in his or her

classroom involves a complex set of calculations based on a variety of factors including his or

her teaching philosophy, content knowledge, political perspectives and level of classroom

teaching experience. In the current wave of what Zimmerman (2002) called "the culture wars in

the public schools" (p. 2), social studies practitioners must also weigh a series of questions

related to the ways in which this course content will be perceived by a number of different

audiences. Will the content of this lesson provoke among students accusations of bias? Will the

school's administration object? Will there be an angry phone call or parent conference as a result

of the lesson? What will be the tone of the local or national media coverage in the case of a

challenge? Above all of these questions, teachers must assess whether they are stepping into the

realm of controversy. Answering these questions in a constructive manner requires a complex

understanding of the history of academic freedom and the legal protections that are afforded

public school teachers in the United States today.

The ability of public school teachers to address controversial social issues has a long and

yet contested history in the United States. In this chapter, I present a review of the literature

regarding this history. In the course of this survey, I argue that, while academic freedom has long

been a central concern for American educators, particularly those operating in the arena of higher

education, secondary-level practitioners have rarely been afforded the freedom to exercise full

autonomy over their classroom practice. Indeed, this notion of academic freedom has throughout

the history of American schooling run counter to the imperatives of the educational

establishment. Finally, a critical look at the forces of power lying underneath curricular battles









This general criticism led to specific incidents in which students challenged Frank's

curricular choices during Black History Month in February. Asked how he addressed this query,

Frank admitted that he couldn't satisfy each student's demands: "I don't have enough time to

take a month, or even a week, out to satisfy every different interest group." It is clear from these

responses that the breakneck pace with which social studies teachers must cover material in an

age of accountability measured by success on high stakes tests means that there is little time or

support for their innovations in the classroom.

Positions

On the basis of the structural and positionality analysis conducted on the narratives that

emerged from my conversations with 7 social studies teachers currently teaching in Duval

County Public high schools, I identified a variety of positions that teachers commonly take

toward the use of controversial subject matter in their instructional practice. These positions are

not exclusive; many of the participants displayed the salient characteristics of more than one

position, occasionally within the same narrative. Indeed, the contradictory nature of some the

positions attests to the complex nature of teaching in the social studies today. Table 7-3 contains

a visual representation of these positions. As Table 7.3 indicates, the teachers involved in this

study presented a wide variety of nuanced stances; however, several common positions emerged

from the discussions.

Student Focus

As I previously noted in Chapter 6, the teachers that I interviewed were inordinately

concerned with the relationships that they had built with their students. This emphasis in their

instruction was displayed in a position that I have labeled student focus. The strategic

presumption underlining this approach is that teachers can avoid the appearance of bias in the

discussion of controversial issues by allowing students to engage in discussion without









teaching practice. In the narratives discussed in the following section, this understanding filters

through the conversations with all 7 participants.

Experiences

When analyzing the narratives that addressed the experiences that individual teachers had

encountered with the use of controversial public issues in their classrooms--the question at the

center of this study--several common categories emerged. These categories corresponded with

the various players within the school community that had a role in the incidents described. Table

7-2 includes a visual display of these categories.

It is instructive to note in the following discussion that these factors mentioned below

begin with the most intimate and personal teaching relationship--that with students--and then

build out gradually in concentric circles to include wider and wider areas of the community.

Students

Students in traditional school settings were typically conceived of as passive vessels with

which to fill up with expert knowledge and as polite subordinates to the paterfamilias authority

in the home and the in loco parents authority of the teacher in the classroom. In contrast,

students of the past two generations have gained an immeasurable amount of freedom and

independence. In 1969, for example, the Supreme Court decision in the landmark Tinker vs. Des

Moines case stipulated that students' rights to free expression--in the specific case, the right to

display a black armband adorned with a peace symbol in a protest of the United States military

intervention in Vietnam--did not "end at the schoolhouse gates." While these rights were recently

challenged by the decision in favor of an Alaskan school district's suspension of a group of

students who displayed a banner reading "Bong Hits for Jesus" in the Morse vs. Frederick case

(2007), it is indisputable that high school students in 2008 feel more confident in voicing their










In this passage, Cathy indicated that there is an implicit tension between the utilization of

controversial content in her lessons and her very reasonable goal of sensitivity toward students of

different cultural backgrounds in a diverse setting. Thus, she operates from a position of being

"conscious of not offending anyone." In the orientation piece that opens the narrative, Cathy

described this setting and deepened the context of the abstract by speaking to the potentially

explosive content on offer in her elective course in World Religions. Asked how she stimulates

discussion in her classes, Cathy evaluated her methods by speaking about her assessment

procedures: "That's simple. I count class participation and the students know that from the start.

There can be some grumbling but they mainly accept that." Cathy then provided the resolution

segment of the narrative:

Cathy A-4. I tell them that I was raised Catholic but I'm not going to be a priest, even if I
could in my church, I wouldn't be one. So I'm not going to preach a mass in class, I'm
not there to convert anyone. That happens the first week, if not on the first day of class.
And that seems to relax people.

In an interesting coda to this piece, Cathy extended her comments about the appropriate

teacher's position toward students to include reference to her lengthy teaching experience: "I'm

an old hand. The younger teachers here feel intimidated. But not me." In other words, Cathy

seems to feel that her approach of inoffensiveness is one borne of decades of experience; by

extension, those who delve into controversial public issues in their classroom discussions are

displaying the naivete typical of novice practitioners.

These themes of the value of teaching experience in terms of demarcating a neutral

position in the classroom are further explored in a second narrative, "Questioning Slavery," in

which Cathy discussed the issues that have emerged from her AP European History course.

Again, she was insistent about the need to present controversial issues to students, while at the

same time maintaining a distance from the material:









negative, that they developed in their tenures as teachers. The most important of these appears to

be with students, with whom teachers spend the bulk of their working lives. While teaching can

be isolating, the narratives emerging from the interviews in this project also indicated that

colleagues can be important allies for teachers but can also exercise a great deal of social

pressure on those who are perceived to be acting outside the boundaries of the dominant

discourse. Parents, the curriculum, the wider community, and the media also play an important

role in these teachers' lives.

As a result of these understandings, teachers develop complex and often contradictory

positions toward teaching controversial material in the social studies. A focus on students can

either propel teachers (for example, Frank) to take on risky projects inside and outside of the

classroom or dissuade teachers (for example, Donna) from expressing candid views with

students. The common paradigm of historical accuracy leads many teachers to stress one factual

perspective over a multiplicity of viewpoints, even among their students. Teachers often respond

to the external pressures of the job with positions of inoffensiveness and fear that serve to stifle

their decision-making. Finally, the stresses of standards reform frustrates many teachers who

would prefer to introduce controversy within their curricula but feel as if it might be a luxury in

an already overstuffed course outline.

This model reflects the lives of ordinary secondary social studies teachers who struggle

every day to engage their students with interesting and important content in the context of a

society that is becoming rapidly more diverse, less traditional, more global and less monolithic in

its outlook. These trends have not been without their antagonisms, as the American populace has

historically struggled to keep pace with rapid social changes--18th century industrialization, 19th

century immigration, or 20th century integration, as examples--that is has encountered. These

are, thus, uncomfortable times for many Americans rocked by these fundamental changes, and it









that sprang from the original research questions and the myriad factors affecting these three main

areas of inquiry.









Frank B-2. I'm lucky if I get up to Reagan in a good year. Yeah, that's a good year if I
get to 1980. And I'm not sure that the students put together the periods like Vietnam and
Iraq and I'm not sure I want them too. There's a lot of talk about that but it's more
complicated than that. Yes, Vietnam was a disaster and Iraq is a disaster but they're
really different. And I want students to understand Vietnam for Vietnam, to understand
why we got involved and the mistakes that were made there, but not necessarily to
extrapolate from that to be against Iraq. I think it's conceivable to think that Vietnam was
a bad idea and that Iraq is noble, or vice versa.

Here, Frank intriguingly turned the practical matter known to all public school teachers of

curricular time pressure into a blessing in disguise. As Frank's survey of American history is

unlikely to reach contemporary topics, which in his mind are more fraught with political tension

and controversy, students are able to focus their minds on looking at issues in historical context

without the temptation of making historical parallels. In the complicating action of the narrative,

Frank used an example of a lesson from a unit on World War I to illustrate this method. He

centered his students' minds on the practical consequences of diplomatic efforts such as

President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Point Plan. Frank was refreshingly candid in reflecting

on and evaluating his own pedagogical style:

Frank B-4. Like I say, I'm pretty traditional when it comes to teaching style, I lecture
very much like my high school history teacher Mr. Evans did. I remember looking at
what he did and I wanted to be like him, to be able to lecture with authority and have
students hang on my words like they did for him. He was awesome. So, when I lecture,
I'm trying to help students to see how the decisions made by leaders have consequences,
so we spend a lot of time with graphic organizers looking at the roots of conflicts and the
consequences of particular decisions.

This comment reinforced the voluminous research that suggests that many social studies

teachers merely replicate the teaching patterns that they themselves witnessed in their own

schooling. The position that emerged from the narrative, then, is that a narrow focus on historical

inquiry as a means of avoiding potential points of controversy in instruction.









say 'scene' at the end of a skit, it's pretty funny, they get into it." It was illuminating to see that

even those teachers who described themselves as "old school" such as Frank had integrated some

more cooperative methods into their largely direct instruction routines. In a U.S. History lesson

on post-war culture, for example, Frank deliberately focused on a subject, abstract art, that he felt

might appeal to the large number of visual arts students in his class. Furthermore, instead of

merely lecturing to his students about the art works on display, he encouraged them to voice their

opinions about the images. Frank recounted that this approach ultimately led to an exciting

dialogue: "that just kicked off this great discussion about what people value in art, whether an

artist should always strive for a photographic copy." What is instructful to note here is that

cooperative, student-centered pedagogy has gradually seeped into the instructional routines of

even those such as Frank who profess to teach in the manner in which they were taught many

years before. This is a testament to the ongoing influence of teacher training in stimulating

positive change in American schools.

Many of the respondents in this study spoke to the obvious reality that teaching,

especially in the contemporary context of American schools, is one of the most stressful

occupations that a young person could possibility choose. Nieto (2003) commented that, "Even

under the best of circumstances, teaching is a demanding job, and most teachers do not work

under the best of circumstances. The enthusiasm and idealism that bring them to teaching

dissipate quickly for many" (p. 3). There is also ample evidence that the past 25 years of

increasing standardization of curriculum, loss of tenure status and focus on state-mandated

testing procedures has sapped the profession of many of what Greene (1995) referred to as the

psychic rewards that encouraged many of us to enter the teaching profession in the first place.

Yet, there are glimmers of hope within the narratives of the teachers interviewed for this project

for an organic resurgence of teaching and learning in America's schools. If a new wave of pre-









CHAPTER 8
CONCLUSIONS

Introduction

In his latest novel, Richard Russo (2007) related a story in which Mr. Berg, an eccentric

social studies teacher in a small high school in an upstate New York town, greets his students on

the first day of school with a Socratic exercise. Asked a simple question by a student about the

classroom's remote location from the school's main administrative building--"how come we're

meeting in here?"--Mr. Berg avoids a quick and definitive answer in favor of using the pupil's

question as the launching pad for a class discussion.

"Which answer would you like?" he responds with a twinkle in his eye. "For instance, I
could tell you I've selected this room so we could listen to loud jazz without disturbing
other classes, and that would be true, though it would not be the whole truth and nothing
but the truth." (p. 299)

In an amusing series of exercises, Mr. Berg proceeds to shock the assembled students by

smoking a cigarette, playing a record on an old phonograph machine, sitting cross-legged on his

desk and referring to the school's principal as "fat and lazy." Only then does he reveal the true

answer to the student's initial question:

Of course the real reason I selected this room may have nothing to do with cigarettes.
Maybe I've located us all the way here not so much because we could do things as say
things. Things we might not want to say over there ... Things we might not want
overheard. (p. 301, emphasis in original)

The Bridge of Sighs is set in a historical moment, post-war America, and yet Russo

(2007) here spoke to the challenges that have dogged American teachers throughout the ages and

the ingenious yet often shortsighted solutions to these problems that they have devised. Mr.

Berg, in Russo's narrative, represents the archetype of the teacher as king of his castle, where

behind a closed classroom door, with only the captive audience of his passive students, he can

take risks with subject matter and pedagogy. The findings of this dissertation research project









segregation practices of many African American students within what such students interpret as

the white space of public schools.

Five of the respondents included in this study mentioned race relations as an extremely

controversial issue for their students. In "Story C--The Bell Curve," Adam offered concrete

evidence of the precarious ground upon which social studies teachers stand when addressing

these issues with their classes. Following Herrnstein and Murray's (1994) provocative exercise,

Adam created a worksheet that prompted students to reflect upon the demographic realities of

their most intimate relationships with their peers. Not surprisingly, he encountered resistance to

this plan:

I had purposely put it (race) at the bottom of the column of a lot of other items, I'm not
an idiot, you know. So the first kid who notices it says, "Hey, you can't ask us that!" And
I said, "Why not?" So that started a whole discussion the basic point of which was
whether or not even asking questions about race was racist.

In his narrative, Adam expressed shock in the response from the students: "I was pretty

astonished ... the whole class wanted to ignore the issue of race because they think they're color

blind in this generation, that it doesn't matter anymore." Ben reinforced this testimony about the

difficulty of engaging students in even historical discussions that involve race such as the slave

trade in his narrative "Story D--Student Skit." He related an anecdote about a classroom incident

in which he had asked a group to act out an original skit based on the 1839 Amistad slave

rebellion:

I had one that was loosely based on the Amistad incident and a Black kid, actually maybe
more than just one over the years, but definitely I remember one kid who just refused to
even be in the room for it. She said, "my Mom just says that I shouldn't be around when
you folks are talking slavery" or something like that.

Thus, within the overheated political climate of 2008, students in American high schools view

even sympathetic historical discussions that involve race as offensive and potentially degrading.









studies. Yet it is precisely these teachers who have been surprised to find their rights to academic

freedom challenged by a number of sources. This dissertation project was designed in order to

elicit the stories of everyday experiences that veteran social studies teachers have had with

presenting controversial subject matter in the classroom. By exploring the unique narrative

patterns of their testimony, it is my hope that this project will be of service to those teachers who

are continuing to struggle daily to provide their students with critical lessons that will help to

shape their worldviews.

As I delved into the wealth of material on qualitative research practices during this

project, I was struck by the connection between these research methods and the art of driving in a

large, crowded urban center. Having lived in the city of Boston for nearly 20 years, I can attest to

the daily hurdles that face urban drivers. To my mind, they mirror perfectly the hurdles facing a

researcher conducting a qualitatively-oriented project in the way that they demand that the

researcher/driver in both cases to be attentive, to scrutinize new surroundings and to avoid

potential hazards in the road. Just as the driver in an urban space must map out a clear and safe

path from Point A to Point B, so too must the qualitative researcher develop a clear plan for a

project that will progress from initial inquiry to final conclusions and development of theory.

Just as the urban driver must be on the lookout for pedestrians crossing the road at inopportune

moments, so too must the qualitative researcher be aware of potential concerns among his or her

subjects. Just as the urban driver must proceed with caution, so too must the qualitative

researcher be sensitive to the subtle changes in environment and adjust to them at a split second.

Just as the driver in the urban space may occasionally come across a serendipitous parking space

next to a desired destination, so too will the attentive qualitative researcher occasionally be

rewarded with moments of pure spontaneity and creativity among participants. The metaphor of

driving in a crowded urban space, thus, has been helpful to me in imagining the contours of









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Robert Lawrence Dahlgren was born on January 11, 1964 in Naples, Italy, the second son

of Wayne and Emily Dahlgren. Robert is currently a doctoral candidate in Social Studies

Education in the School of Teaching and Learning of the College of Education at the University

of Florida.

Robert began his career in education as a social studies teacher, teaching World History,

American Government, and Humanities at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School in Peabody,

Massachusetts. During his time at Peabody, he also taught in the Graduate Education Department

at Simmons College in Boston. Following a brief stint teaching English and American Studies at

Miyazaki University in Miyazaki, Japan, Robert continued his social studies teaching at Paxon

School for Advanced Studies in Jacksonville, Florida.

A graduate of Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Germany and England,

Robert was graduated by Lakenheath High School in 1982. He subsequently earned a Bachelor

of Science degree in print journalism with a minor in political science at Boston University in

1986 and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Simmons College in 1997.

Robert is the author of several professional journal articles in the field of Social Studies

Education. He has presented his scholarship at numerous local, state, and national education

conferences, including the National Council for the Social Studies and History of Education

Society annual meetings.

In the fall of 2008, Robert will take up a position as Assistant Professor of Social Studies

Education at the State University of New York at Fredonia. His career goals include continuing

to mentor pre-service social studies teachers, publishing scholarship on the challenges to the

academic freedom of secondary social studies teachers, and advocating progressive social change

within educational policy.









Conceptions

The narratives that emerged from the initial set of interviews conducted with 7 social

studies teachers currently practicing in the Jacksonville, Florida area suggest that there are a

wide range of historical and contemporary issues that have proven controversial in the northern

Florida communities served by the Duval County Public school district (DCPS). Table 7-1 shows

a breakdown of these issues mentioned by the teachers participating in this study.

While there are clearly an abundance of issues that have proven controversial in the

social studies classrooms of northern Florida, a handful of themes appear to be more significant

than others.

The Bush Administration

It is not surprising that the topic of the Bush administration's policies, including the

PATRIOT Act, the firing of U.S. attorneys in 2005, extraordinary rendition, its nominations to

the Supreme Court, and, most notably, its Iraq policy, have proven highly controversial in the

classrooms of Duval County public schools. Florida was a high-profile swing state in both the

2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, and as mentioned earlier, operatives on both sides of the

partisan divide were especially concerned about the coverage of these issues in Florida

classrooms. Thus, any reference by Florida social studies teachers to the Bush administration and

its policies during these periods was scrutinized by students, parents and the wider community

for signs of partisanship.

Each of the teacher-participants in this study made reference to the Bush administration's

policies in their various narratives, thus underscoring these points. In "Story D--They're Nuts,"

for example, Adam criticized Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 for its sensationalistic approach

to the issues of the Bush administration and its response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade

Center and the Pentagon:









While she clearly admired her friend's passion and devotion to teaching something new

and fresh every year, Cathy distinguished between her friend's practice and that of her own. In

the orientation section of the narrative, she rationalized that the historical topics that form the

core of her curriculum "don't change:" "History hasn't changed, the Seven Years' War is still the

Seven Years' War, right?" Cathy in this brief telling quip acknowledged an approach toward

history in which one dominant perspective on an event is superior to more novel approaches. She

expanded on this flippant remark in her evaluation:

Cathy C-4. I probably teach it the way that I was taught it years ago. Again, the topics
haven't changed much and I resist the revisionist stances that have become popular.
Some of the younger colleagues here are bringing in some postmodernist concepts in
their teaching--multiple perspectives and the like--and I raise an eyebrow at that in
meetings.

In a dramatic shift in the narrative, Cathy resolved the narrative by referring to her

impending retirement: "I'm going to retire at the end of next year and everyone knows that my

reign is almost over." Sensing this shift, she immediately added some dark humor in the form of

a coda to the piece:

Cathy C-6. They'll say, "The Queen is dead" at the end of next year and a new
department chair will be nominated. Whoever is unlucky enough to get the job has my
sympathy.

The darkly comic tone that pervaded many of Cathy's comments throughout this

narrative belie her obvious seriousness of intent with regard to her craft. This humor provides

Cathy with a means of anticipating her retirement at a period of her career when she undoubtedly

feels the social pressure of supervising and working alongside younger colleagues who bring to

the school new and adventurous ideas with which she may disapprove.

Donna: They Need Structure

While Cathy's tone and decision-making process was very personal, Donna organized her

narrative concerning her World History curriculum, "Story B--They Need Structure," around her









School officials claimed that Davis March, an instructor in English composition for more than

twenty years at Rowan-Cabarrus, had violated school policy and disobeyed specific orders in a

memorandum explicitly instructing faculty to remain non-partisan during the election campaign.

In an extraordinary act of censorship, RCCC administrators appeared in March's classroom

while the film was being presented and escorted him from the campus grounds (Smith-Arrants,

2004).

Each of the incidents seen in isolation doesn't appear to be significant; yet, viewed as a

whole, an eerily similar pattern begins to emerge that suggests systematic, coordinated political

action to stifle Fahrenheit 9/ 1's distribution and intended impact in the classroom.

The "State of the Union" in Colorado

On January 31, 2006, President George W. Bush delivered his sixth annual address to

Congress, a duty specified in the Constitution. In the speech, Bush (2006) outlined the

achievements of his administration over the course of the previous year, many of them related to

foreign policy. Bush, for example, spoke at length about the progress made in the United States

intervention in Iraq:

No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one
of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam--the perversion by a few
of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death.

The following day, Jay Bennish, a high school geography teacher in Aurora, Colorado,

was preparing to introduce a lesson on the effects of globalization policy on the environment

when one of his students, Sean Allen, asked him for his views of the President's speech. As the

discussion continued, Bennish spoke candidly about his views of the Bush administration and

U.S. foreign policy, unaware that Allen was surreptitiously audiorecording the class (Teacher

Probed Over Bush Remarks, 2006). Allen, who claimed that it was his habit to record all of his

classes for study purposes, later made several appearances on the cable news show Hannity and









At the same time, it is striking that none of participants expressed a desire to walk boldly

back into the treacherous waters of controversy and indeed imagined that part of their learning

process in constructing meanings from their experiences with handling controversial incidents in

their classrooms has been the goal of avoiding similar incidents in the future. In reflecting on an

incident in which his innovative design for a World History survey had led a parent conference,

for example, Ben resolved to avoid future conflicts by making "sure to not do that again. I'm

back to doing the straight survey." This is disheartening and yet entirely understandable. No

teacher wants to feel the tension that Adam felt as he left school after a stressful day and none

would rebuke him for his comment that, "I don't need this, I don't need to come from school and

not be able to sleep because of some stupid lesson ." In the next chapter, I review the second

set of interviews that I conducted with these participants in which I asked them to comment on a

group of curriculum pieces that have encountered resistance.









done they just gave me a look and then it was all over the school." She expanded on this

narrative in the complicating action piece:

Gina E-3. When the kids came in, they of course were like, "What's that smell?" So
anyway that was a disaster. I haven't tried that again since. Then the second time I did it,
the next year, I had one parent who called about it. In fact, I think it was the same guy
who had spoken up at the Open House, asking how I was going to deal with prehistory, I
think he was worried about the issue of Creation vs. Evolution.

In other words, the disaster involving her lesson design, stemming from her thoughtful

decision to create an enriching environment for students, inadvertently caused problems for Gina

in terms of her relationship with both the school staff and her students, and it led her to

compromise her approach toward future lessons. However, even this retreat was insufficient in

terms of satisfying the school community:

Gina E-3. He wanted to schedule an appointment and I had Janine, my department head,
sit in that time, because I had this feeling that it might get a little heated. And it did. He
basically came in and accused me of trying to recruit his daughter to a religious cult. I
tried to, say, detail how it fit into the curriculum, I had a copy of the standards there, and
I pointed out the place where comparative religions is and Eastern philosophy and
explained how I try to do as much hands-on kinesthetic work as possible, I remember
having to define that for him, and I could just tell that he wasn't swayed at all. Janine was
real great in coming in helping me out and backing me up because I was feeling really
emotional and charged up.

The support that Gina received from her department head appeared to be a key element of

this section of the narrative, and she rebounded from the experience with a commitment to "teach

in the right way." She expressed this determination in the evaluation section of the narrative:

Gina E-4. I was determined that I was going to teach in the right way and that I wasn't
just going to cave in to the pressure of fitting into a school. It just seems silly to just talk
about it and not do it, not show the kids the way that it works and that it might, for some
of them, help them out in their lives.

Gina's commitment in this regard was explicitly connected in her narrative to a genuine

concern for her students and the conditions of their schooling:

Don't forget, these kids are in seven classes a day, they've got after-school activities like
you wouldn't believe, don't get home until 9:00 at night and then have 2 hours of









an atmosphere of tension rife with antagonisms among students or between students and their

teacher. Of course, every teacher has his or her unique style and means of relating to students;

however, adopting a hard-edged persona from the beginning of a school year, as in the "Don't

Smile 'Til Thanksgiving" adage, is rarely efficacious if one's goal is to open up a dialogue with

students.

Barton and Levstik (2005) underscored the need to teach students effective ways of

speaking in class discussions: "It might seem that the last thing your students need is help with

talking, but students really need exactly that if they are to participate in the kind of reasoned

discussion of controversial issues that we have in mind" (p. 137). They stressed that this requires

the teacher to take the time out of content instruction to establish clear rules for discussion, and

to reinforce these rules at every stage of the course. This appears to be Adam's design as he

instructs his students that, "we're analyzing the issues, we're talking about different sides of

different arguments, we're not actually having the arguments." Stressing the vital distinction

between notions of arguments as heated exchanges and arguments as reasoned statements in a

discussion, in the manner in which Adam does here, is an important step in this scaffolding

process. Donna also reinforced this lesson in her humble reflections about an article that she had

used to investigate the case of the Jena 6: "It was about four or five pages long, pretty dense. I

should have given them more time with it." In other words, Donna had learned through this

experience with her students that even a minimal scaffolding effort ahead of the lesson might

have eased some of the tensions that erupted during the actual instruction. This job of creating

the conditions for effective discussions of controversial topics such as, in this case, race

relations, thus, continues throughout each day and involves each aspect of the course from

syllabus design to grading rubric.









a decision that provoked a complaint from one student: "Then there was one guy who said, 'why

do they get to come in late?' And I said that they were involved in a school event." Almost

immediately, Frank realized that he had committed an error of judgment, which he detailed in the

evaluation segment:

Frank E-4. Well, that was the wrong thing to say because it specifically isn't a school
event but a student-initiated one. That's the only way that it's at all legal. So at that point
I probably should have sent them all down to administration to get tardy passes.

In this statement, Frank again showed his capacity for reflecting upon his methods,

particularly when it comes to building relationships with students. In the resolution section of the

narrative, Frank disclosed the details of a contentious meeting with a school board member:

Frank E-5. So, the next problem was that the student who was upset and questioned my
decision is the son of a school board member, so the next thing I know I'm getting a
phone call from this woman. And then the next day she comes into my class while I'm
teaching.

Asked how this conflict was resolved, Frank commented that, "I just basically had to eat

crow over it. She said that I needed to remember that a public school couldn't advocate religious

practices and I said 'yes, ma'am.'" Frank's use of the colloquial phrase "to eat crow" as well as

his overly quaint and servile response of "yes, ma-am" to the school board member indicated his

ironic sense of resignation over his understanding of his place in the hierarchy of the school

community. At the same time, his one word coda to the piece--"whatever"--suggested that he had

not taken this incident to heart and will perhaps continue to exercise his independent judgment

regardless of the immediate consequences.

Gina: I Set the Agenda

In two related narratives, Gina represented a position of "dogmatism" in which she

maintained control over the subjects discussed in her classes. Asked to respond to the Jay

Bennish case, she expressed sympathy for teachers who have been disciplined in similar cases as









individual or social action. Hicks noted that classroom discussion is a vital piece of this kind of

teaching practice that aims to encourage an affective response among students: "What

ameliorated the initial sense of despair they felt when facing the state of the world was the

opportunity to ... meet as a group and discuss what they were feeling about the course" (p. 76).

From this initial step, students can be shown a range of activist options from reformist action,

such as buying green products to more radical action, such as attending demonstrations against

polluters.

It is precisely these various stances and the meaning-making processes that contribute to

their construction that I propose to study in this dissertation project.

Research Questions

Principal Research Question 1: What meanings do social studies teachers construct from

their experiences with teaching controversial subject matter?

Ancillary Research Question 1: How do social studies teachers conceptualize controversy

in the social studies?

Ancillary Research Question 2: How do these understandings intersect with their own

teaching practice experiences, especially when it comes to teaching about controversial subject

matter?

Ancillary Research Question 3: What teaching positions emerge from the conceptions

and experiences?

Conclusions

Educational reform has been the by-word of educational policy in the past generation. As

Grant (2007) pointed out, one consequence of this movement has been the standardization of

social studies practice: "Although largely left out of the No Child Left Behind legislation, social

studies remains a frequently tested subject on state-level standardized examinations" (p. 250).









perceptions of the needs of her students. She admitted in the abstract of the narrative that the

document that she had brought to the session was not a syllabus in the traditional sense:

Donna B-1. Well, I don't know if you would call it a syllabus, not at least what they'll
get at college level as much, I guess, it's what you might, I don't know, it's really just a
list of rules and requirements for the course.

She immediately provided a justification for this unusual choice by explaining the context

of her school and student population. She commented in the orientation section of the narrative:

Donna B-2. I find that since most of my students think of World History as a
requirement, not as something that they love, not as something that they have a passion
for like drawing or painting or singing, that I have to lay down the law on the first day
about what's expected of them. I give them this big lecture about how few students will
actually end up working in the arts, and I have statistics to prove it. ... They need to
know these things.

It is striking in these comments that Donna's interpretation of the context of Riverside

Arts Academy as a school that prepares students to have what she considers unreasonable career

expectations leads her toward a more conservative teaching stance and practice. She clarified this

position by stating that, "Of course, we would like to be able to sing or write poetry for the rest

of our lives, that's a given, but we have to be practical about these matters. They may have to fall

back on their academics." In her calculus, most of her students will fail in their desired career in

the arts and will thus have to "fall back" on the knowledge and academic structure that she hopes

to provide them in her course. She expanded on this theme in the complicating action segment of

the narrative:

Donna B-3. And if they're going to go to college they need to fulfill the requirements of
college admissions, they'll need four years of the core subjects. The arts faculty need to
inspire them to be creative for the rest of their lives even if they end up as accountants,
but my job is more bread and butter.

The phrase "bread and butter" is redolent of a vocational educational project and yet, in

Donna's estimation, she is passing on the foundational knowledge and skills of a liberal arts

curriculum. In the evaluation segment, Donna addressed the need for her list of somewhat arcane









Adam A-2. Roe v. Wade is getting kind of old now, I think the last 5 years, we, we've
had a lot of abortion cases, we had a lot of gay rights and marriage, well, not so many gay
marriage cases but gay rights cases that are settled that people are going to be reading
about in textbooks for years to come.

Returning to the complicating action at the core of his narrative, Adam deliberated on the

meaning of his department head's directive:

Adam A-3. I don't know specifically if she meant "don't mention it at all" or "tread
lightly," but I thought, "how can I talk about modern government and modern judiciary
without discussing these issues?'

It is revealing that here at the center of the narrative is a dramatic contradiction between

the relevance of topics such as abortion and gay rights and the relative risk of introducing them

into the class discussion arena. The ambiguity of the department head's directive has an apparent

influence on his practice, as he revealed in his evaluation of the narrative: "And I worry a little

about addressing them because somebody's gonna complain." In the resolution to the narrative--

"And so far nobody's complained"--the success in Adam's mind is at least somewhat measured

in the lack of controversy provoked among the school community, and particularly among

students and parents, as a consequence of his curricular choices. This is perfectly summarized in

the coda: "And that's kept things calm." In the end, Adam's stance of avoidance as one that

provides the relative success of a smooth and peaceful teaching practice, even if it is at the risk

of sacrificing the discussion of relevant public issues.

Cathy: I'm an Old Hand

Cathy, the most veteran practitioner included in my participant sample, foreshadowed the

delicate position that she takes in the classroom in relation to controversial subject matter at the

outset of her narrative. In the abstract to "Story A--Raised Catholic," she commented:

Cathy A-1. So, sure, I've got to be conscious of not offending anyone, because I've got
in a typical class, a Southern Baptist kid next to a Hindu kid next to a Pentecostal kid. But
at the same time, I tell them from the start that we're going to dig deeply into the
doctrines and beliefs of these different faiths so that they've got to be willing to do that.









"Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the

interest of either individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends

upon free speech for truth and its free exposition" (1915). The National Council for the Social

Studies (1969) in its own position statement "Academic Freedom and the Social Studies

Teacher" echoed this idea:

A teacher's academic freedom is his/her right and responsibility to study, investigate,
present, interpret, and discuss all the relevant facts and ideas in the field of his/her
professional competence. This freedom implies no limitations other than those imposed
by generally accepted standards of scholarship. As a profession, the teacher strives to
maintain a spirit of free inquiry, open-mindedness, and impartiality in the classroom. As a
member of an academic community, however, the teacher is free to present in the field of
his or her professional competence his/her own opinions or convictions and with them the
premises from which they are derived. (p. 1)

At the same time, political elites through the ages have viewed education as a double-

edged sword, vital for training the next generation of laborers and yet highly dangerous when

oriented toward enlightenment and social justice. Chomsky (2003) noted that, "Controlling the

general population has always been a dominant concern of power and privilege, particularly

since the first modem democratic revolution in seventeenth century England" (p. 5). Thus, as

education has become conceived of as both a means of socialization and of liberation, abuses of

academic freedom have been legion in Western history from Socrates's death sentence after

having been convicted by the Athenian citizenry of the capital crime of corruption of youth to the

tragic fate of Galileo, compelled to live under house arrest after recanting his life's work to the

Papacy.

While it is common among American citizens today to imagine Constitutional rights,

such as the First Amendment restriction of Congress in regard to laws "prohibiting the free

exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press," as permanent features of

American society chiseled into the foundations of American democracy, the turbulent history of









Yet, in his coda to the piece, Adam reserved his optimism, admitting that even at Orange

Park College Preparation School he had had cause for concern: "But you still have to be careful

even here." While Adam was confident throughout his various narratives that a prudent approach

that takes into account the standards and values of the surrounding community will allow social

studies teachers to be successful, this final comment betrayed his essential uneasiness about the

power dynamics in public education.

Ben: Truth, Consequences, and War

Ben again exemplified the position of accuracy in a narrative responding to the cases

presented to him. He established this position in the abstract to "Story E--Truth, Consequences

and War" by suggesting that his objection to using Fahrenheit 9/11 in the classroom is that

"there is too much opinion in Michael Moore's movie. That's the problem with it. I just think

that there are better resources out there." In this statement, he based his practice on a dichotomy

between opinion and fact" abnegating the possibility of multiple perspectives in social studies

teaching and learning. Following this principle, Ben described a PBS Frontline documentary that

he had used as an alternative to more controversial material on the Iraq War. In the orientation

segment of the narrative, he detailed the lesson:

Ben E-2. I do a current events thing on Fridays and I often use videos as part of that
because it just seems to be the way to kick off a discussion with these kids. There are a
bunch of videos that are available in the library here, that's a useful resource and then I
have a few DVDs that I've bought. For a few years I was using this Frontline special on
Iraq called something like "Truth, Consequences and War."

Asked about the response of students to this documentary feature, Ben spoke in positive

terms: "The kids were really into it. It definitely got their attention." At the same time, he

admitted that even this more balanced presentation engendered a contentious response among a

few students: "Of course there were one or two conservative kids, kids with parents involved in

the war, who took it personally. They're going to think that any debate is wrong, that you just get









This complaint about the changing nature of education, in which teachers are caught in a

bind between the increasing pressures placed on them from on high by an unseen educational

bureaucracy and parents who are viewed as customers of educational services, emerged from

many of these conversations. Asked to comment on whether this heightened sensitivity exists

among her students, Gina provided a further narrative, "Story B--Going, Gone, Gonzo." In the

orientation segment that begins the narrative, Gina reminisced about an incident that occurred in

the spring of 2007 during the scandal involving the firing of several U.S. attorneys by the Justice

Department led by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. She then detailed the incident in

the complicating action of the narrative:

Gina B-3. I have this bulletin board in the classroom and I try to change the items pretty
frequently to keep the kids interested. So I have a lot of current events topics and extra
credit questions on there. Most of the time the students don't notice but I try. So one of
the things I do is cut out pictures and headlines from magazines and newspapers to go
along with the current events issues. So I found this headline with a picture of Gonzalez
and it said something like "Going, Gone, Gonzo" or something like that. I think it was
from Newsweek because I have a subscription that comes to the school and I put it up
and something like the next day, a student who usually is barely awake asked a question,
"Why is that there?"'

Gina described a feeling of being caught off guard in response to the student's query. In

the evaluation of the narrative, Gina commented defensively: "Well, I thought it was ideal for

my Law Studies class. Anyway, I thought it was funny ." Interestingly, just as Gina was

preparing this defense, she noted in the resolution segment of the narrative that the student was

far from serious in raising the issue:

Gina B-5. And I geared up for a big fight with him about my right to bring items in from
home and trying to enrich the curriculum and blah de blah blah, but then he just smiled,
kind of like "Gotcha!"

Finally, Gina provided the abstract to the narrative at the end of the story:

Gina B-1. That's funny, because they complain but a lot of times it's just to see if they
can get a reaction from me, get me to say "Come on!" That's almost my catch-phrase.
Come on!









might come to understand that the Bible is a historical document and reflects the beliefs
of those who wrote it.

This statement underscores an exemplary approach toward nudging her students forward

in their understandings of historical documents and connecting them to their contemporary

views. In her evaluation segment, Cathy reflected on these successes:

Cathy D-4. The responses to all of those questions were pretty good though, I have to
say. They complain but most of them come through in the end with something
interesting, just so I know that they're still out there thinking.

Cathy stated that this tendency for the most interesting joumaling emanating from those

students who are most recalcitrant in attempting these assignments is especially true of the girls

in her class: "it's the ones who don't speak up in class, usually girls, who have the most

interesting things to say in their joumals, so I'll write on their papers--I always respond to them

.." In the end, Cathy was more sanguine in her reflections than were Adam and Ben, perhaps

reflecting the wisdom of her many years of experience in the classroom. Asked whether she was

able to coax the student at the center of her narrative to speak more in class, she provided an

equivocal resolution statement:

Cathy D-5. I couldn't pry anything else out of her on the subject, even though I read her
piece out in front of the class. Even the Pope, which I loved. But nothing. She just sat at
the back of the class with a slightly annoyed look on her face.

Despite this student response, which is familiar to any high school social studies teacher,

it is clear from the tenor of her comments that Cathy will continue to use j oumaling, including on

controversial topics, in her classroom practice in the future.

Donna: The Jena Six

Donna continued this theme of teachers being caught off guard by student responses to

lessons, particularly those related to controversial contemporary issues, in her narrative "Story C-

-The Jena Six." In the abstract to the narrative, Donna discussed her reasoning for choosing to









Teacher's Views

Two weeks after the initial interview sessions, I met with the 7 teacher-participants in this

study to present them with the cases outlined above and to engage them in conversations about

their views of these cases. The narratives that emerged from these conversations were extremely

enlightening in establishing the individual positions of these teachers toward the social studies

curriculum and particularly in relation to the use of controversial extra-curricular materials.

Adam: They're Nuts!

When I mentioned Michael Moore's documentary film Fahrenheit 9 11, Adam emitted a

spontaneous utterance "Oh God!" Asked to explain this response, Adam provided the abstract to

his colorful narrative "Story D--They're Nuts!" "Well, Ijust can't believe any teacher in their

right mind would use that in the class, that's just crazy." In this statement, Adam indicated again

his ideal of the prudent teacher who scrupulously avoids controversy and his image of the

"crazy" teacher who dives into controversy by employing controversial methods and materials.

Adam supplied further elaboration on this point in the orientation section of the narrative:

Adam D-2. Well, let me be clear and honest from the start. I don't really appreciate Mike
Moore's stuff. I just think he's a provocateur. He's not really in the business of being fair
in his presentation. He's trying to push it with every frame and make a propagandistic
point. I'm not the kind of conservative who goes out of his way to track down the most
extreme, in your face, stuff. I don't like Ann Coulter, I don't listen to Rush, I don't watch
a whole lot of Fox News.

This equation of Michael Moore with "provocateurs" of the right such as columnist Ann

Coulter and radio host Rush Limbaugh that Adam repeated here was common among the

criticism of Moore's work (Toplin, 2006). However, beyond the negative view of Moore's

political views, Adam provided a more searching critique of the teachers who would choose to

use his work in their classroom instruction. In the complicating action segment of the narrative,

Adam addressed the issue of community standards:









In a chapter provocatively titled "What's Left of the Left?", Spring (2002) described the

ideas of progressive activists who have certainly been toiling away in the wilderness in recent

decades and yet can wield some considerable power in local districts in New England and the

Pacific Northwest. These activists, many attached to the Green Party and the Presidential

candidacies of Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004, often exhibit a similar consumer-based politics to

that which social and religious conservatives employ albeit to very different purposes. Parents

informed by a variety of perspectives--from feminist to Afrocentric to queer theory--thus have

pressured local municipalities to adopt more inclusive curricula in their schools.

Even though Spring was careful to be even-handed and to present the full scope of the

challenges to the academic freedom rights of teachers, the fact remains that much of the

movement activism that has underscored the most recent censorious efforts has come from the

right. It is clear that progressive educators have been outmaneuvered by their conservative

counterparts in recent years. Frank (2004) described this dynamic in vivid terms:

While leftists sit around congratulating themselves on their personal virtue, the right
understands the central significance of movement-building, and they have taken to the
task with admirable diligence (T)here are the think tanks, the Institutes Hoover and
American Enterprise, that send the money sluicing on into the pockets of the right-wing
pundit corps, Ann Coulter, Dinesh D' Souza, and the rest, furnishing them with what they
need to keep their books coming and their minds in fighting trim between media bouts.
(p. 247)

That said, some caution is necessary in characterizing grassroots educational reform

efforts, especially when it comes to labeling parent organizations involved in curriculum

challenges as right-wing. Ravitch (2004) pointed out that both right and left wing groups have

pressured schools and individual teachers about their curriculum choices in recent years. She

comments that, "both right-wingers and left-wingers demand that publishers shield children from

words and ideas that contain what they deem the 'wrong' models for living" (p. 79). At the same

time, though, as Giroux (1987) demonstrated, the clear majority of these movements have come





















Table 7-3. Positions Toward Controversy

Stance Adam Ben Cathy Donna Eric Frank Gina

Student focus A, C D A, D D C C, D, E B, D, E

Accuracy D E B, D B, E B

Inoffensiveness F A, B D, E A

Fear C, D F A A, B

Curriculum B D C C E
focus

Professionalism E, F D F

Condescension B A, D F, G

Candor A B A, E

Avoidance C D F

Conservatism D A, E

Dogmatism C F

Neutrality A

Note. The letters correspond with the narratives in which the factors were mentioned.









The context of modern schooling has certainly placed undue pressure on social studies

teachers. Many of the participants, for example, referred to curricular time pressure as a concern

when developing syllabi and lesson plans for their courses. Eric expressed this sentiment within

the unique context of teaching at Riverview Arts Academy: "We all feel under the gun time

pressure wise because in this school we lose more time than most because there are a lot of

compulsory attendance assemblies at the end of the school year ." Thus, content coverage

appears to place more stress on these teachers than do instances of outright violations of

teachers' academic freedom.

In the context of the contemporary culture wars in schools, teachers' experiences with

controversial subject matter are certainly fraught with tension and fear. In discussing these

experiences, the participants were remarkably consistent in describing conflicts arising from

discussions of race relations and religious ideas. Yet, there was also refreshing optimism among

the participants in this research project that, while dealing with ideological conflicts among

students, parents and administrators, to say nothing of the wider media community, is stressful in

the moment, the experiences have in fact made them better teachers. Cathy, for instance,

commented on the outcomes of a journal assignment that had caused consternation among her

more religious students: "They complain but most of them come through in the end with

something interesting, just so I know that they're still out there thinking." In the context of

contemporary secondary social studies practice, therefore, the change of heart mentioned by

Kammen appears to involve a genuine desire on the part of practitioners to learn from rash

choices, poorly designed lessons, off-hand comments and the like. The reflective nature of their

comments doubtless illustrates an intrinsic interest in improving their craft, even among those

reaching the ends of their careers.









parent of a student at Pathways Learning Center, an alternative high school in Beaumont, Texas,

complained that his son had been compelled to watch Fahrenheit in his social studies class. After

several complaints from parents, FahrenHYPE 9/11, a film attacking the Moore film, was also

presented to students (Beaumont Students Watch, 2004). On October 20, Suzanne Miller, an

English teacher at Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, was officially reprimanded after

presenting Fahrenheit to her senior-level English class. She was subsequently removed from the

classroom and placed on unpaid, administrative duty for 2 months (Knoxville Teacher

Reassigned, 2004). During the same week, officials at Kearsarge Regional High School in North

Sutton, New Hampshire cancelled a screening of Fahrenheit that had been scheduled as an after-

school activity by English teacher Kevin Lee and film studies teacher Deborah Barry. When the

teachers expressed reluctance to show Fahrenhype 9/11 because of curricular time pressures,

district superintendent Tom Brennan cancelled the session, openly admitting that parental

pressure had forced his hand on the issue: "We didn't want to get into a controversy. That wasn't

the point" (Conaboy, 2004). On October 29, the Friday before the 2004 Presidential election,

Judy Baker, a teacher at Jackson High School in Washington state, showed Fahrenheit to a small

group of students. Baker, having heard of the earlier incidents, followed her own district's policy

by obtaining the principal's permission as well as release forms signed by parents of the students

involved in the activity. Responding to the local Snohomish County Republican party's

complaints, however, Jackson High School principal Terry Cheshire ordered Baker to either

balance the presentation of Fahrenheit or not show the film at all. "We have a policy that... if

we deal with controversial issues, we need to show both sides," he claimed (Slager, 2004). In one

of the most chilling cases involving violations of academic freedom, an instructor at Rowan-

Cabarrus Community College (RCCC) in Concord, North Carolina was suspended with pay for

four days after showing Fahrenheit in class during the week before the Presidential election.









My fifth participant, Eric, is a 54 year old White male. Born and raised in Wilmington,

Delaware, he now teaches U.S. History, Government and Economics at Southside High School

in Jacksonville. After receiving a Bachelor's degree and Master of Arts in Teaching degree from

a university in Maryland, he and his wife relocated to Jacksonville in order to be closer to elderly

parents in the Ponte Vedra area. Eric described himself as an ethnic conservative, and is

concerned about educational policy issues such as inclusion and multicultural education. He has

19 years of teaching experience.

My sixth participant, Frank, is a 43 year old Latin American male. Jacksonville born and

bred, he attended the oldest college preparatory school in the district and now teaches Advanced

Placement U.S. History at Riverview Arts Academy in Jacksonville. After beginning college in

Jacksonville, he finished his Bachelor's degree in History at a university in western Florida. He

has since earned a Master's degree in Social Studies Education at a university in Jacksonville.

Frank considers himself liberal and felt that he "fits in with the liberal climate" at Riverview as a

consequence. He is the faculty sponsor of the Gay Straight Alliance at Riverview and has

fourteen years of teaching experience in DCPS schools.

My final participant, Gina, is a 38 year old White female. A Florida native from Boca

Raton, she now teaches World History, Sociology and Law Studies at Orange Park College

Preparation School in Jacksonville. After her graduation from a Jewish private academy in south

Florida, Gina stated that she "bounced" around a variety of Florida institutions, beginning with a

university in Tampa before receiving a Bachelor's degree from a university in Miami. She

described herself as a liberal and claimed to use innovative techniques in the classroom,

including the use of role playing and the arts.

At the outset of this project, I submitted my project design to the Institutional Review

Board (IRB) at the University of Florida for institutional approval (see Appendix A). Upon IRB









The Supreme Court has actually done the opposite, by repudiating it to some extent.
Along with its pronouncements about schools' duty not to indoctrinate their students, the
Court has also declared that public schools not only may inculcate certain ideas or values
in their students but also indeed that they have a duty to do so. (pp. 77-78, emphases in
original)

Thus, the judicial system has left open to interpretation the question of which ideas and values

are central to the school curriculum and which may fall outside the mainstream.

Advances in multicultural education, for example, provoked a profound reaction among

conservative educators in a series of conflicts that came to be dubbed The P.C. Wars. In the early

1990s, the vogue in the popular media for attacking supposed political correctness in education

created a virtual cottage industry of books accusing various progressive academic institutions of

censorship. The very titles of these books--Profscam (Sykes, 1989), TenuredRadicals (Kimball,

1998), Kindly Inquisitors (Rauch, 1995), The .\lhrl,i' University (Kors & Silverglate, 1999), to

name but a few--is enough to give one a flavor of what these books offered: dark, apocalyptic

portraits of former 1960s radicals turned tweed-jacketed tenured academics run amok inside

America's pristine, Ivy-walled fortresses. In the most commercially successful of these books,

D'Souza (1991) detailed a series of examples in which misanthropic deans and ideologically

hide-bound professors relentlessly beat up on their impressionable students, restricting their

learning opportunities with slanted curricula and draconian speech codes. D' Souza, a former

editor of the conservative student newspaper The Dartmouth Review, became a leading

spokesman of this movement against the politically correct crimes of universities against their

students. Describing the faculty of Stanford University, D' Souza complained, ". .. (they) have

placed ideological prejudice at the center of their curriculum" (p. 92). Among these alleged

prejudices were propensities toward Marxist historical theory, literary criticism, feminism,

multiculturalism, and the Frankfurt school. Despite an over reliance on anecdotal evidence to

buttress his startling charges, D'Souza and like-minded critics had a good deal of success in









interpreted as anti-patriotic or anti-religious and liberal students and parents objecting to lesson

choices interpreted as overtly religious or racist in tone.

The findings of this study also support the research (Daly, Schall, & Skeele, 2001;

DelFattore, 1993) that suggested that, in recent years, students and parents who have traditionally

objected to the instruction that occurred in mainstream American high schools have begun to

turn their attention away from textbooks and curriculum frameworks and specifically toward the

supplementary materials used by teachers. The arena of extra-curricular materials is ripe for

struggle as teachers, including those in this study, have in recent years used a wide variety of

books, newspaper and magazine articles, videotapes, slides, and PowerPoint presentations to

liven up the often stultifying classroom material offered them by their administrations. Teachers'

private classroom libraries have become a particular focus of concern. For example, DelFattore

documented a case in Bay County, Florida, in which one parent commented that the appearance

of a teacher's classroom was "like walking into a B. Dalton with desks. There are books just

lining the walls" (p. 104). Far from reacting to this kind of atmosphere of intellectual inquiry

with satisfaction and admiration for teachers, though, some parents see them as the equivalent of

brainwashing svengalis with subversive reading material at a mere arm's length. As a result of

this view, any use of extra-curricular materials, that is, materials that fall outside of the

parameters of state or district sanctioned and mandated frameworks, is treated with suspicion by

parents, and increasingly by administrators as well. What were once referred to as enrichment

activities, such as documentary films, musical clips or in-depth readings, are now viewed as, at

best, distractions and, at worst, blatant attempts on the part of activist teachers to indoctrinate

students in either their secular, humanist or religious, conservative worldview (Charen, 2004). As

DelFattore remarked:









women and the working class, were explicitly forbidden from entering educational institutions in

the early decades of the United States republic. In the case of African American slaves in the

Antebellum period, for example, the prohibition against literacy was bolstered by the threat of

death (Anderson, 1988). For the past century and a half, there has therefore been a delicate

balance between the imperatives of the market, fostered by the social efficiency school, and the

more child-centered approaches of pedagogical progressives. Spring (1992) connected the

various national security crises to witch hunts against teachers, pointing to the periods of the

First World War and Cold War competition with the Soviet Union as acmes of censorious

activity directed against teachers. There is a wealth of material (Carleton, 1985; Foster, 2000;

Schrecker, 1998), for example, detailing the pernicious effects of McCarthyism on education at

secondary and higher education levels in the 1950s. In recent years, critics of progressive

education have attacked what they have termed political correctness among the teaching faculty

and professoriate and have argued for an objective teaching stance in the classroom (D'Souza,

1991; Ravitch, 2000; Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003).

Social studies educators thus have entered the 21st century facing an existential crisis in

the field. The study of social studies is today threatened by both the increasing narrowness of the

American public school curriculum as well as the demands of the accountability movement that

has centered its quest for increased standards on improving test scores on mandated state

examinations in reading and mathematics. As Hursh (2001) noted, the field of social studies has

largely been disdained by the conservative regimes that have controlled education policy from

the Departments of Education at federal, state, and district levels over the past 25 years, largely

because of its identification with the progressive movement and institutions such as Columbia

Teachers College, home of radical educators such as George Counts, Charles Beard and Harold

Rugg. Ravitch (2003) exemplified this stance when she bemoaned:









Here, though, the students and even their parents are pretty diverse and much more liberal
than in most schools in the area. It's just the arts school focus, it changes everything. So,
I've had kids question choices that wouldn't be a problem in other schools.

Donna provided an example of this unusual context when she detailed an incident in

which a student complained about her use of an album of Christmas music:

I had for years brought in a copy of the Elvis Presley Christmas album, you know with
'Blue Christmas' and I had a kid complain that it was Christian music and that I shouldn't
be playing it. He was Jewish and I guess I hadn't thought of it.

As a result of the student's intervention, Donna was forced to reflect upon what, in her mind, had

been a seemingly innocuous inclusion of classic music in an effort to create a warm, inviting

atmosphere in the classroom for her students. In the end, the cultural gulf between teachers and

students from both sides of the Church vs. State argument reflects the culture wars in schools.

Race

Issues involving race also operate on an extremely delicate ground in diverse northern

Florida public schools. Many commentators have noted the radioactive nature of the discussion

of race during the recent Presidential primary season, in which the campaigns of both Senators

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have faced criticism for injecting race into the debate (Sirota,

2008; Williams, 2008). While many Americans would like to think that the United States became

a color blind society after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the work of several

educators has focused attention on the continuing racial divide that exists within public

schooling. Kozol (2005), for example, posited that the dejure segregation in schools ended by

the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 has, in the advent of white flight to suburban

neighborhoods, been replaced with a defacto segregation in many school districts. Levitt and

Dubner (2005) reported that the average White student attends a public school with a black

student population of 6%, while the average Black student attends a public school with a black

student population of 60%. Tatum (1997) further analyzed the implications of the self-









By exclusive neutrality, Kelly (1986) referred to the teacher stance of total avoidance of

issues that might be conceived of as controversial in the educational community. Kelly described

the arguments put forward by the proponents of this stance: "Advocates of this position contend

that teachers should not introduce into the curriculum any topics which are controversial in the

broader community. Schools have an implicit obligation to serve equally their varied publics" p.

114).

Teachers serving in a public school system with increasingly diverse student populations

would seem, under this scheme, to need even more sensitivity toward issues that might

potentially offend one constituency or another than in the past when a more homogeneous

student body might be taken for granted. There is an implicit assumption underlying this stance

that controversial subjects, particularly hot-button issues involving sexuality or morality, are best

left to other socializing institutions, such as the family or religious organizations. Excluding

these issues from the classroom setting then, its proponents argue, preserves the non-partisan

status of the school within the community.

In the second common teacher stance toward controversy--what Kelly (1986) termed

exclusive partiality, teachers take what might on the surface seem the polar opposite approach:

"This position is characterized by a deliberate attempt to induce students into accepting as

correct and preferable a particular position on a controversial issue through means which

consciously or unconsciously preclude an adequate presentation of competing points of view" (p.

116). At its most extreme and authoritarian level, teachers utilizing this approach actively shut

down students who have the temerity to question the authority of their opinions and even grade

students with opposing views in a punitive manner. It is precisely this stance that those such as

Horowitz (2007) presume is rampant throughout secondary schools and institutions of higher

learning in this country. Yet, Kelly was careful to insist that many of those operating under these









During the 1890s, progressive thought began to split into two camps, referred to by Rury

(2005) as administrative progressive and pedagogical progressive wings. While they shared the

modernizing zeal of administrators such as Cubberley and Eliot, those interested in reforming

schools from within by adopting new methods of teaching increasingly came to reject the social

efficiency model. Principal among these innovators was the philosopher John Dewey, who

played a key role in this pedagogical revolution by founding the Laboratory School at the

University of Chicago before moving to New York City to take up a leading position at

Columbia Teachers College. Dewey (1928), who as its first president wrote the AAUP statement

on academic freedom cited earlier, believed that the right to free inquiry in academia was

essential and developed a sophisticated framework for dealing with its complex issues.

Ironically, he disdained the phrase academic freedom because, as he punned, "there really is

nothing academic about freedom" (Dewey, 1928, p. 332). Instead, he insisted that, "freedom of

mind, freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry, freedom of discussion is education, and there is

no education, no real education, without these elements of freedom" (Dewey, 1928, p. 332).

Following this logic, any challenge to these freedoms would fundamentally destabilize the

foundations of intellectual integrity upon which he believed academia rested and would therefore

be an "attack upon the very idea of education and upon the possibility of education realizing its

purpose" (p. 332). For these reasons, Dewey far preferred the term "freedom of education"

(1936, p. 376) to academic freedom, as it would be a more all-encompassing concept that

included the entire academic community rather than merely instructors and their students.

From his vantage point in the early part of the 20th century, Dewey identified two major

sources of the threat to this freedom: tradition and the imperatives of a political and economic

elite. Dewey (1938) critiqued the curriculum of the traditional school as inert and producing

experiences that would alienate students from their educations. In this traditional context, Dewey









Knowledge in the modern world has become mobile and liquefied. The schools must find
ways to accommodate to the turbulence, indeterminacy, and fluidity of the world outside
if they are to meet the increasing demands that are laid on them by economic and social
circumstance, and especially the demands of our democratic society. (p. 7)

This world of increasing pluralism and democracy described by Hopkins (1994) is

necessarily complicated and involves a multiplicity of perspectives as well as controversy.

Engaging students in this world requires on the part of the instructor an elaborate practice of

scaffolding lessons in order to capitalize on the students' own personal and social knowledge and

experiential bases. The practice of secondary social studies teachers in the United States has

traditionally been circumscribed as an individual, and often isolated, act and thus the framework

of cognitive constructivism, which emphasizes individual meaning-making processes, seems

ideal for research into the meanings that individual teachers derive from their experiences with

controversial public issue material.

Teaching and learning practices that encourage students to construct their own meanings

from lessons in the social studies rather than merely passively receiving information from an

expert instructor in turn require a research agenda that fits the goals of constructivist inquiry.

Whereas quantitative studies that rest upon positivistic assumptions of objectivity that

decontextualize the teaching and learning process, constructivism recontextualizes research in

education, acknowledging the complex web of reality that exists in every school. Eisner (1995),

for example, used the metaphor of the visual arts to describe just such a research agenda,

commenting that, "artistically crafted research helps us to understand much of what is most

important about schools. By its concern with particularity it can help us to recognize what

individual teachers actually do when they teach" (p. 5). Conversely, Kincheloe (2005) pointed

out that a research agenda that looks at teachers' and students' ways of knowing in the classroom

is irrelevant to researchers trapped within the supposedly scientific worldview underlying more









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION


The protruding nail gets hammered down
-- Japanese proverb

I first became aware of the issue that has motivated my primary research interests at the

University of Florida on a bright afternoon in the fall of 2004. I was teaching in a high school in

Jacksonville, had recently begun my doctoral studies, and was making one of my many

pilgrimages to Gainesville. During these long drives, I consumed a wealth of audio books, iPod

music, and talk radio. On the afternoon in question, I was surveying the local political talk shows

in order to get a sense of the atmosphere surrounding the Presidential election. I happened upon

Sean Hannity's nationally syndicated radio show on a local AM station and was surprised when

he took a call from a listener in Jacksonville. I was even more shocked when the caller identified

herself as a parent of a Jacksonville magnet school student who had just watched Michael

Moore's documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 in her media issues course. As Hannity began to call

for the heads of the teacher, principal, and superintendent involved, I remember having this one

thought running through my head: "Please don't let it be my school!"

Of course it was my school, and after interviewing the teacher in question about the

intentions behind his lesson plan and the subsequent disciplinary actions taken by the school

district, I began to wonder if this was merely an isolated incident or part of a more noteworthy

pattern of ideological pressure being brought to bear on teachers and university faculty. Within a

few days, I had collected information about nearly two dozen incidents that had occurred from

Washington state to North Carolina, spanning middle school settings right up into community

colleges. In these cases a pattern emerged: first, the challenges to an individual teacher's use of

Fahrenheit came during a narrow band of time at the height of the final leg of the 2004









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would first like to express my most profound gratitude to the chair of my dissertation

committee, Elizabeth Anne Washington. Since I began the doctoral program at the University of

Florida in the fall of 2004, she has been a great mentor and friend, and I cannot find the adequate

words to convey the importance of the guidance that she has provided to me at the College of

Education.

I also sincerely appreciate the efforts of the members of my doctoral committee:

Elizabeth Bondy, Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, Barbara Pace, and Sevan Terzian. Their cogent

criticism at key stages of the data collection and writing processes of this project allowed me to

design and complete a project that I hope will stimulate the thinking of others in the field.

During my time at the university, I have been fortunate to collaborate with a number of

talented doctoral students, including Darby Delane, Jemina Espinoza-Howlett, Sheryl Howie,

Cheryl Kmiec, Brian Lanahan, Phil Poekert, and Patrick Ryan. Their comments on earlier drafts

of this dissertation project were invaluable. Two other members of the COE family, Steve and

Susie Masyada, offered me their hospitality during a critical time in my studies and for that I will

always be grateful to them.

The staff of the Florida State Archives and the Smathers Library offered important

assistance to me during this project. I would also like to thank Jill Johnson, the Director of

Communications at Duval County Public Schools, for her help in locating a pool of participants.

The administrations of the three schools profiled in this study also opened their doors to me and

my thanks go out to them. Of course, the teachers whose stories form the heart of this project

will always be in my thoughts.

Finally I would like to acknowledge my family. I come from a long line of teachers,

including my grandmother Helen Hobart, my aunt Ran Hobart, family friend Leonard Blostein,









Ben's comments in his narrative "Story D--Student Skit" were typical of the responses

from the participants in this study. Addressing his strategy of using original skits in order to

stimulate student interest and understanding of historical eras in his World History classes, Ben

stated that he habitually anticipates controversy arising from a skit concerning the French

religious wars that includes several florid passages of anti-Catholic rhetoric: "So every year, I'm

waiting for something to happen, because there is plenty of inflammatory stuff in it." While

many of the respondents have the option to avoid confronting controversial religious issues,

Cathy, who teaches an elective course in World Religions, is forced to deal with these topics in

the daily routine of her instruction. In "Story A--Raised Catholic," Cathy commented about her

efforts to teach in an inoffensive manner:

So, sure, I've got to be conscious of not offending anyone, because I've got in a typical
class, a Southern Baptist kid next to a Hindu kid next to a Pentecostal kid. But at the
same time, I tell them from the start that we're going to dig deeply into the doctrines and
beliefs of these different faiths so that they've got to be willing to do that.

In her response, Cathy demonstrated that her approach is largely governed by her

understanding of the unusually diverse student population of Orange Park College Preparation

School. She admitted that her students are not always able to rise to her challenge of digging

deeply into these issues: "I've had students that just shut down in the middle of the course." This

comment lent testimony to the extraordinary difficulties facing social studies teachers who

choose to address in their instruction religious issues so personal to their students.

In her fascinating narrative, "Story A--Church vs. State," Donna illustrated the

importance of school context in relation to issues of controversy. She stated that while many

teachers in other DCPS schools might expect to find support for their efforts to blur the lines

between religious instruction and public education, she has also encountered challenges from her

more liberal students at Riverside Arts Academy:









the achievement of any other humane purpose. Such matters are largely subordinated to
the processes of wealth production and accumulation. (p. 562)

One of the most common methods of encouraging this empathetic, humane response in

children was by engaging them in works of New History such as David Saville Muzzey's An

American History or Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the

United States. Despite their overwhelming popularity during the 1920s and 1930s, as

Zimmerman (2002) explained, these textbooks came in for a withering attack from not just

patriotic organizations such as the American Legion but also ethnic societies that felt they were

misrepresented or under represented in these texts.

Challenges to academic freedom in the first half of the 20th century, thus, often came in

the form of organized campaigns against progressive and radical history textbooks. As the

country became mired in depression and war in the 1930s and 1940s, schools became a focal

point for a dialogue on the nature of patriotism. During the 1930s, Harold Rugg (1931), one of

the founders of the Teachers College program at Columbia University, developed a series of

social studies textbooks that strongly reflected the social reconstructionist ideals expounded by

Rugg's associates Beard and Counts. Evans (2004) described the "Man and His Changing

Society" series of texts and workbooks as "centered around guiding principles distilled from the

frontier thinkers, including the growth of modern cultures, development of loyalties and attitudes

for decision making, and the synthesis of knowledge through social studies" (p. 60). The

textbooks proved enormously popular, selling more than two million copies during a 10 year

period and established Rugg as the primary voice in social studies education for his time and, not

coincidentally, a lightening rod for controversy.

As the country became drawn into the global conflict that would become World War II,

the need to stress patriotic duty became paramount and Rugg's textbooks, with their focus on









she explained that the journal is a strategy calculated to elicit candid responses from students

who are more taciturn in the classroom setting:

Cathy D-2. There are some students who just won't discuss the issues in class but you
get them at home and they write up a storm and then I'll take a piece or two and either
have them read them in class or I'll read them out anonymously and we'll wrangle over
their ideas that way.

Though she has had some significant success with this approach, Cathy nonetheless

expressed frustration with her students' inability to deal honestly with the issues at the center of

the course:

Cathy D-2. There are occasionally some topics that they will challenge, or some will
challenge, for example, if I ask them to consider reincarnation, some will say, "I don't
believe in that. It's not Christian." And I'll say, "I know it isn't, but remember what I said
on the first day of class--we're here to talk about ideas, even ideas you don't like." It's
fair game for them.

Cathy related in the complicating action section of the narrative that the students will

often specify on their written work: "'Do not read this!' It's usually in block letters and

underlined." She continued this thought by describing one incident in particular that challenged

her objectives in using joumaling with students:

Cathy D-3. I suppose the issue that I've had the most heat on recently is that I gave them
a question about Christianity, well about Judaism, I suppose, it was about the Book of
Genesis and the story of Adam's Rib. It was, let's see, something like "Discuss the
gender stereotypes involved in the story of Adam's Rib."

Asked about the student response, Cathy commented, "Let's see, 'I don't want to write about

that,' 'That's a stupid question.' That kind of thing." At the same time, Cathy did admit some

successes with individual students:

Cathy D-3. I had this student, this little girl, but she wrote this beautiful journal entry for
me on Adam's Rib where she essentially said that her faith had saved her and she didn't
want any misgivings about one element of the Bible to destroy that. It was very emotional
for her, she admitted that she took the Bible literally, believed that every word was the
literal "word of God" as she said it and she didn't want to think of it as sexist, even
though she came close to saying that it indeed was. And she quoted an Alexander Pope
poem, as I remember, that was a lovely touch. And I just wrote on her paper that she









Asked for the specific comments involved, Cathy recalled: "I think I remember that he

used the word 'bogus' and that just enraged some of the parents." Returning to the orientation

section of the narrative, Cathy explained why this verbal transgression was especially

controversial within the context of her school: "The Gifted program has a lot of clout here and I

think it does some valuable work." Asked if she was satisfied with the outcome of the incident,

Cathy presented the evaluation segment of the narrative:

Cathy F-4. I suppose when you make someone angry, the right thing is to apologize, but
I just wish that people didn't get so angry about little things all the time. I don't think he
wanted to insult the kids in his class or their parents who had made the decision to have
them tested at a young age. That's just what happened. So, yes, we should be
accountable.

Accountability, in the context of Cathy's narrative, means publicly apologizing to the

offended parties, a resolution with which she expresses approval. At the same time, she voiced

regret again that this policy led to the loss of a valued colleague:

Cathy F-5. It eventually blew over, but you never recover from something like that. The
kids know that they've got you then and it never ends. So in the end he moved to another
school where he could start over.

It is with a profound sense of loss then that Cathy supplied a brief coda to the narrative:

"I think we lose a lot of good, effective teachers because we're so damned sensitive all of the

time." While she was confident in the efficacy of her own teaching practices of meticulous

preparation of lessons and building alliances within the school community, she also had the

humility to understand that some of her colleagues have not been allowed to survive in teaching

long enough to gain this experience and to build such alliances.

Donna: Violation of Trust

Donna, the one teacher who identified herself as apolitical in her initial interview session,

exemplified the student focus position in two narratives responding to the cases presented to her

during the second interview session. In a very personal narrative "Story D--Violation of Trust,"









In the evaluation section of the narrative, Frank admitted that his role as GSA sponsor has

meant handling some delicate ethical issues, such as how to address students who come out to

him. Asked whether he felt mandated to report this to parents, Frank responded that, "I'm not

required as a mandated reporter to inform parents that their kids are gay, so I don't. I leave that

up to the students." In the resolution to the piece, then, Frank admitted some concern about

parents, but mainly in regard to their relationships with their sons and daughters:

Frank A-5. Anyway, I've had students who were active in GSA who came out to their
parents and their parents forbid them to come to meetings. They still come when they can
sneak away or find an excuse to be after school. But I've never had a parent complain to
my face. They're probably too embarrassed.

In this lengthy narrative, Frank described the risks taken by teachers who take on

responsibilities beyond the classroom that involve tackling controversy. With regard to the

explosive issue of gay sexuality among teenagers, Frank's decision to wait until he received the

protection of professional status within his school and the protected status of marriage is

perfectly understandable. Yet, even here, the implicit message that he sent the group of students

who had initially approached him is that controversy involves risk and potential embarrassment

in front of one's colleagues.

Back in the classroom, Frank displayed a similar prudence. In a second narrative, "Story

B--History as History," Frank both recognized the potential for controversy in the field--"I tread

lightly around religious issues, the war, those kinds of issues"--and demarcated a position for

himself in the classroom. In the abstract to the narrative, he used coded language to explain this

approach: "I treat history as history." This fascinating construction, history as history, is a code

redolent of avoidance of controversy. In the orientation to the narrative, Frank placed this

position in a practical context:









While Stone continued that, "American professors rejected this limitation" (p. 67), the right of

university faculty to express themselves at public lectures, demonstrations and other events is

precisely what chafes at many conservatives who accuse the current professoriate of political

correctness (D'Souza, 1991; Kimball, 1998; Kors & Silverglate, 1999).

In much the same way as the late 19th century amounted to, in Hofstadter and Metzger's

(1955) words, "a revolution in higher education," (p. 277), America's public schools went

through a similarly fundamental restructuring period, often referred to by historians of education

as The Progressive Era. Stone (1996) remarked on the irony that many of the new, more secular-

minded university presidents of this era--Harvard's Charles W. Eliot, for example--played a key

role in this restructuring of public schools. Brought together under the auspices of the National

Education Association, the Committee of Ten led by Eliot issued a report that began the vogue

for standardization of curriculum that continues with state-sanctioned content frameworks today.

This new wave of administrators sought to create a school system that would act primarily as an

agent of socialization, inculcating students with the skills and mentality that would allow them to

become useful, productive members of the industrial capitalist order. Tyack (1974) offered the

explanation that "'social control' exists in some form in every organized society from the

Bushmen to the Eskimos and in every epoch of recorded history" (p. 10). This is, of course,

correct, and yet it is no exaggeration to say that figures such as the dean of Stanford University's

School of Education Ellwood Cubberley took this belief in what Bowles and Gintis (1976) called

social reproduction to an unprecedented level when he suggested that schools are "factories in

which students are products to be molded" (Cubberley, as cited in Tyack, p. 190). While few

educators today would share Cubberley's more sanguine turns of phrase, the influence of the

social efficiency model to this day is inescapable.









intentionally so, of stripping some of the autonomy from the teaching faculty. Indeed, the

curriculum reforms undertaken during the common school period were perhaps the first instance

of what Christian-Smith (1991) referred to as teacher-proof materials. While few would

recommend a return to the widespread use of corporal punishment in American public schools,

its gradual removal from the classroom management arsenal represented a loss of control for

public schools teachers.

With the standardization of curriculum and the increased professionalization of the

teaching field came the institutionalization of the teacher training process in so-called Normal

Schools (from the French term l'ecole normale. Ogren (2005) listed the many virtues of Normal

Schooling, among them that these institutions provided working class and immigrant women

with employment opportunities unthinkable to a generation before. Institutions such as Catherine

Beecher's Hartford Women's Seminary opened in 1832, also advanced the Common school

reformers goal of feminizing the teaching faculty as they viewed women as more natural and

nurturing educators of youth. This sentiment, again perhaps inadvertently, led to a gendered split

between teaching and administrative tracks that continues to this day. Ogren noted that female

graduates of state Normal Schools tended to teach for a few years before marriage, whereas

"men tended to move quickly from teaching into school administration, which had more status

among middle-class professions" (p. 186). This bifurcation between teaching and administration

has had far-reaching effects on competing notions of academic freedom afforded to teachers and

administrators.

As this division between teaching and administration became institutionalized in Normal

Schools, the gap between research and practice--still a key issue today--grew apace. Academic

freedom is so closely entwined with the history of higher education as to be described by

Hofstadter in his and Metzger's classic history of the subject as "concurrent with the









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Hatch's advice that "analysis is happening from the first moments of data collection" (p. 149), I

looked early for patterns emerging from the data that I collected from both archival and

interview sources.

Narrative Analysis

Narrative analysis centers on the stories that are told by research participants in the

course of interviews. As Grbich (2007) pointed out, "there is an underlying presumption that

much of our communication is through stories and that these are revealing of our experiences,

interpretations and priorities" (p. 124). While much of the 20th century history of this method of

analysis was dominated by formalist structuralism, exemplified by the work of Labov and

Waletzsky (1967), more recent work has turned toward more socio-cultural approaches

influenced by postmodernist theoretical perspectives that focus on the subjectivity of each

personal narrative (Daiute & Lightfoot, 2004). Narratives are attractive targets for researchers,

partially because of their ubiquity in the interview context. Yet, as Riessman (1993) pointed out,

the definitive nature of the narrative can be notoriously difficult to determine with any precision.

Still, Riessman commented, "For now, ('narrative') refers to talk organized around consequential

events" (p. 3). In this case, I have chosen to focus on the narratives that speak to social studies

teachers' experiences dealing with controversial public issues.

As the interviews and focus group sessions that I conducted in the spring of 2007

produced a number of rich, insightful narratives, I felt that this form of analysis would reveal the

underlying cultural, political, and social contexts that exist within each school setting, with the

possibility of investigating critical patterns of discourse within them. The data analysis procedure

for this project began with a process of open coding in order to extract the valuable narratives

and to eliminate portions of the interview data that did not directly relate to the research

questions at hand. As a beginning researcher, I found the style referred by Miles and Huberman









had, until that point, trusted, did not agree with them. Donna refined this view in her evaluation

piece: "Because you realize that you can very quickly lose that trust, you can disappoint them."

Thus, what frightened Donna the most in this incidence was not the challenge from the world

outside of the classroom, including controversies in the communities or the threat of the loss of

her employment, but rather the possibility of losing a delicate balance of trust that she had

worked diligently to build.

Donna expanded on her ability to disguise her political inclinations and the biases that

might be evident in the material she chooses for her lessons in a second narrative "Story E--I

Don't Announce It." Responding to the case involving Prentice Chandler's use of the Voices of

the People 's History of the United States reader, Donna admitted that she too had used Howard

Zinn's work, albeit in a slightly different form: "I use Zinn's work at several points in my World

History survey, particularly in the unit on the Age of Discovery. That's the strongest part of the

book." Asked to elaborate on the means with which she employs the Zinn material, Donna

supplied the orientation segment of the narrative:

Donna E-2. I like to use primary sources for reading exercises. I probably do one or two
during a two week unit. I'll lecture one day on a broad period and then I'll try to focus
their attention on one specific issue. So, then I'll pull a piece out of a variety of reference
books that I have around.

Asked how her students respond to the material in the Zinn text, Donna admitted that she

does not "announce it." In the complicating action piece of the narrative, Donna described her

use of the Zinn text in conjunction with the district-sanctioned textbook:

Donna E-3. The Glencoe Spielvogel text is the one that we've adopted in this district. So
that's the one that gets assigned to the students, and it's not bad. I think Spielvogel's
learned a trick or two over the years. I think these textbook writers have been influenced
by some of the criticisms. But they're still pretty bland and there's probably too much in
them, so the impact is diluted. Whereas Zinn's book is like 'bam,' it hits them over the
head.









important strengths, this perspective suffers from problematic assumptions and a narrow

rationalism, suggesting the need for a fourth major perspective on the teachers' role" (p. 127).

The neutral impartiality stance, despite its strengths, is thus deficient in that it carries with it the

pretense of objectivity, which, in the students' eyes, might seem overly coy or even dishonest.

The fourth stance alluded to in Kelly's (1986) words is committed impartiality. In a

stance that Kelly described as the most well-rounded and satisfying, the teacher enters a

discussion on a controversial topic as a committed participant, offering candid perspectives as

well as the rationales for these positions. At the same time, the teacher takes care to create an

atmosphere of free inquiry among students with the presumption that no opinion is the definitive

one for consideration. In the end, the teacher becomes what Brinkley (1999) called a pole of

attraction for a particular set of ideas, while not disenfranchising students who may disagree with

the teacher's stance. Kelly described the assumptions underlying this stance:

Committed impartiality entails two beliefs. First, teachers should state rather than conceal
their own views on controversial issues. Second, they should foster the pursuit of truth by
insuring that competing perspectives receive a fair hearing through critical discourse. (p.
130)

Kelly (1986) counseled that this voicing of viewpoints can legitimately be either teacher

initiated or in response to student inquiry and should not be couched in the guise of devil's

advocacy or "compromised with excessive humility or repeated qualification" (p. 131). This is a

courageous stance in today's educational climate, and Kelly identified several critiques of the

method. Many who adhere to either exclusive neutrality or neutral impartiality stances argue that

there is an implicit contradiction involved in the committed impartiality stance; put plainly, that a

teacher who is admits to a committed position on an issue cannot be an impartial arbiter of

classroom discussion. In addition, many point to the obvious disparities in power and authority

within the classroom environment between teachers and students. While not disputing these,









security. For example, in "Story D--World Religions Journal," Cathy described her main concern

in preventing sectarian discussions regarding religion in her classroom as one of guarding her

diverse student population from potential harm. Donna epitomized this position in several

narratives. In "Story D-- Violation of Trust," Donna explained her decision to keep her pro-

choice views private:

I think that's one of the big advances for my generation that we made abortion safe, legal
and rare. But I would never say that in front of a class, and not because I would get into
trouble, which I probably would, but because it would be a violation of trust.

In this conception, teachers expressed their concern that they would lose authority and

respect with their classes if they were to explore in a candid manner controversial issues or

reveal opinions that they conceive of as risky or contrary to those shared by a predominance of

their students. When these teachers have been challenged by students to justify a curricular

choice, therefore, it has been in situations in which they have been caught off guard, such as

Donna's use of an Elvis Presley album of Christmas music, not when they have consciously

waded into a controversial topic with eyes open.

Fear

While the fear of loss of employment was not uppermost in the minds of the teachers in

this study, it is clear from their narratives that it forms an important backdrop to their decisions

about lesson planning. Frank, for example, recalled his calculations when approached by a group

of students about sponsoring a nascent branch of the Gay Straight Alliance at Riverside Arts

Academy in "Story A--GSA:" "When I was first asked, I didn't have professional status and I

was still single, so I told them 'thanks but no thanks.'" In this statement, Frank indicated that his

reasoning for turning down the offer was based solely on his lack of job security. Adam

described the lessons that he took from the advice that he received from a veteran colleague

during his first year of teaching in "Story A--Stay Away from Abortion:" "I worry a little about









Cathy: Stick to the Script

Cathy returned to her themes of teacher experience and preparation in two narratives in

which she expressed her opinion about the cases involving Fahrenheit 9/11 and Jay Bennish and

displayed a position of professionalism. In "Story E--'R' Rated," she related an anecdote about

an incident that happened at Orange Park College Preparation School. Cathy indicated in the

abstract of the narrative that the crux of the controversy was the use of extra-curricular materials

that were age-inappropriate for the group involved: "Well, I guess the major sticking point was

that he'd used an 'R' rated movie without getting permission." Cathy continued this thought by

explaining the district regulations regarding the use of films in class:

Cathy E-2. You need that for anything over a "G" rating. That's why as I say I tell young
teachers to stick with the materials that are available in the library, that are district
approved. I know that young teachers aren't going be able to lecture every day and don't
have ready-made lessons planned for the whole year, they need some help, but buying
something and bringing it in is a mistake in my opinion. What he needed to do is to
contact the parents ahead of time.

In this statement, Cathy quickly embodied the persona of the department head who

dispenses advice to younger, more callow colleagues. She maintained this tone as she described

the complicating action of the narrative:

Cathy E-3. I mean, he had put together what sounded like an interesting lesson. I never
saw a lesson plan because he wasn't in my department, but it sounded good, what I heard
was sound. But he went in there without the proper preparation and that's always
dangerous.

Here, Cathy made the assumption that the parents who challenged the use of Fahrenheit

9/11 were doing so because they had not been informed ahead of the lesson. Yet, when she was

challenged on this point, she conceded that, "there (was) something political in the response to

what he did." She also allowed that she might well have been sanctioned for her use of certain

materials without permission over the years and that many others had also done so. In the

evaluation section of the narrative, she commented:









Despite these student protestations of colorblindness, however, the teachers in this study

mentioned several incidents in which racial tensions and resentment boiled over in their

classrooms. In "Story B--Questioning Slavery," for instance, Cathy detailed the regular practice

by individual white students in her World History classes of challenging the ways in which the

slave trade has been characterized in mainstream historical texts. She recalled that, "There will

be some quiet little kid who'll say, 'Are we sure that this wasn't exaggerated?'" Cathy related

that her typical response in the face of these incidences of overt racist challenges to her

curriculum was to shut it down by requiring students to provide the research to back up their

assertions on the spot. Donna recalled in "Story D--The Jena Six" how a near melee had broken

out in her classroom over a simple misunderstanding about the use of capitalization in an article

that she'd used to explore the case of the Jena Six: "It just started with something relatively

simple and small. One white student had noticed that the author had used a lowercase 'w' for the

word 'white' and a capital 'B' for 'Black' in the article." The sheer abundance of these anecdotes

in the testimony of these teachers speaks to the explosive nature of race as a contemporary

discussion point in today's social studies classrooms.

Iraq

Given the large number of military personnel stationed in the Jacksonville area, any

references to the ongoing occupation of Iraq by United States military forces are fraught with

controversy. Duval County, Florida is home to the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, which

employs 23,000 civilian and active duty personnel on its southside Jacksonville base. While

there are certainly elements of the Bush administration's policies that are unpopular among these

military families; including the stop-loss practice of continually re-deploying troops that are due

for domestic leave, the treatment of veterans of the deployment at Veteran's Administration

facilities, and the inadequate materiel provided to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; the tradition of









in the eyes of their students, their colleagues and within the school community; the concerns

about having to justify their actions in the court of media opinion appear rather remote.

Implications

Though the focus of this dissertation research project was on veteran practitioners, the

findings of this study have important implications for teacher training programs and those

working with pre-service teachers. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future

(NCTAF; 2007) documented a shocking rate of teacher attrition in the United States. The

NCTAF brief reported that fully one third of America's teachers leave the field within their first

3 years and that half leave within their first 5 years of service. In urban areas, the rate of attrition

has risen to nearly 17% in recent years. The report concluded that this loss of new teachers could

cost public education as much as $7.3 billion in recruitment and training resources. It is, thus,

vital, for teacher educators to identify the elements that lead to the development of a successful

teaching practice as well as those that hinder the efforts of pre-service and novice teachers. It is

my firm conviction that the narratives emerging from the data collected in interviews centering

around the conceptions, experiences and stances regarding the use of controversial material, can

provide just such a template for effective teacher training programs on controversy in the social

studies in the future.

The participants in this study acted as veritable canaries in the coalmines of social studies

practice, reporting on the most contentious subjects in the field. These conceptions of what is

controversial in the educational community were drawn from their organic relationships with the

communities in which they teach rather than from a purely theoretical understanding of the

issues. They were in turn informed by experiences working with the bewildering cast of

characters on display in their schools. Among these, the research subjects were unanimous in

characterizing the relationships with students as their most important concern. At the same time,









Cathy E-4. I do it too. I've got some Shakespearean things from the BBC that have
nudity in them and probably have an 'R' rating but I've worked to build a reputation over
the years so that parents don't question what I'm doing. They know me and trust me.
That's not ever going to be true for a first year teacher.

When preparation failed, therefore Cathy relied upon the status that she had achieved

over her many years at her school. The tone of this last comment, as well as the resolution

segment in which she expressed that she "felt bad about the incident," suggested that she

acknowledged the contemporary context of public schooling and that young teachers are in a

more precarious position than are many veteran practitioners.

This sense of empathy for her colleagues and regret for the sorry context of public school

teaching today pervaded Cathy's second narrative "Story F--Stick to the Script." Responding to

the case of Jay Bennish, Cathy provided an abstract that spoke to the arbitrary nature of

curricular challenges: "We've all said things that if they were isolated in a 30 second clip the

way they've done with this guy, they would look pretty unflattering. So what you need to do is

stick to the script." That phrase stick to the script is redolent of curriculum frameworks, and yet

Cathy was careful to distance herself from this paradigm, commenting that what she was

referring to was merely "good teaching practice:"

Cathy F-1. What I mean is that you have a lesson plan, you put together your materials
and you have notes for your material. If you're going to do a lecture, you have notes. In
this schema, a teacher's notes are a "script" that, if followed closely, can prevent a
teacher from engaging in extemporaneous commentaries that might get him or her into
"hot water."

As a means of explaining this view, Cathy related a story about a former colleague who

went off the script during a session of his Advanced Placement Psychology class:

Cathy F-3. What happened was that the guy who did AP Psych. did this unit on IQ
testing and most of it was pretty sound but then he tried to make some connections with
IQ testing and the Gifted program and he said some things that he shouldn't have said.
Like questioning the whole basis of the Gifted program on IQ testing.









CHAPTER 7
TOWARD A NEW MODEL OF CONTROVERSY IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES

Introduction

As the unique and fascinating narratives that emerged from the conversations detailed in

the previous three chapters indicate, teachers approach the process of lesson planning in highly

individual and personal ways. These teachers reflected upon their own educational backgrounds,

content knowledge, supplementary interests and understanding of pedagogy. At the same time,

however, this complex process is influenced by the environments in which they teach. In

describing how trends and ideas can spread in a similar manner to that of contagious diseases,

Gladwell (2000) identified a factor he referred to as "The Power of Context." He commented:

Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in
which they occur. In Baltimore, syphilis spreads far more in the summer than in the
winter. Hush Puppies took off because they were being worn by kids in the cutting-edge
precincts of the East Village--an environment that helped others to look at the shoes in a
new light. (p. 139)

Seen in the light of the field of education and school settings, Gladwell's "Power of Context"

would suggest that the environment in which social studies teachers practice can be an important

factor in terms of their decisions to use controversial content material in their regular instruction.

Put simply, certain environments seem to support these decisions while others discourage them.

In the narratives that form the heart of this study, three broad categories emerged: (a) the

conceptions that teachers have of what constitutes controversy in the field of social studies; (b)

the experiences that they encountered in using controversy in their teaching; and (c) the positions

that they take toward using controversy as a result of these experiences. Within each category,

each teacher exhibits complex intersections of myriad environmental elements. In the following

chapter, I will detail how these environmental elements emerged from the teacher narratives

conducted for this study.









currently practicing in Duval County public schools contains issues particular to Northern

Florida that may not be generalizable to other areas of the country. This insight was reinforced

by the comments of 2 of the participants during member checks conducted at the completion of

the data analysis process of the project. Adam, for example, commented that "teachers in other

states might disagree with us, might have different things to say." Donna agreed with Adam's

assessment, suggesting that the more liberal demographics of her setting, while distinct from the

other schools in the survey, might be more emblematic of schools in the Northeast or Pacific

Northwest regions: "We get a lot of kids who move here from the New York area or from

Oregon or something and they're shocked by how conservative this place can be." Despite the

purposeful selection of participants that resulted in a diversity of political, religious and

philosophical dispositions, the sample of teachers in this study may well reflect this demographic

reality as well. An awareness of the particular characteristics of Duval County, Florida, should

thus be noted when reviewing the results of this project.

A second limitation involves the setting of the interview sessions for the project. As

mentioned in Chapter 3, I conducted all interviews with participants in their classrooms, as a

means of creating as naturalistic a setting as possible for the investigation. This understanding

sprang from my earlier pilot project, during which I conducted focus group and interview

sessions in local cafes and restaurants. During these sessions, it was evident that there were

numerous distractions for the participants. Though the classroom settings in the current project

proved to less distracting for the participants, they may well have also restricted the

forthrightness of the teachers' statements about their experiences with controversial material in

their schools. One participant, Gina, seemed especially nervous about the nature of the questions

during the initial interview session and had to be convinced about the confidential nature of the

project's procedures before continuing the session. In the member check session that I









this study will add significantly to our understanding of why so little critical teaching of

controversial topics actually transpires in the classroom at a time when the research in the field

cries out for more of it. As a consequence of conducting this dissertation project, it is my wish

that my research will be a ray of hope and inspiration for those teachers who continue promote

these principles of democratic, progressive inquiry in their classrooms.









on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art (Pilkington, 2006). More recently, former Vice

President Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary on global warming An Inconvenient Truth has

been the subject of furious debates in school board meetings (Libin, 2007).

Misco and Patterson (2007) outlined the case of Jay Bennish, a middle-school teacher in

Colorado who was put on paid administrative leave for a month in the spring of 2006 after

having been audiotaped by a student seemingly comparing the Bush administration to Hitler's

Germany. Bennish was later interviewed under the klieg lights of the Today .\lN,i' by Matt Lauer.

Prentice Chandler (2006), an American history teacher in northern Alabama, detailed his

struggles with his school's administration over his use of the primary source companion volume

to Howard Zinn's classic A People 's History of the United States text. Most recently, a

California high school student and his parents filed a federal lawsuit in December, 2007 against

his Advanced Placement European History teacher for alleged violation of Constitutional rights

due to the teacher's persistent comments about religion (Haldane, 2007). These stories and others

like them lead to a startling conclusion: it is remarkably easy to get fired merely for attempting to

teach one's subject in a public school in the United States today.

In this context, the practical conclusions that classroom practitioners draw from their own

experiences and those of fellow colleagues with teaching controversial public issues can either

encourage or discourage them from pursuing a critical curricular agenda in the future. For

example, Barton and Levstik (2004) commented on the ways in which the current political

climate acts as a fetter against meaningful, empathetic discussions of public issues around race,

gender and ethnicity in the social studies classroom. They stated:

(S)tudents (and teachers) in the United States are likely to have similar difficulty using
what they have learned in history to examine controversial current issues. Not everyone
wants to engage in reasoned judgment, develop an expanded view of humanity, or
deliberate over the common good; many would rather stick to their own unexamined
opinions, personal prejudices, and private desires. (p. 240)









County Board of Elections, 2004). According to the city of Jacksonville's official website, there

were 515,202 registered voters in Duval County as of October 2004 (City of Jacksonville,

Florida, 2004).

Participating Schools

This project drew participants from three high schools within the Duval County Public

Schools (DCPS) district: Orange Park College Preparation School, Southside High School, and

Riverview Arts Academy.1 Orange Park College Preparation School (OPCPS) is a high school

on the western side of Jacksonville that was opened within the shell of an existing inner-city,

neighborhood high school in 1995. OPCPS has attempted to cope with the high demand for its

seats by building two extensions on the historic school building as well as using temporary

trailers as instructional facilities. It features an honors track with a required number of Advanced

Placement courses for students as well as an International Baccalaureate magnet program.

OPCPS has a diverse student body, only 15% of which lives within the surrounding

neighborhood, while 85% are either bused in from their neighborhood schools or are transported

by parents or guardians. According to the DCPS website, 49% of the current OPCPS student

population defines itself as Caucasian, 28% as African American, 14% as Asian American, 6%

as Latin-American, and 3% as mixed race. The OPCPS faculty is similarly diverse and younger

than that of the average DCPS high school. This is primarily due to the higher than average

turnover of its faculty; in its first 10 years of operation (1995-2005), an average of 18 openings

out of 42 faculty positions were filled each summer (Duval County Public Schools, 2007).

Southside High School (SHS) is a neighborhood high school located in the Mandarin area

of south Jacksonville. Opened in 1990, the school has a unique design for a Duval County

school, featuring an open layout that includes a large courtyard where a majority of the students

1All names of schools and participants are pseudonymous.









Given the relative paucity of literature regarding the rights of classroom practitioners in

public schools, it has been difficult for teachers to negotiate the fine line between reasonable and

appropriate advocacy and inappropriate attempts to inculcate values in students. In the absence

of clear guidelines within the field, trade unions and organizations dedicated to civil liberties

have frequently weighed in with their own conceptual frameworks. The American Civil Liberties

Union (1994), for instance, issued its own "Policy Guide" on classroom advocacy, which stresses

the importance of an overall classroom atmosphere of free inquiry:

This should include discussion of controversial issues without the assumption that they
are settled in advance or that there is only one "right" answer in matters of dispute. Such
discussion should include presentation of divergent opinions and doctrines, past and
present, on a given subject. The teacher's own judgment forms a part of this material. If
such judgment is clearly stated, students are better able to appraise it and to differ from it
on the basis of other materials and views placed at their disposal than they would be if a
teacher were to attempt to conceal bias by a claim to "objective" scholarship. (p. 4)

While, as Strossen (1996) commented, there is no definitive Supreme Court precedent in

relation to academic freedom, ". we can draw some inferences both from the Court's general

pronouncements about academic freedom or First Amendment rights in the classroom

setting ... (p. 74). In its Sweezy vs. New Hampshire decision in 1957, for example, the Court

stated: "Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and evaluate, to gain

new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die" (as cited in

Strossen, p. 77). Ten years later, in the Keyshian vs. Board of Regents of the University of New

York, the Court echoed this declaration: "Our nation is deeply committed to safeguarding

academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not just to the teachers

concerned" (as cited in Strossen, p. 77). At the same time, however, Strossen noted that the

courts have to date failed to adequately clarify the contours of these rights. Indeed, far from this,

Strossen stated:









CHAPTER 4
FINDINGS: CONTROVERSIAL CONTENT IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES TODAY


Introduction

Controversies abound in public education, as indeed they do throughout many avenues of

American culture. This could only be the case in such a complex and diverse society as the

United States. As Kammen (2006) commented in his survey of controversies in the art world of

the past century, "The ongoing democratization of American culture during the course of several

generations has inevitably made controversies more likely to occur" (p. xi). In other words, the

empowerment of previously disenfranchised groups, and in the educational context, this includes

students and parents, has increased the prevalence of controversy. When it comes to the

education of children, the most deeply held beliefs among American citizens about politics, race

relations, religion and morality frequently lead to explosive conflicts. These conflicts are not in

and of themselves always negative in character; indeed, the movements that energized the

landmark Supreme Court cases involving schools and education such as Brown vs. Board of

Education, Tinker vs. Des Moines, and Lau vs. Nichols show that controversy can lead to

important new understandings about the social role of American education that presage such

vital reforms as school desegregation, students' rights and bilingual education.

Numerous recent studies have affirmed the need for the discussion of controversy in the

classroom (Barton & Levstik, 2004; Hughes & Sears, 2007; Parker, 2002). However, the era of

neo-liberal reforms that has marked the past 25 years since the initiative of the landmark 1983

report A Nation at Risk, has ushered in a narrow Back to Basics curriculum based on social

efficiency ideals that has been intolerant of the teaching of controversial issues. The advent of

state-mandated testing programs under the Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind regimes has

only accentuated and exacerbated these trends. Added to this standards-based system instituted









(H)e looked at the project work and he said, "that's what we do in business math." In
other words, that was something for the dumb kids. So, he wanted for me to stay away
from those areas that might smack of vocational education like home ec. or business
math.

The pressing demands of an overstuffed and yet narrowly-focused social studies curriculum that

is increasingly tied to the demands of high stakes testing, therefore, both creates pressures and

excuses for those social studies teachers contemplating the inclusion of controversial subject

matter in their instruction.

Conclusions

Teaching at the beginning of the 21st century involves juggling an unprecedented number

of challenges for social studies teachers. Eggers, Malthroup, and Calegari (2005) estimated that

the average teacher makes more than a thousand decisions in an hour during the course of a busy

school day. The curricular challenges discussed in this project merely add to the pressure of an

already overstressed and underpaid secondary social studies faculty. Figure 7-1 gives a visual

representation of the complexity of this scenario.

Based both on internal factors such as personal background, educational experience, and

political or religious affiliation, as well as external factors such as knowledge of the school

community, these teachers developed some clear ideas about the issues that are the most

potentially explosive ones in the social studies. These understandings cause many of these

teachers to be especially and, it can be argued, unduly, cautious in their treatment of the Bush

administration, religion, race, the occupation of Iraq, and abortion. At the same time, the data

from this project suggest that, in the normal course of their teaching practice, social studies

teachers are often caught unwittingly wading into controversial waters with their classes.

These experiences have led the teachers interviewed to develop very clear ideas about

their positions in the educational hierarchy and about the relationships, both positive and









Conceptions of Academic Freedom

Reform in American public education has typically come as the result of a perceived

national crisis. At the same time, as Berliner and Biddle (1995) noted, a false sense of crisis has

often been used in a manipulative manner in order to further a variety of political agendas in

education: "One of the worst effects of the Manufactured Crisis has been to divert attention away

from the real problems faced by American education--problems that are serious and that are

escalating in today's world" (p. 4, emphasis in original). The American public school system, or

common schools in the contemporary parlance, rose as a direct response to the insights of major

figures in the common school reform movement. As Kaestle (1983) noted, reformers such as

Horace Mann, Henry Barnard, and Catherine Beecher were appalled by the lack of

professionalism among the teaching faculty, the outdated and mechanical nature of the

curriculum, and the very decrepit qualities of the facilities common to many Antebellum school

systems. They were further motivated by a reformist desire, doubtless borne of their middle

class, Protestant roots to improve society. Kaestle summarized the principal tenets of common

school reformers:

(T)he sacredness and fragility of the republican polity ... ; the importance of individual
character in fostering social morality; the central role of personal industry in defining
rectitude and merit; the delineation of a highly respected but limited domestic role for
women; the importance for character building of familial and social environment (within
certain racial and ethnic limitations); the sanctity and social virtues of property; the
equality and abundance of economic opportunity in the United States; the superiority of
American Protestant culture; the grandeur of America's destiny; and the necessity of a
determined public effort to unify America's polyglot population, chiefly through
education. (pp. 76-77)

This seemingly contradictory ideology with its twin thrusts of individual rights and public

solidarity thus produced a school system that was at once revolutionary in its structural reforms

and, at the same time, hostile to dissent from without or, especially, within. These institutional

changes, while admittedly improving the nature of schooling, also had the result, perhaps even









Gina D-2. If the group is particularly interested in youth culture or the family or law and
order, then we go with that. As long as I cover my two big units in the term then I'm
happy with that.
At the same time, she argued that it is the closed and narrow perspectives of her students

that restrict her options. She described this point in an extended commentary that provided the

complicating action of the narrative:

Gina D-3. I had a group that investigated whether there was an image among students
that male cheerleaders are gay. That was interesting. But most are the usual axes the kids
have to grind about school policy. One year the administration had decided to go against
school tradition and award the "Spirit Stick"--it's this dumb thing that they have for pep
rallies--to the junior rather than the senior class. Well, the seniors were irate and several
did their projects on that. So it varies.

This statement seemed to contradict the themes throughout Gina's various narratives that

stress student-centered learning and innovative teaching practices. It is clear from this statement

that Gina put a higher value on issues that she finds important--for example, gay sexuality--and

disparaged issues that she finds relatively trivial that are merely "axes the kids have grind about

school policy." This statement ignored the understanding that those issues closest to students'

lives can often be the ones that motivate student action that can inform a life-long practice of

community engagement and activism.

Controversial Lessons

As discussed in the last chapter, teachers' conceptions of controversial teaching within

the social studies varied widely. These viewpoints are informed by a variety of elements, such as

individual political ideas, educational background, content knowledge, and the context of the

school community. These elements can be seen in the choices that teachers make about the daily

lessons that they present to groups of students. At the culmination of the first set of interviews, I

asked each teacher-participant to discuss a sample lesson that they conceived of as potentially

controversial. The narratives that emerged from these conversations are fascinating in the way

that they illustrate the individual positions that these teachers have developed toward social









Selection of Participants


Pilot Project

During a pilot project conducted in the spring of 2007, I collected focus group, interview,

and archival data from 5 DCPS teachers. After the recruitment process, the 5 participants first sat

down with me for a focus group session on March 9, 2007, which lasted for approximately 75

minutes and produced a wealth of fascinating observations about the state of social studies, many

in the form of extended narratives. In an effort to reduce the effect of social pressure potentially

existing within the focus group setting, I then conducted individual interviews with each

participant. Lasting approximately 60 minutes, these interviews were invaluable in allowing each

participant, including 2 teachers who had been slightly reticent in their contributions to the focus

group session, to reflect deeply on their practices. Finally, I collected curricular work products

from each participant, including syllabi and sample lesson plans in order to make comparisons

between them and to analyze the influence of curricular frameworks standards on each teacher's

decision making process. In reflecting upon the outcomes of this pilot project, I identified the

lack of purposeful sampling and the reliance on convenience as a major weaknesses.

Sampling Procedures and Criteria

The insights derived from my experiences conducting this pilot project influenced greatly

the manner in which I designed this dissertation research project. I realized in reflecting on the

research process of this pilot project that the data that I collected from 5 secondary social studies

teachers was rather limited in scope as a result of my having to rely on a participant group of

relatively novice practitioners. Thus, for this current project, I used a more purposeful sampling

approach. Patton (1990) described the basis of the method as focusingn) on selecting

information-rich cases whose study will illuminate the questions under study" (p. 230). This

method of selecting participants, also referred to as purposive or judgment sampling, has the









The result of this intervention then is laid out in a coda section to the narrative: "That's

usually the end of it, it shuts them down. And then I can go on with what my agenda is for

discussing the issue." In this brief riposte, Cathy clearly distinguished between her agenda for the

lesson and that of the rogue student presenting a controversial opinion on a historical issue. She

was equally clear about the results of her action: "it shuts them down." Thus, despite her

intentions to maintain a distant and neutral position in the classroom, she betrayed her goal of

suppressing potentially damaging discussions.

Donna: Church vs. State

Donna, one of 2 teachers interviewed who teaches at Riverview Arts Academy (RAA),

presented in "Story A--Church vs. State" a narrative that spoke to the reality that challenges to

extra-curricular materials can come from both the traditional right as well as from liberal

elements, which in the past generation have become more attuned to issues of identity and

diversity. In the abstract, she noted that as a social studies teacher in an arts academy she is in a

distinct minority and that the liberal arts/humanities position that is her focus is occasionally at

odds with the vocational arts-based thrust of the instruction at Riverview. The environment gives

RAA a quite different atmosphere to many in the Jacksonville area, as Donna explained in the

orientation segment of the narrative:

Donna A-2. Well, you have to understand that this is a different school from the others in
the area. You might have a more conservative environment in most schools, particularly
in the neighborhood schools where if you're a liberal minded teacher like me you have to
be careful to not talk too openly about abortion or sex or whatnot. Here, though, the
students and even their parents are pretty diverse and much more liberal than in most
schools in the area. It's just the arts school focus, it changes everything.

The complicating action portion of the narrative then laid out an example of this

difference in atmosphere, in which Donna was surprised by a student who challenged her









between the Republican and Democratic parties will "get hotter in the next year." In the

orientation section of the narrative, he spoke about how he planned to involve students in these

issues during the Presidential election campaign:

Eric B-2. I'll get the Government kids in for the spring semester. I'm planning to do
some debates with the students. Have them choose candidates and debate different issues
from the point of their chosen candidates.

These intentions stated clearly, Eric took a moment to mention his own position toward the

issues in the classroom:

Eric B-3. I make no bones about my own opinions, the students know from day one that
I'm a Republican, die-hard conservative, voted for Bush twice, but that doesn't mean that
students can't criticize Bush in my classes, and they sure do, and I criticize him too
sometimes, I think this administration has been deeply disappointing to conservatives in
many ways.

Here, Eric seems to open up the possibility of the teacher playing an active role as one voice of

many in a spirited, democratic discussion of the issues surrounding the 2008 Presidential

campaign. Yet, he quickly followed this up with an evaluation segment that seemed to negate

this possibility:

Eric B-4. I just try to keep the students focused on reasoned opinions, I don't let them
just shoot from the hip, they have to back up their rants, they can't just take something
from the Daily Show and run with it, I want sources.

In his evaluation, Eric displayed distrust of popular culture, here exemplified by the fake

news humor of The Daily .,heii'. When he remarked in the resolution to the piece that, "I try to

make it real in the Government class," he was again drawing a clear distinction between the level

of scholarship he expects in his classroom and what he sees passing as infotainment in the

contemporary culture. What this means in effect for his students, though, is that they are not free

to voice their opinions with impunity; rather they must have fully footnoted and sourced views if

they wish to make contributions to the class.









whose research perspectives such as grounded theory call for semi-structured protocols), which

includes all questions that will be asked of participants; this protocol is typically reviewed and

sanctioned by the researcher's sponsoring institution as a matter of maintaining ethical standards

in research practice (see Appendix A). In approaching the interview subject or subjects, an

unobtrusive stance is important in order to keep the research participants at their ease and to be

able to collect meaningful data. Spradley (1979) described the appropriate point of view for the

researcher:

By word and by action, in subtle ways and in direct statements [researchers] say, 'I want
to understand the world from your point of view. I want to know what you know in the
way you know it. I want to understand the meaning of your experience, to walk in your
shoes, to feel things as you feel them, to explain things as you would explain them. Will
you become my teacher and help me understand? (p. 34)

In other words, in qualitative projects employing a interview strategy for data collection, the

researcher and subjects act as partners in the process. When used appropriately, interviews can

provide the researcher with a window into their participants' worlds, especially those events that

have not been observed at first hand.

Interview Process

With these provisos in mind, I interviewed 7 teacher-participants in order to ascertain

how each makes meaning from the experience of teaching controversial public issues. After

contacting participants using the recruitment email included in Appendix B, I arranged

individual interview sessions during a 3 week period in November, 2007. In order to capture

these participants in a natural setting, I interviewed each participant in his or her classroom, often

during preparation periods or immediately after the end of the instructional day. This

understanding came from my reflections after conducting the aforementioned pilot project, in

which I conducted interviews in restaurants and coffee shops. Interviewing the participants this

time in the classroom allowed for fewer distractions and interruptions in the session.









In this narrative, Frank admitted to having preconceptions about the student reception of course

material based on his experiences in the classroom. At the same time, however, he indicated his

willingness to allow for those rare situations in which students confound his expectations.

Gina: Teaching Buddhism

Gina's narrative "Story E--Teaching Buddhism" is linked to the narratives of her fellow

participants in her stated desire to attempt to tie the abstract curriculum to students' real-life

experiences. In the abstract to the narrative, Gina described her intentions for the lesson in

question:

Gina E-1. So, I thought I would try to show students how to use some of these ideas,
rather than just treating them as if they were just some dry, abstract thing. So when I got
to teaching about Buddhism, I thought, "Why not teach them how to meditate?" That's
something that I've been doing for years as a personal thing, as a part of my daily routine.

It is particularly interesting that in this statement, Gina echoed the goals of many social

constructivist-oriented educators in attempting to create an educational community in which the

group creates meaning from a sensory experience. In the orientation segment, Gina expanded on

the relationship between these conceptions developed during her teacher training experience and

her current practice:

Gina E-2. I've done this unit on Asian religions and philosophies for years now and
when I started out I was just full of these ideas that I'd read in my teacher training
classes, so I tried them all out. Even when I didn't get a lot of support from the school or
other teachers around here. Well, I guess the first thing I did was burn some incense in
the room, and maybe I had some music going. I thought I'd just burn a little at the
beginning of the day and then put it out in case there were some kids with allergies or
something.

All of this seems to be exemplary teacher practice; however, Gina explained that her

innovative teaching methods caused friction within her school: "I had some custodians up in my

room in about five minutes looking for some electrical failure and when I told them what I'd









March 22, 1947, the day that President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9835, which

mandated a new national security program premised on the declared loyalty of public employees.

Central to this act was the promotion of loyalty oaths, required of all public employees, including

public school teachers and faculty and staff members of state universities and colleges. Schrecker

commented ironically that, "Since the security measures already in place had largely eliminated

most Communists and other dissidents from sensitive positions, the new program was

superfluous, except as a political gesture" (p. 4). Superfluous or not, these loyalty oaths were

taken quite seriously and literally by administrations of public institutions and were often used to

dismiss teachers and university faculty who either refused to adhere to or merely ignored them.

Despite the threat, there was significant opposition and resistance to the oaths. O. L. Davis

(2000) remembered:

We college students opposed the loyalty oaths that the Texas legislature imposed upon
teachers in public schools and colleges and upon all students at public colleges and
universities. One of my ex-GI classmates expressed his contempt of the law by signing,
across several semesters, names like "Joseph Stalin" and "Vladimir Lenin" on the copy of
his oath, each of which a local official in the busy registration line duly notarized. (pp. xi-
xii)

Loyalty oaths were based on new and often vaguely worded definitions of what it meant to be a

subversive person. For example, the Ober Law, enacted by the Maryland legislature in 1949,

defined as subversive anyone:

Who commits or aids in the commission, or advocates, abets, advises or teaches by any
means any person to commit, attempt to commit, or aid in the commission of any act
intended to promote the overthrow, destruction, or alteration of, the constitutional form of
the government of the United States, or the State of Maryland ... by revolution, force, or
violence, or who is a member of a subversive organization. (Gutek, 2000, p. 106, author's
emphasis)

As a result of the combination of the strict adherence to loyalty oaths and a broad

definition of dissent and subversion, thousands of teachers and university personnel lost their

jobs in the period of 1947-1950. Foster (2000), for example, reported that over 300 teachers in









Horowitz instinctively fell back on the principles that motivated the social efficiency advocates

100 years ago. As Ross (2000) pointed out, the reality of this stance is that material that upholds

the status quo is considered objective, while material that encourages students to make critical

judgments is labeled political. "However," he asked us to consider, "neutrality is a political

category, that is, not supporting any factions in a dispute" (p. 44). Using this metric, Horowitz

and his ABOR project is, thus, a highly-politicized movement engaged in preserving the

privileges of powerful, entrenched interests in education and the wider society.

In order to combat effectively these threats to academic freedom and not to be caught off

guard, Brinkley (1999) opened a dialogue about the importance of understanding the precise

political direction of these academic freedom challenges. In contrast to the wealth of material

regarding intellectual freedom in the university setting, there has been a relative lack of literature

regarding conceptions of and threats to academic freedom for secondary level teachers. Murphy

(1990) attributed this absence of concern to the confusion surrounding the issue within the ranks

of the major teachers' unions. Apple (2001) further surmised that teachers have not been

afforded the same rights as university faculty due to the progressive de-skilling of teachers in an

era of increasing standardization of curriculum. Bracey (2002) termed these developments "The

War on Public Schools." Kincheloe (2005) commented that "'No Child Left Behind' reforms

demand disempowered teachers who do what they're told and often read pre-designed scripts to

their students" (p. 5). The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Position Statement on

Academic Freedom and the Social Studies Teacher (2007) spoke to the context of increasing

standardization under this neo-conservative Accountability Movement and its effects on social

studies teaching practice:

In recent years, the movement for standards and high stakes testing has impinged on
issues of academic freedom. In some schools, the movement for accountability has led to









conducted, Gina admitted that, "I might have told you more if I wasn't worried constantly about

someone walking by in the hall." While I am convinced that teachers' classrooms were the best

settings available for this project, I am also fully cognizant of the fact that the participants in the

study might have provided slightly different testimonies under different conditions.

Third, the conclusions of this project are somewhat limited by the lack of observational

data. In order to pursue a cognitive constructivist framework, I restricted my data collection

procedures to interview and archival data. This data provided me with invaluable insights into

these teachers' meaning construction processes regarding the use of controversial subject matter.

However, 2 of the participants noted during follow-up member check interviews that

observations of classes might have produced some different conclusions. Cathy, for example,

commented that, "you can't really tell what's happening in a teacher's classroom unless you're

in there." At the same time, Cathy admitted that this observation process might have had to

continue for a lengthy period before producing any valuable data that might have added to the

understandings reached in this project. Frank concurred with this view, adding that, "it's a shame

that we couldn't have planned to have you come out and see a class where some controversy

came into it." These participants are undoubtedly correct in these remarks, and yet I am

reasonably satisfied that the data produced during this project is a significant contribution to the

scholarship regarding the use of controversy in the social studies. Moreover, it serves as a useful

launching pad for further research on the subject.

Conclusions

While there is a wealth of valuable research that investigates the conceptions of

controversy among pre-service social studies teachers (Misco & Patterson, 2007) or the best

practices in teaching controversy among exemplary social studies teachers (Hess, 2002), the

voices of the millions of veteran social studies practitioners have been missing from these









principles of 'democracy'" (p. 24). The bulletin, among other objectives, encouraged teachers to

promote war games and military-oriented arts lessons in their classrooms:

No form of occupation material can claim exemption from war service. Drawings of
ponies and friendly cows are supplanted by galloping cavalry horses. Crayoned ships sail
the ocean bringing supplies to our soldiers, while bits of folded paper floating through the
air become miniature air ships. Clay cannons, bullets and soldiers are a common sight on
the modeling table. Soldier games and marching songs are called for. "Over There"
seems to be known to all and is more popular than the most tuneful childish melody.
(Spring, 1992, p. 24)

Not surprisingly, many teachers objected to such a blatant use of their classrooms as a

means of disseminating war-time propaganda. However, at a time in which the rights of teachers

were ill-defined, Evans (2004) noted that teachers were counseled by their administrators to

display an enthusiasm for the war effort and cautioned against the use of any material that might

be construed as dwelling upon the horrors of war.

As the gap between research and practice that had begun in Normal Schools of the 19th

century continued to grow in a new century, groups of academics such as those centered around

Columbia Teachers College began to forge radical conceptions of social studies instruction often

termed social reconstructionism. Social reconstructionism, as Dennis (1989) noted, grew out of

the view that schools in an era of crisis for industrial capitalism could not merely train students

for future jobs in a failed economic system. Dennis commented that, after a lengthy and

inspirational visit to the Soviet Union in 1929, George Counts

came to believe that a planned economy had to be an essential feature of any well-run
industrial society, and that view was reinforced on his return to America early in 1930,
when he saw at first hand the effects of capitalism gone amok. (p. 37)

Counts believed that schools could play an integral role in promoting collectivism as a means of

social change. Writing in the depths of the Depression, Counts (1934) stated:

Any completely satisfactory solution of the problem of education therefore would seem
to involve fairly radical social reconstruction. The fact is that for the most part
contemporary society is not organized primarily for the education of its children or for









Lincoln (1981) described member checks as a continuous process during data analysis,

including, for example, asking participants about hypothetical situations. These sessions lasted

approximately 30 minutes and consisted of the following questions:

1. After reviewing the initial analysis of the data collected in this project, do you have
any concerns about the way that your views have been presented?

2. Do you have any further comments about the analysis of the data collected?

Through these discussions and discussions with my dissertation committee members, I

reflected on the occasionally judgmental tone of my initial analysis and accounted for this in

subsequent revisions. During this process of conducting interviews, I maintained a habit of

keeping field notes. These simple notations, which I later converted into a researcher's log

primarily assisted me by helping me to remember visual cues that were not apparent on the audio

recordings of the session. At the end of the process of conducting the initial set of interviews, I

transcribed them using the conventions listed in Appendix D. In order to maintain a close

relationship with the data, I transcribed the initial round of interviews from November by hand.

After completing the second set of interviews, I employed a transcription service in order to

expedite the analysis process. In March, I transcribed the final set of member check interview

sessions by hand.

Archival Collection

Archival collections, as defined by Bradsher (1988), are at their most basic levels,

repositories of institutional records and personal papers of enduring value or interest. These often

have the character and role of preserving the details of the lives of venerable institutions and

powerful individuals within society. Thus, the tradition of archival research has often been linked

in the literature (Barthes, 1977; Foucault, 1972) with a reinforcement of the status quo within the

political and social sphere. The use of archival records of teachers by qualitative researchers









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

EXPERIENCES OF SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHERS WITH TEACHING
CONTROVERSIAL PUBLIC ISSUES IN THE CLASSROOM

By

Robert L. Dahlgren

August 2008

Chair: Elizabeth Anne Washington
Major: Curriculum and Instruction

This constructivist study investigates the experiences of veteran social studies teachers

with teaching controversial content in north Florida classrooms. The subject of controversy in the

social studies is of particular importance in the contemporary context of curricular narrowing and

challenges to public educators' academic freedom. At the same time, this dissertation research

project supplies evidence that internal factors such as individual teacher's educational

background, political and religious worldview and teaching philosophy have as much, if not

more, influence on teaching practice as these external factors. The investigation gives voice to

veteran practitioners who are often lost in the discussion of social studies teaching and learning

practices. Over the course of 2 interviews, these teachers addressed the meanings that they have

constructed from their years of experience in the classroom. They spoke candidly about their

hopes, fears, and frustrations in regard to the field, while providing rationales for individual

lessons that address controversial issues. In order to examine the interviews at the heart of this

project, I employed a narrative analysis methodology that allowed the authentic voices of these

practitioners to emerge. These narratives speak in prophetic ways about the positions that social

studies teachers take when approaching the use of controversial public issues. In the current

climate of political and social reaction, secondary social studies teachers might be forgiven for









homework to do on top of all of that. So, I thought that showing them how to relax with
different meditation techniques might help them out.

At the same time, however, Gina was clear in the effect that her determination had had on the

relationships that she developed within the school. She addressed the issue of her reputation with

her colleagues, for example, in the resolution segment:

Gina E-5. I was getting all these jokes in the faculty lounge, people calling me "Smoky"
and that sort of thing as if I was smoking pot in my room. Which is ridiculous. But that's
the kind of narrow-mindedness that you get among teachers sometimes. Don't get me
wrong, I get along with a lot of people here but I can't say that I have that many friends
among, not real friends, they're just the kind of people who smile and nod in the hallways
but I can't really count on them. If I need a sub, I just go through the main office, I don't
even try to get favors of people in the department, which is kind of sad because I've done
plenty of people plenty of favors over the years and they should know who I am by now.

At the end of this fascinating narrative, Gina redoubled her efforts to "teach in the right

way," that is, in a manner consistent with her social constructivist teaching philosophy and her

teacher training experience, despite the social pressures she faces from her immediate school

community.

Conclusion

Many of the teachers interviewed for this project expressed the sentiment that their

experiences with teaching controversy have been generally positive and have led to their

reflecting on their teaching and learning practices. This corresponds with the view of Kammen

(2006) who answered his own rhetorical question--"whether controversy is necessarily a

negative condition, an undesirable phenomenon to be avoided at all costs"--by stating

unequivocally, "Not at all:"

Conflict can certainly be stressful, push people into serious situations, and agitate
civil society. Yet conflict can also be enlightening and educational, at least in retrospect,
especially when individuals modify their mind-sets or, better still, have a change. (p. xii,
author's emphasis)









Slager, M. (2004, October 31). Class film raises hackles. Everett Herald. Retrieved December 7,
2004, from http://www.heraldnet.com/stories/04/10/31/locfilm0001. cfm


Smith-Arrants, G. (2004, November 18). Teacher shows 'Fahrenheit 9/11', gets rebuked.
Retrieved December 7, 2004, from http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/news/
10210344.htm?template=contentModules/print

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

Spring, J. (1992). Images of American life: A history of ideological management in schools,
movies, radio and television. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Spring, J. (2002). Political agendas in education (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum &
Associates.

Stone, G. R. (1996). A brief history of academic freedom. In P. M. Spacks (Ed.), Advocacy in the
classroom: Problems andpossibilities (pp. 60-70). New York: St. Martin's Press.

Strossen, N. (1996). First amendment and civil liberties traditions of academic freedom. In P. M.
Spacks (Ed.), Advocacy in the classroom: Problems and possibilities (pp. 71-83). New
York: St. Martin's Press.

Students for Academic Freedom. (2004). Mission statement. Retrieved July 30, 2005, from
http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org/

Suskind, R. (2004). The price of loyalty: George W Bush and the education of Paul O 'Neill.
New York: Simon & Shuster.

Sykes, C. (1989). Profscam: Professors and the demise of higher education. New York: St
Martin's Griffin.

Symcox, L. (2002). Whose history? The 't/ruile for national standards in American classrooms.
New York: Teachers College Press.

Tatum, B. (1997). Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? And other
conversations about race. New York: Basic Books.

Teacher probed over Bush remarks. (2006, March 3). CBS News Online. Retrieved March 26,
2008, from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/03/03/politics/mainl364883.shtml

Thernstrom, A., & Thernstrom, S. (2003). No excuses: Closing the racial gap in learning. New
York: Simon & Shuster.

Thody, A., Gray, B., & Bowden, D. (2000). The teacher's survival guide. London, UK:
Continuum.









play an especially important role, though the importance of each of these factors may
vary considerably. (p. 236)

In the course of these narratives documented above, the 7 participants in this study

revealed complicated and sometimes contradictory stances toward the content material that they

are charged with teaching. This relationship becomes even murkier when it involves conscious

and unconscious decisions to enter areas of controversy in the field.

Many of the respondents, for example, felt a close bond with their students and thus

pursued a student-focus approach to exploring controversial issues. Ben, for example, spoke

about how he had "tried to include more student-centered exercises over the years," in describing

his integration of skits on controversial topics such as witchcraft and slavery into his curriculum.

This position presumes that these issues will be far less controversial if discussions and activities

are student-led rather than centered around direct instruction.

Another common strategy revealed in these conversations was one of stressing accuracy

and fact in the presentation of controversial material, a position that seems intimately connected

to the historical paradigm within which many of these teachers operate. In his critique of Michael

Moore's work, for example, Eric stated that, "He just isn't accurate in what he talks about in

those movies." Controversy exists in the classrooms of teachers who operate under this guise of

accuracy and yet the notion of multiple perspectives often gives way to the primacy of one

accurate view most often articulated by the instructor.

Several of the teachers interviewed for this project displayed a position of

inoffensiveness, stating a deliberate intention to avoid offending students in their classes. This

has become a more pressing concern for social studies teachers in the past generation as public

school classrooms have become increasingly diverse spaces. For example, in her discussions of

religious issues in her World Religions elective course, Cathy commented that, "I've got to be









Eric: It Just Isn't Accurate

In a narrative titled "Story E--It Just Isn't Accurate," Eric affirmed his identity as a

conservative teacher who places a premium on the search for historical accuracy and truth.

Responding to the cases involving the use of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9 11, Eric constructed

an abstract in which he stated that his main objection with the film is that, "it wasn't accurate. He

just isn't accurate in what he talks about in those movies." Disdaining the conception of multiple

perspectives of history, Eric continued his deconstruction of Moore's technique in the orientation

segment of the narrative:

Eric E-2. Right, now I was teaching at the time of Columbine, actually on the day and I
remember how scared people were, how scared the kids were after it happened. Then
there were these loser kids who thought that it was funny to dress up like the 'Trenchcoat
Mafia,' with black clothes and make-up, just to scare people deliberately. And here is
Michael Moore saying that schools are being unfair to these kids and that "going to
school sucks."

In this fascinating statement, Eric measured Moore's treatment of the atmosphere in

secondary schools following the tragic school shooting incident at Columbine High School in

Littleton, Colorado, in 1999 in Bowlingfor Columbine against his own memory of the period.

Yet, rather than appreciating that Moore is presenting one valid perspective of the events--that

school administrations were unfairly targeting students in order to appease fearful parents--

against his own equally valid perspective--that a few students were exploiting the fears raised by

the incident in a undisciplined, opportunistic manner--Eric presumed that his is the accurate view

and Moore's is merely one of propagandistic expediency. In the complicating action section of

the narrative, he supplied evidence to support his claims: "Listen, there's a guy out there who

runs a website called Moorewatch or something that's just about showing the mistakes in his

(Moore's) work." When I reminded him that the founder of Moorewatch.com has been a

prominent conservative critic of Moore's work in recent years, Eric countered that, "Sure, but he









narrative, she assessed her own performance in reducing the conflict in the room: "I tried to do

that as best as I could. I suppose I was a little defensive because I had brought the article in in the

first place and I found myself defending my choice, my curriculum choices." In spite of selecting

an article from a magazine that Donna felt would appeal to her students' intrinsic interest in

music, she regretted her choice of material. This defensive tone continued in the resolution

section:

Donna C-5. I'm from Yulee, which is a really small, rural, provincial place, so I thought
I understood race issues in this area, but maybe not. I just think they instinctively
identified with whiteness. At the same time they kept qualifying their comments by
saying things such as "I'm not saying that racism is alright" and "those white kids were
wrong to do what they did." But they felt that the article made all white students out to be
racist or perhaps it was that the South is still racist.

In an effort to continue the discussion of race and yet lower the tension level in the

classroom, Donna decided to introduce a student project. Yet, despite her best intentions, her

students responded in a similar fashion to those in Adam's Government class:

Donna C-6. I got some really good work from them, but I have to say that I never quite
got back to the raw honesty of that first day of discussion. Something was a little closed
down, I think they sort of censored themselves.

Thus, after the initial burst of discussion around a simple, and yet crucial, linguistic

debate--whether a capital letter signifies respect and privilege--Donna's students reverted to a

tense silence regarding the topic of contemporary race relations. While her effort to address this

topic in the context of a school-related story with which her students could organically relate is

admirable, her failure to scaffold discussions in her class left her students to replicate the age-old

polarized pattern of either an inappropriate and unstructured "free-for-all" or the complete

absence of discussion.









see themselves as providing the intellectual capital for conservative educational reform in a

climate in which the traditional institutions of higher education have been captured by liberal and

progressive activists. The main thrust of the efforts of neo-conservative groups is the

privatization of public education, with voucher programs as a principal means of achieving this

goal. This focus on school choice operates from the assumption that government schools are

ineffective and under-performing, whereas the private sector would introduce a necessary

element of competition to the process of educating children, particularly those in underserved

communities.

Although the aforementioned groups have certainly been ascendant in the past decade, it

is important not to forget the large numbers of education activists on the left side of the political

spectrum. Spring (2002) asserted that the New Democrats, who ran education policy during the

Clinton era of the 1990s and still occupy many positions of power within the educational

bureaucracy at state and local district levels, married the demands of the global marketplace with

those of Main Street America. A key premise of this agenda is the Skill-Mismatch Theory, first

propounded by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who stated in terms reminiscent of A

Nation at Risk (1983) that America's educational institutions were producing candidates ill-

suited for work in an increasingly complex global economy. As Bill Clinton (1996) remarked:

"There are people, principally the bottom half of America's hourly wage earners, who are

working hard but aren't getting ahead because they don't have the kind of skills that are

rewarded in this global economy" (p. 33). In the resulting Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the

Clinton administration poured money into programs such as Head Start, while at the same time

paving the way for the Accountability Movement by convincing teachers' unions to agree to

programs of recertification and standardized testing.









In this statement, Donna betrayed her preference for the Zinn text but, at the same time,

excused herself for using the diluted material in the Glencoe text due to its official adoption by

the Duval County school district. Instead of assigning a set of Zinn books, as Chandler did with

his students in Alabama, Donna furtively uses primary sources culled from Zinn's work in order

to add interest to her reading assignments. She described this approach in the evaluation of the

narrative:

Donna E-4. Using the Zinn? No, well, I should admit that I don't announce that that's
where it's from. What I tend to do is just take pieces, excerpts from the book and then
create my own lessons from that.

Donna's assumption in pursuing this agenda of inoffensiveness is that using primary

sources that have an association with a radical scholar will allow her to avoid any potential

controversy. Once again, the relationships that she has developed with her students was of

paramount importance to Donna. In the resolution segment of the narrative, she commented that,

"The kids are curious about what I think of some of the more radical readings from, say, trade

union leaders but I keep my views to myself, I don't get on the soapbox." Here, Donna was at

pains to point out that her decision not to announce the origin of the materials that she uses in the

classroom stems from her relationships with her students and the desire not to breach their trust

rather than the fear that these materials will cause controversy within the school or wider

community. In a brief coda to the piece, Donna stated: "I don't know that it would cause any

trouble in this kind of school, but you never know." The presumption underlying this final

statement is that Zinn's work would be unfamiliar or uncontroversial in the context of the

Riverside Arts Academy community; at the same time, she is unwilling to take the chance that it

might prove so as it did in the Prentice Chandler case.









traditional methodologies: "In transmission-based conceptions of teaching there is no reason to

study the learner. Teachers in such pedagogies are given the curriculum to teach. They simply

pass designated knowledge along to students and then test them to see how much they

remember" (p. 6). This sorry state of affairs, referred to by Freire (1970) as the banking concept,

is, however, precisely what social studies educators face in the early days of the 21st century,

pressured by curriculum frameworks and testing regimes.

This project, therefore, is a humble attempt to realize the potentialities of a constructivist

perspective within research into teaching practices in the social studies. In the following chapter,

I outline the methodological design of a research project guided by the principles of both

constructivism that looks at the ways of knowing of a group of seven social studies teachers

currently practicing in Jacksonville, Florida public schools, as it relates to the matter of teaching

controversial public issues.

Research Perspectives

Qualitative Research

The research interests identified in this project fall squarely into the realm of qualitative

research and call for a research design created along these lines of inquiry. As Gergen and

Gergen (2000) stated "The domain of qualitative inquiry offers some of the richest and most

rewarding explorations available in social science" (p. 1025). In the vast arena that is social

research, qualitative investigators fundamentally ask questions about the meaning of the activity

that is taking place in some field of social interaction. Glesne (1998) described this process as "a

careful and diligent search" (p. 3). In the educational context, qualitative researchers often view

the classroom and its participants as texts to be read, or interpreted, based on a number of

previously agreed upon criteria.









(advocating for a cause) simply because ... he can never entirely shed his scholar's gown ... "

felt a weight of responsibility about their roles as educators (Kirk, as cited in Jehn, p. 163). Yet

Michigan anthropologist Marshall Sahlin captured the mood of the period when he was reported

to have cried out in the midst of an all-night campus debate that, "They say we're neglecting our

responsibilities as teachers. Let's show them how responsible we feel. Instead of teaching out,

we'll teach in-all night" (as cited in Levitas, 1965, p. 24). In the end, the National Teach-ins of

1965, though short-lived, served to challenge the traditional notions of academics as non-partisan

arbiters of cultural knowledge.

Legal Conceptions of Academic Freedom

The late 1960s also saw major advances in rights for public school students, particularly

emerging from the venue of the Supreme Court. In the 1969 decision in the Tinker vs. Des

Moines case, the court radically re-defined the rights of high school students by stating that these

rights "do not end at the schoolhouse gates" (Tinker, 1969, p. 2). The decision stemmed from an

incident in December 1965 in which three Iowa high school students, including the plaintiffs in

the case, John and Mary Beth Tinker, wore black armbands decorated with peace symbols to

school in order to protest the on-going United States military intervention in Vietnam. The

school subsequently suspended the three students until they agreed to adhere to the school policy

proscribing political statements. In the majority decision, Justice Abe Fortas found that the

Tinkers had engaged in political expression, which could not be denied them under the

Constitution. This Tinker test, while contested over the years, has continued to be used in

deciding similar cases around students' rights, although it is unclear whether it will hold up to

scrutiny under the current conservative incarnation of the Court, which recently decided against a

group of Alaskan students who had displayed a banner reading "Bong Hits for Jesus" during a

school assembly.









following a constructivist perspective, however, has the potential to illuminate more democratic

avenues of discourse that can lead to the empowerment of a class of educators typically subject

to what Apple (2000) referred to as a process of de-skilling. Toward this end, I collected one

syllabus, one lesson plan, and supplementary materials from each participant that supported a

lesson that they conceived of as containing potentially controversial subject matter. For example,

Ben brought to the session an extremely content-heavy World History syllabus and then spoke

about an experience in which he had had to accommodate a student who had transferred into his

class from a class that was studying a different era of history. Participants were asked to bring

this curricular material to the initial interview session and were asked to speak about the

potential controversies involved in the lesson plans. These curricular pieces and the narratives

that emerged from the conversations with participants indicated strongly a variety of stances

toward controversy and patterns of instruction of these kinds of materials. In addition, I reviewed

the relevant literature on controversy in the social studies in order to select a group of what were

deemed in the literature to be controversial subject materials, such as the DVD version of

Michael Moore's 2004 documentary film Fahrenheit 9 11, which prompted a national discussion

of appropriate teaching practices during the period of the 2004 Presidential election campaign

(Dahlgren, in press).

Data Analysis

Data analysis in qualitative research involves a complex system of techniques intended to

discover something relatively simple--the meaning of the researcher's data; in Glesne's (1998)

poetic words, "finding your story" (p. 130). The purpose of this activity is to organize what the

researcher has witnessed in the data collection process in ways that can be readily understood by

one's peers in a variety of professional settings. Hatch (2002) encouraged researchers to view

data analysis as an on-going process that should begin as soon as the data is collected. Following









Curriculum Focus

Finally, 5 of the participants displayed characteristics of a position that is focused on

curricular matters. This curriculum focus position is the flip side of the student focus position so

common among the teachers interviewed for this project in that it is an attempt to deflect

criticism for controversial choices onto the curriculum itself. For instance, the most common

response to a curricular challenge among these teachers appeared to be the phrase, "it's in the

curriculum." Indeed, many of the teachers questioned how they could adequately cover the

material in their courses without delving into some controversial subjects. In "Story E-- Teaching

Buddhism," for example, Gina discussed her rationale for including a demonstration of

meditation practices in a unit on Eastern philosophies: "So, I thought I would try to show

students how to use some of these ideas, rather than just treating them as if they were just some

dry, abstract thing." In this case, Gina imagined that this choice was beyond reproach as it fit so

neatly into the curriculum in her course in World History. This turned out to be a naive hope as

she was ridiculed for the choice by students, parents and colleagues alike.

At the same time, several teachers offered up the time pressures created by standards

reform as an excuse for not doing more to enrich the curricula of their classes. When a student

complained about the lack of material for Black History Month, Frank claimed, "I don't have

enough time to take a month, or even a week, out to satisfy every different interest group and

still prepare them for this test, and that's my main job." The curricular narrowing and focus on

academics in the current accountability regime was a common theme among these teachers. In

his narrative "Story C--It Gets Very Vocational," Eric commented on a course outline for an

elective in Economics that included some practical instruction on household budgeting,

checkbook management and job interviewing that was rejected by a department head as too

vocational in focus:









and pedantic rules--the need for a three ring binder and college-ruled paper, for example--by

describing her arts students: "A lot of these kids just walk around in a kind of cloud all day long,

they're up there and I need to bring them back down to earth." Asked if she encountered any

resistance to these rules and regulations in her classroom, Donna provided the resolution to the

piece:

Donna B-5. I don't take a lot of guff about it, either they do it my way or there's going to
be trouble, I tell them that. My way or else, because if you start getting into arguments
and accommodations with these kids they'll run away with you.

In the end, the tone of Donna's narrative--"They Need Structure"--suggested her

justification for her "tough love" approach and toward a group of students for whom she cares

deeply and yet considers incapable of developing meaning for themselves without the aid of a

structured academic program.

Eric: It Gets Very Vocational

When asked to provide a syllabus for this project, Eric elected to present a syllabus that

he had created for his elective course in Economics. Like most of the participants, Eric began his

discussion by outlining his reasoning for organizing the course in the way that he has chosen. In

his orientation section to "Story C--It Gets Very Vocational," Eric explained his preference for

using experiential, project-based lessons:

Eric C-2. I like to think that students learn more from rolling up their sleeves and wading
in the material. Sure, I can lecture about how Wall Street works and I do as a way to
prepare them for the game, but it's through buying and selling stocks and checking their
values every day in the paper and competing with each other that they get a sense of the
system and how it works. I do a lot of project based stuff. I do the standard stock market
game in the second half of the course.

When asked whether he had considered more practical exercises in household finance

that might relate to more students than does a stock market game, Eric demurred, explaining in a

statement that forms the abstract for the narrative that those exercises might be more suitable for









conscious of not offending anyone, because I've got in a typical class, a Southern Baptist kid

next to a Hindu kid next to a Pentecostal kid." While sensitivity is indeed paramount in teaching

today, this position seems to preclude the possibility of candidly addressing issues of interest to

students in an open forum.

Given the context of teaching in an era of heightened sensitivity, it is not surprising that a

position of fear pervaded many of the conversations I had with teachers for this study. Several

teachers were aware of national and local incidents, such as the ones profiled earlier in this

chapter, in which teachers had been disciplined for taking risks with their instructional practice.

In a fascinating narrative, Gina described the current practice of social studies instruction as a

"minefield." She commented that, "I don't start out expecting to do controversial work every day,

I don't want to get fired .. ." Despite participants' claims to the contrary, fear seems to be a

significant factor when it comes to decisions about how to present controversial public issues.

Finally, a handful of the teachers who participated in this study indicated a position of

curriculum focus, often hiding behind curricular issues and time pressures as they presented

rationales for not including more controversial teaching in their practice. When challenged by a

student to include more material on Black History, for example, Frank responded that, "I don't

have enough time to take a month or even a week out to satisfy every different interest group

. and still prepare them for this test, and that's my main job." This position appears to be

particularly common among those teachers whose principal teaching load involves Advanced

Placement courses; however, in an age of high-stakes testing, the focus on narrow curricular

matters at the expense of more enriching discussions is something that afflicts all teachers.

In the following chapter, I attempt to synthesize the findings from this study,

concentrating on the three main areas of convergence--conceptions, experiences, and positions--









Donna explained the reasons behind her reluctance to admit her political allegiance to her

students, despite frequent entreaties from them to do so. In the abstract to the narrative, Donna

commented that:

Donna D-1. I would never say that in front of a class, and not because I would get into
trouble, which I probably would, but because it would be a violation of trust. I'm not sure
that I could ever get that trust back.

In this statement, Donna indicated that building relationships of trust is of utmost

importance to her teaching practice. This position came from an understanding that she had

developed over the years about the role that teachers play in their students' lives. In the

orientation segment of the narrative, she elaborated on this understanding:

Donna D-2. Well, you have to know as a teacher that kids will ask you anything, just
anything. And most of it is innocent, they just want to find out as much about you as they
can, as you're willing to let them know. Because they're curious, they're at that stage
where they're still just sponges for information, taking everything in, and you're just this
huge part of their lives.

Asked why this is the case, Donna commented that, "You may actually be the only adult

who cares about them, that's the scary thing." This understanding also reflects Donna's

background in counseling and social work. She extended this argument by stating that, "They

may come from households where either the adults aren't around or they aren't talking to the

kids because they're too busy or they don't care." When I asked her for an example of an issue

that she would be unwilling to discuss with her students, Donna illustrated this position by

talking about her support of reproductive rights:

Donna D-3. For example, I have a lot of kids who are pro-life and they care
tremendously about the issue. And I'm pro-choice and I care about it too because I
remember a time when abortion was still illegal and having an unwanted, unplanned
pregnancy was a disaster, a scandal. I know I'm dating myself with that. But I think that's
one of the big advances for my generation that we made abortion safe, legal and rare.

Donna imagined that her students who did not share her opinion on an issue about which

they have intense emotional feelings would be disappointed to find out that a teacher whom they













Table 7-1. Controversial Issues

Issue Adam Ben Cathy Donna Eric Frank Gina

Bush D E E D B, E, F A, B, C B, F

Religion A D A, D A E E

Race B, C D B C C A, F

Iraq A E E E B

Abortion A A, D A, C

GLBT A A A D

9/11 D E E

Sex ed. A A

Slavery B C

Drugs G

Economy C

Sexism F

Holocaust B

Testing F

Colonialism E

Communism D

Vietnam B

WWI B

Modem art C, D

Beat poetry E

NCLB C

Death pen. C

Ecology C

Schiavo C

Note. The letters correspond with the narratives in which the factors were mentioned.


196









struggles for the rights to speech, assembly and intellectual autonomy belies this assumption.

Indeed, the credo that undergirds Americans' faith in the immutability of representative

government is also frequently undermined by the very words of the Founding Fathers of that

system of government. For example, as Parenti (1983) quoted him, John Jay once declared that,

"The people who own the country ought to govern it" (p. 6). Alexander Hamilton shared this

elitist political philosophy:

The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this
maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and
changing; they seldom judge or determine right. (as cited in Lodge, 1904, p. 401)

Given these sentiments, I argue that academic freedom--like other bourgeois, democratic

liberties--is best understood not as a gift from above guaranteed by constitutional documents, but

rather as the result of centuries of political struggle and subject to continual flux. If viewed in

such a way, academic freedom thus becomes a goal to be fought for and to maintain through

active engagement rather than a right that can be passively counted upon in times of need. In

addition, the right to academic freedom is neither consistent nor inconsistent with the major

narratives of American public schooling, or schooling in other nations for that matter; rather, it

exists on a separate plain, often buffeted by the prevailing imperatives of education as a means of

facilitating assimilation, industrialization, modernization or promotion of national security. As

we have seen in stark relief in the past 6 years, individual civil liberties often suffer at moments

of national crises, and academic freedom has certainly been no exception to this rule. Bracey

(2002) urged us to be wary of such a discourse of crisis, "because each time the United States

faces a social crisis of some kind, the schools get blamed for it" (p. 44). By reviewing the

literature related to the history of academic freedom, I hope to shed some light on the varying

conceptions of this vital right for teachers and to recommend measures for its protection in the

future.









Frank: GSA

Frank is the only one of the 7 participant-teachers whose narratives spoke to the reality of

dealing with controversial topics outside of the traditional classroom setting. In "Story A--GSA,"

he spoke about his tenure as the faculty sponsor at Riverview Arts Academy (RAA) for the Gay

Straight Alliance (GSA), a nationwide support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and

transgendered students and their straight friends and supporters. In his abstract, Frank mentioned

that this experience stems from the demographics of RAA: "We've got a lot of gay and lesbian

students here, probably because of the arts focus, that's the stereotype but there's some truth to

that." In the orientation segment of the narrative, Frank discussed how he was approached to

sponsor the group:

Frank A-2. So, one of the first years I was here, a group of students asked me to sponsor
the Gay Straight Alliance chapter here at Riverview. When I was first asked, I didn't
have professional status and I was still single so I told them thanks but no thanks. I
helped them find someone else to sponsor them for a few years, to get the group going
and I attended some of their events to let them know that I supported what they were
doing.

In indicating that his decision to decline the students' offer at first was due to his lack of

tenure and marital status, Frank underscored the precariousness of the novice teacher's

employment status today. In the complicating action to the narrative, he addressed his decision to

become a sponsor after a colleague's retirement: "By then, I'd been married, I had a conversation

with my wife about it, and she encouraged me to take it on." Asked why this changed his mind,

he briefly referred to the irony of "all of these Republican politicians who are married and turn

out gay," but insisted that "just having the ring on helps." Interestingly, it appeared that his main

concern is not the reaction of parents and students, but rather that of his colleagues:

Frank A-3. Oh, this is funny, the first year that we entered a float in the Homecoming
parade, I was sitting in the faculty lounge and there was a list of participating groups that
was tacked up on the bulletin board and one of the old guys in the math department said
something like, "Gay Straight Alliance? Who's the sponsor of that group?"









with which they engage in the course of making decisions about teaching controversial subject

matter, with the ideal theoretical foundation.

Research Settings

Duval County, Florida in many ways represents a microcosm of the United States past,

present, and future. The county, which comprises metropolitan Jacksonville, offers many of the

perplexing issues of inner-city blight and suburban sprawl that confound urban planners across

the country. At the same time, it includes several rural areas that reflect the conservative values

and political inclinations that recall the heyday of the Pork Chop Gang, a North-central Florida

alliance that virtually controlled Florida politics until the civil rights movement and

reapportionment in the 1960s. As such, Duval County is ideally suited for an exploration of the

myriad issues involving the teaching of controversial subject matter.

Duval County, originally founded in 1822 from a section of St. John's County and named

for former Florida Governor William Pope Duval, includes the largest geographical spread of

any urban county in the United States, covering a territory from the Suwannee River on the west

to the Atlantic Ocean on the east, north of a line from the mouth of the Suwannee River to

Jacksonville on the St. John's River (Gold, 1928). For the students of public school magnet

programs, such as the two included in this project--Orange Park College Preparation School and

Riverview Arts Academy--this urban sprawl has important implications, as students are typically

either bused into their neighborhood schools and then again out to these magnet high schools or

are transported by parents or guardians.

The most recent census data (United States Census Bureau, 2000) indicated that Duval

County includes 778,879 people, 303,747 households, and 201,688 families residing in the

county, with a relatively low population density for an urban space of 1,007 people per square

mile. The racial makeup of the county consists of slightly more than 65% of people of White-









introduce the case of six African Americans from Jena, Louisiana who were arrested after a

physical altercation that stemmed from their reaction to a noose having been hung on a tree

overlooking a popular seating area on the high school campus. Donna reported that, "One thing I

did recently was to bring in an article about the Jena Six case for my Government class." In the

orientation section of the narrative, she explained how the choice of material affected an already

tense situation in her classroom:

Donna C-2. I brought in an article that I found in Rolling Stone magazine. Some kids,
mainly the music kids read it and I've always found that the political articles are pretty
good, there's usually at least one big investigative piece and that was true of this one. It
was about four or five pages long, pretty dense. I should have given them more time with
it. But I brought in copies for discussion and I broke them up into groups, like a Jigsaw,
to discuss different parts of the article.

In this statement, Donna exhibited the ability to reflect on the nature of her preparation

and design of the lesson and concluded that more scaffolding might have helped her students--"I

should have given them more time with it (the article)." During the course of the group work

section of the lesson, a furious reaction to the article erupted in the classroom. As Donna

described it: "I was just monitoring the work as usual and it just exploded with noise." Donna

continued in the complicating action segment of the narrative to detail her response to the

escalating situation:

Donna C-3. It just started with something relatively simple and small. One white student
had noticed that the author had used a lowercase "w" for the word "white" and a capital
"B" for "Black" in the article. And he had yelled across the room to another friend and
mentioned it and it spread on and on. So, at a certain point, I had to rein them in and
bring it back to a big group discussion and air the different views. One black student
offered to manage the discussion but I told her that I thought it was a really bad idea. But
the atmosphere was electric in the classroom. Electric. It just seemed as if the atmosphere
in the room, just everything, was really tense and I worried about how it