University of Oulu

Kauppi, V.-M., & Drerup, J. (2021). Discussion and inquiry: A Deweyan perspective on teaching controversial issues. Theory and Research in Education, 19(3), 213–234.

Discussion and inquiry : a Deweyan perspective on teaching controversial issues

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Author: Kauppi, Veli-Mikko1; Drerup, Johannes2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Finland
2Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany; Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: SAGE Publications, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-12-07


There is a steady line of academic discourse around the topic of controversial issues and how to approach them in and through education. In this line of discourse, discussion is widely seen as a primary method of democratic education that is especially suitable to foster its major educational aims, such as tolerance, reciprocal respect, or political autonomy. The aim of this contribution is to show that the widespread emphasis on the educational and political value of discussions as a way to handle controversial issues in education can be problematic and one-sided. It is argued that the focus on discussions sometimes tends to be interpreted as a ‘magic bullet’ to all different sorts of controversies, without sufficient inquiry into the details that make up the controversy. This uniform solution threatens to downplay and underestimates other relevant components which are essential for the intelligent handling of controversial issues, such as practices of inquiry. Instead of questioning the political value and central educational role of discussing controversial issues tout court, the contribution points out some of the blind spots of the current debate and thereby aims to broaden the spectrum of theoretical and practical perspectives on how to approach controversial issues in education.

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Series: Theory and research in education
ISSN: 1477-8785
ISSN-E: 1741-3192
ISSN-L: 1477-8785
Volume: 19
Issue: 3
Pages: 213 - 234
DOI: 10.1177/14778785211052199
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Kauppi’s work on this article has been supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2021. The final authenticated version is available online at