Book talk: How to handle student hate speech and other dilemmas of today’s classrooms with State Sen. Patricia Jehlen

Marya Levenson and Jacob Fay of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and State Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) will discuss tough dilemmas that teachers and other educators face today, in a conversation at Porter Square Books on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 pm.
Their book, Dilemmas of Educational Ethics, uses case studies to shed light on real-life problems that teachers and parents must respond to.
Levinson and Fay will focus on a case study titled “Walling Off or Welcoming In”: A seventh grader whose family voted for Trump is ostracized by her friends, and first graders use playtime to build a wall to “keep the Mexicans out.” A parent-teacher committee debates what to do: Should they censor students, or even report students for bullying, when they repeat ideas they hear from political leaders? How should they draw the line between freedom of speech and speech that qualifies as bullying or harassment? Residents are invited to attend for what will undoubtedly be an interesting and thought-provoking conversation!
The book also deals with broader policy issues:
How should teachers proceed with a student who has not come close to meeting the requirements for eighth grade, but who will predictably drop out if she is held back?
Should a high-achieving, “no excuses” charter school be required to reduce its well-above-average attrition rates as a condition of having its charter renewed if its academic success rests in part on students’ and families’ compliance with its expectations?
What should be done about a student with diagnosed impulse control issues who benefits from being mainstreamed in her wealthy suburban school, but who also frequently disrupts class and increases everyone’s stress level even when she is under control? 
These decisions are both utterly ordinary and immensely challenging. They are everyday dilemmas, not exotic, abstract problems. But educators and policymakers generally receive little support in thinking through them other than as technocratic challenges—especially in the current context of global education reform. These decisions are treated as challenges of compliance, leadership, communication, data analysis, student support, or instruction. They are rarely treated as challenges of justice, as ethical conundrums that require educators and policymakers to think carefully about who is owed what, why, by whom, and under what circumstances.
Dilemmas of Educational Ethics is published by Harvard Education Press.

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