Embracing Controversy

In 2016, the Foundation launched a pedagogical initiative to support the development and experimentation of methods and practical tools to discuss complex and divisive issues in school settings, taking into consideration the emotional implications of such issues.

While a number of debating tools exist and are practiced in educational environments, these traditional means do not specifically tackle current topics. Moreover, being based on reasoned and tempered debating, they fail to recognize the emotional ramifications of sensitive issues. The need for tools that also engage with emotions was demonstrated by the fact that in the past few years, controversial events and issues have provoked educators to independently put together recommendations to help their colleagues discuss difficult topics in the classroom.

Identifying this gap, the Foundation developed the Embracing Controversy project, focused on the question of how teachers can be prepared and supported to handle such topics in a constructive way, transforming controversial subjects into learning opportunities.

We launched three pilot-projects in Belgium, France, and Poland for (future) teachers and educators on how to debate with students on sensitive and/or controversial topics, taking the different contexts into consideration.

As a follow-up of this project we were involved in the organisation of a European working group meeting on this topic organised by the Flemish Peace Institute in May 2019.
This meeting facilitated a more in-depth, European exchange about the issue of dealing with controversy and polarisation in educational contexts sharing knowledge while at the same time exploring similarities and differences between European contexts.

Based on the discussions and the insights gained during this workshop Maarten Van Alstein, researcher at the Flemish Peace Institute reworked his text on dealing with controversy and polarisation in education and sent it to the participants for review.

In December 2019 his inspirational guide with suggestions for pedagogical practice was published on the website of the Flemish Peace Institute.

In 2016, the Foundation launched a pedagogical initiative to support the development and experimentation of methods and practical tools to discuss complex and divisive issues in school settings, taking into consideration the emotional implications of such issues.

While a number of debating tools exist and are practiced in educational environments, these traditional means do not specifically tackle current topics. Moreover, being based on reasoned and tempered debating, they fail to recognize the emotional ramifications of sensitive issues. The need for tools that also engage with emotions was demonstrated by the fact that in the past few years, controversial events and issues have provoked educators to independently put together recommendations to help their colleagues discuss difficult topics in the classroom.

Identifying this gap, the Foundation developed the Embracing Controversy project, focused on the question of how teachers can be prepared and supported to handle such topics in a constructive way, transforming controversial subjects into learning opportunities.

We launched three pilot-projects in Belgium, France, and Poland for (future) teachers and educators on how to debate with students on sensitive and/or controversial topics, taking the different contexts into consideration.

As a follow-up of this project we were involved in the organisation of a European working group meeting on this topic organised by the Flemish Peace Institute in May 2019.
This meeting facilitated a more in-depth, European exchange about the issue of dealing with controversy and polarisation in educational contexts sharing knowledge while at the same time exploring similarities and differences between European contexts.

Based on the discussions and the insights gained during this workshop Maarten Van Alstein, researcher at the Flemish Peace Institute reworked his text on dealing with controversy and polarisation in education and sent it to the participants for review.

In December 2019 his inspirational guide with suggestions for pedagogical practice was published on the website of the Flemish Peace Institute.