Teaching the Conflicts

In a classic work, Gerald Graff advised us to confront students with the fact that different scholars/disciplines often reach different conclusions. He argued persuasively that such an approach was essential to democratic citizenship: Citizens needed to know how to recognize and address differing lines of argument.

Students, Graff noted, can compartmentalize knowledge, and thus never consciously appreciate that their Economics and Political Science professors have reached opposing conclusions regarding the advisability of freer trade. These students may ace both final exams without being conscious that they gave different answers on each. One of the key purposes of General Education, then, is to encourage students not to compartmentalize knowledge in this way but to seek rather to draw connections across the courses they take in different disciplines (see Curricular Cohesion )

But students can become frustrated if exposed to conflicts but not the means to transcend these. If they become aware that their Economics and Political Science professors reached opposing conclusions, they may despair of reaching any educated conclusion about anything. It is thus dangerous to teach the conflicts without also teaching strategies for transcending such conflicts.  

We explore how students might (among other things) be taught the conflicts in Thematic Interdisciplinary Courses
We explore how to teach students how to integrate across differences in scholarly understanding in Teaching Interdisciplinary Integration


Gerald Graff, Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1992).
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