Diana Hess

Immigration. Gun control. Abortion. Gay rights. Religion. Are these and other polarizing topics too controversial to be discussed in today’s high school classrooms?

According to Diana Hess (PhD '98), co-winner of the 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education, teachers should encourage conversations about difficult political issues because that’s the very nature of a democratic education and those discussions help students understand diverse points of view and become more politically engaged adults.

Hess, who earned her doctorate from the University of Washington College of Education, and Paula McAvoy’s 2014 book The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education explores the role of teachers in perpetuating serious, thoughtful political deliberation in schools.

Hess is dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she also holds the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education.

The book is based on a four-year study of 35 teachers and their 1,000-plus students. The authors' analysis included 21 schools representing all points on the political spectrum. Hess and McAvoy provided compelling case studies that showcased the power of the deliberative process in helping students hone thinking, reasoning and communication skills as they examined the question: “How should we live together?”

“This honor means so much to us — in large part because it reinforces the important role that research plays in building ideas that can influence how schools take up the important role of civic education,” said Hess, a student of UW Professor Walter Parker, who wrote her doctoral dissertation on discussing public issues in secondary social studies classrooms.

Hess also received the American Educational Research Association's 2016 Outstanding Book Award for The Political Classroom.

Information from this story is adapted from a University of Louisville news release authored by Kim Butterweck.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu