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Grappling with the Good
Talking about Religion and Morality in Public Schools
Grappling with the Good
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Robert Kunzman - Author
SUNY series, The Philosophy of Education
Price: $95.00 
Hardcover - 182 pages
Release Date: February 2006
ISBN10: 0-7914-6685-X
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6685-8

Price: $31.95 
Paperback - 182 pages
Release Date: February 2006
ISBN10: 0-7914-6686-8
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6686-5

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2007 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

Asks whether public schools can and should help students discuss moral disagreements, even when religion is involved.

Weaving together history, philosophy, and curriculum, Grappling with the Good offers a vision of public education in which students learn to engage respectfully with the diversity of beliefs about how to live together in society. Robert Kunzman argues that we can and should help students learn how to talk about religion and morality, and bring together our differing visions of life. He describes how such an approach might work in the K–12 setting, explores central philosophical principles, and shares his ongoing experiences and insights in helping students to “grapple with the good.”

“This is a book that all teachers and preservice teachers should read … [It] will enable and encourage teachers to facilitate Ethical Dialogue in their own classrooms.” — Teachers College Record

“This is a book of great significance and originality. In an age of increasing religious diversity, Kunzman provides a powerful argument that public schools should renounce the neutrality or hands-off doctrine that has characterized their attitude toward religion since the 1950s. Kunzman writes like a dream, with a no-nonsense style that is exceptionally clear and concise for a work that covers extremely difficult ideas.” — Rob Reich, author of Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in American Education

“Clear, well researched, and well argued, this book makes a strong case for broader and deeper discussion of ethical issues in our classroom. Personal religious frameworks and their compatibility with broader civic life are discussed in a particularly sensitive and nuanced way.” — Peter Volker, Columbus Public Schools

Robert Kunzman is Associate Professor of Education at Indiana University at Bloomington and a public high school teacher.

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Table of Contents


1. Introduction

A Definition of “Ethical Education”: More Than Morals
The Focus of This Book
The Structure of This Book
A Learning Process

2. Evading the Ethical: How We Got Here

Tracing the Path to Ambivalence
Colonial Origins and Ethical Assumptions
Common Schools in Search of Common Ethics
The Gradual Shift toward Civic Religion
The Emerging Wall of Separation
Ethical Education on the Secular Side of the Wall
From Entanglement to Engagement

3. Why Religion Belongs in Ethical Dialogue

Moral Respect As a Foundation for Ethical Dialogue
Understanding As Vital for Respect
Understanding Projects Involves Evaluating Them
Respectful Understanding As a Moral, Not Instrumental, Claim
The Link between Project Pursuit and Broader Ethical Frameworks
The Implications for Curricula and Pedagogy
Religious Frameworks and Secular Worldviews: Is There a Difference?
America’s Religious Landscape
Ethical Dialogue and Rooted Religious Identity

4. Imaginative Engagement with Ethical Difference

A Deeper Sense of Appreciation
Our Capacity for Empathic Understanding
Stirring the Ethical Imagination
Combining Head and Heart
Imaginative Engagement: The Groundwork of Deliberation

5. Grappling in the Classroom I: Civic Deliberation

The Big(ger) Tent of the Civic Sphere
Qualities of Deliberative Reason
Alternatives to Deliberative Reasoning
Deliberative Reasoning in the Classroom
A Portrait of Ethical Dialogue

6. Grappling in the Classroom II: The Role of Religion

Religion in the Civic Realm
Can Religion Be Reasonable?
Fallibilism and Ethical Adherence
Civic Virtue: Beyond Proceduralism
A Final Portrait of Classroom Deliberation

7. Preparing Teachers for Ethical Dialogue

Teacher Capacity for Ethical Dialogue
Professional Commitment to Ethical Dialogue
Collaboration As Central to Professional Development

8. Conclusion


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