Handbook on Teaching Social Issues

2nd edition

Edited by:
Ronald W. Evans, San Diego State University

Published 2021

The Handbook on Teaching Social Issues, 2nd edition, provides teachers and teacher educators with a comprehensive guide to teaching social issues in the classroom. This second edition re-frames the teaching of social issues with a dedicated emphasis on issues of social justice. It raises the potential for a new and stronger focus on social issues instruction in schools. Contributors include many of the leading experts in the field of social studies education.

Issues-centered social studies is an approach to teaching history, government, geography, economics and other subject related courses through a focus on persistent social issues. The emphasis is on problematic questions that need to be addressed and investigated in-depth to increase social understanding, active participation, and social progress. Questions or issues may address problems of the past, present, or future, and involve disagreement over facts, definitions, values, and beliefs arising in the study of any of the social studies disciplines, or other aspects of human affairs. The authors and editor believe that this approach should be at the heart of social studies instruction in schools.


"At a time when even the world’s most stable democracies are backsliding towards autocratic rule, Ronald Evans has pulled together an essential guide for teachers who want to do something about it. The 2nd edition of the Handbook on Teaching Social Issues is a brilliant and timely collection that should be the constant companion for teachers across the disciplines."
Joel Westheimer
University Research Chair in Democracy and Education
University of Ottawa

"The Handbook on Teaching Social Issues (2nd edition) is a fantastic resource for teachers, teacher educators, and professional development specialists who are interested in ensuring that social issues are at the center of the curriculum. The chapters are focused on the most important contemporary thinking about what social issues are, why they are so important for young people to learn about, and what research indicates are the most effective pedagogical approaches. The wide-ranging theoretical and practical expertise of the editor and all of the chapter authors account for why this handbook makes such an exceptional contribution to our understanding of how and why the social issues approach is so important and stimulating."
Diana Hess
Dean, UW-Madison School of Education
Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education

"Democracy, both as a form of governance and a reservoir of principles and practices, faces an existential threat. The Handbook on Teaching Social Issues is a perfectly-timed and wonderfully engaging exploration of what lies at the heart of social studies curriculum: social inquiry for democratic life. The authors provide conceptual frames, classroom strategies and deep insights about the complex and utterly crucial work of education for democratic citizenship. Education like that conceptualized and described in this volume is a curative so needed at this critical moment. Ron Evans and his colleagues have delivered, assembling an outstanding set of contributions to the field. The Handbook underscores John Dewey's now-haunting invocation that democracy must be renewed with each generation and an education worthy of its name is the handmaiden of democratic rebirth."
William Gaudelli
Dean and Professor
Lehigh University

"This volume is so timely and relevant for democratic education. Instead of retreating to separate ideological corners, the authors in this handbook invite us to engage in deliberative discourse that requires civic reasoning and often requires us to meet in a place that serves us all."
Gloria Ladson-Billings, Professor Emerita
Department of Curriculum & Instruction
University of Wisconsin
President, National Academy of Education
Fellow, AERA, AAAS, and Hagler Institute @ Texas A&M

"At the heart of our divisive political and social climate is the need to understand and provide clarity over polarizing concepts. Historically, confusion and resistance has hindered the nation's growth as a democratic nation. Typically, the most vulnerable in our society has suffered the most from our unwillingness to reconceptualize society. The Handbook on Teaching Social Issues, 2nd edition, is a good step in helping social studies educators, students, and laypersons realize a new society that focuses on equity. With over 30 chapters, Ronald Evans and his colleagues' centered inquiry, critical thinking, controversy, and action to challenge ideologies and connect social studies to student's lives and the real world. The first edition helped me as a young social studies teacher; I am excited to use the 2nd edition with my teacher education students!"
LaGarrett King
Isabella Wade Lyda and Paul Lyda Professor of Education
Founding Director, CARTER Center for K-12 Black history education
University of Missouri

"Ronald Evans has curated a collection of informative contributions that will serve as an indispensable resource for social studies educators committed to engaging their students in the thoughtful examination of social issues. The Handbook on Teaching Social Issues, 2nd edition, articulates the historical, definitional, and conceptual foundations of social issues education. It offers clear presentations of general guidelines for unit planning, discussion methods, and assessment. It identifies specific teaching strategies, resources, and sample lessons for investigating a range of persistent and contemporary social issues on the elementary, middle, and secondary levels through the social studies disciplines. Updated with perspectives on education for social justice that have emerged since the first edition, this edition effectively situates social issues education in the contemporary sociopolitical milieu. The Handbook on Teaching Social Issues, is a timely, accessible, and practical guide to involving students in a vital facet of citizenship in a democracy."
William G. Wraga, Professor
Dean’s Office
Mary Frances Early College of Education
University of Georgia

"The Handbook on Teaching Social Issues, 2nd edition is a long-awaited, welcome, and timely volume. It is apparent that the foundational tenets of the first edition have served social studies professionals well over the past 25 years, given the growth of social issues scholarship showcased in this new edition. Notable is the re-framing and presentation here of scholarship through a social justice lens. I appreciate the offering of unique tools on an array of specific, critical topics that fill gaps in our pedagogical content knowledge. This volume will sit right alongside my dog-eared 1996 edition and fortify many methods courses, theses, and dissertations to come. Sincere thanks to the editor and authors for what I am certain will be an enduring, catalyzing contribution."
Nancy C. Patterson
Professor of Education
Social Studies Content Area Coordinator
Bowling Green State University

"The Handbook on Teaching Social Issues is a tool that every informed social studies educator should have in their instructional repertoire. Helping students understand how to investigate and take action against problems is essential to developing a better world. The articles in this handbook provide explanations and reasonings behind issues-centered education as well as strategies to employ at every age level of learning. I look forward to using this edition with the K-12 social studies teachers in my district in order to better prepare our students for future learning and living."
Kelli Hutt, Social Studies Curriculum Facilitator
Dallas Center-Grimes CSD
Grimes, Iowa

"Ron Evans has chosen an appropriate time to create a companion publication to the first Handbook on Teaching Social Issues published in 1996. During the last few years, social studies teachers have been confronted by student inquiries on a plethora of historical and contemporary issues that implores for the implementation of an interdisciplinary approach to the teaching of anthropology, economics, geography, government, history, sociology, and psychology in order for students to make sense of the world around them and develop their own voices. This demands a student centered focus in the classroom where problematic questions must be addressed and investigated in depth in order to increase social understanding and active participation toward social progress. This volume provides crucial upgrades to the original handbook including a greater emphasis on teaching issues in the elementary grades, the inclusion of issues pertaining to human rights, genocide and sustainability to be addressed in the secondary grades, and addressing issues related to disabilities."
Mark Previte, Associate Professor of Secondary Education
University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown
Chair, NCSS Issues Centered Education Community

An Introduction to Teaching Social Issues, Ronald W. Evans. Acknowledgments. PART I: RE-FRAMING THE TEACHING OF SOCIAL ISSUES. The Struggle for Democratic Schooling: A Brief History of Issues-Centered Education, Ronald W. Evans. “How Could We Solve That Problem?” Cultivating a Healthy Democracy Through Democratic Classrooms, Quentin Wheeler-Bell and Katy Swalwell. The Subjectivity of Openness: Framing Social Issues in K–12 Education, Wayne Journell. Academic Freedom and Issues-Based Social Education, Jack L. Nelson. PART II: CRITICAL SOCIAL ISSUES IN THE CURRICULUM. Critical Peace Theory and the Deconstruction of Systemic Economic Inequality, Matt Dingler and Jason L. Endacott. Black Gendered Lives Matter Everywhere: An Intersectional and Global Approach to Understanding Anti-Black Racism, Racial Violence, and Black Resistance, Christopher Busey and Carolyn Silva. Teaching About the Controversy of Confederate Monuments in the South, Jeremiah Clabough, Jim Nunez, and Rebecca Macon Bidwell. Teaching Social Issues Through Ethnic Studies: Centering Race and Social Activism, Miguel Zavala and Jose Paolo Magcalas. Teaching Women’s History, Gender Equity, and Cultural Norms in the #MeToo Era, Chara Haeussler Bohan and Sonya Kay Miller. The Consequences of Whistleblowing and the Pedagogy of Citizenship, Matthew S. Hollstein and Alan Chu. Bespoke Colonialism: Teaching About the U.S. Territories, Thomas Misco. PART III: IN A DISCIPLINARY VEIN: SOCIAL ISSUES IN THE SUBJECT AREAS. Using Ephemera, Monuments, and Museums to Teach Controversial Social Issues, Sarah J. Kaka and Katherine Glenn-Applegate. “We Are Still Here”: Avoiding Erasure and Misrepresentation of Native People in K–12 Classroom Instruction, Lindsay Stallones Marshall and Kelsey Dayle John. Engaging White Privilege, Racial Injustice, and Systemic Oppression in the Canon and Young Adult Literature, Ashley S. Boyd. Socio-Scientific Issues-Based Instruction: The Case of Fracking as a Controversial Environmental Issue, Matthew S. Hollstein and Frans H. Doppen. PART IV: YOU DO ISSUES AND INQUIRY WITH KIDS? SOCIAL ISSUES AND INQUIRY LEARNING IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS. Curricular, Interactional, and Pedagogical Spaces for Social Inquiry With Young Children, Katherina Payne and Katy Swalwell. Searching for Sarah Rector: Teacher Candidates Exploring Gender, Race, and Local History for Elementary Classrooms, Kristy Brugar. LGBTQ+-Themed Literature, Close Reading, and Text-Based Writing in the Primary Grades, John H. Bickford III and Devanne Lawson. PART V: THE HEAVY TOPICS: HUMAN RIGHTS, GENOCIDE, SUSTAINABILITY. Human Rights Education and Issues-Centered Social Studies, Gloria T. Alter and William R. Fernekes. The Violation of Human Rights During Wartime: Teaching About the “Comfort Women” of World War II and Their Search for Justice, Sunghee Shin, Beverly Milner (Lee) Bisland, and Jimin Kim. Genocide Education, Samuel Totten. Teaching the Social Issues of (Un)Sustainable Living, Jay M. Shuttleworth. Who Builds the Desert? Exploring “Just” Sustainability in the Arabian Gulf Through Issues-Based Inquiry, Karen S. Barton. PART VI: ON WHY AND HOW: METHODS FOR TEACHING SOCIAL ISSUES. Teaching Social Issues With Civic Action Research: Democracy as a Verb in Elementary, Middle, and High School, Beth C. Rubin. Discussion Methods for Teaching Social Issues, Steven Camicia. Essential Elements of Unit Design When Exploring Public Issues With Students, Joe Onosko, Michael Kopish, and Lee Swenson. Authentic Assessment of Social Issues Instruction: The Supreme Court as Exemplar for Pedagogy and Performance, Geoffrey Scheurman and David Gerwin. Teaching Social Issues With English Learners, Bárbara C. Cruz and Stephen J. Thornton. A Justice-Oriented Approach to Addressing Disability in Social Studies, Darren Minarik, Rebekah Grooten, and Timothy Lintner. Toward a Pedagogy of Dialogue for Online Teaching About Social Issues, Travis Logan Seay and Elizabeth Yeager Washington. PART VII: THE LATEST AND THE BEST RESOURCES AND MATERIALS. Resources and Materials for Teaching Social Issues, Elizabeth Osborne, Natasha C. Murray-Everett, and Tiffany Mitchell Patterson. About the Contributors.