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Teaching for Dissent: Citizenship Education and Political Activism, Sarah M. Stitzlein

Reviewed by Ian Macmullen



Guided by a pragmatist ideal of deliberative, inclusive, and participatory democracy, Sarah Stitzlein argues that “American children have the right to an education that cultivates the skills and dispositions of dissent” (p. 77). By this she means two different things, although she rarely highlights the distinction between them. Children should be taught both (how) to think critically about their society’s existing political arrangements and (how) to advocate for change when they judge those arrangements to be defective. The first of these claims is commonly made by theorists of liberal democratic civic education. Stitzlein repeatedly acknowledges the work of Harry Brighouse without ever explaining how her call for civic education to promote critical thinking differs from his position. And she seems to believe (wrongly) that all other liberal theorists of education are concerned only with teaching children to think critically about personal (as distinct from political) matters (p. 87).

The book’s real contribution lies in its argument for teaching all children (how) to articulate dissenting views and engage in reformā€oriented (collective) civic action. Chapter 3 identifies and analyzes four types of dissent(er), and Stitzlein’s book is most valuable when it spotlights the ski

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