Democratizing Education: Moving from Discomfort to Action

By Scott Meyer, Leo Sandy and Krisan Evenson.

Published by The International Journal of Learner Diversity and Identities

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: December 8, 2014 $US5.00

We can best promote peace and social justice in classrooms when we understand and respectfully engage in cognitive conflict. The sociopolitical culture of the U.S. appears to socialize people to equate disagreement with disrespect instead of as a learning opportunity. The need for belongingness as a human trait is very powerful, and people avoid conflict when it poses a threat of rejection by others. A pedagogy of discomfort acknowledges this need and attempts to reconcile the need to belong and the need to engage in cognitive conflict. This is an especially important recognition for educational institutions: conflict can provide an opportunity for growth and change even though there is no guarantee that it always will. Shifting from a “pedagogy of comfort” to a “pedagogy of discomfort” requires a great deal of sensitivity, timing, skill, and courage. For this to happen, dialogue in a safe classroom climate is essential, regardless of the difficulty engaging in it. The endeavor appears pedagogically sound as it may enable students to critically examine ideas and positions to which they would otherwise not be exposed. Engaging discomfort can promote cognitive restructuring and an increasing awareness and ability and willingness to effect change in the world.

Keywords: Critical Thinking, Pedagogy of Comfort, Pedagogy of Discomfort, Cognitive Dissonance, Democratic Education, Student Activism, Controversy

The International Journal of Learner Diversity and Identities, Volume 21, Issue 1, December 2014, pp.13-30. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: December 8, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 557.593KB)).

Dr. Scott Meyer

Professor, Social Work Department, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, New Hampshire, USA

Dr. Leo Sandy

Professor, Counselor Education and School Psychology Department, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, New Hampshire, USA

Dr. Krisan Evenson

Adjunct Professor, History and Philosophy Department, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, New Hampshire, USA