How to Talk About Hot Topics on Campus: From Polarization to Moral Conversation
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More About This Title How to Talk About Hot Topics on Campus: From Polarization to Moral Conversation


How to Talk About Hot Topics on Campus fills a gap in the student services and teaching and learning literature by providing a resource that shows how to construct and carry out difficult conversations from various vantage points in the academy. It offers a theory-to-practice model of conversation for the entire college campus that will enable all constituencies to engage in productive and civil dialogue on the most difficult and controversial social, religious, political, and cultural topics.


Robert J. Nash is a professor in the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont. He has published eight books, as well as more than one hundred articles, book chapters, monographs, and book reviews in many of the leading journals in education at all levels. He is a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Religion & Education.

DeMethra LaSha Bradley is an assistant director for academic integrity in the Center for Student Ethics and Standards at the University of Vermont (UVM). She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at UVM. She is the co-author of several book chapters and has made various presentations at national conferences and universities across the United States.

Arthur W. Chickering is Special Assistant to the President of Goddard College in Vermont. He is the author of several Jossey-Bass books, including Education and Identity and Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education.




The Authors.

Part I: Laying the Theoretical Groundwork for Moral Conversation.

1. Igniting the Fire of Moral Conversation.

2. Promoting a Spirit of Pluralism on College Campuses.

Part II: Practicing the Moral Conversation.

3. A Faculty Member’s View on Moral Conversation from the Classroom (Robert J. Nash).

4. An Administrator’s View on Moral Conversation from the Division of Student Affairs (DeMethra LaSha Bradley).

5. A Senior Administrator’s Systemic View on Facilitating Moral Conversations Across Campus (Arthur W. Chickering).

Part III: Final Words on Moral Conversation.

6. Opportunities, Risks, and Caveats for Moral Conversation.

Appendix A: A Step-by-Step How-To Guide for Facilitators and Participants When Doing Moral Conversation (Robert J. Nash and Alissa B. Strong).

Appendix B: Additional Text References and Internet Resources.

Appendix C: Western Stereotypes About Islam from Both the Left and the Right (Robert J. Nash).

Appendix D: AWhole-Campus Teaching and Learning Rationale for Moral Conversation: Inspired by the 2004 NASPA Report Learning Reconsidered: A Campus-Wide Focus on the Student Experience(Robert J. Nash).

Appendix E: Naturalistic and Narrativistic Paradigms in Academia: Implications for Moral Conversation (Robert J. Nash).




"This book is an excellent read for faculty, staff, and students on any type of college campus….The real gem in this book is its framework on how to conduct conversations on controversial issues…While the authors focus moral conversations around pluralism, the premise of moral conversations could readily apply to interactions around governance, accountability, fiscal challenges, pedagogy, curriculum development, and other important issues that can be uncomfortable to discuss, cause participants to be disrespectful of differing opinions, and ultimately be divisive to a campus community."
Tracy M. Tyree, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs in "Community College Journal of Research and Practice," 32:9, 733-735

“I believe this is brilliant, timely and instructive book, not only for educators, but one that reaches across disciplines and functions in higher education and beyond for anyone that wants to improve the outcomes of their conversations about controversial topics…. It conveys the need to create spaces for these conversations on college campuses, but also instructs how to do it.
” – Andrea Silva McManus in Education Book Reviews ( and excerpted in ASA Chairlink, January 2009