Research News

UW-Madison’s Hess, McAvoy visit Louisville to receive Grawemeyer Award in Education

May 18, 2017

UW-Madison’s Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy were recognized in April as co-winners of the 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education, a prestigious honor that includes a $100,000 prize.

The Grawemeyer Awards program pays tribute to the power of creative ideas, emphasizing the impact a single idea can have on the world.

Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy
Dean Diana Hess (left) and Paula McAvoy pose for a
photo at the Grawemeyer Awards Dinner on
April 20 in Louisville. (Photo courtesy of the
Grawemeyer Awards and University of Louisville
Hess and McAvoy, who were announced as winners of the award back in December, visited Louisville last month to take part in an Awards Dinner on April 20. While in Louisville, the two also presented free lectures about their award-winning ideas and discussed controversial political issues with students during a visit to Central High School.

Hess and McAvoy received the Grawemeyer Award in Education for their efforts to explore the role of teachers in perpetuating serious, thoughtful political deliberation in schools during these politically charged times. The two co-authored the award-winning 2014 book, “The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education.”

Hess and McAvoy explain that teachers in the classroom should encourage conversations about difficult issues -– whether it’s immigration, gun control, abortion, gay rights, religion or any other hot-button topic. Such discourse, they argue, is at the heart of a democratic education and these discussions help students understand diverse points of view and become more politically engaged adults.

Hess is dean of the School of Education and holds the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education at UW-Madison, while McAvoy is program director of the Center for Ethics and Education and an alumna of the School of Education.

During their visit to Central High School, a seemingly simple fill-in-the-blank exercise, “When I think about American politics I feel ________ because ________,” kindled discussion among the students, a Grawemeyer news report explains.

Diana Hess
Dean Diana Hess listens to students at Central
High School during a visit to Louisville in April.
(Photo courtesy of the Grawemeyer Awards and
University of Louisville
Under Hess and McAvoy’s guidance, the conversation grew into a lively debate that spurred the school’s library media specialist, Lynn Reynolds, to note: “You have opposing views and you didn’t get mad! You listened to the different sides … You’ll be active citizens. You’ll be the example.”

Hope for a better tomorrow and the belief that ideas have the power to change the world prompted H. Charles Grawemeyer to establish in 1984 the awards program that bears his name. Since then, more than $14 million has been awarded to 148 winners across five fields: music composition, political science, education, religion and psychology.

To read more about Hess and McAvoy’s visit to Central High School in Louisville, check out this news report, which also includes a video interview with the duo.

The Grawemeyer Awards also posted photos from Hess and McAvoy’s lecture and the session at Central High School.

A video of their lecture and a video news story of Hess and McAvoy’s visit to Central High School also is available via YouTube.