The Beutelsbach Consensus – the approach to controversial issues in Germany in an international context

Anders Stig Christensen, Tilman Grammes

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftsartikelForskningpeer review


In the German tradition of politische Bildung, the Beutelsbach Consensus has been a point of reference since its introduction in 1976. The Consensus consists of three principles. The principle that “Matters which are controversial in scholarship and political affairs should also be presented as controversial in the classroom” is at the center. It is framed by two other principles, the prohibition against overwhelming the student (also referred to as ban on indoctrination) and the principle of giving weight to the personal interests of students (principle of engagement and action). In this article, we discuss the Beutelsbach principles along with criteria for controversiality taken from Anglophone theory of education. These include among others an emotional principle, and a psychological principle. The principles are discussed with two cases – one from Denmark and one from Germany. In the discussion, we show how these principles are relevant as theoretical tools in the analysis of the cases. It is an important task for the teachers and the school to provide opportunities for the students to engage in deliberation on controversial issues, but it is not a simple task to decide which issues are relevant and controversial, and in what sense. The discussion also shows that the Anglophone discussion of controversial issues and the German tradition of politische Bildung discuss similar issues and could gain from more interaction. As a conclusion, we point to the relevance of the Beutelsbach principles being not only a tool of Didaktik, but also a tool for the student in order to achieve the ideal of a democratic education.
TidsskriftActa Didactica Norge - nasjonalt tidsskrift for fagdidaktisk forsknings- og utviklingsarbeid
Udgave nummer4
Antal sider19
StatusUdgivet - 2020


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