Why must educators stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice?

I believe that educators naturally play a large role in standing up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. I strongly feel this is something educators do on a daily basis and may not even realize it. Educators are the first line of defense when it comes to educating our youth about society, the way it functions, and what should and should not be acceptable. The article Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education? states, “It is our job as educators to help children understand the concepts of Human rights education (HRE) refers broadly to education and training that aims to contribute to the building of a universal culture of human rights through teaching about human rights and fundamental freedoms.” (Struthers 2016,p.131).  If we educate our children on topics such as human rights, and the culture behind that topic, we begin to get their minds thinking and developing on such a concept. If we do this at the right age, it will likely stick with them, and they will carry these opinions and ideas into society when they are grown. This is the first step in making a change, we cannot expect people to push for change if they are not educated on what is going on around them. That is why it is crucial for educators to start with the children.

By teaching students about issues like injustice, prejudice, and exclusion, not only are we exposing these issues early on, but we are giving the students time to process and reflect on the topics as they are being educated. It is also important for us as educators to reflect on our own teaching practices, and evaluate if we are modeling what we teach. When we see injustice happening around us are we acting on it? When we see exclusion, are we standing up? Modeling what we teach is an important factor in students connecting the material they learn to the real world. When we lead by example and reflect upon our own actions, this hopefully will also lead to our students reflecting upon themselves. As mentioned in the article Preparing Teachers for School Justice Advocacy I am Walking My Talk Storms states “Using reflection to help students increase their self-awareness during the learning process is another component of social justice pedagogy” (Storms, p.6 2012). Modeling and teaching students the importance of reflecting on themselves and their actions, is important in helping them realize where exactly they fit in within these social issues.

It is also crucial for us to look into the presentation of these topics. It is not always the easiest subject matters to teach, especially depending on the class you are teaching it to. You must take each students culture, and diverse background into account, and tailor your lessons on these topics to meet each of their needs. “Diversity must be taught in such a way that it does not overly romanticize or demonize particular groups of people.” (Poplin and Rivera 2005 p.32). If we not only address the topics of injustice, exclusion in prejudice, but are aware of how we are presenting it, and are modeling the expected actions, students will be well educated for their future.

References:

Poplin, M., & Rivera, J. (2005). Merging Social Justice and Accountability: Educating Qualified and Effective Teachers. Theory Into Practice.

Storms, S. B. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy. Multicultural Education.

Struthers, A. C. (2016). Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education?. Human Rights Law Review, 131-162.

4 thoughts on “Why must educators stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice?”

  1. I also believe that teachers can stand up for social justice without noticing it sometimes, and I think it is great that you pointed that out. Finding appropriate ways to talk about these topics is so important because education is the first step to making a change. We cannot expect people to know how to fix something if they do not even understand what is going on in the first place. In addition, I also believe that by introducing these topics at the very start of their schooling career, it will give them time to develop and mold their ideas and concerns about what is happening around them by the time they are old enough to start actively helping. If we, as teachers, are not teaching them about social justice, then we are failing them as citizens in the long run.

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  2. Amanda,
    I agree with you that we not only need to be teaching our students about about social justice, but also showing them how to stand up against these different types of oppression. It is one thing for us to expose them to these issues at a young age and discuss how they can use their voices to stand up for others or show their support through marches and rallies. However, if we are not being role models and actively “walking the walk” then I don’t think these discussions about social justice will be as meaningful as we hope they will be.

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  3. Hi Amanda! I agree with you when you say that early exposure to societal issues of injustice, prejudice, and exclusion is needed. If we do not begin having human rights conversations with children in their primary years, they will not understand their rights as human beings or know when certain rights are being violated. This can also help students to stand up for others when they see injustice in their community. Also, you made great points on the power of reflection. Teachers can openly model reflection in the classroom and teach students to reflect on their positions in society and how that affects their everyday lives.

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  4. Amanda,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and found myself nodding with agreement throughout it. I especially agreed with your assertion that “Educators are the first line of defense when it comes to educating our youth about society, the way it functions, and what should and should not be acceptable.” This puts us in a unique position where we want to teach our students important morals and values but do not want to step on the toes of their parents. Therefore, the goal should be to “increase students’ sociocultural consciousness and help them understand why change is necessary” as opposed to instilling your own beliefs in your students (Storms, 2013, p. 34). Not only is this less controversial for teachers, but it gives students agency and allows them to draw their own conclusions. Ultimately, this will be more impactful for students because they will have come to their own understanding about these issues and what should be done about them. Like you said, “If we do this at the right age, it will likely stick with them, and they will carry these opinions and ideas into society when they are grown.”

    In addition, your proposal to reflect upon the issues of injustice, exclusion, and prejudice was illuminating. Reflecting on these topics is important for teachers and students alike. It is not enough to know that these issues exist, but you must also ruminate on them to evaluate the role that you play in sustaining them. Storms (2013) bolsters this belief with her claim that “critical reflection can help teacher candidates increase their self-awareness about their practice and determine how it promotes equity” (p. 36). It is through this process that we discover if we are effectively combating these issues or if we are complicit in their perpetuation. If we, as educators, can model this sort of reflection for our students, like you suggested, then I believe that we will have a greater impact on social justice issues overall.

    References
    Storms, S. B. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy. Multicultural Education,
    20(2), 33-39.

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