Social Justice Reflection

  1. Do you have any new insights after the class experience concerning social justice?

Yes, definitely! After reading the Johnson text and everyone’s blog posts and lesson plans, my views on diversity have heightened. I was aware of prejudice before I started this class, of course, but all of the readings and assignments helped me learn how to address this in my classroom. I now understand a lot more about what I can to help students become social justice advocates, which I really appreciate. Additionally, I learned quite a bit about specific groups of targeted people and how we can help them.

  1. Do you have any new concerns about social justice?

I am concerned about our current administration, and the regression we have faced during these last few years. I am even more concerned about the students whose parents teach them false and hateful information about people who are different from them. Fortunately, though, I am hopeful because I see so many educators in our class and the other classes I am in who are so determined to end prejudice and achieve social justice for everyone. I am also hopeful because when I am working in schools, I see hundreds of students who inspire me and make me feel proud of their generation. I think they can change our world if they can just avoid the negative influence of others, which is tough at that age.

  1. What is your philosophy of integrating social justice in the classroom?

I feel that all students deserve to have a voice and someone to listen to them. I have always felt strongly about this, because there are some teachers who think that school is just a place for them to talk about their content while students take notes. I hope to encourage students to speak up for what they believe in, as long as it is in a respectful manner. This paves the way for social justice, because students can share their opinions and stories and change the minds of others. I also hope to teach students to use their voices outside the classroom, to speak up at home, and participate in events that promote social justice. If in my classroom, each student feels welcomed, safe, and comfortable speaking up (not necessarily by talking, but also in writing and on the internet), I will feel successful as a teacher.

Technology and Social Justice

Technology has been able to unite the world like never before. People are able to share up to the minute, first hand encounters via social media as in the case of Philando Castile. Castile’s girlfriend live streamed a traffic stop which ended with Philando Castile’s death at the hands of police officers in front of their child (Nelson, 2018). Eric Garner, an unarmed man was approached by several officers for selling loose cigarettes in front of a store. His murder by choking was witnessed by many due to a cell phone recording and viewed throughout the world (Baker, 2015). The reactions were instantaneous, insensitive and divisive.

 

Technology provides users that ability to experience situations in real time. Reactions are also given in real time with not much time given to process information. With the growing sophistication of technology it is becoming increasingly more difficult to discern fact from fiction. Images and videos can be manipulated to make it seem that individuals are present at a scene where they were not. Voices can be digitized and manipulated to speak words that were never uttered by a person and even DNA can be manipulated to appear in a place where a person never was. We live in a world where seeing is no longer believing. However, ultimately, there are real people, with real families and rights on the receiving end of ill-informed comments and unsolicited opinions.

 

Social justice goals as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes ideals such as Article 3 – “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” and Article 7 – “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination” (United Nations, 2015). As educators, if we are to foster learning with this concepts in mind, it is imperative to instill critical thinking skills, empathy and an awareness of their important role in the world. The Digital Literacy Framework developed by The Southern Poverty Law Center for Teaching Tolerance developed a digital literacy framework with seven keys to develop digital and civic literacy skills. Among these skills are valuable guidelines for evaluating sources for bias, displaying inclusivity, managing their digital footprint and recognizing the power of the internet for civic action (Teaching Tolerance, 2017).

 

When using technology it is important that students learn to authenticate and cross reference sources. We must teach them to acknowledge and be mindful of their inherit biases and to be mindful of how they respond because their digital footprint is traceable.

 

Technology has the capacity to bring awareness. Technology alone does not have the capacity to develop understanding or compassion.

 

Baker, A. Goodman, J.D., Mueller, B. (2015, June 13). Beyond the chokehold: the path to Eric Garner’s death.Retrieved September 2018, from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/eric-garner-police-chokehold-staten-island.html

Nelson, T. (2018, July 16). Two Years After the Police Killing of Philando Castile, Justice Continues to be Denied.Retrieved from ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/blog/racial-justice/two-years-after-police-killing-philando-castile-justice-continues-be-denied

Teaching Tolerance. (2017). Digital Literacy Framework. Retrieved September 2018, from Teaching Tolerance: https://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/2017-10/Teaching-Tolerance-Digital-Literacy-Framework.pdf

Teachings in Education. (2017, 20 June). Flipped classroom model. Retrieved September 2018, from Youtube.com: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCIxikOq73Q

United Nations. (2015). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved 2018, from United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/udhrbook/pdf/udhr_booklet_en_web.pdf

Our Responsibility as Educators

It is incredibly important that we, as educators, understand our role in standing up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. We have the ability to open students’ minds to new world views, and to possibly make them reconsider the views that their home environment pushed on them. I believe that we have a lot more power than we think, and that much of it comes down to engaging the students in meaningful dialogue about their own experiences. We also need to make sure, like Poplin and Rivera state, that we do not “overly romanticize or demonize particular groups of people” (2013, p.38). Many of us have seen the issues this causes—privileged groups become defensive and feel like they are being blamed for oppression, and this does nothing to help reach the goal of social justice.

With regard to human rights education, I feel that it is quite important to teach it and to start at a young age. Unlike some of the teacher concerns in the Struthers article, we do not have to begin by having elementary students memorize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I do, however, feel that it is decent to teach children what their basic rights are. Struthers writes that “reluctance on the part of teachers to address controversial issues on the basis that certain topics are inappropriate for young learners is frequently attributed to a desire to maintain children’s innocence” (2016, p.143). I think that adults need to start to realize that children are people, too, and that if we start social justice education at a young age, it is more likely to stick. Students will not have as many biases and will be more open to learning about diverse topics.

Since I am a secondary educator, many of my students have already formed opinions about social justice, prejudice, privilege, etc. I feel that my role specifically is to engage my students in discourse about these issues, so that they can learn from each other. Like Storms maintains, “through dialogue teacher candidates can broaden their perspectives and discuss strategies to promote equity in schools” (2013, p.38). I need to keep this in mind as I am teaching. We cannot promote change by shying away from these issues.

References:

Poplin, M., & Rivera, J. (2005). Merging Social Justice and Accountability: Educating Qualified and  Effective Teachers. Theory Into Practice, 27-37.

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

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