What does it mean to teach for social justice
 

What does it mean to teach for social justice?

Pat Russo

June 2004

The answer to this question is multi-faceted. In the Curriculum & Instruction Department, we spend a considerable amount of time helping students to understand two essential concepts that relate to this issue.

Recognizing Oppression. The first concept is: There is injustice in our world. Some groups of people are consistently privileged; while others are consistently disadvantaged. The privileging and disadvantaging becomes unjust when it is unearned or undeserved. Often such injustice is perpetuated around race, class, gender, ability, or sexuality groups that people are identified with. However, the faces of oppression often differ across time, place, and situation (see Circle of Oppression link).  Understanding how privilege operates, how disadvantage (or marginalization) occurs, how advantage or disadvantage is cyclical in nature, and how people tend to deny that such injustice is occurring is half of the work we do in C&I to help our students understand teaching for social justice.

 In Block I of our pre-teachers' program, especially in Edu 301and Edu 501 we focus on the nature of oppression in our society, and begin to identify how oppression plays out in the classroom. We re-visit these issues in Block II (especially in Spe 304). In Block III (especially in Edu 380) we revisit this concept of oppression before moving into what teachers can do in their classrooms.

Teachers As Change Agents. The second essential concept that must be developed is: Teachers can interrupt the cycles of oppression. Helping pre-teachers learn how to interrupt (or challenge) oppression means learning about (or inventing) strategies to counter oppression (of race, class, gender, (dis)ability, sexuality, and others) across the grade levels and content areas in which our teachers work. Teachers can work as change agents through the content or topics they address as well as through particular pedagogical practices that tend to undermine patterns of oppression.

  In a number of methods courses across Blocks I, II, and III of our program, we focus on developing content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge for challenging injustice.

What does it mean to teach for social justice? It means recognizing oppression in its multiple forms, and then taking action in the classroom to interrupt the cycles of oppression. When teachers teach for social justice they are working to end the cycle of oppression.

In Block IV, as part of the student teaching semester, in Edu 430, we ask students to demonstrate at least one example of their understanding of teaching for social justice. All student teachers return to campus for one day at the end of the first quarter and present a Teaching for Social Justice Poster-Board Conference. C&I faculty, other pre-teachers in our program, and teachers and administrators of local schools are invited. In this conference students share information about specialized units, and/or particular teaching strategies they have developed that illustrate their understanding of and ability to teach for social justice.

What Does It Mean To Teach For Social Justice?

It Means Working to End the Cycle of Oppression

 

References

 

Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P. (1997). Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook. New York: Routeledge.

American Association of University Women (1999). Gender gaps: Where schools still fail our children. New York: Marlow & Company.

American Association of University Women. (1995). How schools shortchange girls: The AAUW report. New York: Marlow & Company.

Ayvazian, A. (2004). Interrupting the cycle of oppression: The role of alliew as agents of change. Pp. 598-604 in Rothenberg, P. S. (Ed.) Race, class, and gender in the United States, Sixth Edition. New York: Worth Publishers.

Banks, J. A. & McGee Banks, C. A. (Eds.) (2001). Multicultural education: Issues & perspectives. Fourth Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Bigelow, B., Christensen, L., Karp, S., Miner, B., & Peterson, B. (1994). Rethinking our classrooms: Teaching for equity and justice. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd.

Bigelow, B., Harvey, B., Karp, S., & Miller, L. (2001). Rethinking our classrooms: Teaching for equity and justice. Volume 2. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd.

Bigelow, B. & Peterson, B. (1998). Rethinking Columbus: The next 500 years. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd.

Bigelow, B. & Peterson, B. (2002). Rethinking globalization: Teaching for justice in an unjust world. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd.

Casper, V. & Schultz, S. B. (1999). Gay parents/straight schools: Building communication and trust. New York: Teachers College Press.

Dearman-Sparks, L. Anti-bias curriculum.

Eitzen, D. S. & Smith, K. E. (2003). Experiencing poverty: Voices from the bottom. Belmont, CA: Thompson Wordsworth.

Grant, C. A. & Sleeter, C. E. (1998). Turning on learning: Five approaches for multicultural teaching plans for race, class, gender, and disability. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

Grayson, D. A. & Martin, M. D. (1988). Generating expectations for student achievement: An equitable approach to educational excellence. Canyon Lake, CA: GrayMill.

Howey, N., & Samuels, E. (Eds.). (2000). Out of the ordinary: Essays on growing up with gay, lesbian, and transgender parents. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Katz, J. (1999). Tough guise (videorecording): Violence, media, and the crisis in masculinity. Directed by Sally Jahally. Northhampton, MA: Media Education Foundation.

Kilbourne, J. (2002). Killing Us Softly 3 (videorecording or DVD): Advertising's Image of Women. Northhampton, MA: Media Education Foundation.

Lawrence, S. M. & Daniel Tatum, B. (1997). White educators as allies: Moving from awareness to action. Pp. 333-342 in Fine, M., Weis, L., Powell, L. C., & Wong, L. M. (Eds.). Off White: Readings on Race, Power, and Society. New York: Routledge.

Payne, R. K. (1998). A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Highlands, TX: RFT Publishing Co.

Perrotti, J. & Westheimer, K. 2001). When the Drama Club Is Not Enough: Lessons from the Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students. Boston: Beacon Press.

Ramalho, T. (in progress) Five Faces of Oppression: Racism. SUNY Oswego.

Sadker, M. & Sadker, D. (1994). Failing at Fairness: How America's Schools Cheat Girls. New York: Charles Scribner's & Sons.

Sleeter, C. E. & Grant, C. A. (1999). Making Choices for Multicultural Education: Five Approaches to Race, Class, and Gender. Third Edition. New York: Merrill.

Woog, D. (1995). School's Out: The Impact of Gay and Lesbian Issues on America's Schools. Boston: Alyson Publications, Inc.

 

 

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