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




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  �09/29/05, Pat Russo
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