What does it mean to teach for social justice?
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
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
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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