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Resistance is Futile (but they do it anyway!) The resistance against social justice curriculum
Social justice is… • less a thing and more an ethical position • Gloria Ladsom-Billings
Context: the class • Pre AP English 10 at Edina High School • Social justice curriculum constructed concurrently with alignment to NCCS • No standards were harmed in the making of this curriculum
Research-based philosophy: “We aren’t just making this s#!% up!” • In order to teach social justice we needed an operational definition. • So we read. • And we read. • And we read. • Then we came up with a three-pronged approach…
Social Justice as VOICE • “We need to move beyond sharing and describing our pain to examining why we’re in pain and figuring out how to stop it” (Christensen vii). • “Rather than negate their social background and diverse lived experiences, they learned to embrace them as valuable ‘funds of knowledge’ that helped direct them through the trials and tribulations they endured” (Lalas and Velle 95).
Social Justice as CULTURAL PLURALISM “A social justice commitment to diversity is about more than the mere fact of difference; rather, a social justice commitment to diversity is more akin to pluralism, or [the civic and social] engagement that creates a common society from all that plurality. Social justice, like human rights, explicitly fights against discrimination. After all, institutional racism (and sexism, able-ism, classism, and homophobia) is a direct threat to human rights and democracy” (Grant and Gibson 24).
Social Justice as ACTION • “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world” (Freire). • The fundamental message of the teacher of social justice is “You can change the world” (Ayers, in Grant and Gibson 27).
This is GOOD, right? • NCTE says YES! • “When we talk about social justice as process, we liken it to a journey, which is neither about arrival nor finality, but it is constructed by inventive strategies that can generate movement towards enacting social justice all around us in school contexts. This process recognizes that while students have inequitable and/or privileged histories, a classroom process committed to social justice, seeks to create equity within the class context that can have efficacy in the out-of-school context of students’ lives.” • Position Statement on Social Justice in English Education
And yet… • Emails, phone calls, and the curious case of the “many parents who wish to remain anonymous” • Eye-rolls, heaving sighs, “Why should I care about this?”, “You’re white. Why do YOU care about this?”
Resistance (n.) • Opposing that which you do not support or agree with. • Passive aggressive • To complain about the actual problem implies racism, sexism, classism…
Why resist?(SJ is a good thing, right?) • Satisfaction with status quo • Conscious or unconscious disagreement with values of social justice education • Desire of stakeholders (parents and students in this case) to maintain pull-out programs for gifted and lower ability students. • (Rosilez2011)
Social justice is too broad to define. Maybe. • Educators want to define social justice from both the distributive and redress (equity) perspectives. • “Most, I suspect, want to have their cake and eat it too; distributive justice combined with redress justice, including perhaps collective, group, linguistic, and cultural recognition” (Johnston 123). • Johnston further argues that this approach is difficult to implement successfully. • Teachers need to prioritize the components of social justice in a way that makes sense to the intellectual development of the student.
They can smell fear. • For teachers, especially those new to the profession, “the obstacles of high-stakes testing, curricular mandates, and their own inexperience and self-doubt can render teaching for justice and equity overwhelming and seemingly impossible ideals” (Johnson, Oppenheim, and Suh294). • However, teachers risk minimizing the importance of social justice if it appears to be an “add-on” or secondary feature of the curriculum.
Generating greater support of social justice: a 5-point plan • Define terms • Classroom transparency • “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” • Start small; focus on the individual first • “Dumbledore’s Army” philosophy
All roads lead to Paulo. • “The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves. • Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change
Select Sources • Christensen, Linda. Reading, Writing, and Rising Up • Grant, Carl and Melissa Gibson. Social Justice Pedagogy Across the Curriculum: The Practice of Freedom Routlege, NY, 2010 Ed. Thandeka K. Chapman and Nikola Hobbel. • Johnson, Elisabeth et al. “‘Would that be Social Justice?’ A Conceptual Constellation of Social Justice Curriculum in Action. The New Educator, 5:293–310, 2009 • Johnston, James Scott. “Prioritizing Rights in the Social Justice Curriculum.” Studies in Philosophy and Education. 28: 119-133, 2009. • Kumashiro, Kevin. Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice.Routledge, NY, 2004. • Lalas, Jose and Eva Valles. “Social Justice Lenses and Authentic Student Voices.” Educational Leadership and Administration, Fall 2007. p. 75-102.