Social Justice: An Educational Perspective Part One

Diversity is absolutely inescapable.  There was a time when it was commonplace to find communities isolated within larger communities.  Now, however, it’s unusual to find completely secluded people groups.  The advent of all these different clusters of people living and comingling in shared venues has brought about a heightened need for social justice in almost all areas of life.  We are all together now, be it in our neighborhoods, businesses, court rooms, parks, places of worship, or just about any other locale you can think of that the populous frequents. 

The school house has in no way escaped the need for social justice.  Children from diverse walks of life are plugged in to this system and deserve to be trained as productive citizens of a multi-cultural, global society regardless of race, religion, gender, language, socio-economic status, sexual-orientation, special needs, or at-risk status.

Social justice, from an educational perspective, is the construction of learning and its connection to societal groups and issues.  (Kirshner. 2011.)  It’s also been defined as “a condition whereby all people are afforded fair opportunities to enjoy the benefits of society.” (Engel, Miller.  2011.)  These definitions are in direct opposition to the traditional belief that learning is strictly an internal action and isn’t affected by society.  (Kirshner. 2011.)  Obviously, these contrasting stances do manage to kick up a bit of dust within the school community at-large, but we must understand that it is the responsibility of all educators to model a living definition of social justice for all stakeholders inside and outside the walls of the school.   This living, breathing action will lead to equal learning experiences for all students within the realm of education. 

Now, please allow me to connect my faith to my profession.  John 3:17 states that Jesus was not sent by His Father for the purpose of condemning all people.  Jesus didn’t come on an assignment to send people to Hell.  Rather, He came on a mission of advocacy.  He came here with the express purpose of bringing us all to His heart, His home, and His unending love.  It was His willingness to meet every man or woman in the exact place that he or she was and in the precise way that he or she needed Him that, to this day, makes His offer so attractive and viable.  This should be our model as teachers.  Every student should be presented the very best that we have to offer and if they need more, we should seek out the means to provide it.  We must remove roadblocks that would stop their educational journeys and constantly, consistently affirm them as they reach for and create a better world than what we have known. 

References

Engel, Max T.; Miller, Peter M.  (2011).  Forging vertical linkages in the public sphere: 

school-church engagement for social justice.  Educational Foundations.  V 25, n 1-2, page 25 – 42m. Winter-Spring, 2011.

Kirshner, David.  (2011).  Claiming the cultural space of the classroom:  issues of ethics

and social justice.  Louisiana State University.  Retrieved on April 9, 2012 from http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED518215.pdf .

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