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 .

Sunday Dinner

The Doxology is barely off of my tongue

Shoulders still ablaze from the sizzling streams of daylight pouring through the car windows

Darting from the backseat of the old, yellow Dodge

and scampering to the first clanking, then squeaking gate

racing up the sidewalk and the cracked concrete stairs

Porch.  Living room.  Dining room.

How innocently this banquet lies in waiting

though it has been teasing my mind and palate since the onset of the sermon

Table spilling over with home-cooked devotion

Platters placed purposefully by the experienced hands of the Patriarch and Matriarch

Round chargers layered with ripened, ruby red tomatoes

salted and peppered to perfection

Purple onions, similarly arranged and vying for recognition

Steaming bowls of the garden’s bounty

Sunny squash mingled with bacon and onions that were minced on the striped, wooden cutting board

Pepper-sprinkled, creamy alabaster potatoes

dripping with a russet-hued elixir that was birthed in the worn iron skillet

Golden cornbread with a touch of sugar spooned in

Creamed butter whipped till it curls like a wisp of smoke

Plastic lids removed from blue tubs, revealing faux butter for those who insist upon it

Roasted beef disguised by a mountain of scallions and candied carrots

Fried chicken forming a mountain on a cookie sheet (We are proud Southerners, after all)

Pink roses on a glass canvas

a glass canvas that is filled with iced tea

its sweetness strengthening

as the saccharin tablets are secretly plopped in by tricky tribesmen

unaware of each other’s imbibing intentions

Clunky rectangular hunks of ice stacked upon one another in diverse drinking glasses

Bubbly, flaky peach cobbler

no box in sight (Mrs. Smith is never invited)

No “how-to” booklets or stained pieces of paper needed

They know it all by heart

Chairs of wood and metal congregated in a tight round

Houstonphonebooks stacked high for the diminutive members of the clan

Mismatched plates, glasses, and flatware

but never the mugs

always pale green, Fire King mugs

filled with sugary, beige coffee

brewed in a clear glass percolator

Tell Mel Tormé to scat away

the hi-fi only broadcasts our laughter

The Doxology carries on, everlasting

I lift my pale green, Fire King mug of sugary, beige coffee

and breathe the scent in, deeply

Reminiscing.   Musing.  Evoking those flashes of memory

and satisfaction

and home-cooked devotion

and hunger for that same old repast