Everyday Practices of Social Justice
Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis: Volume 6, Issue 1
The purpose of this paper is to explore the difficulty many critically prepared educators and leaders experience when wanting to translate their social justice knowledge into everyday social justice practices. Even though these individuals are critically conscious and want to critically act, many become overwhelmed with the enormity of the neoliberal crisis, tend to fear actually acting against or speaking up in the face of injustice, and may become cynical in terms of even believing in the possibility of any type of educational and social transformation. To address this reticence, the postmodern and posthuman concepts of liquid modernity (Bauman, 2006, 2007) material feminisms (Barad, 2007,2008), care of the self and parrhesia (Foucault, 2001, 2005, 2011) were presented to educational leadership doctoral students as ideas to explicitly challenge their issues of fear and cynicism. Findings suggest these are important concepts that may assist critical educators in extending their critical knowledge into everyday social justice action.
Counterstories are a tool used by minoritized communities to tell stories that reflect their experiences and knowledge. Counterstories challenge the stock stories and grand narratives accepted by the majority and put forth in school curriculum. As young children tend to speak openly and share their responses to literature candidly, counterstory can be a powerful tool for empowering children in the primary literacy classroom. The author reflects on her experience in primary literacy classrooms engaging children in telling their counterstories in response to children’s literature. The pedagogical promise of counterstory and ways of eliciting and welcoming counterstory in the primary literacy classroom are discussed.
Given that there is a general need for college students to learn about social justice and equity issues, and since college is a developmentally meaningful time for students, it is important for colleges and universities to adopt practices and provide opportunities that address power and inequality issues. This paper provides examples of social justice programs and practices in four areas (administrative, academic, co-curricular, and assessment) at a mid-size Midwestern institution, discusses how these practices are important and valuable to challenging power, and how they can be replicated or adapted at other institutions. Examples of everyday administrative programs/practices include creating a diversity/inclusion statement, programs sponsored by university administrators, and dedicating staff to support and advocate for equity and inclusion. Examples of everyday academic programs/practices include incorporating courses that focus on social justice issues into the general academic curriculum, training instructors on teaching and/or facilitating discussions about social justice issues, and creating centers on campus that can be the “academic home” for academic programs and research that focus on social justice issues. Examples of everyday co-curricular programs/practices include creating both reactive (in response to a current event or issue) and proactive/continuing (focusing on social justice issues in general throughout the year) programming and including students in the planning and execution of those programs. Examples of everyday assessment practices include multiple methods of collecting data that allow for a holistic “picture” of what students are learning with regard to social justice issues during their time in college. This paper also discusses how these programs and practices are important for encouraging awareness and challenging power and provides important lessons learned from social justice work in higher education.
This article examines what can happen when issues of Social Justice and Equity are explored in a 7th grade Algebra classroom. While the project was met with resistance along the way and it was clear that there was not a great deal of support from other teachers or administration, my classroom became a place of rich dialogue, critical inquiry and vibrant discussion. Work like this is indispensable to providing students with a framework for social justice and equity in their own lives.