Addressing Social Justice in the Classroom

Discussion in 'General Education' started by otterpop, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I'm sure we all have heard about the tragic incidents that have happened in the past few days regarding black men and police officers. Tonight, in Texas, at a Black Lives Matter protest in Texas, 3 officers were killed and 7 more injured. (Edit: I'm now reading the numbers are 5 and 7.)

    What can or should we do as educators to address this issue, from a long-term standpoint? How can we educate students so that they are prepared to enter society as informed, caring citizens who are willing and able to make a difference in their communities?

    Kind of a deep question, but I've been contemplating trying to fit character education into my curriculum somehow next year, and these events have just furthered this idea in my head that character education, citizenship, and social justice should be a part of the curriculum at all grade levels. I see such a gap in life skills and communication skills in my students. I just have to figure out a way to shove it in there while still covering the standards.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
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  3. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Once again, I will point out that excellent free resources are available from www.teachingtolerance.org .

    Teachers can't do it alone, but good teachers already advocate for all young people. I think teachers, more than most people, recognize the precious, fragile nature of life. Though that is a huge generalization, I can't imagine someone can come into contact with so many vulnerable lives without recognizing the dignity of each of them. Even in those students who don't recognize it themselves.
     
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  4. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I'm currently reading this book, which is giving me a ton of ideas for how to incorporate the voices of all my students, especially those who have been racially / ethnically marginalized. My classroom is unique in that because my students come from every variety of society. One kid could be logging in from a suburban home while another is in the inner city or surrounded by cornstalks. The trick is to make sure all voices and perspectives are incorporated.
     
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  5. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    That's funny, I have this book sitting on my coffee table right now! The introduction was interesting, but the text got really heavy to read. I was thinking there would be more stories and anecdotes, but it turned out to be a more academic text. Since you recommend it, maybe I'll give it another try.
     
  6. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    This is a great link. I can't believe how many lesson plans there are on here. I'll definitely incorporate some of these into my lessons.
     
  7. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I think that there should be national standards or requirements for teaching character education, social justice, or history in general.

    I know teachers have enough requirements as is, but when standards are only provided for reading and math, it's all that gets focused on in many schools. Teachers teach what the standards say to teach. If you gave every teacher a weekly lesson on character development, it would be taught. I know some schools do that already; mine definitely doesn't. And, I know that character development doesn't automatically mean equality for all, but if students were taught to stand up for others and not be a bystander, so many of the bullying issues around race, sexuality, and other differences could be lessened.
     
  8. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    We don't need social justice education for students. We don't need to value diversity. What we need to do is value all people. Anytime we point out differences as a reason to value someone it creates a divide.

    The difficulty becomes when values are different and infringe on each other that we don't inadvertently teach people to be door mats for those who have stronger personalities.
     
  9. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I agree that we all need to value everyone. However, this reminds me of a post I saw on Facebook:

    "My personal interpretation of Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter. Bob is sitting at the dinner table. Everyone else gets a plate of food except Bob. Bob says 'Bob Deserves Food.' Everyone at the table responds with 'Everyone Deserves Food' and continues eating. All though Everyone Deserves Food is a true statement, it does nothing to actually rectify the fact that BOB HAS NO FOOD!!"
     
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  10. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I do agree, though, that focusing on differences can make people notice the differences. I teach about the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. each year, as well as the Holocaust, and I try to be really careful with it. My school doesn't seem to have problems with racism, and I don't want to get kids thinking about the differences between their race and others. However, I do believe in that saying that history repeats itself. People who are educated about history and what's happened in the past can evaluate what people did well and what people didn't do well, and decide for themselves how they might tackle that issue in the future.
     
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  11. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Once you get the Chapter 3, you'll get more stories of how he's taken these ideas and applied them. I'm on Chapter 6. It's thick, but thick like a good milkshake.
     
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  12. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Educating people about what happened is important even if differences are mentioned because that is the reason the horrific events took place. That is even more reason we should focus on how people are the same rather than different. The social structure will change when we focus on what is in common rather than what is different. It is certainly harder to avoid giving Bob food if you think of Bob as having the same feelings and physical reactions as you when you are hungry rather than looking at Bob as different because he is Bob and saying we should value him because he is different.
     
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  13. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    For anyone interested, I found an awesome site for creating curriculum and lesson plans called Perspectives for a Diverse America. You can sign up for free, and create an intense, very complete lesson plan or unit. http://perspectives.tolerance.org/

    I especially like that these are academic units as well, so they could totally be integrated with reading or language arts.
     
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  14. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Very true. So, maybe the best focus would be to address questions such as: How can we show others respect and kindness through our actions? How can we listen to someone in a way that shows we value their ideas, even if ours are different?

    I do think, though, that part of that second question has to be, "How can we respectfully disagree with someone?" or "How can I stand up for what is right?" I don't think that all ideas need to be valued, such as racism, sexism, or religious discrimination. I think it is important that students have a way to respectfully confront issues when needed. Granted, it's not always possible or advisable, but there are also situations when it is possible.
     
  15. teacherquestions

    teacherquestions Rookie

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    In college I took a class that was all about social justice and it really opened my eyes to things I had never known about before. I kind of wish a class or experience like that was mandatory to everyone..
     
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  16. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Me too. (ETA: about wishing everyone could take that!)
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
  17. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Your thought process in your first paragraph is negated by your statement in the second paragraph that states not all ideas are to be valued.

    So, I guess the question is, do you value someone whose ideas are something that you don't believe in or you know their ideas mean they don't value you?
     
  18. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    That looks like a valuable resource! The texts don't have the global perspective I focus on, but it would be great for many.
     
  19. otterpop

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    I realized that when I wrote it, which is why I was trying to clarify in the second paragraph. There needs to be a distinction between teaching people to value others' opinions, and knowing when something is just wrong. I certainly don't have all those answers, either. It's a gray area for sure.
     
  20. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I have math, reading, writing, science, history, and PE.
     
  21. otterpop

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    We do too, but our standards are all about history for social studies. Aside from that, though, everyone has social studies standards, I'm sure. Those lessons are often the first ones dropped, though, when more time is needed for reading our math. I know several schools that don't even teach social studies.
     
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  22. Pashtun

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    Right, so making more standards, in this case on social behavior/character education, does not get them taught.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
  23. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I can easily tie in any social justice education into reading, writing, media literacy, geography, health and drama curriculum expectations (standards). Teaching our students how to be good people and responsible citizens is one of the most important things we can do.
     
  24. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    The only way to get social justice taught in the classroom would be to provide vague standards which would be interpreted differently by all which would not be the point to having social justice standards.

    Having specific lessons required by all schools in the nation would be seen as indoctrination which is something that is not supposed to be allowed. We are supposed to teach student how to think, not what to think. We are not supposed to impose our values on our students. Social justice programs would be doing just that.

    I'm all for modeling kindness, compassion, and empathy because they are general social constructs that help society function, but I really am against going to the point of social justice lessons because that is just a firestorm waiting to happen. I hate to say it, but I do not trust the teaching profession to all handle this type of instruction properly. Too many purposely push their agendas on students in either direct or subtle ways. By that I do not mean one side or the other. Agendas go both ways.
     
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  25. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    If schools are not teaching social studies that is on the administration. If specific teachers in schools are choosing not to teach it, once again that is on the administration to make sure it is being taught. Just because it is not tested on doesn't mean it can just be thrown out. This concept that some take really frustrates me. Last year as a 4th grade teacher we were departmentalized, I taught Science and Social Studies. In 4th grade we are tested on science, but I gave both subjects equal time. Sadly this year we will not be departmentalized. Now I have to teach all the subjects again, yuck.
     
  26. phillyteacher

    phillyteacher Comrade

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    I have taught lessons on activism and social justice. I think that it is necessary and I think it is ridiculous to operate as though teaching general social skills will lead to societal changes necessary to dismantle the institutional racism we are seeing have such a widespread impact right now. Just because it is hard, or teachers need more training to do it effectively, doesn't mean it should not be done.

    I will happily push an agenda that is anti-racist, I don't think that is all the same as pushing a political agenda or a religious agenda (neither of which I would do).
     
  27. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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  28. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I totally agree, but unfortunately I think it happens a lot. I think teachers most would love to teach social studies, and most would agree it's important. Often, though, because there's so much pressure placed on teachers to have their kids do well on tests, they feel they have no choice but to cut "nonessential" subjects out. If a teacher's pay or even job security depends on a reading and math test score (as it does in several areas), I think that having less focus on other subjects is an unintended but obvious consequence.

    (For the record, I always make time for social studies, but that's besides the point, because our standards are all about state history anyway. I often talk about character development in both reading and social studies, and traits like kindness and integrity, but every time I do I feel like I'm being sneaky with it because it doesn't entirely fit into any standards area.)
     
  29. Pashtun

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    What kind of work and activities are teachers doing in social studies that are not DIRECTLY benefitting reading, writing, and math standards? Are teachers not having thinking debates in social studies? Not writing opinion and response pieces? Not doing research? Not analyzing texts? An entire set of standards based on nonfiction reading? Are teachers just having students memorize content?
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2016
  30. Pashtun

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    Why do you feel sneaky? Doesn't this fit standards such as theme, character motivations, referring to what the text says explicitly and implicitly?
     
  31. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Yes, it certainly fits in there, but having more in-depth conversations about the topics doesn't fit in as well. My school has some issues with bullying, for instance. Sometimes it's necessary to have a conversation with questions like, what is bullying? What could a person do to stop it? And so on. It's absolutely possible to teach that through literature, but I also like to have conversations and watch youtube videos on topics like those when we're getting into them, which can steer the focus away from literature. I imagine sometimes these conversations would happen in lessons with a school counselor, and I know that in many schools counselors give life-skills lessons occasionally, but our school doesn't have anything like that so sometimes it's necessary to fill in gaps.
     
  32. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    Agreed. I may have technically been the Science and Social Studies teacher for our 4th grade team last year, but there wasn't a day that went by where I was not teaching reading concepts.
     
  33. otterpop

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    I wasn't arguing this, I teach social studies with a lot of reading and writing too... Just saying, not all teachers teach this way.
     
  34. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    Pashtun was the one questioning what teachers are doing. I agree that they can teach reading and writing within the other subjects and should.
     
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  35. Pashtun

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    I would say you can't teach other subjects without teaching reading and writing within those subjects.
     
  36. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Isn't that the premise of Common Core? EVERYBODY now teaches literacy? I'm guilty of brushing science and social studies aside. However, I did try to find time for it and integrated it when I could.
     
  37. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    Oh, you can teach those subjects without actually teaching reading and writing. Just because you have kids read and write doesn't mean you are teaching the skills. That is the key that a lot of teachers miss on.
     
  38. Pashtun

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    Your wasting your time and doing it wrong if you are doing it that way in elementary school, my opinion of course. Can you give me some examples of what you would have students do in elementary school that would not benefit them in ELA?
     
  39. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    You are still reading me wrong. I said it CAN be done that way by some teachers, not that it is good to do it that way.
     
  40. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Oh, sorry. Yeah, many many many teachers do.
     
  41. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    I do think you bring up some valid concerns. Social Justice in the classroom could backfire if specific lessons are required and not enough respect for teachers in the classroom.

    I do think we are better off with some kind of Social Justice being taught in the classrooms. I know I went through a public school that highly valued teaching Social Justice. The movie "Roots", books about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, injustices throughout the world and in many cultures, fascinated and inspired us. Many of my friends who went through this school are very large proponents of Social Justice and Tolerance. They don't show signs of prejudice. However, I do have some friends who are a bit prejudice. It bothers me a lot to see their attitudes towards people of different races and religions. When I bring up the movie "Roots", they never saw one episode. When I bring up Martin Luther King Jr.--they were taught very little about him and the civil rights movement in school. Ignorance of Social Justice is part of the problem. Somehow, someway, we are better off to have it taught in our schools.
     
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