Addressing Social Justice in the Classroom

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

  1. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Jul 17, 2016

    Teaching about MLK is not social justice. It is history. I believe history should be taught in all schools, but it is not taught well in a lot of schools. Or it could be that it was taught but not in a manner that had a lot of impact on the students so it was forgotten. That is no different than kids that said their previous year's teacher didn't teach long division when you know that it is not accurate.

    I see the discussion about teaching "social justice" as much different than teaching history. "Social justice" has moral connotations to it and can be misconstrued in many ways to suit an agenda. It easily could contain ideas not supported or agreed upon by many.

    I would like to understand what you mean when you say the term social justice.
     
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  2. sharan singh

    sharan singh Rookie

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    Jul 17, 2016

    I think it should be equality for all. Need everyone to teach social justice in college level. It will open your mind to understand.
     
  3. Mr.history

    Mr.history Cohort

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    Jul 17, 2016

    I'm a 11th grade AP US History teacher so I have a pretty personal view on this topic.
    First off what a2z said above about teaching history and social justice is dead on. They are not the same thing but I do believe that if you are teaching history correctly you can allow for students to draw their own conclusion on social issues.

    Example would be Columbus. Every kid I get comes in knowing, "Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492". They however don't know about his treatment of Native Americans (slavery, rape, ect). So I have them read the book "A People's History of the United States" so that they can see the other side of Columbus. Still history, all factually true, but it gives the other side of the issue. (Great book that goes into a lot of different topics that you may not know the other side on)

    I also have my kids do current events every week. I have them select their topics and then we discuss them as a class. I usually make sure I scan the news in advance so I can give proper historical context to any of their questions/topics. Then I let them present the news, what their opinion/analysis is on it and then I let them discuss. Even if I agree with them I will always play devils advocate to any topic because I want them to see the other side.

    Maybe you don't agree that this is social justice, but I think teaching through critical analysis is the way to address these issues. Present the facts, let them decide. Sometimes I can see students shifting their opinions on things in real time, other times I think they feel like I'm challenging their beliefs but they understand at least a little better where the other side of the issue is.
     
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  4. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Jul 17, 2016

    Exactly what does that look like and mean?
     
  5. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Jul 17, 2016

    Do you also discuss with the students how some people view this book as propaganda to push an agenda? I believe you may by the rest of your post, but I was wondering. Even when primary sources are used, bias can creep in. I'm not saying the author was biased, but he has been accused of such.

    Rape and pillaging when people take over an area was common at that time regardless of the people they were overtaking. You could say it was not about race or culture but about power and dominance that is needed to take from others for the leader that Columbus represented.

    It is all about critical thinking and continually searching for the truth. There are enough on the side of the current "social justice" push who have very biased ideas and formed opinions regarding motives which aren't always accurate but they are portrayed as a generalization and accurate.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2016
  6. Mr.history

    Mr.history Cohort

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    Jul 17, 2016

    Of course! When I have them write essays part of the AP curriculum is that students have to bring in outside sources. I see "according to Zinn" in hundreds of essays because they understand that its his narrative but historically based. They will often have counter points in the same essay. One of the first things we discuss is what the role of a historian is(one of which is to offer analysis on historical events). I selected that book because its seen as one of the most popular ones and is easy to read.

    I think the issue with the current political climate is that people want an easy fix. That unfortunately isn't going to happen. Education is one part but if you honestly think your going to change the world by pushing your agenda in the classroom than your overestimating your influence. Instead do your students a real favor and teach them to think.
     
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  7. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Jul 17, 2016

    Every October, I read Morning Girl by Michael Dorris. It is a beautiful book with a shocking ending, at least for the kids. The majority of the book humanizes the lives of a Native American family in a way that helps the kids relate easily to them. After Columbus's ships arrive, and they meet, etc., the ending quickly recounts from Columbus's diary or ship's notes about how they plan to kidnap the people and cure them of their heathen ways.

    In 5th grade, studying the civil rights movement and the Holocaust engendered many discussions about social justice. Most of my students had never heard about the realities of either period. We had a Native American teacher who brought in storytellers and drummers every year, also great opportunities for discussion.

    Social studies in lower grades may not provide the opportunities you need to pursue the issues. But there are many opportunities in fiction to explore fairness, bullying, intolerance, and responsibility.
     
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  8. phillyteacher

    phillyteacher Comrade

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    Jul 20, 2016

    Sike, removed my original response because I am not responding here. Realized after reading the stickied post on political threads that this is not the forum to debate black lives matter and racism as they are so charged in the current social and political climates.
     
  9. Peregrin5

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    I like the way our teachers have done it. Most of our history and English curriculum at our school is taught through the lens of social justice throughout history. Students are deeply engaged in learning because they realize that it pertains to issues being faced today (and most questions are geared to help students draw these connections) and they feel a compelling motivation to discuss and think about these concepts.

    It's less about telling students what to think, and instead having them learn about civil rights issues that occurred through history and trying to draw parallels between what happened in the past and what is happening today.

    I do think that it would be useful for students to have a forum to discuss current social justice issues to have an outlet to vent frustrations, collect their thoughts, and process the tragedies that are occurring due to racial and other tensions. It doesn't necessarily have to be something that is taught by a teacher (moderated maybe) but it would be a place where students could respectfully discuss and get different viewpoints. I ran a class where this discussion portion about current events was part of my starter. It was very successful and I think contributed greatly to the character growth of many of my students. We didn't shy away from hard topics either (racial tension, bathroom bills, terrorism, etc.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2016
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  10. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jul 20, 2016

    Thank you, phillyteacher.

    I have moderated a couple of posts in this thread for politically adversarial content; other posts have been moderated because they quoted those posts or because they quoted posts that quoted posts and therefore wouldn't have made sense with the original posts removed. Let me ask the posters to reconstruct what they can of their points without the adversarial comments.
     
  11. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Jul 20, 2016

    These all sound like excellent conversation starters! I've found my students are often fascinated by these topics.
     
  12. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Jul 20, 2016

    I'm away from my computer this week, and haven't read every post, but it seems this has turned into more of a controversial conversation than I intended. It appears "social justice" is a loaded term that has different connotations to different people. My original question could have been more like: how can we encourage students to care about and support one another?
     
  13. mckbearcat48

    mckbearcat48 Cohort

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    Jul 20, 2016

    With my law background, this subject is fascinating to me. I believe that many schools need to update their Civics curriculum to include social justice concerns since the goal is to make the most informed, productive citizens we can. I think that we can help "bridge the gaps" in our society with education (if we didn't think we could, what are we doing?)

    My original reason for getting into teaching was simple: make sure my kids never end up in front of someone like I used to be (prosecutor). That is why I chose Social Studies over English (certified in both)...because those who know the law and how it works are probably less likely to break it.
     
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