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Social Justice Education in the Classroom

Social justice education is a complex concept that requires careful planning and consideration before implementation. Administrators who want to usher in an era of social justice education in their schools will need a transformative academic experience like the Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at The University of Texas at Arlington. Students can complete this fully online program in as few as 12 months and gain the necessary skills to become valued administrators in their own districts.

Here are some of the most important considerations for teachers eager to introduce social justice education at their schools.

What Is Social Justice Education?

The concept of social justice education is a complex issue. Far too frequently, attempts at incorporating social justice pedagogy are only made during training or professional development sessions, or after tragic events spark public conversations. To truly implement social justice education, teachers and administrators must take an intersectional view of education in which all students are truly seen.

According to Crystal Belle, the director of teacher education at Rutgers University-Newark, "seeing students requires teachers to recognize them as valuable contributors to the classroom space, as opposed to social, cultural, and academic burdens on the so-called master in the room — the teacher."

To fully embrace social justice pedagogy, teachers must acknowledge the challenges faced by students in economically disadvantaged school districts, many of whom are part of minority groups. Furthermore, educators should use school curricula as a tool to eliminate the inequalities inherent in America's politicized educational system.

Why Is Social Justice Education so Important?

There are many benefits to a pedagogical model that incorporates social justice education. Students gain a greater understanding of power dynamics, develop respect for cultures different from their own and learn how to affect positive change in their communities. Ultimately, social justice education is "a way of teaching and being that supports high-level thinking and learning throughout our lives."

Some of the benefits include:

  • Transforming the classroom into a collaborative community
  • Creating a safe space for applying academic knowledge to real-world problems
  • Increasing students' ability to tell the difference between facts and opinions

Social Justice Education Can Be a Controversial Issue  

Despite its benefits to both students and their communities, social justice education is a controversial issue. Some individuals may look at this movement as an attempt to assign blame for the history's injustices or further divide communities that are already deeply fractured. Whatever the case, educators should survey the legislative landscape before moving forward with a curriculum based on social justice education. Some have made efforts to ban social justice education, but the National Coalition Against Censorship dismisses these as "blatant– and illegitimate–attempts to silence perspectives with which the bills' authors disagree." Nevertheless, teachers should pay close attention to any pending legislation surrounding this controversial issue.

Strategies for Implementing Social Justice Education at Your School

Once you've decided to move forward with incorporating social justice education into your curriculum, there are some important steps you can take to increase your chances for success. Here are three key strategies that could prove incredibly helpful.

  1. Be aware of who your students are and where they come from.

Teachers must build trust with students by learning and understanding more about them and their cultures. Students are unique individuals who have faced their own personal challenges in life and education.

  1. Be prepared to acknowledge and confront your own biases.

Every individual holds conscious or unconscious biases. Rather than pretend they don't exist, confront your own prejudices in an attempt to understand and overcome them. This will make you a stronger social justice educator.

  1. Create an environment where students feel safe questioning everything.

You can't employ a social justice model for education without allowing students to form their own opinions about their school culture — or even the classroom environment. Educators should encourage students to ask questions and think critically about their surroundings. Successfully integrating social justice education into your curriculum requires careful planning and skilled leadership.

Learn more about The University of Texas at Arlington's online Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program.


Education Week: What Is Social Justice Education Anyway?

Edutopia: Creating Classrooms for Social Justice

National Coalition Against Censorship: No Sex, No Social Justice: 2021 Legislative Pressures on Public Education

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