The term social justice has emerged in mainstream discourses with the rise of digital connectivity and globalization. However, the concept of social justice was coined centuries ago. It first appeared in academic and public during the 19th century, with the Industrial Revolution.
Europe was engulfed with civil unrest, and philosophers like Karl Marx drew public attention towards unfair labor conditions. The masses began standing up and demanding their rights, rallying against unjust and exploitative labor systems. This resistance was the first-time social justice came under the lens of public demands, as people demanded equal opportunities and privileges.
Initially, the concept of social justice revolved around property, wealth, and professional opportunities. However, gradually the idea extended to other spheres, such as education, gender, environment, and race. Today, social justice is a powerful principle in modern education systems, and its influence is visible across multiple disciplines.
Be it economics, psychology, sociology, or political science – learning about social justice allows students to appreciate diversity and inclusivity. Keep reading to learn more about the significance of social justice in education.
Social Justice in Education
Before we look closely at its significance, let’s examine how social justice exists in education. It takes two forms:
- Social justice in action: Level of equality within an education system.
Social justice factors like gender, race, and wealth determine the quality of education students can receive. Students from privileged backgrounds have access to the most prestigious institutions across the world. However, students from unprivileged backgrounds have to struggle to educate themselves and often have low academic foundations.
Naturally, this disparity and inequality of opportunities continue as students enter the professional realm to earn and enjoy financial stability. Underprivileged students fail to increase their income, which reduces their access to safety, housing, and healthcare facilities.
It is the responsibility of social justice educators to create awareness and ensure that the education system is committed to equality. An unfair education system that serves only the privileged does not benefit a country’s cultural, social, and economic foundations.
- Social justice in education: Framework of the social justice curriculum taught to students.
Social justice in education refers to the curriculum and social justice framework taught to expand students’ worldviews. These frameworks allow students to study challenging and diverse opinions and focus on real-world issues, like poverty, racism, sexism, and inequality.
A social justice curriculum encourages students to think critically and analytically and question injustice and inequality.
Significance of Social Justice in Education
Schools committed to incorporating social justice in education give equal opportunities to students from different backgrounds. More importantly, they devise curriculums that encourage analytical thinking on poverty, inequality, racism, sexism, and legal injustice.
Social justice allows students to expand their awareness and develop concrete opinions on real-world issues and challenges.
- Developing Confident & Decisive Opinions
Schools that take an active stance towards discussing political and social issues encourage students to develop confident opinions. These educators inspire their students to think analytically and assess their communities. They open up controversial discourses on racial, ethnic, and social issues – creating a safe space for constructive discussions.
Many schools believe in taking passive stances on controversial political and social issues. But these educators forget an essential fact: the education system is complexly political. An education system that celebrates institutions for the elite while neglecting underfunded public schools’ decaying buildings promotes social injustice.
Students are exposed to the political system the second they step inside a school. You see, choosing a curriculum, setting school fees, and funding academic activities are all political decisions. Within this system, students must learn about social justice so they can develop confident and decisive opinions.
These opinions shape the minds of future leaders who will enter corporations and governance with a strong sense of justice.
- Nurturing Analytical Skills
Critics of teaching social justice in education believe that it is a strategy to indoctrinate and influence young minds. J. Martin Rochester, a noteworthy political science professor, criticized social justice instructors for promoting a “politically correct, left-leaning perspective.”
In his commentary, published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Rochester argued that the social justice framework is heavily one-sided.
Advocates of social justice education believe that this depends entirely on the strategy of an educator. It is the responsibility of a teacher to introduce concepts and issues with balanced and holistic perspectives. Teachers must teach students to different approaches and perspectives to understand a problem.
A balanced approach to social justice education harnesses and nurtures analytical skills in students. It allows them to think for themselves, challenge themselves with complex concepts and find answers in philosophical discourses.
Social justice education doesn’t compel impressionable young minds to believe in a specific concept when done right.
But instead, it fuels the fire for self-discovery. It encourages students to explore social discourses to understand real-world issues.
- School Systems that Promote Equality
In recent years, social justice has emerged as a defining factor that promotes equality in education systems. Schools and universities across the spectrum are working to improve their corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards. Today, there are more significant opportunities for students from previously disadvantaged economic, racial, and gender backgrounds.
Promoting equality in the education sector and within the classroom go hand-in-hand. The premier goal is to erect a school system that supports and cements equality. This goal is achieved by educating students from multiple economic and social backgrounds. A school can develop a robust response to inequality by addressing the disparities that exist within its system.
Social justice education is pertinent to encourage students and future educators to address inequality in school systems. Today, educators and school systems are increasingly providing resources for underprivileged students. While the gap is still enormously huge, efforts are underway to promote social equality in the education system.
Social justice in education is not the sole responsibility of educators and school administrators. But instead, it is a responsibility that extends and stretches throughout the community. Parents must also do their part in helping schools and institutions expand their social justice standards. Parents and teachers can work together to help underprivileged and troubled students who are at risk of dropping out.
Many public schools in the US sponsor programs to help and uplift students who lack support at home. Parents and teachers come together in extracurricular activities and homework clubs to promote educational support. Financial aids, scholarships, and on-campus jobs are also mediums for promoting social equality and creating underprivileged students’ opportunities.