A very brief word on teaching for social justice…

All schools serve the societies in which they’re embedded—authoritarian schools serve authoritarian systems, apartheid schools serve an apartheid society, and so on. Practically all schools want their students to study hard, stay away from drugs, do their homework, and so on. In fact none of these features distinguishes schools in the old Soviet Union or fascist Germany from schools in a democracy, and in fact those schools produced some excellent scientists and athletes and musicians and so on. They also produced obedience and conformity, moral blindness and easy agreement, obtuse patriotism and a willingness to follow orders right into the furnaces. In a democracy one would expect something different—a commitment to free inquiry, questioning, and participation; a push for access and equity; a curriculum that encouraged free thought and independent judgment; a standard of full recognition of the humanity of each individual. In other words, social justice.

22 Responses to A very brief word on teaching for social justice…

  1. Sam Pierce says:

    So you agree that the liberal stranglehold on public education is a problem.

  2. John Janski says:

    How about some justice for the victims of the Weather Underground, Billy???? Such as the 3 million murdered in SE Asia as a result of your undermining of the US effort to defeat communist aggression.

  3. Sam says:

    Don’t forget the essential market value of schools. In a post-industrial economy in which human capital is the most valuable commodity, schools are factories whose goal is to produce grade A+ products.

  4. Tom J says:

    I would include critical thinking, philosophy (including various religions), and contextual humanities in a list of what one should expect.

    There’s probably an actual name for ‘contextual humanities’, but I mean teaching the literature, music, theatre, arts, leisure activities and so forth as part of the history of a time period. ‘History’ so often means little more than the history of government and wars. Understanding the interconnections owould surely help, as well as make it more interesting. (For that matter, I’d like period music and news clippings in art museum galleries. to put the art in context. At most we get bits about the personal life of the artist.)

    The fuller the picture of the times, the better the understanding of how a ‘culture’ is formed, how all the parts fit together, and its people shape it and are shaped by it in return.

    For example, the connection of Mozart and Beethoven with the American and French Revolutions. This is also an example of crossing national boundaries in teaching. The effects of globalization have been with this for a very long time, and yet we don’t really teach them except in a very narrow sense.

    Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I and Catholic/Protestant persecutions. Teaching these separately (and generally at different times in the curriculum!) means the connections aren’t made, which also makes learning more difficult. Good films help, because one can see and hear everything working together, but one still needs to teach the connections of how they affect each other.

    Perhaps it would explain the fallacy inherent with assuming a particular form of government will work equally well with all cultures. Or that people of every culture would want it. That if you change a few pieces in the jigsaw puzzle, the big picture won’t fall apart.

    Social justice must include not only the humanity of each individual, but the humanity of each culture. Not ranking them, not treating them all as perfectly equal, but learning why this one works well and that one doesn’t. Who’s happy, who’s not, and is that a rational standard to use (back to philosophy education). Why does this one work in raising living standards overall, but not in education, and vice versa. One thing the Rev. Wright had right was that different does not mean deficient.

    I also want to see history combined with actual doing. Teaching the history of chamber music with teaching how to play musical instruments of the time. Teaching the history of cubism in art with actually painting. Why leave these things to only art and music majors? It’s so much easier to understand people in another place and time if one has lived as they’ve lived, reading, eating listening, socializing (which is a particulary interesting term).

    I suppose it’s all about building empathy for others. With empathy for the past and present, one can prepare for a rational, workable future. Which is rather the point of education.

  5. tim baker says:

    This is all great, but there is only a limited amount of time. Deeper exploration of any field would require specialization much earlier than the second year of college as is generally the case. Conversely, this would certainly decrease one’s capacity for building empathy about the concerns of others. We need something cheap, effective, comprehensive, and easy to impliment. We need solutions that will impact much earlier.

  6. tim baker says:

    It’s too bad there are so many sore loosers on line with their twisted spin on the history of the 60’s. It was Jane Fonda and Ali, and thousands of activists that stopped the killing of our classmates in Nam,

  7. Jack Janski says:

    Uh Timmy,

    Perhaps you should read the memoirs of General Giap. You know, the commander of the communist forces in the North. He was banking on the likes of Ayers, Fonda, Kerry etc, to undermine the American will to fight and hand his army a victory. He even argued with his government not to strike a deal with the Americans because he knew that the Leftists were on the side of the communist and the tide would turn his way if not militarily but politically. Why the aforementioned skunks where not put up against a wall and shot is beyond me.

    However this does not make Billy and his skank wife any less of a treasonsous piece of crap.

    BTW, any comment regarding Bernie’s statement about the Manson murder victims??? Ummmmm?????

  8. tim baker says:

    Fuck you you worthless son-of-a-bitth.

  9. Sam Pierce says:


    The above url is one man’s recollection as to the attempt on the lives of his entire family by the grouping of fecal matter known as The Weather Underground. Mr. Baker, your words are an inspiration… or would be if I knew what a “son-of-a-bitth” was.

  10. Tom J says:

    Jack Janski has posted so many times on this blog, one would have thought at some point he would have actually read the New York Times piece he so often quotes. If he had, or even glanced at it, even he might have noticed it was NOT an op-ed written by Bill Ayers, but an interview of Bill written by Dinitia Smith. Ah well, one gets what one pays for, and dittoheads work cheap.

    You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

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