Thursday, 20 March 2014

Why teach social justice?

Before I even write this post I want to stress that these opinions our my own and comments are here to make you think, no offence is intended.

Today I was reminded about why I should and all teachers should be teaching social justice and more importantly all the various isms. Now, when I mention the isms I am talking about racism, sexism, ableism, faith-as-an-ism, classism, and heterosexism.  I understand that this may be touchy subjects for teachers but it is so important to be discussing.  Let me start at the beginning.

I will be honest when I first started teaching, social justice meant nothing to me.  I taught knowledge and concepts. But four years ago, I met an amazing teacher who opened up my eyes.  She showed me the power of social justice and teaching through the isms.  Since then I have had my eyes open up to see that teaching through these topics is about caring for one another, loving eachother for who we are no matter on our beliefs and more importantly it is about accepting each others beliefs.  Unfortunately, these past four years haven't been the easiest. As I and other teachers have taught through social justice we have met many complications and resistance; even to this day.  This resistance has come in the form of ignorance and unwillingness to accept change. Now I know these words may seem harse but it is the only words that come to mind and I say them because before having my mind open it is how I felt. The funny thing is that most of these topics are fine. When we talk about ableism, classism, racism, sexism no one bats an eyelash but when we bring up the topic of heterosexism it becomes controversial. 

Now I understand that this topic brings many different views and view points.  There is religion and culture but if we look back on the other topics this was the same with them too.  We once thought that African American children and adults couldn't sit on the same bus, drink the same water or even have jobs the same as white.  We even had African Americans has slaves.  Those with disabilities both physical and mental were viewed as second class citizens. Now I am in no way saying that these ideas are gone, which is why I believe it's so important to teach about them, what I am saying is why is the topic of heterosexism any different then the other isms? Should it be? When I say hateful comments about the LGBQ community is it not the same has putting a white hood over my face and attacking a bus full of African Americans or allowing the horrors of the holocaust to happen? Is it not the same as saying girls can't be successful because there girls or those with physical and mental disabilities should be second class citizens? I say it isn't, what about you?

This brings me to the reason why I am writing this blog post.  In the past couple of years I have heard many various children, parents and unfortunately teachers saying many hurtful things. These comments are so bad, it makes teachers cry, children want to kill themselves, teachers want to quick teaching. The sad part is there is no defence no aid for these comments. Other comments range from Debating why we should be teaching these isms, that there is a personal agenda, or trying to change children away from their culture or faith.  The reason why it gets me so upset is that the teaching of these topics has nothing to do with personal beliefs but more with accepting one another for who we are, no matter what that is. There is so much fighting, war, arguments over needless things and it needs to stop. Hurt breeds more hurt. Hate breeds hate and if we don't stand up for it then who will.

As a parent, I want my daughter and future child, to love everyone for who they are. I want them to also be accepting of everyone's opinion. I am not saying they have to believe or follow but they must accept and love each person for who they are.  Personally I am a religious man, I have a strong beliefs and because of these beliefs I know where I stand and hate isn't part of it, love is.  When teachers teach through social justice we are teaching our future generation to love one another, to change and be the change we want in this world.  By teaching this way and these topics we are breeding a new society that hopefully may not have any war but peace.

So what needs to happen then.  As teachers we need to incorporate more social justice into our practise. I know some of the topics are hard but start small and build.  We need to stop ALL hateful comments coming from our students, colleagues and all that say them. As administrator, the words of hate should not be allowed or even debated, not matter the topic. Discussion is fine but there must be a stand at hate. There also needs to be a united front that topics of social justice will be taught in the schools and if there are complains or resistance that teachers are supported in their decisions because those decisions will change our world.  Dialogue wis accepted and should be encouraged as long as it's positive and not hateful. Parents need to have an open mind no matter on faith, personal believe or stereotypes. I can't speak for all parents but I know personally I don't want my child to grow up in war and hate, this is the only way to stop this. Students need to stop hateful words like that's retarded, that's gay.  Most importantly we all need to think about what our words may say and do to others, no matter on our personal feelings about the topic. We need to think beyond what we have been told is true and think critically about it.

Now I know as I write this it may not sit well with others but if we really want this world to change, if we really want hate removed then we need to think about acceptance and love for one another. We need to stand up for what is right and not what we have been told is right. So as I end this blog I ask, no implore you to think about your practise, to think about your walk, your life, how are you affecting change? How are you teaching acceptance? How are you being equitable for all? And if you have any stories to share about why social justice is important please share. Thank you for reading.


  1. Thank you, Jonathan, for having the courage to share these important thoughts :)

    1. Thank you. I am glad you liked it. You are right that these words are important I just wish more people would feel this way and say these things.

  2. Thank you Jonathan, for sharing your thoughts, and obvious committment and dedication to fairness, equality, social justice, and I think most importantly, critical thinking, as this can apply to any broad range of topics. I agree wholeheartedly that we need to consider our words and actions and the impact they might have on others.