J is for Justice

| May 4, 2014

Here at TC, it’s certainly not uncommon to hear the term “social justice.” In my courses so far, I’ve been introduced to the work of Paolo Freire, bell hooks, and countless other philosophers and educators who articulate the importance of this method of teaching. As educators, we are encouraged to enact social justice pedagogies simply through the ways we embody attitudes and beliefs about our students, in addition to the types of questions our curricula with students raise. At its core is student-centered learning—a building of relationships—and an undermining of what is all-to-often an inequitable status quo (in our society, in education, and beyond).

The chapter from Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells and Helguerra’s concept of socially engaged art, for me, seemed to particularly connect to this concept fairly directly. I wonder if this type of artwork or production could be incorporated into the classroom as a part of a social justice curriculum. What might it look like to pull together art with other projects (such as community-based research) that are commonly brought up when talking about a social jusice-based curriculum? More importantly, as I feel like a few of my classmates may have brought up in this class, how can we position ourselves as educators to make sure social justice curriculums are authentic? It’s one thing to throw all of these terms—social justice pedagogy, socially engaged art, etc.—around, but it’s another thing entirely to actually have them play out. I think being aware of the ways in which a social justice curriculum could possibly continue to play back into existing structures is extremely important. In order to create a genuine experience for students, and to really be engaging with the hard questions, it’s important that the actions taken aren’t reduced to some form of tokenism or just going along with the flow.