GREAT DEBATE PROJECT: Teaching Social Justice in Schools Through Personal Connection

Teaching Social Justice in schools is important.  There is NO arguing that.  However, with the current social media platforms being bombarded with information, some relevant and some not, it is no wonder many people truly can’t conceptualize what the issues truly are.

After asking 25 individuals of the current social justice issues appearing on social media this past week, many said they can’t keep track of the details.  Stanley, a resident in the Rosemont community of Regina, said he has tried to screen shot the news and social media information so that he can have more time to understand, process and discuss the issue with his family.  “The issues shown online and through interviews on TV are informative and interesting” he said, “yet I don’t understand the problem, what caused it and how to attempt to fix it.”  Stanley and his wife, both professionals in the city, say as they near retirement issues we are currently facing as a society have been the same since they were kids.

“Where’s the dialogue? or plan for action?  Where’s the empathy and understanding?”

I agree with Stanley.

If we post to join a movement or share our opinion, are we doing it because we intend to live it in our interactions with others and commit to promoting fairness and equality?  Or are we posting because the pressures of social media demand one to take a stand?

This debate issue is complex and both sides in my opinion shone a light on many of them.  Brad and I spoke of the value of face to face connections in order to build a relationship with students who then feel comfortable in truly being themselves and sharing their thoughts on social justice issues.  We also mentioned the notion of slacktivism.  Slacktivism, as Brad explained, ” is a real thing in our society so, would using social media at this young age be better or worse for future slacktivists? There are so many teachable moments within all of this, and I suppose my reluctance to join the ranks of social media activism probably says something about my own journey to understanding privilege… I just think there are many things to consider with regards to students engaging in social media activism”.

Jacquie and Mike were phenomenal in their abilities to explain the value of social justice and that school can and should be bigger than its walls.  Their facts and information presented was well thought out and so articulate it had me questioning my stance during the debate.

Tonight’s debate struck many chords with me.

This class is not just a class.  I feel that the trust and comfort level we all share allows some to feel comfortable and trusted to share their personal stories….some so heartbreaking and shocking that we all pause and consider the world in which we reside. It is a safe setting and seems to, with each passing week, become a community in which one can share their experiences without judgement.

Personally, growing up in a family who had very little, because of the kindness and generousity of others, families including mine ate each night.  Thus, through action and little words, my children and myself choose to help others the same.  Do I post about it or share it? Very rarely.  Am I looking for accolades or praise for being a good person? No. But so what if I was? When social justice issues such as poverty or hunger can be acted upon with simple hamper donation to those less fortunate, isn’t that type of example better to share for youth today trying to make positive change?

Take a look at the most recent social media post on the ticker at this very moment….

Protest to show support. Update your social media platform post.  Join the masses but when the opportunity arises to cast a vote for a political party that might support your reason to protest, you don’t vote?  So are we truly attempting to act for positive social justice change?

There is no time like the present as an educator to discuss social justice issues with your students.  The days of unbiased and neutral stances are a challenge and while I believe there is space for that so children can form their own opinions, there are other times when explaining your stance and acting upon it speaks much louder than any words on a post.

As of late, I sometimes smile and wonder if people seem to wait to crush someone online who shares thoughts different than their own or truly pause to consider others.  Maybe such people just enjoy creating tension in a world where there is enough already.

Imagine if those who critique the words of others to a point of nauseam perhaps spent the time delivering a hamper, leaving words of encouragement for others to read in their mailboxes or simply buying a coffee for a local business owner and offering a hand. 2020.

Just a thought….

2 thoughts on “GREAT DEBATE PROJECT: Teaching Social Justice in Schools Through Personal Connection

  1. Michala,
    I couldn’t agree with you more, this is more than a class. It has been revolutionary in terms of my understanding of not only technology in the classroom but of the world we live in. It is a safe-space to learn and grow; I’m sad to see it come to an end. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I agree with you and Sherrie. The amount that people have been able to open up in this course and feel safe, despite it being online, is truly incredible. Maybe it’s a case of “right place, right time” — lots of people feeling isolated at home and this allows us to see and interact with a wide range of like-minded people. I am grateful for the opportunity.

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