Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Power of the Connected Classroom: Why and How I’m Teaching Social Justice

The Power of the Connected Classroom: Why and How I’m Teaching Social Justice | Powerful Learning Practice

Perhaps the title of this post should be "How I'm indoctrinating your children"

Everything about this semester is intricately crafted. As a class we’re going somewhere. I teach the Holocaust for a reason beyond the fact that my students find it interesting. I teach the Rwandan genocide for reasons other than to show them that genocide has happened, and continues to happen, repeatedly. The truth is I teach both of these to show my students that the bystander effect is lethal, often on a scale beyond our imagination.

Furthermore, I don’t ask my students to try to decide if they would’ve been counted among the few who helped persecuted people flee or hide. For me, that’s the wrong question. It’s too easy to say 15 or 70 years after a genocide that you would have done the right thing. It’s easy to tell ourselves that we’re brave — that we will stand up for what is right, regardless of the cost.
So here’s the question I pose instead. We have the equivalent of a mass genocide occur every year in the world. You may think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I speak of those who die needlessly in developing countries, predominantly Africa, every year from diseases that we know how to prevent or treat: malaria, TB, malnutrition, diarrhea. Rather than being hypothetical, the question to my students is: what are you going to do about it? Now, and for the rest of their lives. It’s not enough to say I would have. Instead, we need to say I am.
Now, I have no doubt that she feels very strongly about social justice, I question whether she should be the one to teach it to her students.

To me, social justice "values" should be taught to children and teenagers by their parents, not by their teachers. We don't pay teachers to teach our children values. While the learning of values is a constantly evolving thing, the main focus is that it is the parents of the child who should be the driving force behind that development, not teachers. To teach the so-called "other side" of Walmart without teaching about how Walmart is one of the single most important drivers for development in the third world does the child no good. Similarly, teaching about how many third world diseases could be eradicated (ie malaria) and blaming the first world for this failure without also noting that it was social justice activists who pressured WHO to deny those very same tools to the Third World that we ourselves use is another example.

To make a long story short, I question how "social justice" fits into the curriculum for Ms. Wright's chosen teaching areas of English, Science and Technology. Perhaps she wants to explain that to the parents of her students while she is attempting to indoctrinate their children.

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