What is Social Justice?


Definitions and Guiding Principles

This is a broad concept to define. Some sources define social justice as “preventing human rights abuses.” Others would say that social justice is about creating equity. Another source defines it as, “Ideal condition in which all members of a society have the same basic rights, security, opportunities, obligations and social benefits.”

You can work with your students to explore these words and come up with a definition that you’ll work with during your course. The principles we worked with during our course were derived from our motto, “Our Struggle, Our Future, Our Education” and by our essential and guiding questions.

“I learned how to be a leader, solve my struggles and how to treat others.”

Voice

A central theme throughout our course was “Finding Your Voice.” We realized that before students could think beyond themselves, they had to understand themselves. Almost every activity throughout the course provided ways for them to express their opinions, understand their actions, think about and set goals, discover who they thought they were and who others thought they were. This process culminated in the Video Blog project (see that section for more information).

Service and Activism

Our belief is that being of service is a direct way to feel that it is possible to make a difference in the world. For example, we spent one class period cleaning up the grounds outside the school. This had a huge impact on the students’ sense of responsibility for and pride in their environment, and was something they spoke about often.

Several of our students were able to participate in a Youth Service Learning Conference where they came together with students from other schools to talk about what youth can do to make a difference in schools and the larger community. They felt respected and empowered because their ideas were listened to, and they shared video blogs talking about how they could make a difference. Another conference some students attended was “Youth Rock” which supported student involvement in addressing issues that affect their lives.

Finding a Focus

Refer to the section on Backward Design in the “Using This Curriculum” section. Think about your school’s mission and vision. Reflect on your student body and what is most needed in terms of leadership. Consider the community that surrounds the school and what need might be met. Think about the school’s culture and what could be improved. It might be important to explore what is meant by culture and all that it includes. Identify opportunities for leadership by students within the school and how this class can connect and support those goals.

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