You can’t turn on the news without hearing a report about a social justice issue. From racism and poverty to issues having to do with sexual orientation and white privilege the problems abound. These reports often leave me thinking about what I can do as an educator to help my students deal with, discuss, understand, and take action to address these real world problems. We have a HUGE responsibility here.
Bringing social justice issues and current events into the classroom affords us an opportunity to help our students enhance their critical thinking skills. They provide the perfect forum for teaching students to debate. Our students need to understand how to form an argument backed by research, historical context, and examples. Beyond that (and maybe even more importantly) they need to understand how to agree to disagree, listen to other perspectives, and respectfully respond with differing opinions. What better way to bring in current issues that students can relate to than hosting pop-up and extended debates in the classroom?
The classroom should be an open forum where students can practice critical thinking, argument, and debate skills and discuss social justice issues in a safe place. If students aren’t taught how to effectively share their ideas they will have a hard time getting their point across and effecting change.
How do you teach social justice issues in your classroom? Is there a particular method that you find to be most effective? Do you avoid teaching and discussing social justice issues altogether? If so, why?