Social Justice? Equity? Sustainability? What are they, and what do they have to do with education?

April 2, 2017

As educators, it is not our job to protect young people from misinformation, hateful rhetoric, and inequity. Instead, we are here to help them understand how to think critically about the multitude of information at their fingertips, and how to use that information to create a more just and equitable society. After all, what is the point of education if it is not to better ourselves and our world?

 

Let's start with a few definitions. Although these terms have been used in various ways historically, these are most widely accepted definitions today. 

 

Sustainability: (Foundation) Meeting our needs today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In order to be sustainable, all three areas must be addressed: Economics, the Environment and Society.

 

Social Justice: (Path) Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. 

 

Equity: (Outcome) The condition that would be achieved if one's identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares.

 

What does all of this have to do with education?

 

In order to achieve a society where justice is systemic and equity is a reality, we need at all times to be using a strong foundation of sustainability in our decision making. Helping young people to understand the concept of sustainability, and how its consistent use can lead to a just and equitable society, is necessary for good education. 

 

Who's got time for all of that?

 

We all do. Integrating these concepts into our daily work is easier than it might at first seem. Sometimes, it's the little things. Being aware of whose voices we encourage to be heard (and how) in the classroom, board meeting, or parent teacher conference. Educators also traditionally serve as judges in the classroom. Taking note that we use our authority to promote justice and create an equitable environment is the first step.  

 

More to come on this topic, and many others...

 

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