07 SES 03 A, Promoting Social Justice
In this paper I examine the way in which rural teachers, enact practices that have the effect of pluralising social justice in schools. The aim of this paper is to identify discourses and practices that contribute to a more plural conceptualisation of social justice. That is, I search for a socially just education that can provide hope for a future that can be ‘translated into action plans that seek to push out the boundaries of what is perceived to be realizable’ (Halpin 2003: 60) within the particular context of rural school. I argue that one of the critical aims of education should be the provision of hope; real possibilities for better opportunities for the socially disadvantaged (Sawyer et al. 2007). A hope that is not naïve or conducted by unrealistic goals but rooted in an understanding of what is possible (Inglis 2004) through socially just education.
One of the first problems when we engage with abstract concepts like hope and social justice is to know what we mean when we talk about them. Both concepts remain contested, elusive and open (McGeer 2008, Miller 1999). For example, like social justice, hope can also be seen through different dimensions. Hope is related to social justice in its utopian (especially given the neoliberal context) sense of possibility, of longing; its capacity to transcend the social, economic and cultural context. Hope can be empowering and transformational. It can become a plan, a road map for betterment of oneself and society’s condition. As McLeod (2007: 157) puts it, there is ‘an argument for seeing hopefulness as a vital aspect of social justice politics’. Moreover, in relation to education, hope is tied to the idea that teaching and learning leads to social improvement (Halpin 2003: 15), to the betterment of society and individuals.
The perennial disadvantages experienced by rural schools (HREOC 2000, Corbett 2007) exacerbate an idea of social justice related to issues of distribution of resources; for instance, the provision of better facilities and staffing of schools. This prominence of the distributive dimension presents social justice as the fair distribution of benefits and burdens, including in the sphere of education (Walzer 1983). The trouble with the predominance of the distributive dimension is that it has restricted social justice ‘to the morally proper distribution of benefits and burdens’ (Young 1990: 15); neglecting issues of power, self-respect and autonomy.
I argue that social justice encompasses more than proper distribution of resources. Thus, for an attainable hope for all participants involved in education, we need to move from the distributive dimension to, firstly, a recognition of social differences and, secondly, a political analysis of ‘procedural issues of participation in deliberation and decision making’ (Young 1990: 34). That is, the respect, promotion and celebration of diversity by including and legitimating all social groups and their cultures in schools. This does not refer to tokenistic celebrations of different ‘cultures’ but to a relational justice where the goal is to make the process of education as relevant as the outcomes (Gewirtz 2006). In other words, teaching and learning is a relational process based on ‘learning from the Other’, thus opening social justice to other dimensions than the distribution of resources. For example, Noddings (2003: 19) urges us to think: ‘Why should we listen?’ By listening we learn from the Other and a desire to listen to the Other constructs the foundation of a socially just democratic society. As Noddings puts it, the desire and commitment to communicate with one another creates and sustains democracy and hope, it is a prerequisite for a socially just education for all.
Gewirtz, S. (2002) The Managerial School: Post-welfarism and Social Justice in Education. London: Routledge. Gewirtz, S. (2006) Towards a Contextualized Analysis of Social Justice in Education Educational Philosophy and Theory, 38(5), 69-81. Halpin, David (2003) Hope and Education: The Role of the Utopian Imagination. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Iinglis, F. (2004) Education and the good society. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Lister, R. (2004) A politics of recognition and respect: Involving people with experience of poverty in decision-making that affects their lives. In J. Andersen & B. Siim (eds.) The politics of inclusion and empowerment. New York: Palgrave. Ludema, J. D. (2000) From deficit discourse to vocabularies of hope: the power of appreciation. In D. Cooperrider, P. F. Sorenson, D. Whitney & T. F. Yaeger (eds.) Appreciative Enquiry: Rethinking Human Organization Towards a Positive Theory of Change. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing. McGeer, V. (2008) Trust, Hope and Empowerment. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 86(2), 237-254. McLeod, J. (2007) Generations of hope: Mothers, daughters and everyday wishes for a better life. In J. McLeod & A. Allard (eds.) Learnings from the Margins: Young women, social exclusion and education. Abingdon & New York: Routledge. Miller, D. (1999) Principles of Social Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Noddings, N. (2003) Why Should We Listen? Philosophy of Education, 2003, 19-22. Walzer, M. (1983) Spheres of Justice: A Defence of Pluralism and Equality. Oxford: Martin Robertson. Young, I. M. (1990) Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Young, I. M. (2000) Inclusion and democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Young, I. M. (2006a) Education in the Context of Structural Injustice: A symposium response. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 38(1), 93-103.
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.