07 SES 01 A, Teachers' Views on Social Justice
Social inequality is on the rise in many OECD nations and implicated in their education systems, often justified in elitist terms at the level of access to quality education (Dorling, 2011; Piketty, 2014). As is the case in Australia (Gonski et al., 2011) and increasingly throughout Europe (NESSE, 2012), inequality in learning outcomes closely aligned with the socio-economic background of students suggests the crucial role teachers can play in promoting social justice in and through education. The way teachers conceptualise social justice influences their pedagogic practices – how they make conditions of privilege and marginalisation visible in the classroom, and the extent to which they encourage all students to participate in learning experiences. In this paper we are interested in the metaphors for social justice mobilised by teachers in schools and the extent to which these challenge and/or contribute to elitist agendas.
The paper draws on data from stages two and three of a study into the social justice dispositions of teachers as these relate to their pedagogic work (Bourdieu, 1977; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990) with students in advantaged and disadvantaged secondary schools in two Australian cities. The particular focus in this paper is on the metaphors used by these teachers to name social justice in their schools. We are interested in naming the influence of context – of schools positioned at the extremes of education advantage and disadvantage – arguing that teachers’ metaphors of social justice are differently constructed in different contexts, influenced by different social, cultural, and material conditions.
The paper is guided by the following research questions:
(a) What metaphors do teachers use to name and conceptualise social justice needs, goals and practices in their classrooms?
(b) What issues and perspectives are excluded in the teachers’ metaphoric framing of social justice?
(c) How does school context inform teachers’ metaphoric thoughts of social justice?
We understand metaphor as a framing device (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) that “at once conceals and is concealed” (Derrida, 1974, p. 8). Metaphors render some ideas and situations understandable at the same time as they hide others from consideration (Gee, 2011), thus privileging some and blinding us to the importance and even existence of others (Postman, 1985). We draw on Bourdieu’s metaphors of capital and field (Grenfell, 2011) to interrogate the logics of practice underpinning social justice work within schools. We examine teachers’ metaphoric framings of social justice in relation to school context, with special emphasis on the social mix and socio-economic backgrounds of students found in our case schools.
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