Teaching for Social Justice – Am I Doing Enough? (Debate #4)

Teaching for Social Justice – Am I Doing Enough? (Debate #4)

The topic for a fourth juicy debate: Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice

Educational settings can be somewhat obsessed with preserving a neutral environment. Granted, neutrality has educational value in the classroom, evident in this blog post. However, maintaining neutrality should not extend the boundaries of learning potential in inquiry settings. When it comes to issues of social nature, neutrality needs to be scrutinized as responsible for perpetuating social injustice. Kristen Parker (2019) suggest in this article that “…by remaining neutral, teachers are enacting the opposite of neutrality by “choosing to maintain the status quo and further marginalizing certain groups.””

Benjamin Doxdator (2017) says this about what schools choose to (or not to) post about: “[t]he reluctance for schools to jump into politics is also political” (full article here). Also suggested by other readings related to this topic, this was a personal reminder for me that neutrality itself isn’t neutral when its definition was conceived out of systems and structures that were built in certain ways for certain reasons. As individuals, we have opinions and values, shaped by our experiences, that grow and change as we do. I do believe that most people in society believe that all people should have an equitable opportunity for success and a life they’re content with. However, It does not feel this way in online spaces. Social media can provide anonymity and allow confidence for people with discriminatory views to express their opinions in ways that amplify their voice louder than the majority. I sometimes wonder if, then, too many people who are passionate about social justice are just staying silent online. If so, is silence just compliance with the status quo? This question sparks motivation in me to use whatever platforms are available to me to point out injustice and push for social change. It makes me feel like it is my responsibility as an educator.

Crowd of protesters holding signs
Photo by Life Matters on Pexels

I say all of this, and then I open my phone and look at my own social media content. It is largely void of anything explicitly or directly promoting social justice. Is my media silence compliance? Should I be doing more? Should we all be doing more? What does that look like in the classroom context? Where does it fit in among everything else we are expected to do? Sigh… once again, more questions than answers.

Angela Watson, founder and creator of the Truth for Teachers podcast, makes some interesting points in this article about the impossibility of neutrality, even in the things we do, say, and imply unconsciously. In light of this, if as educators, our values are already generally known by students, must we stay vocally silent on issues that matter to us?

I understand the impact that educators can have by modeling a positive digital presence through social media. In a 2015 blog post, Torrey Trust argues this and several other benefits of teachers having a professional social media presence. However, as touched on by Dalton and Brooke, being an active and vocal member in digital media spaces does not necessarily promote social justice in meaningful ways or enact lasting change. It is, at the very least, equally important to speak about and promote social justice in real-world settings, in both speech and action.

Crop woman with smartphone near protesters during manifestation
Photo by Kelly L on Pexels

The disagree debate team for this topic shared a blog post I thought to be very meaningful surrounding the topic of social media activism. It explains how while by no means is social media activism a negative thing, in order for it to be genuine, it needs to encompass measurable commitments and action. As strongly as I feel about educators using whatever means necessary to promote social justice, maybe it is too much to ask for all teachers to be social media advocates if only genuine with follow-up action. Things get especially complex in situations, as shared during the debate, where an educator’s beliefs on certain issues are in conflict with those they are expected to uphold in the classroom.

I hate to do this, but I’m going to slightly separate “technology” and “social media” for my final thoughts.

Educators have a responsibility to use technology (optionally including social media) to promote social justice. At this time, there are too many implications around sharing viewpoints that could conflict with those of the desired code of conduct in the employing educational organization to make social media advocacy mandatory. In our technology-dense classrooms, however, I do believe that educators have a responsibility to use technology as a tool to promote social justice. The connectivity and diversifying experience that digital technology provides is an essential tool in helping students see and understand social issues that need our attention. Perhaps someday, if and when social media presence becomes even more commonplace, a responsibility for social justice activism through those platforms would also be an expectation.

4 thoughts on “Teaching for Social Justice – Am I Doing Enough? (Debate #4)

  1. You made me really reflect on ” Am I doing enough?” As educators, our job is neverending. We could easily stay at work hours after the bell to find the best resources, make the best lessons, and do everything we can to make sure our students succeed. But, there needs to be a limit! We learn quickly after that first year of teaching that at one point, we need to put down the work and walk away for our sanity ( and our students). I do love seeing teachers advocate online, but it might be too much to ask that every teacher does. I’m just finishing my 4th year of teaching and I finally feel like I’m not drowning. I can’t imagine asking a first-year teacher to take on yet another responsibility. Great post!

    1. Hey Megan. I absolutely agree with you. That balance is so necessary. That line has to be drawn or teachers do more harm than good, wearing themselves out so much that they wind up being less effective and burnt out. Glad to hear you don’t feel like you’re drowning anymore! Sometimes I feel like finding the balance is going to span a whole career, so frequent check-ins with yourself are key 🙂

  2. Ugh… “Am I doing enough?” I feel as if I think about this statement at least once a week, if not more depending on what’s going on. Sometimes I think that maybe I should be doing more, trying out more things, educating kids about more global and current issues, and so on. But I also need to spend more time thinking about balance and understanding that it can’t possibly be a responsibility of mine to do everything. When it comes to social justice, I can be an ally and educator in the classroom. Do I feel as if I would be effective on social media? Absolutely not. When activism is forced, it’s not authentic at all.

  3. Hi Christina,

    Great post! You make me think “Am I doing enough?” As an Employment Instructor, my clients are all immigrants and refugees. In the class, clients would sometimes disclose some sensitive topics, like their experience in individual racism and systematic racism, unfair treatment in the workplace or during the hiring process, etc. Honestly, I don’t want the conversation in the class goes that way because it is a difficult issue to solve right now and would make other people in the class (including me) uncomfortable. I always respectfully intervene
    in this conversation and switch the topic. I know I haven’t done enough to advocate for my clients. I am not a social media activist and certainly have not fulfilled my responsibility to advocate for social justice both online and offline. I agree with you if someday, social media presence becomes even more commonplace, responsibility for social justice activism through those platforms would also be an expectation even though it is uncomfortable for me.


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