Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice.
I may have let a previous experience with an intern interrupt my critical thinking when doing the pre-vote for this week’s topic. I was drawn to the term “social justice” and instantly got to thinking about activating damage control in response to pushing one’s own agenda, or at least student learning being perceived as that. As educators, it is preached early and often (and never really gives way), that we are to remain unbiased, especially when it comes to political issues. There is a fine line to walk between teaching critical thinking and empathy, and having your own emotions, passions, and agenda driving student learning in a certain direction regarding social justice.
We Just Want to Build Good People
As educators, we have a responsibility to promote social justice through the use of technology and social media. In today’s world, social media is the most common form of communication, and as such, we must strive to create good people who can become contributing members of society. We need to walk the walk and not just offer “thoughts and prayers” on social media. Social justice is about creating an organizational structure that provides access to economic benefits, ensures that everyone has the essentials for a good life, protects against discrimination, and promotes educational opportunities for children. We must be role models for our students and bring issues into the classroom as they are being heard. Amanda and Jacquie did a really good job of trying to persuade me to believe as much.
Creating a safe environment where students can speak about social justice issues is important. As educators, we can model social justice advocacy on social media and elsewhere. Having these conversations helps prepare students for the modern world and enables them to find their voice in the pursuit of social justice. Scherman & Rivera (2021) found that Instagram can play a role in shaping young people’s political behavior through interpersonal communication, demonstrating how changes in the media environment are affecting the relationship between media consumption and political participation.
According to Blake (Resilient Educator), incorporating social justice in the classroom is essential. Teachers can create a community of conscience where students’ voices and ideas are valued and respected. Incorporating diverse experiences and backgrounds in classroom materials can facilitate conversations about real-world issues that affect students’ everyday lives. Teachers can also turn social justice learning into community service and action. By doing so, we can help our students become agents of change in their communities and the world.
Neutrality to Create Critical Thinkers
As an educator, the idea of using technology and social media to promote social justice is a controversial one. While it may seem like a noble cause, there are several reasons why I disagree with this statement, brought forth by Ramsel.
Teachers should avoid sharing their political beliefs and stances as they may be tied to social issues. It is important to maintain neutrality in the classroom and not sway students towards any political ideology or belief system. Promoting some social justice issues over others may not work and could lead to a biased classroom environment.
As civil servants, teachers work for government-owned schools under the public service of Canada. Social media is a business and not a great place for teachers to promote social justice causes. In fact, social media has been used to promote social injustice because of who is most visible on these platforms.
Instead, teachers should encourage students to share their thoughts and opinions without fear of judgment. Teachers should serve as moderators in helping students find their own voice and should not voice their own values, beliefs or opinions. When a teacher voices their opinion, it creates discomfort and can damage relationships with students and parents.
While the promotion of social justice is an important issue, educators should maintain neutrality in the classroom and avoid using technology and social media to promote any political ideology or belief system.
If I am a teacher who does not view climate change as something real, that the government’s COVID-19 response was deceptive and nefarious, or that I firearm regulations in Canada are too tight, and voiced that on social media, would that be defended and supported by my admin, school division, and union? What is the difference between using my voice in front of the students, or my social media to spread those messages? Obviously spreading a negative message will come with its own set of consequences. Does this take away a teacher’s individual voice though, having them speak to a common message that they may not agree with based on their own values and beliefs? If teaching critical thinking is a part of education, should the educators be able to do that themselves, or do we fall in line with what is expected of us as the professionals?