Perusing on the Internet, I found an incredibly interesting article out of Melbourne, Australia about an innovative means for an educational system in a diverse scenario. Essentially, a small government funded middle school holds families from over 50 cultures and 28 languages. Additionally, many of these families come from gruesome backgrounds as refugees from other countries. In short, one school counselor found that the most success for a situation such as this comes from direct implementation of principles found in social justice.
Social justice is defined as promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity. It exists when all people share a common humanity and therefore have a right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights, and a fair allocation of community resources. In the context of this anecdote in Australia, the vast amount of cultures and languages are embraced in order to increase the efficacy of the school and the benefits that arise for the children in such an environment. When many of these families are far from home and escaping potentially dangerous situations, it can be difficult to foster a sense of cohesion between potentially clashing cultures. However, when the school is able to coordinate events with the parents and children, testimonials show that parents felt much more welcome in the community because they were able to establish a network of people to engage in social activity. This building of relationships is not only essential in a school system, but it is also vital in leading a happy life. Quite often the best memories we have in life are shared with the people that we love.
Along with the establishment of relationships, many parents also being to feel a sense of pride in the school that their children attend through some of these programming. In addition to this concept applied outside of the classroom, teachers are using similar principles when developing lesson plans. As opposed to taking the megaphone approach in blasting out information, teachers are trying to “build bridges” through collaboration with all of the stakeholders involved. This establishes a much more welcoming learning environment that inherently leads to success with the course material and application of it beyond a student’s time at the school.
Building off of these principles, the school also embodies social justice in education through discussion based programming with the students and parents. One example surrounds the prevalence of cyber-safety. Rather than bringing in an expert speaker, who will only be understood by a minority of families, the school facilitates discussions surrounding this topic, which has achieved great success in breaking down language and culture barriers. This allows for innovative solutions to be shared with the families and creates a forum for a different type of learning that would not be available at a typical public school in this area.
While social justice can be an efficacious framework in a theoretical sense, it is often incredible difficult to implement due to the prevalence of personal bias and self-interest. However, it is refreshing to see some of these principles being applied in unorthodox settings, such as an Australian classroom with Project Connect. In conclusion, sometimes the easy route does not always lead to the highest form of welfare for a community. By implementing principles of inclusion and equality, cultures can achieve a higher form of collaboration which inherently leads to innovation in multiple facets of a community.