Our Vision of Multicultural Education and a Social Justice Commitment (Work in Progress)
ABC: Achievement, Belonging and Commitment to Transformation
The “Standards of a Multicultural School System” are listed on page 2 of the same document. Institutional Practices, Curriculum, Instruction,Assessment, Affirmative Action and Professional Development are the six indicators presented. Each focus area is defined and criterion referenced. (See attached reference) Efforts to actively link social justice education across the standards have engaged the district’s educators and many community members, as well, since the BAMSS Initiative was adopted in 1993. We can and should point to markers of meaningful multicultural progress within the system and broader community since 1993. At the same time, we must assume responsibility for the collective efforts that have “stalled out” or more directly,failed to promote opportunities and equitable change in the school lives of our students. It is our knowledge of those lost opportunities that inform and propel our next steps
A cultural shift in our school system is indicated. The shiftproposed targets the collective and visible implementation of “a curriculum for social responsibility in which the balance shifts away from the individual and towards the social whole” (Pitt 1998). Teaching and learning that is built on attention to both the cognitive and affective domains is essential.
Transformation will require us to infuse content curriculum with uniform and practiced socially just behaviors. Students and the adults in their school days will be asked to reflect, analyze, instruct and assess equity routinely from an agreed- upon reference point. For example,questions included in ongoing dialogues will systematically include:“Who am I? How am I connected to others and what are my responsibilities? What is my place in the world? Where am I headed? Who benefits? Who is marginalized? Whose interests are being served? How could things be done differently?”
Pitt clarifies the difference between dominant language discussions of social justice and marginal language usage in reference to social justice. It is her contention that we need to focus more on the marginal language. “Social cohesion, social capital, community, reciprocity,trust and cooperation,” is conceptual language that acknowledges and respects individual autonomy while simultaneously connecting each of us to personal and collective responsibility. The emphasis is on the whole.The language in italics (termed marginal) is preferred as it moves us forward and away from historical and educationally discriminatory assumptions so well documented in public education previously.
No social justice commitment exists without social responsibility at its core. The implementation of this commitment connects “me” to the“other”, “us” to “them”, “educator” to “student & family” and integration of our expressed vision into discernable actions and outcomes. The district’s implementation of a social justice commitment for students and staff must (cited in Pitts, originated with Giddens 1994 and edited for use here):
- repair damaged solidarities and reconcile autonomy and interdependence
- recognize the importance of the discussion of ethics, “life politics”
- encourage individuals and groups to make things happen, “generative politics”
- create a participatory democracy where issues are discussed respectfully and transparently
- develop conditions that empower participants as opposed to merely dispensing
- confront the role violence plays at all levels of human interactions
Larger blocks of time for professional development on all levels(Elementary, Middle and High School) are needed in order for staff to acquire an understanding of the Social Justice Commitment and to make changes in the expectations for students and associated questioning techniques for analytical inquiry. This is an ongoing process and should be part of the curriculum/instruction plans across the district for theforeseeable future.
In conclusion, the Gallup Organization Education Mission Statement,brought to the district’s attention by the Superintendent in 2002,speaks succinctly to the desired outcomes of our social justice commitment. It states, “Our greatest contribution is to be sure there isa teacher in every classroom who cares that every student, every day,learns and grows and feels like a real human being.” The significance of teaching to and learning from the cognitive and affective domains continues to increase our hopefulness for change that respects and benefits all learners.
Our full Social Justice Committment document is attached and is still a work in progress.