An article by Tabitha Dell’Angelo entitled Creating classrooms for social justice highlights a few key aspects of peace education. She lists connecting to learners’ lives in relevant ways, addressing real issues from diverse perspectives, nurturing caring learning communities, and using authentic forms of assessment as essential not just for integrating social justice in the classroom, but also in providing quality education.
At one point she states that social justice in the classroom “is not an opportunity for a teacher to impose his or her beliefs on the students. It is important to choose topics about which you feel you can be pedagogically neutral as you support students’ own journey of learning how to be critical thinkers and forming their own opinions.” What does it mean to be “pedagogically neutral”? Is that possible? If so, when is it appropriate to state one’s views clearly or encourage learners to take on a particular point of view?
The goal of neutrality comes from the good intention of not imposing one’s beliefs on others. However, if social justice in the classroom means “recognizing and acting upon the power that we have for making positive change,” we do need to identify what makes a change “positive.” As educators, we are individuals within specific cultural and social contexts, so we carry with us assumptions and values that define our sense of justice and positive change. In language classrooms particularly, we need to be careful of how we act out our values in the unspoken curriculum of the class and model articulating our biases and values clearly in order to achieve the goal of supporting students’ “journey of learning.”