A Social Justice Approach for Everyone
As described in my first ever blog post, Esperanza Education aims to promote social justice education throughout all aspects of our work and relationships. My own understanding of social justice has been influenced by philosopher Iris Marion Young who developed an important framework for understanding oppression. Five Faces of Oppression is a model that I used to analyze teacher practices for my MA thesis, and that I believe can be used by anyone wishing to reflect on whether their own (personal or professional) practices are actively working against oppression.
Here I provide a brief definition of each of the Five Faces of Oppression and an example of how a language teacher might work to counter this form of oppression in their classroom:
When one social group reaps the benefits of the labour of another social group. Such benefits include material wealth, as well as non-tangible goods such as status and power. Examples include labour exploitation through migrant worker programs and in sweatshops around the world.
Language teachers might begin to counter exploitation by engaging students in discussions about topics such as colonization (why is Spanish spoken throughout Latin America?), globalization (who benefits from free trade agreements?), or consumption choices (where do your clothes and food come from?).
Exclusion from participation in political, economic, or social life. For example, the ongoing disparities in wages and job opportunities between women and men.
Teachers can actively model inclusive practices in their classrooms by creating safe spaces where students are encouraged to work together and respect one another. They can also address omissions in the curriculum by bringing in materials that highlight the perspectives of groups excluded from mainstream textbooks.
Referring to those who “do not regularly participate in making decisions that affect the conditions of their lives and actions”. For example, in conventional schooling, students generally have little say in what or how they learn.
Social justice education is not just about what we teach, but also how we teach. The best way to counter powerlessness in the classroom is through democratic education practices. For example, allowing students to determine the classroom rules, the learning materials, or even the assessment criteria.
The dominant group’s culture is established as the norm against which all other groups are judged and stereotyped.
Teachers can actively challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about the target language culture and other cultures. They can bring in resources that showcase diversity, including resource people. Often the best way to counter a stereotype is to have a meaningful interaction with a real person.
Physical harm, harassment, stigmatizing, or degrading of any kind based on social group.
In addition to having zero tolerance for any form of violence in the classroom, facilitating discussions about privilege and who is dis/advantaged in society can lead to deeper understandings that may help counter all forms of oppression, including violence.
This is a very brief introduction to the Five Faces of Oppression and how this framework might be used to assess and inform teaching practices. But I believe this model could be an important tool for informing practices across social, educational, and professional settings. Do you agree? How might the Five Faces of Oppression framework help to guide an aspect of your life?