How Language Teachers can Promote Social Change
At Esperanza Education, we believe strongly in the importance of bringing together language learning and social justice education. In fact, we believe that this kind of education is important in all aspects of life. But what is social justice education exactly and how is it relevant in the language classroom?
There are many different theories of social justice education which share the common goal of countering oppression in the classroom and encouraging students to do so in their communities. To explain this, I like to break it down into teaching about social justice and teaching for social justice.
Teaching About Social Justice
Teaching about social justice means discussing topics of inequality and oppression with students. In the language classroom, opportunities to discuss such topics come up regularly. In the Spanish classroom, exploring the history and current reality of Latin America allows for discussions about colonialism, slavery, imperialism, revolution, racism, immigration, migrant labour, and much more. When exploring cultural issues, we discuss not only the food and fiestas, but also the historical and socio-political realities of the Spanish-speaking world.
Teaching For Social Justice
We can also teach for social justice by promoting democracy, equality, cooperation, and action. We can reflect on and work against injustices within our classrooms and encourage students to do the same outside of the classroom. We can demonstrate a more open and democratic approach to teaching, we can teach students to reflect on how their lifestyle choices affect the lives of others, and we can encourage mindful engagement with people from different cultural backgrounds. Teaching for social justice means encouraging students to be critical thinkers and agents for change.
Teaching languages is not only about teaching grammar, it is also about teaching socio-cultural aspects of languages, issues of language ideologies and policies, and much more. At Esperanza Education, we believe that our job is to facilitate collaboration between people from diverse backgrounds so that we can all work together for a more just world. We also call this Progressive Language Education – more on that topic tomorrow!