Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice and fight oppression: Agree or disagree?
The last debate of the semester, and it ended with a bang! This topic was both exhilarating and infuriating. There are many people who believe teachers overshare, expect students to take their political stance and if they don’t there could be trouble. However, throughout the debate I have come to realize the importance of sharing fact over opinion and providing students the opportunities to make their own political opinions. Take a look at the battle between agree and disagree…you won’t be disappointed.
One of the major dilemmas teachers face is staying neutral. We as educators hear this all the time, “why don’t you just say nothing?” If in fact teachers said nothing, we would be repeating history of silence, ignorance and hurt. Staying neutral ignores fears, interests and concerns of students. This can be damaging towards students and their moral that we are trying to help develop. To me, the main reason teachers should not stay neutral is the sole factor that if we do, we are endorsing the status quo. Teaching for social justice is incredibly important to me, and is my underlying groundwork and reasoning for teaching. What does this mean? MESSING WITH THE STATUS QUO! The way we ‘do’ school needs to be interrupted if we want to see any social change. Avoiding controversial issues in the classroom only creates more questions, and leaves students to make up and believe in stereotypes and biases. Valerie Strauss wrote an article showcasing a written letter by numerous Teachers of the Year that advocates and raises a voice against staying neutral. They say, “We are teachers. We are supposed to remain politically neutral. For valid reasons, we don’t want to offend our students, colleagues or community members. But there are times when a moral imperative outweighs traditional social norms. There are times when silence is the voice of complicity. This year’s presidential election is one such time.” I’m not saying us teachers should march into classrooms and demand political righteousness or dominance. Not at all. Instead, we need to bring in critical literacy, current issues and provide opportunities for students to challenge the status quo and think critical about why our society is the way is it.
Another point that came up in the debate, was the question of whether or not it is beneficial for teachers to stay quiet on social media? Some risks that were expressed throughout the debate talked about the absence of modelling and leadership of digital citizenship. By speaking out about social issues and joining the conversation online demonstrates to student’s what appropriate online behaviours look like. In a world where everything is online, students need to learn how to navigate these fast moving waters. In the article, Modelling Digital Citizenship in the Classroom, the author Matthew Lynch provides four broad areas that students need to be taught: digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital responsibility and digital security. By being active online, students can learn from the modelled behaviour.
On the flipside, society believes that teachers have a strong influence over students. And while that is true, teachers are influencing students to be active and engaged citizens to go out into the world and reach their dreams and goals while also being kind, caring and inclusive to others. One of the arguments from the disagreeing side focuses on curriculum as product. In other words, teachers have the ability to brainwash students into thinking things that they may not necessarily believe in. Some believe that students are not given the opportunity to have their own opinion. Valerie Strauss wrote an article responding to the “those who can’t do, teach,” and she provides an infuriating message on how the public perceives teachers. I quote, “Like my teachers, I have chosen a career in education and don’t make a lot of money. Unlike them, I’m a professor. I’m continuously astonished at the pass that gets me among the people I grew up with. Had I chosen to be a high-school teacher, I’d be just another loser. But tenured professors are different. Especially if we teach in elite schools (which I don’t). We’re more talented, more refined, more ambitious—more like them. We’re capitalist tools, too.” It is evident society is uncomfortable with teachers challenging and disrupting the status quo. But it makes sense, they’ve never been challenged before and this work makes them uncomfortable. There are many stereotypes that teachers have to face unfortunately, and doing this work only justifies people’s belief’s.
Teachers have to navigate tough waters as well, which is why it is important to keep fact and opinion separate. In order for people to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, we as teachers need to provide them with the facts, and allow them to form opinions around these facts. Although this was a debate, I am not stuck in the middle at all. I truly believe great work and big change can come from joining the conversation both offline and online. Showing students how to do this will be life changing for them, literally. There are far too many social injustices in today’s world, and students are at the forefront of change. Let’s be advocates for them!
Here is some additional reading that relates to this debate:
Political Neutrality in the Classroom: click here.
Teachers, Political Neutrality: click here.
Agree video: click here.
Disagree video: click here.
I want to end on a quote that is very near and dear to my heart.
“You are not being oppressed if people gain rights that you’ve always had!” –unknown
I absolutely adore this quote and hope this blog post as inspired you to join the conversation.