Where I Went: the social justice piece

On my last blog post, I set the stage for where I was coming from.  Along the way, I was always gathering resources: educational for my classroom and academic for my papers.  Although the academic did prove for some interesting (and not so interesting) reading, it was the educational resources that were more relevant to my every-day classroom instruction.  With my new-found zest for everything relating to social justice, technology, and narrative; my resources were undeniably being grouped into three specific, yet separate, themes.  The first theme I explored was social justice.  Perhaps you can use the resources in your own instruction; but more to the point, I am hoping that you can help me with mine.

I have found three excellent resources for viewing assignments related to social justice.  The first is a documentary called Mickey Mouse Monopoly and Generation M that questions the messages that Disney sends and whether or not Disney has an obligation to change its message.  I have included a brief video that describes the documentary, but I would also recommend the full version.

The second video, Tough Guise, questions male stereotypes and how our society creates a culture of ‘tough’ men.  I like this video because it is rare to see a documentary that questions male stereotypes instead of female stereotypes.  The following video is an excerpt (part one of seven).

The third video that I show is a VHS tape that I borrow from a teacher.  She was lucky (or unlucky) enough to be involved in Jane Elliot’s blue-eyed brown eyed experiment when it was brought to Regina, SK.  In the video, she is part of the brown-eyed group who is given special treatment and privileges.  All of the brown-eyed people in the group are of Aboriginal descent.  During the video the ‘brown-eyes’ are given the opportunity to treat the ‘blue-eyes’ the way they have been treated in the past.  During discussion, the ‘brown-eyes’ explain why they were unable to treat the ‘blue-eyes’ so poorly.  Having been on the receiving end of racist treatment so many times, they were unable to treat others in the same way.

I really like this video because it makes students recognize that racism is just not an ‘American’ problem or something that happened in the past.  Students are exposed to ways that racism is perpetuated today and in their own community.  They also know one of the participants in the experiment so are able to make very real connections to the video.

Every time we view a video, students must complete an accompanying response assignment.  It is through their responses that I can gain an understanding of their awareness of and connections to the issues being discussed.  But, this is only one piece of the puzzle.  With these activities, I understand that social justice is not necessarily embedded in the curriculum.  Instead, I have a collection of random videos that show three different perspectives.  I still need to make connections to technology and narrative.  Plus, what about curriculum?

Now, you’re probably wondering why I chose to put a picture of a nail at the start of this post.  Besides the obvious reason of me demonstrating that I can post a photo through creative commons (thanks eci831), this picture tells a story.

“A Child’s View of Exploitation” – by Augusto Boal
People in Lima, Peru were asked to take photographs of exploitation.  Some adults thought of pictures of slaves or of poor people being badly treated by rich tourists…One child took a photograph of a nail on a wall.  Few adults understood it, but all the other people were in complete agreement that the picture expressed their feelings in relation to exploitation.  The discussion explained why.  The simplest work boys engage in at the age of five or six is shining shoes.  Obviously, in the barrios where they live there are no shoes to shine and, for this reason, they must go to downtown Lima in order to find work.  Their shine-boxes and other tools of the trade are of course an absolute necessity, and yet these boys cannot be carrying their equipment back and forth every day between work and home.  So they must rent a nail on the wall of some place of business, whose owner charges them two or three soles per night and per nail.  Looking at the nail, those children are reminded of oppression and their hatred of it.
Excerpted from The Theater of the Oppressed, Pluto Press, 1985.


Filed under Teaching and pedagogy

7 responses to “Where I Went: the social justice piece

  1. Wow thank you for providing a great triad of sources on the topic of social justice. It would be interesting to hear your students’ discussions and reflections. I agree that there is a need to see social justice as both a global issue and a “in my backyard” issue too. It is all too easy to point and blame and offer idealist suggestions when it is happening somewhere at a distance but when it is a part of our history and our “right now” the reality strikes differently. These are big, meaty issues and with technology we have a window into the larger world that we would not otherwise see…we can learn what is happening in the lives of a wide variety of people from all around the world, see the faces and hear the stories of people it is happening to, and also have tools to make a difference.

  2. onepercentyellow

    Great post, and what amazing sources to use. I’m with @tmemann in that technology can be a way that your students reach real people in places around the world. There’s value in talking to our students about what racism and exploitation looks like, but I think it’s also important to just simply connect them with people from different places and from different backgrounds so that they can begin to understand that we’re all just people. It can be a powerful way to breed empathy and bring knowledge of the interconnectedness of the world. I had the chance to connect my nieces’ grade 3 class to a family in Goa and a cupcake entrepreneur in Mumbai. I know those kids will remember where India is and have a caring feeling about that place and its people.

  3. I would love to have a copy of what you give your students after they watch these three clips. It would be nice to see how my students think and react with these social justice issues. Thanks for sharing!

  4. If you are interested in social justice issues you should really check out the summer institute that the U of R has every other summer on social justice education. I took it from Carol Schick in 2010 and there were so many things that I bought back to my classroom and school. It is an intense three week class but it was worth it.

  5. Pingback: Putting It All Together | cschaferteacher

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