Social Justice Revisited

Ashley Thorne

KC Johnson, who recently started as a regular blogger for Minding the Campus, has an article on the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and “The Slippery Use of ‘Social Justice’.” Johnson chronicles the 2006 debacle of NCATE’s requirement that students demonstrate a “disposition” to promote “social justice,” and he evaluates how the Council is doing now: 

The usual buzzwords remain in place: "An accreditation system committed to excellence should encourage institutions to move beyond the 'acceptable' level in meeting standards to 'target' level performance. Also, it should afford institutions the option of initiating a 'transformation initiative' that addresses major issues and challenges in our profession." And politically correct jargon is everywhere in NCATE documents: the organizations now describes students with learning disabilities as "students with exceptionalities."

NAS has also written about NCATE and how the term “social justice,” which once meant the obligation to offer charitable help to orphans, widows, the poor, and the homeless, has become a roomy term that encompasses a set of political mantras about racism, sexism, and the rest. Dr. Sandra Stotsky assessed social justice pedagogy as one that “assumes that motivation to learn is enhanced by developing students’ awareness of the historical and current grievances that social groups considered ‘oppressed’ should hold against those who are to be perceived as their ‘oppressors.’” At UMass Amherst students can get a degree in social justice education; Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation offers a program in justice and social inquiry; and Cabrini College has instituted a social justice core called “Engagements with the Common Good.” The latter promises to equip students with “life-long tools for civic engagement” and requires them to demonstrate “advocacy skills.” How far we’ve slipped, in the name of “social justice,” from caring for the needy...

For more on the social justice movement in higher education, check out Johnson’s entire article, NAS’s review of the UMass Amherst program, “A Degree in Agitprop,” and our report, The Scandal of Social Work Education.

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