This is a repost from my personal blog.
I’ve heard the terms, and so have you:
“21st century teaching”
“21st century learning”
“21st century workforce”
“21st century skills”
What hasn’t been labeled “21st century” these days?
As so many have already pointed out, we’re more than one decade in. So the adjective, as a representation of forward-thinking, is rapidly losing its relevance. But the general idea is that of a reality that reflects our increasingly digitally immersed lives.
I’ve not heard, however, much use of the phrase 21st century social justice.
In fact, I’ve never heard it uttered even once.
Why is that, I wonder? I firmly believe that most if not all teachers, most if not all people in fact, that I come into contact with on a day to day basis would say that they believe in the importance of social justice, in solidarity and equality and perhaps even aspects of social redistribution of wealth, like social safety nets. It may in fact be the reason they entered the field of education in the first place.
Perhaps “social justice” simply represents old-school rhetoric. Maybe we ran out of steam as we tossed around the “21st century” label. Or could it be that for many, social justice as a concept has meaning – represents an immutable set of values – that transcends any one time period or external circumstances?
I would argue, though, that social justice by its very nature is informed by the social and cultural context within which it’s being viewed. Social justice today means something both similar and different than what it meant in the previous century. Different in the sense that it signifies today equal access to and understanding of the tools of digital creation and communication, and therefore power. And when I say “understanding,” I don’t mean simply the knowledge to make and communicate using these tools. But also the critical understanding of how these tools are used to disenfranchise the very youth who employ them just as easily as they are used to promote and amplify their own participatory voice. That every digital act represents a value system.
Here’s one example of what I’m talking about: Redefining Romeo and Juliet: Reclaiming the “Ghetto”
I’m curious: What do you think social justice today looks like? What should it look like?