chapter  4
13 Pages

Historical and Critical Interpretations of Social Justice


The term social justice seems to be in the ears and on the lips of educators who set as their task the fostering of a more democratic society through classroom practices. While generally well intended, the ways in which different educators go about defi ning social justice, and acting from those defi nitions, differ greatly. As a result, contradictory efforts emerge under the heading of social justice. With a diversity of meanings comes a diversity of understandings; and while diversity is necessary for a more democratic education, our goal is to help clarify the history and background of social justice. In doing so, our aim is to reveal the points of contestation over such competing defi nitions and to explore some of the ideological assumptions of the cultural and political interests from which specifi c parties operate. In other words, by providing an historical background to the concept of social justice we intend to bring into critical relief those underlying assumptions from which social justice proponents argue. Ultimately, engaging a critical history of social justice will provide a background to which and foundation from which educators interested in teaching for social justice can better interpret their own viewpoints in and among other positions.