Ask questions, increase awareness!

All good things come to an end, and so does this course. During the course we have had excellent lecturers and interesting perspectives on social justice and diversities. Last monday we heard interesting presentations by the groups and learned that social justice can’t be separated from context but the issues and challenges extend to all parts of life.

About two weeks ago, the 20th of February was the World Day of Social Justice. United Nations seeks to remind its member countries that social justice is part of the core development objectives of the Organization’s message. United Nations defines the meaning of social justice as follows: “people’s opportunity to achieve their full potential in society”. According to the UN, Social justice is “an underlying principle, which guarantees a peaceful and successful coexistence in the world.”  Like the previous UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated, social justice is more than a moral obligation – social justice is the foundation for national stability and global prosperity. Wise words that hardly anyone can deny.
But what social justice really means in our everyday life and how do we define it?

From the perspective that we gained through the course, we could state that social justice is both; a goal and a process. The goal of social justice is an equitable participation of people from all social identity groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. The process for achieving the goal of social justice should also be democratic and participatory – something that everyone in the society understands and where anyone can affect on by his or her own acts.  For achieving social justice, the process should be respectful of human diversity and group differences. That is something we shouldn’t forget  in any field; in political discussion, in school, in work or anywhere.

We have been lucky to hear different perspectives on social justice and diversities on this course. We have been taught to not only understand the definition of social justice, but also to recognize what it is and how we can estimate our society and environment through it. Social justice isn’t only something that we can evaluate in they way of people are treated, it is also a place or an environment that supports and encourages open-mindedness, respect and both physical and mental safety. With all these topics that were discussed in course and through the presentations, we got perspectives and tools that drove us forward in understanding of social justice. Still, social justice isn’t only constructed by explicit determinations and norms, but also by our tacit knowledge and understanding. Our tacit knowledge is bound by our experiences, which is why our understanding of social justice is always individual. In our everyday life, we should keep this on our mind and learn to understand the other perspectives – even though those are not the same as ours.

However, during this course, and some others before on the same subject, one question has occasionally risen in mind. How is it possible to achieve social justice? We have come a long way and many many things have changed over the years, making the world a better and fairer place to live, but still there is so much more to do. For example if you think about economics. Or business world in general, or making new technology. Many countries have the kind of economy, or companies, which base their business on actions that exploit nature or deprive people’s rights. When making decisions about future, how much people in those fields think about that social justice needs to take place? Are they ready to change, or even stop, their operations so that things would work the way that everything is equitable for as many people as possible. Then another question related to money as well, is that do we have enough money to make all the changes needed? All the actions, different programs, researches and so on require a lot of finance to make those happen. There can be a risk that when giving finance to something that improves situation in one place, it takes money away from another place. So can we afford social justice? Could justice take over money?  Some how that feels more like a dream. Of course hopefully a dream that comes true. Maybe with a right kind of education and increasing awareness on things, some day it will happen.

Actually, writing this last blogpost of the series felt quite challenging. That is because the very last part of a university course is often dedicated to summarizing and drawing together the learnings and conclusions of the past months. Listening to the groups’ presentations during our last lecture underlined the fact that there is a plethora of cases or situations where social justice is lacking (and we naturally only had resources to scratch the surface). It seems difficult to summarize these in any meaningful way that would respect the context boundness of the cases that were brought up. We can only say that the course has functioned as an eye-opener to the many dimensions of social justice and even more the global quest for it. Unlike many other courses we have participated in as part of our degrees, this course probably has left us with more questions than answers. As there are no right answers to the challenges to the social justice issues, this is probably the best outcome that we could have asked for. Hopefully we all move on chasing our education career dreams with more awareness for the challenges with inequality that we will face (and hopefully tackle as well!) on our way.

Ryhmä B.


Finnish UN Association


Wrapping it all up!

We decided to write our second blog as following; each of our group members wrote a few thoughts on one of the final presentations from Monday that were held in the lecture hall 302.  

Should girls and boys have separate PE classes at school or not? During the presentation I would have liked to hear their own opinion on which they prefer as more just. That is why I asked the question from myself afterwards. Boys will always be better at sports for a reason and it is juvenile to pretend otherwise. I think the separation is a safety question also for playing sports is always risky and injuries can happen both physically (not enough skills or physical strength) and mentally (can you handle defeat and failure). If the classes should be combined, maybe pupils could choose from two to three skill levels. The ones, girls or boys who are more advanced could be in one group and so on. This would make it more enjoyable and safe in all levels for the pupils to play for sure and boys would see the girls “playing on the same level” as equal and vice versa. But then again, some people would surely complain that this would be discriminating for the ones in the less advanced groups. And why shouldn’t these skill levels be used in other subjects like maths or languages then too? If we choose to let go of the division by the gender is it going to be replaced by the division of the advanced and “weak”? More on the subject:

Safer places
Safer places are physical places that are discrimination free. In Finland there are institutions and transportation vehicles which show these places by labels. Everybody is accepted as they are in these areas. The question is do we really need labels to show areas that are safe for everybody? In an idealistic world we do not need labels to show that discrimination is not allowed but we don’t live in an idealistic world. Discrimination is everywhere and the most frightening discrimination form appears in an invisible mode.  In a mode that is silent, accepted and has become general norm behaviour. We do need labels to notice this kind of action and discuss about it and step by step move our unnoticed action toward action that is accepting all people as they are.

Soldiers of justice
This presentation was very much concerning the “burning question” regarding teachers’ job demands and challenges. Many teachers feel already overloaded with teaching basic curriculum in classes with diverse students and learners. Social justice is of course one of the most important things in the school environment to teach to students but the issue how it could be included in teaching shouldn’t be only the teachers’ responsibility. Principles and norms concerning social justice should concern the whole society so that they would be easy to implement in education. When the general attitudinal atmosphere, that is supported also by the highest politicians recognizes that social justice belongs to every human regardless of one’s characteristics, socio-economic status, cultural background, religion etc, then the job educators do when including social justice in their teaching would be facilitated.

The term NEET stands for Not in Employment, Education or Training. It is an administrative classification, which was first used in the UK, but is nowadays used in other countries such as Japan, China and Korea as well. In Finland the term “syrjäytynyt”= marginalized is more commonly used for a NEET person but does indeed have a more negative implication as a “drop out” of the society. I see the comprehensive school’s position as very important in working preventatively with young people at risk of becoming NEET but at the same time feel like it is ok to try to find ones place for a while and have for example a “gap year” and figure things out. It is even controversial that young mothers become classified as NEET even though they have only decided to have a family first and probably later in life want to get an education or start working. I guess the main thing is that it is a threat for the society if many young people end up as NEET but that it is important to stress out that it is often about a short period of an average of 5 years and that most people in the end find their place in work, education or training. What we frequently forget in the matter is that the group of NEET people is not an unambiguous group but very heterogeneous and therefore one should avoid generalization and try to treat every young person as a unique individual with their own background and history that you know little about.

KiVa Koulu
One of the presentations discussed the KiVa Koulu project which is aiming towards reducing school bullying and used as a preventive measure programme based on information from research. According to prior research results, the KiVa programme reduces bullying significantly at the same time as it increases the school satisfaction and school motivation and reduces depression and anxiety. I became more interested about the programme from the point of view of the outsider. Does it operate really in action, can it be considered as a miracle cure for school bullying? How is the programme linked to the idea of safe places and discrimination free zones in schools? However, the school must be a safe place for every pupil, mentally and physically as well as socially. Every student must feel that it is nice to go to school and feel that they are all equal among themselves. The teachers are not any wonder people who could totally remove the bullying from the school but every teacher tries to make their best to guarantee a safe place for every student. The teacher cannot notice all bullying situations, but maybe there could be an adult team at school which can take the bullying cases immediately and they have enough time to also clarify matters. I think that the time limitation is one of the biggest problems so that it would be possible to carry out KiVa effectively. However, the parents have the greatest responsibility for the children’s attitudes while growing up. I see lots of potential in the KiVa programme, but is it enough that there is an idea of a bully-free school just by using the KiVa programme and that it can remove all of the bullying from schools. This seems more like closing one’s eyes from the problem. It is an utopian idea that there would not be any bullying in any school but maybe someday it would be possible and I think that KiVa programme has done its share for the matter.

Social justice is a diverse and plural concept and faces many tensions when issues concerning equality are discussed and implemented in all practices in society. The overall feeling in our group after the presentations and the course is positive and we feel that we have learned a lot and gotten new perspectives on the width of the term social justice and how it crosses through education on so many different levels.  We have also learned that instead of giving “critique above” of socially injustice practices for example in schools we should also aim at solving problems why social justice isn’t happening and what could be done to change that situation.

Best regards, group G