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

“If you want to learn how to learn, ask us, ask Finland”

During the last few years has the Finnish educational system been object to a wide international interest thanks to PISA success in Finland. A lot of interviews and several documents have been made to the international media about this subject. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, educational experts have visited the local Finnish schools to observe how do we actually teach and study here. Finland has also started to actively market and spread our educational system (the educational “miracle”) outside the Finnish borders.


(Video by Finpro Finland: Finnish Exellence in Education)

In this particular video is featured how one of the Finnish achievements is above all others: “the world class education”, which according to the texts of the video means at least high quality education, the professional freedom of the teachers, equal possibilities of studying, and technology and digitalisation of education. While watching the video one can’t help but wonder if it also means being blue eyed and blonde by hair?

At the moment Finnish educational export focuses for example on consulting educational systems, developing curriculas, pedagogic education of the teachers, developing the leading skills of the headmasters, the assessment of the developing of the education, preschooling and -teaching, the special needs -education, technology and the digitalisation of the education and also the vocational education. Despite all of this there has been a worry in the Finnish ministry of the education that Finland has not managed to grow the educational export a big and financially significant business. The clear goal in Finland is at the moment to expand and widen the educational export even more.

The biggest problems in different strategies seem to be the Finnish legislation and the barriers it causes. There are also lacks in the Finnish knowledge of business management. In different strategies local needs and the meaning of working together are left in a minimal position. It can simply be said in passing that in some countries it is not possible to carry out educational export without a functioning cooperation structure with the local people.

In general many critical issues and challenges of education export are not addressed in any way in the strategy documents. Such issues could be for example these phenomena that Andreotti (2011, 191-192) has discussed in his article: North-South  power  relations,  Western  supremacy, epistemic  privilege  and  violence,  ideas about the origins and justifications of unequal distributions of resources and labor, ethnocentric benevolence/charity, and issues of language, difference, and participation. An important Finnish education export agent, Future Learning Finland, has stated the Persian Gulf area as their main marketing area, especially targeting Saudi-Arabia and also Russia and China. In the future the plan is to expand the marketing towards Southeast Asia. What is prominent in the documents is that enhancing the export is solely based on looking for wide, financially solvent and profitable markets, and not so much on the need of new educational services in these areas.

Of course education export is being done between the “Western” countries as well. For example the concept of Yrityskylä, Me and My City ( is being “exported” From Finland over the seas – to Sweden. Yrityskylä is a governmentally funded and functioning institution, and already 70 % of six graders in Finland have participated in the program. It includes about 10 hours of teaching first in school and then the implementation day at the simulation city. The whole idea of exporting becomes interesting in the point where the country that is exporting isn’t actually making any money directly out of the process (governmentally funded). Who benefits and what? It can’t be called colonization, but is it still Western universal knowledge making in this context without the “non-Western” counterpart?

Considering what was discussed at the latest lecture the whole idea of educational export can be questioned. The last sentence of the video  “If you want to learn how to learn, ask us, ask Finland” is a perfect example of Western universal knowledge making. In the context of the postcolonial theories that were discussed in the lecture some parts of this Finpro video and the educational export documents seem almost embarrassing – who is this country to tell everyone what to do? At the lecture we also wondered what could be done towards decolonizing education. Suggested methods were for example empowering the victims of colonialism, place-based education and localising the curricula. Ironically, the best educational export “products” are probably the ones that can be adapted to many kinds of contexts and that utilize ideas of for example place-based education.

– Group A: Aino, Mari & Emilia

[1] Koulutusviennin tiekartta 2016–2019. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön julkaisuja 2016:9.

[2] Suomi kansainvälisille koulutusmarkkinoille. Selvitysryhmän muistio. Toimenpideohjelma koulutusviennin edellytysten parantamiseksi. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön työryhmämuistioita ja selvityksiä 2013:9

The desperate need for humanization and new definitions of normal in education

I went to school with all of my treasures, including my Spanish language, Mexican culture, familia (family), and ways of knowing. I abandoned my treasures at the classroom door in exchange for English and the U.S. culture; consequently, my assimilation into U.S. society was agonizing… I was overwhelmed with feelings of shame over the most essential elements of my humanness. As a result, my experience in the U.S. educational system was marked by endless struggles to preserve my humanity.” -Maria del Carmen Salazar (2013)

This is a great example of how society sets expectations upon individuals and try to make them fit into a certain mould or shape. Should students with special needs be “shaped” or “normalized” or should the educational system change shape so that everyone fits in?

Salazar discusses in her article, A Humanizing Pedagogy: Reinventing the Principles and Practice of Education as a Journey Toward Liberation, the desperate need for humanization in education. For example, when students of color experience academic difficulties, their struggles are often associated with their language, culture and home environment. This behavior results in an expectation among these students that they should “act, speak and behave as much as possible like the White middle class”. In other words, they are stripped of their own cultural resources because the environment around them wants them to live up to their expectations. (Salazar, 2013.)

In this sense humanizing pedagogy can be seen to discuss with the approaches that point out that social environments, attitudes, pedagogies and teaching spaces are the original source of disabilities and restricted understanding of one’s possibilities, be it the colour or any kind of dis/ability of the student. In this sense, disability is something that the society ”does” to a person. For example, people in wheelchairs, deaf people or autistic people are disabled not because of their problems with moving, hearing or understanding situations but because the environment in is not set up in a way that would support them, thus disabling them.

Creating a truly inclusive environment and accessible spaces that enable everyone seems to be one of the trickiest questions when it comes to balancing with the inclusiveness and special arrangements. Placing pupils with disabilities to own spaces is usually an attempt to meet the special needs better. But no matter how necessary separated spaces may be in special education, separation is well known to trigger social stigma.

Could it be possible to lessen that stigma by redefining our understanding of “the normal”? The underlying concepts of normality encompass the categories of the white, the able and the middle class, that define not only our understanding of each person’s possibilities, but also determine the standards by which regular spaces are constructed. Redefining the normal would therefore mean taking the inclusiveness as an unquestionable standard. That way the nondominant students, as Faltis and Abedi (2013) put it, would not be separated from dominant students and the social stigma of students with special needs could also lessen. One consequence of an inclusive definition of normal would be, as we discussed at the lesson, that every teacher would have the facility for meeting the special needs of students. At least class teachers should have much more studies about special education. That would of course not nullify the need of special needs assistants.

Salazar also points out that due to the current educational system with instructional curriculums and standardized tests it is nearly impossible for educators to develop a humanistic approach. Paulo Freire didn’t include specific tools in his pedagogy in order to point out the importance of the context specific methods and practices. However, the average teacher is balancing with timetables and multiple learning objectives set by curriculum. In the Finnish context, the relatively extensive freedom of teachers may also mean lack of tools in working towards more humanizing approaches.

Even though Salazar uses her own experiences as an example and mostly discusses “minority” issues linked to culture and race, the message is very clear. The educational environments should not set boundaries, but welcome all with open arms, giving everyone the same basic right to try and achieve. All students should be supported, despite their abilities or disabilities. Their multiple identities should have the possibility to evolve within a meaningful sense of achievement, purpose, power, and hope. (Salazar, 2013.)

– Group L



Del Carmen Salazar, M. (2013). A Humanizing Pedagogy. Review of Research in Education, 37(1), pp. 121-148.

Faltis, C. && J. Abedi (Eds.) (2013). Extraordinary Pedagogies for Working Within School Settings Serving Nondominant Students. Review of Research in Education, 37(1), pp. vii-xi.

Elimination of ableism

During the previous lecture, Karl-Mikael Grimm explained social justice in terms of disability and ability. Usually, when it comes to special education, individuals and diagnosis are what people focus on, but it is revealing and inspiring that both the lecture and the assigned readings have provided us with other aspects, such as social and structural perspectives to examine this issue.

Unfair Treatments toward Disabled Students

One of the problems which should be paid more attention to is the phenomenon that disabled students only account for an extremely small proportion of students studying at secondary schools or universities. One reason, at least in Finland, is that starting from upper secondary education, it is no longer necessary to organise special education, which discourages disabled students to go further with their studies to upper secondary or even higher education after graduating from lower secondary school. It is actually sort of a structural discrimination. Moreover, being able to spell and having good writing skills are currently the basic requirements for students, especially in upper secondary education and higher education. However, it is somehow unfair for instance to dyslexic students because they may have difficulty demonstrating and expressing their knowledge and opinions even though they could be as good as other so-called “normal” students. It is sad that those students who would have so much to give to the academic society are dropped from the higher education just because they need some additional support that is not available currently . Agreeing with the statement in Thomas Herir’s article that “there is more than one way to walk, talk, paint, read and write”,  we think it might be worth considering, whether or not spelling and writing skills are really an indication of one’s academic level, especially when nowadays we have many computer programmes which can help check and correct spellings.

Humanisation of Special Education

According to Sarazar, humanisation of education is vitally important. Basically, it is a “process of becoming more fully human as social, historical, thinking, communicating, transformative, creative persons who participate in and with the world”. However, disabled students are still not fully treated in a humanised way. Just like African students in the US are being considered inferior to the White in hidden norms, disabled students are also regarded as inferior because of what they lack when compared to “normal” students, which is actually the presentation of ableism. Grimm raised an example during the lecture, which is that a blind student is different from a student who is blind because there already exists a preconception that the former is lower in status, while the latter is treated as a normal person, but he just has some defect. It is really worth reflecting about the way in which we regard disabled students. To reach humanisation, People should treat them like the latter way. Therefore, educating other students and teachers how to behave towards them properly and fairly is really essential.

Educating Teachers as a Solution

Herir also states that “the dilemma parents and educators face around the issue of labeling need not exist if schools employ research-based practices and improve their special education programmes’’. For the improvement to happen, teachers should learn more about special education and diversity. According to studies, it is interesting to know that pupils with special needs tend to achieve higher learning results in ’’normal classrooms’’ and that classes providing special education do not actually improve the future employment of students. The prevailing issue of how to provide an inclusive education for all students in the best possible way could be solved by educating teachers in special education. Teachers may further hold different views on what inclusive education actually means and entails, which is problematic in itself.

Group E

The all-inclusive classroom

We started to play with the idea of an all-inclusive classroom and what it would look like. We didn´t just focus on the disabled students but also on the teachers as well as the nondisabled peers and learning environments.

We see diversity as an important part of education and do not see segregation of students as the right way forward. Disabled students should be able to participate in “normal” education alongside their nondisabled peers. We also felt that we agreed with the thought of why teachers are being divided into classroom teachers and special education teachers and not just trained so that they are able to teach both groups. Therefore, teachers get better understanding about disabilities and know how to naturally act with these students. For our ideal all-inclusive classroom to work we would need smaller group sizes to reduce stress from both teachers and students, flexible study environments and an overall change in attitudes towards diverse students in education. To be able to influence students’ attitudes towards more acceptable and tolerant to peers that may look or sound different, teachers should have explicit instructions how to act in schools. Like the KiVa Koulu -programme. And of course teacher education should also include courses where students could reflect on their thoughts and attitudes about all-inclusive classrooms and what a teacher can do to make safer spaces for all students. This Social justice and diversity course is a good example because it makes us think of social justice from different point of views.

We will present our idea from four different perspectives as following:

The disabled students perspective

-Individualized planning of studies and alternative tools for studying

-Getting the same education and opportunities as nondisabled students by participating in normal education

-Positive support and encouragement from both peers and teachers to reach better learning outcomes as studies has shown

-Gives the chance to be “normal” amongst other “normals” and not to be labeled

The teacher’s perspective

-Adequate teacher training to work equally with all kinds of students

-Peer support and co-teaching models

-More special needs assistance in class

-The opportunity to find solutions to problems and see progress and not just push difficulties away

The nondisabled peer students perspective

-All-inclusive groups could change attitudes and increase acceptance of diversity

-Important values such as helping others, respecting others could be learned

-Sharing the same classroom with disabled students from an early age so that inclusion is seen as normal rather than something abnormal

The learning environment perspective

– Flexible and movable furniture

– Electronic devices to help and to support learning processes

– Other aid equipment used as tools to help learning processes (headphones, blankets)

We do understand that our thoughts might seem utopian in practice, but one can always dream of a better and more just future. However the first step towards change is to talk about issues like disability in education and take action in changing ableist views that exist. In a perfect future all classrooms would be all-inclusive and social justice would be an integrated part in all activity in education, from kindergarten all the way to higher education.

Teachers have a lot of pressure during the school day. Their job is demanding and therefore job strain has increased enormously. Increased social problems, restlessness and bullying are issues which they have to deal with a lot. From this point of view the idea of an all-inclusive classroom might sound a bit too challenging to carry out. Teachers need to lean on each other, have an open-minded, caring and constructive working environment so that it’s possible to implement ideas like this in schools. And as future experts on education and training, it is our task to discuss about such important issues like social justice with each other and lecturers.

Safe(r) places

A Safer Place is  a “supportive, non-threatening environment that encourages open-mindedness, respect, a willingness to learn from others, as well as physical and mental safety” (Coalition for Safer Spaces, 2017). Safer places are areas where everyone can come as they are. There is no judging, joking inappropriately or assumptions of gender/sexuality/race. Sometimes every one of us may say something disrespectful by accident, but those situations can be instructive and that way we can change our way to talk and think.

At the lecture we discussed how we and other students can make places safe by our own behaviour. Like mentioned before, recognizing our own limitations and prejudices, we are already considering other people’s feelings and by this way already creating open-minded atmosphere. Being part of majority culture often still makes us blind to cultural differences and possible discomfort of minorities. Little things that most of us majority group members take for granted, like proper accessibility in public buildings, may be a requirement for making a comfortable environment for, for example, disabled people. Because of this, opinions of diverse users should be heard and taken into account while making decisions concerning safer places.

Some criticism can be also focused towards safer places. Like discussed in the earlier lectures, social justice is a multidimensional concept and can’t be created by specific group of, for example, adults. The whole school and the community in it should be engaged in creating an environment that supports diversity and open-mindedness amongst all people, but this is easier said than done. For example bullying takes place also in other contexts than in schools, it might also appear outside schools and for example in internet.

In some respects, many hobbies and hobby groups can reinforce unsafe environments, particularly if there is a concept of masculinity or femininity that is considered inherent to the group’s identity. Very often places such as some forums on the internet (e.g. 4chan and some areas on Facebook and Reddit) as  well as men’s sports teams are rife with language and social behavior that enforces gender, social, racial and economic exclusion and disparity – the infamous “locker-room talk” is a prime example of this.

Although this is a phenomenon in most social groups and age groups, it seems that this behavior is particularly prevalent in school. This relates to a previous lecture subject on (gendered) violence in schools, and how the school system can sometimes perpetuate these sort of behaviors. Indeed, for many children and adolescents, school is the most “non-safe space” of all.

What makes it difficult to tackle these issues is often the fear of social exclusion. In many cases, to point out these loaded comments and actions is to essentially break away from the group’s internal cohesion. In many cases, the groups that one belongs to consists of one’s very best friends, and we are reluctant to the extreme to be the ones who stick out of the crowd.

In addition to concrete school buildings, teachers and parents should co-work with each other and students to create an attitudinal environment based on trust and mutual respect. It is not only schools’ responsibility to take care of children’s safety and without proper collaboration with parents safer places are only based on superficial solutions. Proper communication and opportunities for open conversation are key elements for well-planned safer places, that are not only safe for specific groups.

Special education is for students with special educational needs. Common special needs can be learning disabilities, communication or behavioral disorders, physical disabilities and developmental disabilities. Special education is always tailored to meet each student’s individual needs and differences because there is no ”one size fits all” approach to special education. Students with special needs are likely to benefit from additional educational services like different approaches to teaching, the use of technology or a specifically adapted teaching area.

It is sad but true that children with disabilities have a bigger risk of being bullied. It is easy to pay attention to what is different or unusual. In special education all students have some problems or difficulties. However, it might be problematic if the special education is too focused on disabilities rather than the strengths. What if special educators would look at what a child can do instead of what he/she cannot do? Once you know your students’ strengths you can as teacher develop strength-based learning strategies. Maybe a safe space can be built by focusing on strengths and positive things.

In the lecture we talked about places where there are specific signs that say, e.g. “this is a discrimination free zone”. This kind of label exists for example in our university’s gym. The meaning of these signs is of course very good, but I started to think whether it’s really necessary to have these kinds of texts for adult people?! I think it’s kind of sad that you need to remind adult people to be kind and respectful towards each other. In our opinion every place should be safe from discrimination without specific texts to reminds us about it.

Group K

Hello from the other side

In our last blog post we wrote about different realities and how important it is for teachers to reflect their own behavior. But what really happens after teachers become aware of their behavior and assumptions? It can be overwhelming to notice how little one person can do. In Fischman’s and Haas’ article (2009) there is an example of a teacher who said that she use to have so-called Hello Kitty hopes. She meant that she had unrealistic hopes about what she can do as a teacher. One claim of critical pedagogy is that teachers have a central role in challenging educational systems. Although they cannot do all by themselves. It is unrealistic to hope to be a super-caring-knowledgeable-efficient-teacher all the time. In other words teachers can’t always be conscious and prepared for every situation. More important is that teachers are committed to their work and learn from their mistakes. Being a teacher (or a human) is a continuous learning process. It is okay to be lost sometimes and have bad days. We all do. But there is always something that we can do in our daily lives to communicate better with each other.

In lesson we talked about the concept of safer spaces, which offers us one aspect how we could respect diversity in interaction with others. Safer space can be understood as a place, which is welcoming, engaging and supportive environment that encourages open-mindedness, respect and a willingness to learn from others. Safer space is also critical of the power structures that affect our daily lives where power dynamics, backgrounds and the effects of our behaviour on others are prioritizes. Safer places are quite sensitive in nature and we might make a place unsafe without even realizing it. When we interact with others we might easily make assumptions based on their appearance and behaviour. For example we can assume that someone is a girl or a boy by the way they are dressed even though we have no knowledge of their thoughts concerning gender. Or we could categorize something as ‘abnormal’ if it seems different from that perspective what we consider ‘normal’. By saying that something is ‘normal’, we also renew cultural hegemony and power structures that also creates the feeling of social exclusion. The aspect of ‘normality’ also implicitly refers that some are more privileged than others.

The idea of the privileged was central also regarding Allen’s (2009) article “What About Poor White People?”. Being privileged is also one aspect of the reality that often remains unveiled especially within school context. There can also be false beliefs in terms of how being privileged is understood and particularly in relation to whom one considers to be privileged. To water it down, Finnish Whites can e.g. consider themselves to be privileged relative to people living in the poor countries or areas of Africa but not necessarily relative to a non-white Finn even though Allen (2009, 212) points out: “ – – that relative to people of color all Whites are privileged by a system of White supremacy – -”. The big question is then according to Pease (2010, iix), if it is possible for members of privileged groups to overcome the interests of their own group. Pease (2010) addresses this theme of privileged wider and in a very interesting way in his book “Undoing Privilege: unearned advantage in a divided world”. Probably the main agenda of the piece is as Pease (2010, ix) expresses it, to acknowledge that oppression is not understood without the understanding of privilege. That said, it would be very important for all people to ponder one’s own position in relation to others and teachers can set an example by reflecting and addressing the concept of privilege and in that way pay attention on such things as safer spaces more widely in the fields of education and working life as well. These kind of soft values (which safer spaces could probably be considered) as making atmosphere safe to everyone in the group would probably have a huge influence to efficiency and other harder values as well. It’s also interesting to discuss all the things that affect on this concept and to question the way we behave ourselves in groups and different environments. Am I making this space safer as far as I’m concerned? When talking about safer spaces it’s also essential to notice, as already mentioned above, the fact that we are all humans making mistakes. The important question probably is how we can learn from those mistakes and remember something about this lesson later on. The idea on reflecting your own behaviour doesn’t mean that you couldn’t let yourself be incomplete. And last but not least, it’s good to remember that you should try to make the space safe for yourself as well, not only for the others.

Group D: Annika, Minna, Paula & Sorella

Guilt tripping in working life

Guilt trips are a form of verbal or nonverbal communication in which a guilt inducer tries to induce guilty feelings in a target, in an effort to control their behaviour. As such, guilt trips are a clear form of psychological manipulation and coercion.

There were several interesting topics in a lecture, but we found David Graebers guilt tripping theory especially interesting. Before lecture we all watched a video about mortgages in Spain. This video was one really good example about guilt tripping and power relationships. We realised how big problem guilt tripping is and how wide its impact is on people’s behaviour and life’s. We all have our first guilt tripping experiences when we are small kids.

We were also discussing about guilt tripping in working life. Supervisor and employee relationship offers an interesting view to that. In practical working life there might be (especially in big companies) some extremely demanding supervisors. Nowadays the culture of doing business is getting more serious and you should be reached around the clock. It might be that the supervisor is a nice person, but he or she expects the employee act like others, even though it’s not what agreed in the contract. For example an employee has many tasks to do and a supervisor assigns some more (not his/her normal tasks). When they have the discussion about the tasks and individual performance at work, the solution what supervisor offers is that the employee should work outside working hours (24/7). The supervisor uses especially the argument that everyone else is working at least 6 days in a week and also every evening. After this the employee feels guilt but most importantly not motivated at all. In our group discussions we came into the conclusion that guilt tripping kills the motivation at work. Furthermore it might be also very hard to fix. In this case supervisor’s goal might be to get employees work effectively and according to equitable principles (because everyone else is working, you should be working). But the truth is that the employee’s efficiency gets even worse when he/she is not motivated.

That’s why it’s very important to recognize guilt tripping messages in working and also in other life. As we saw in video, it really can have harmful causes to people. If guilt tripping happens in working life, it can cause fatigue, exhaustion and even depression for employees. And that has of course impact also to people’s other life. So to sum; this is a subject which can be hard to recognize and identify. That’s why especially in working life people has to be aware of it.

/Group C

La PAH and the power of peer support

On our previous lecture Mikael Brunila came to talk to us about the situation in Barcelona, where many families have been evicted or are facing the threat of eviction from their homes because they can not pay their mortgages. When the property bubble burst and unemployment in Barcelona increased at the same time, many families found themselves in a terrible situation where they were unable to pay their mortgages, which they were basically forced to take because of the high cost of living and had to leave their homes. To make matters worse, in Spain even after the bank repossesses the property, it does not mean that the family’s debt is automatically fixed. Basically this means that families affected by this mortgage crisis will not only lose their homes but can also be left with crippling debt.

Mikael Brunila also referred to the economic anthropologist David Graeber who has written a famous book about debt, Debt: The First 5000 Years.  Graeber discusses in his book about the struggle between rich and poor and how it largely is responsible for the conflicts between creditors and debtors. Graeber argues about the rights and wrongs of interest payments, debt peonage, repossession, the seizing of properties and the selling of debtors’ children into slavery. Instead we should be discussing how to relieve the burdens of private debts and prevent future abuses of the financial industries power. (R. Kuttner, 2013)

La PAH was formed to fight the injustice that these families have to face. It is based on the belief that solving these injustices can be achieved through direct activities, such as assemblies. Mutual aid is also a key approach to the PAH and individuals are expected to help each other as equals. Collective action within la PAH is creating power for individuals as well as for the whole group. As a result, people feel empowered. The larger context in which la PAH is working is set by the global economic turbulence – and as Crowther and Lucio-Villegas (2012, 59) remind “(T)he global nature of social, economic and environmental problems can lead to feelings of being immobilised by the sheer size of the task; alternatively, shrinking the scale of the problem to community size solutions is to embrace parochialism”.

The change that can happen when people fight for their rights together is remarkable. La PAH has become a very powerful movement in Spain. People have won their cases against banks just because there is La PAH involved. La PAH has made the unfair system known for larger public and taught that the problem is not the individuals – it’s due to the unfair system.

La PAH has given a fresh start for many people. Instead of being left alone and ashamed they have become empowered and have had support to fight against banks and the system. Could this kind of activism be possible in other contexts or in other countries too? Could this kind of peer support help in other social problems too? What are the crucial/critical factors through which PAH is able to contribute  and make remarkable change in the way people see themselves in an overwhelming situation? Even if some of the methods la PAH is using are highly bound to cultural and social context and maybe not as such directly implementable into other environments, the basis of the assembly /activities are very simple: la PAH can be used as an example for analyzing how group support might reduce shame.

Within our group we discussed a lot about the concept of mutual aid, which describes the la PAH movement very well. Could this kind of peer support help for example unemployed? Especially long term unemployment can have a very negative impact on individuals self-esteem. They might have a strong sense of failure or feel ashamed, and very often start blaming themselves for the situation they are in. The la PAHs mutual aid concept could be priceless for many individuals. So the question is, is the concept bound to Spanish culture or could it be implemented elsewhere? For example, would Finnish people feel at ease discussing with strangers at assemblies about their unemployment or bad self-esteem? We think that the peer support groups would give people opportunities to share experiences and information and it could give meaning to many people’s everyday life.

“Don’t be ashamed of your story, it will inspire others…”

/Group L



Crowther, J. &Hall, Lucio-Villegas E. (2012) Reconnecting intellelect and feeling: Max, Gramsci, Williams and the educatior’s role. In Learning and education for a better world: The role of social movements. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Kuttner, Robert (2013) The Debt we shouldn’t pay. Review on Graebers book Debt, the first 5000 years.