The assigned readings basically explain the development of social justice, the relationship between social justice, education and activism, and the application of Critical Theory to education. On top of that, Mikael Brunila’s lecture and the video about La PAH further demonstrated how the empowerment of the disadvantaged and the grassroots helps achieve social justice.
Reality of Human Rights and Social Justice
The idea of human rights is multi-dimensional. Especially, we all agree with the UN’s core framework of human rights, which includes (i) the freedom of speech of expression; (ii) the freedom of worshipping God in one’s own way; (iii) the freedom from want; and (iv) the freedom from fear. Also, we believe that in an ideal society with social justice, there should be cultural pluralism, equal economic and social rights, and equal opportunities to express thoughts, and state action to eliminate inequality. However, in reality, human rights are somehow considered to belong to particular groups of people, which implies not everyone is treated equally. In addition, social norms are omnipresent throughout society. They primarily define what is normal, and further cause people to compare themselves with one another. After comparison, social inequality and the differences between individuals are more evident.
Social Justice and Education
In order to enhance the awareness of social justice, education is the most fundamental way. It is essential to provide students with social justice education at an early age, socialising them into the concepts of civil rights, social movements, equality, etc, so that they grow up knowing their own rights. Once they internalise those values, they will know the importance of the pursuit of social justice.
However, the paradoxical thing is that schools are facilities where students learn about social justice, but simultaneously schools are also filled with inequality. For example, in terms of teaching and curricula, teachers usually just teach the history and arts of the majority in the world, but they seldom mention those of other minorities, meaning that students lack the chance to learn about minority cultures. Also, different schools may get different amounts of funding; therefore, those schools with less income cannot provide as many resources as other schools do to their students, which may end up with a wider learning gap. Furthermore, students are directed to different occupations based on their gender, race, ethnicity, etc; however, such segregation in society should not exist. Therefore, according to Freire’s critical pedagogy, every student should learn to question things, to debunk, and in particular to break the seemingly correct and taken-for-granted social norms. That is what education could really be at its best: giving the awareness and understanding of civil rights, and social equality and justice.
Activism as Empowerment of the Oppressed: La PAH
To pursue social justice, social activism is also indispensable. The video and the presentation about La PAH can exactly show how important it is. The debt crisis and the evictions in Spain were unfair and unjust, especially to the grassroots. However, what La PAH has done for many people in recent years can be regarded as both empowerment and education. With the help of La PAH, the oppressed and the marginalised have been given chances to voice their opinions and to be heard. Hence, they have been enabled to question and to take action against the norms and regulations of society, which is the core purpose of empowerment. With the provision of expansive learning by La PAH, people have not only changed their objectives, but they have also learned about mutual aid and the idea that they themselves have the power to change their situation. In short, La PAH is a very typical example of activism, which aims at achieving a higher level of social justice and eliminating economic inequality.