What is ‘’Safe Space’’ and who is it for?

In today’s Social Justice lecture on intersections Iida Pyy introduced us to the concept of safe space. We found that this was a welcomed intervention and it suited well as a part of this particular session since intersections of privilege and disadvantage such as ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability can so easily be lost in the assumptions present in the classroom. These assumptions are enacted in how the teacher talks and what s/he talks about as well as how the students talk, act and relate to each other. We were left wondering how to make the uni classroom a safer space? And why is it important?

Safe space or safer space refers to an environment that is open to different expressions, cultures, ethics, genders, ethnicities, etc. The concept of safe space, as we understood it, is free from presumptions about “us” as white Finns, heterosexuals, men or women, able-bodied and able-minded. The Coalition for Safer Spaces is a good place to start, if one wants to know more about the subject. And a very important issue, particularly in a university setting, is the question of how to make social justice education more accessible to those, who are not familiar with all the hottest concepts, theories and theorists.

When it comes to creating a mentally and physically safe space by cherishing an engaging and supportive learning environment, it is hard to know whether everyone present is on the same page. Touching is a good example of something that can be done with good intentions (to show kindness) but can be perceived as unpleasant or even threatening. The difficulty is that people have different expectations for situations that require social interaction, such as classroom discussions. There is a difference between a debate (a battle of ideas) and a dialogue based on mutual respect. We see that the latter could be fostered as part of the practice of safe space. Committing to some guidelines for safe space can for example remind us about the importance of asking for consent before touching another person. And it can help us remember that we cannot know one’s gender, religion or socioeconomic status by looking at them.

The division between poor and non-poor in Ricky Lee Allen’s “What About Poor White People?” stirred up discussion in our group. When we talk about the poor, who are we thinking of? Are we assuming that none of the people we are surrounded by are poor? At least in Finland being poor isn’t something you can necessarily see on the outside. Thanks to our (almost) free higher education, people with meager financial means can attend university. Of course, due to the impact of social background on the heritability of educational attainment it is less likely, but not impossible.

As Andrew Smiler writes on unintentional gender lessons, schools provide an important setting for transmitting socially held values including beliefs about gender-appropriate behavior. These beliefs are transmitted informally through school structures, teachers’ comments and students themselves. Safer space aims to create a space where everyone could acknowledge and challenge their assumptions, for example about gender-appropriate, “masculine” or “feminine” behavior and sexuality.

A safe space can also be viewed from the perspective of the teacher. Making mistakes and learning from them should be a natural part of teaching and the overall school context. As Freire also highlights: ’’by struggling I become conscious/aware’’. The teacher can be a committed intellectual, as Gustavo Fischman and Eric Haas suggest in their article on critical pedagogy, even though s/he feels confused in some situations. When a teacher or a student violates the safe space this can be used as a teachable moment. The debate about gender roles (which often arise in everyday situations), may well be used as an example; children and young people who are behaving in breach of certain gender norms, often face discrimination. Safe spaces can also be created through these teachable moments when teachers and students reflect on their thoughts, language or action and become more aware of what is safe and what is not.

The concept of safe space has been criticised in different ways and what some have suggested is that the idea of safe space implicates that the rest of the world is unsafe. Unfortunately, this is in many respects the case. Many spaces in the world are unsafe, which makes it necessary to have safer spaces. A seemingly mundane thing such as segregated bathrooms can create a very unsafe environment for those who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth or do not fit into the binary. First of all, there is the forced choice of which bathroom you go to and then the possibly excruciating experience of being called out for presumably being in the “wrong one”.

We wrote this blog post in the group study room of the Learning Centre Minerva. Right beside the room are two bathrooms which to our joyous surprise read: Kaikille/För alla/For all. Way to go! This is a good direction towards safer spaces in the university.

Group F


References and further reading:

Allen, R. L. (2008). “What about poor white people”? In W. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stowall (Eds.), Handbook of Social Justice in Education (pp. 209–230). London: Routledge.

Coalition for Safer Spaces. (2010, 4 April). What are, and why support, ‘safer’ spaces (Blog post). Retrieved from here.

Cumming-Potvin, W. & Martino, W. (2014). Teaching about Queer Families: surveillance, censorship, and the schooling of sexualities. Teaching Education, 25(3), 309–333.

Fischman, G. E., & Haas, E. (2008). Critical Pedagogy and Hope in the Context of Neo-Liberal Globalization. In W. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stowall (Eds.), Handbook of Social Justice in Education (pp. 565–575). London: Routledge.

Kjaran, J. I. & Jóhannesson, I. Á. (2014). Inclusion, exclusion and the queering of spaces in two Icelandic upper secondary schools. Ethnography and Education, 10(1), 42–59.

Smiler, A. P. (2008). Unintentional Gender Lessons in Schools. In W. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stowall (Eds.), Handbook of Social Justice in Education (pp. 358–370). London: Routledge.

Thom, K. C. (2015, 27 September). 9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible. Everyday feminism. Retrieved from here.

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. www.nybooks.com/articles/2013/05/09/debt-we-shouldnt-pay/

Social justice as activism

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.


Group E

Guilt tripping

There were a lot of dimensions to the lecture. When we discussed the lecture we found that the most interesting topic was David Graebers theory of guilt tripping. Before the lecture everyone watched a video about mortgages in Spain. In the video they talked about how people don´t have the knowledge about mortgages and how they work. This problem is worldwide. That gives the bank personnel power over the customers, who don´t have enough knowledge about their financial rights. The personnel then can guilt trip the customers, meaning that they can convince the customer that they were in the wrong, even though they weren´t actually in the wrong. When taking this to a national level, we discovered that the current government in Finland too is constantly guilt tripping the Finnish citizens of the national debt. This is an never ending spiral.

Alongside with the bank other institutions that uses the method of guilt tripping are e.g the church and health care. Some churches can guilt trip you in to giving them money in return for holy redemption. Health care specialist can guilt trip you about your lifestyle, which can be seen by constant body shaming you about your weight. This is can be also be seen all throughout society. Parents can also guilt trip their children and vice versa. These are examples of how knowledge can be used as power over someone. Like Nietzsche said about guilt: you don’t need money nor other goods to blame someone or to make the social gap bigger, it is about status and gaining power over the ones who already have less power.

We end our blog by presenting an everyday example: a young female driver who just got her driving lisence vs. a middle-aged man in an expensive car. Young female driver gets guilt tripped by the man about their crash even though the one making the mistake was clearly the middle-aged man.

Read the link here:


Televangelist in America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y1xJAVZxXg

Graeber’s video:


-Sofia, Jessica, Tobina, Katri

Talking Violence – Feminist Ethnography in secondary school

The topic of the lecture on 23.1 was very important. It was about gender, school and violence. The lecture was held by Sonja Raunio, whose master´s thesis was called “Violence in secondary school- Feminist Ethnography in secondary school” and the study was made viewpoint of students.

In our group’s opinion, the topic was important and interesting. Even though it was tough to hear how violence still appears a lot in schools, the lecture gave hope for brighter and more tolerant future. It was great to hear that schools have started to give books called “We should all be feminists” and there really are actions being taken for building more tolerant/equal schools!

Questions which rose up in our discussion were, for example: “Where does the line between violence and non-violence goes (is pushing someone violence or not)?, “Do social circumstances define what is violence and what is not?”Why some acts are defined as violence when others are not?” “Why physical violence seemed to be on the top of the “hierarchy” when emotional was lower?” “Violence in school appears to be so normal that it often isn’t even noticed  → How much do we really ignore violence in schools?” and “How much really happens violence in schools nowadays?”

You might assume that everyone knows what violence is, but when taking a closer look at the issue, we notice that violence is actually way more complex than it seems. So what is violence really? Obviously physical violence, such as pushing another person counts, but where should we draw the line when it comes to mental abuse? Bullying in school is seen as mental abuse and (oftentimes) a serious offense, yet still is not (for the most part) equated with “actual” violence, even though bullying can, and often is, physically violent behavior. We also have to consider the context in which the violence happens — if you get in a fight on the street, you could get thrown into jail, but fighting in school might be seen as “playfighting” (where violence is seen as participatory, meant as a jest and means of bonding, although often times one or more of the participants do not see it as a “joke”).These things among others make the delineation between bullying and violence difficult, and have to be taken into account when talking about violence.

Additionally, bullying has a social component to it that is somewhat unique to the school environment (although one might argue that bullying exists in workplaces as well, and that isn’t necessarily called “violence” either). There is an emphasis on the emotional and social aspect of the abuse: bullying is clearly meant to emphasize control and power, whether it is considered between boys and girls, or cross-gendered.

The issue of violence and power is a complicated one, as it seems that the school system itself also helps maintain the social circumstances of bullying.The threat of violence itself was brought up as one means by which this is done.Teachers engage in threats, sometimes even in violent ones, though most often in the form of detentions and other forms of disciplinary actions.

Although violence is often a complex issue and has many abstract qualities, one objective point was made about it in the lecture: Violence means different things to people depending their assumed, expressed or experienced gender. Violence cannot be defined fully or precisely at full length. Still it always should be intervened despite the difficulties in defining it!

For most children being a boy or a girl is natural and gender identity aligns with their biological sex. In addition, when people think of gender, they think of two distinct categories – male and female. However, for some people the match between biological sex and gender identity is not that clear. Gender diversity means that some people fall outside of the classic male/female gender category.  One way to define this more, is to think about gender as a continuum. You don’t have to fit in to discrete category, you can be somewhere in between. Schools are supposed to be equal, but at the same, time schools are gendered institutions because they support specific gender patterns.This is definitely an important thing to improve and it seems that there is still a way to go. A good way is to talk, talk and talk as much as possible!

The issue of gendered violence is also not an issue exclusive to the school system, as there are plenty of examples of such events taking place in adult workplaces as well. The so-called “glass ceiling” for women is a good example of this, as well as the harassment and name-calling that many people (of all genders) experience in the workplace. One form of gendered violence are also unequal career-paths amongst of women and men. Combining family life and work often forces women to choose a part-time job, for example in the Netherlands three quarters of women work part-time. One could even argue that the experiences of gendered violence in school “spill over” to people’s later experiences in working life, perpetuating the cycle even further.

Is there any way out of this? Well, it seems that some progress has been made in this issue. One example would be including the book We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Finnish middle schoolers in 9th grade. Another one, mentioned in this lecture, is how feminist topics such as privilege and gender inequality are now going to be taught in schools in Australia.

Group K:

Tiia, Mikaela, Jonathan, Sini & Mimmi

Some remarks about violence in schools

Defining violence can be more complex than you first think. Is it from the structures or from an individual? Can you separate those? Based on the lecture discussion it can be concluded that for example violence at school is by no means a new phenomenon but likely to be to some extent even accepted and as old as the institution itself. School is very fruitful institution when we talk about violence. School is big and important institution on everyone’s life course and has lots to do in our growth and development. When considering the nature of violence, we came to the conclusion, that the school itself is producing violence. And if we think further, it isn’t only the school, because the way that school is constructed comes from the society and its regulations. Do young children have any other way to act if the basic situation is that they are forced to go to school, which is obligatory for everyone?

Should we then just accept presence of violence as part of school’s mission of preparing pupils for life? Sociology is centered around the  primacy of agent versus structure. Our societies are built on the generally accepted monopoly of power exercised by state actors. Thus it can be stated that violence-free schools are too much to ask from children when us adults are simultaneously raising them to accept violence built in the very structures of our society that guide our actions. Judging on the general discussion among the world’s adult population, violence and bullying seem to continue being our common denominator in 2017 as well. Nevertheless there have been attempts to eradicate violence at schools. One of the most recent projects in Finland is Kiva koulu program, which we will focus on in our group work later on during this course.

Violence and school sports

How about sports. It is okay to tackle and “beat” someone in the sports field but not at the playground? What if children are just “playing hockey”? And is it okay to beat someone at football court.. You can bully someone there as well.
As an example from the field of sports, we can identify, that there exist some rules – what is wrong, what is right. But who defines, where goes the limit of bullying and justified behaviour, which is understandable in the certain context? According to Sonja’s research, students seemed to be struggling to understand situations from other person’s points of view and to realize the consequences of their actions. How we could teach them that kind of understanding and way of thinking? If we think about teachers, we might end up wondering if they understand the student’s perspective. The thing is, that even if we can’t directly define violence, we have to underline that it is always and in every situation unacceptable.

Gender and school violence

But then comes the next question:  Who can tell is it violance or bullying or not? The person getting bullied, the one who is doing it, or the one standing by? How to define that? Of course, in every society and culture people have some kind of common understanding of what is right and wrong and we also have some kind of consensus of the definition of violence . However, sometimes perception of violence can “blur” and and lead to negative consequences. Who to blame? Not so easy question to answer.

In recent years the media has highlighted the effects of games to young people’s perceptions of violence.  In 2001 Nea Porsanger did her master’s thesis about young people’s thoughts about violence. In this study, results showed that adolescents also seem to think that media has a big role in their perceptions and attitudes. At the same time young people named school to be the best place to talk about violence and change attitudes, even though the main responsibility of moral education and what is right or wrong was seen as a family’s task.  Porsanger’s study also brings out how often young people define violence first as a physical violence, which is something you can easily see happening. Whereas mental violence has many different aspects that are more difficult to grasp and define.

In Porsanger’s study the gender also came to the picture. Young people perceived boys more often to be violent. If we go back to the prevailing perceptions in society, is especially physical violence more acceptable for boys? From our point of view it is. There is even this phrase “boys will be boys” referring that it is more “natural” for boys to fight and brawl. The society really is part of producing violence. Then violence is explained as an individual’s natural capability. On the contrary when the conversation comes to mental violence, for example backbiting, it is often perceived as a tendency for girls. If no one – parents, teachers or other educators and children themselves – don’t adhere to these questions, a certain kind of acting happens again and again “because of the gender”. Like Carrie Paechter writes in our course book (page 140), first we expect people to be male or female and then we expect them to behave masculine or feminine way, just based on a child’s genitals.

School violence, technology and potential futures

Based on arendtian notion of centricity of technological advances in violence, we wonder if this development could be reversed? As seen over and over again in the history of civilization, advances in technology have often been strongly connected to quest for more powerful warfare. Could the current social and artificial intelligence innovations change that course? One aspect that can potentially differentiate our time from the earlier ones is naturally the use of digital technology and the way it has rapidly spread to all spheres of life. One example of the potential futures includes Finnish mobile game Mightifier that strengthens pupils’ social and emotional skills. Teachers who have utilized the tool report reduced bullying and better atmosphere in their class rooms. It will be seen if with the new generations schools will become the first frontiers without violence. The new generations with technology on their side can surprise to the upside.


Ryhmä B
Emma, Reetta, Maikki ja Pauliina

Different realities – friends or enemies? Is diversity part of reality?

When we enter in a new surrounding there is always a certain reality in which we are supposed to slide in. This reality is served to us from the dominant socio-cultural point of view and it gives us a certain implicit frames of what is “normal” way to be and behave. The existing reality is produced and reproduced by public policies and the way we speak. In school context for example school policies reflects the reality that dominates by producing social categories. It places us into boxes with labels, which refers to our gender, ethnicity, sexuality and many others.  We are labelled as boys and girls, heterosexuals and so on. But not only this categorizing process gives us a certain label and makes us to navigate in the particular circumstances that we have to live in, it also produces social inclusion and exclusion. Social inclusion and exclusion process not only includes some and exclude others but it also produces opportunities to bully and violate others. From bullying and violence we get to the definitions and thoughts that often are combined with these concepts. During the lecture we talked a bit about how bullying may be thought to be more emotional or mental and violence on the other hand is more easily considered as some concrete physical actions. And to continue with this thought, emotional violence can often be thought somehow lighter and less severe compared to violence that include physical actions. This clearly is problematic since you can’t really evaluate these forms of violence in such ways.

There is an example on the book ”Social justice, education and identity” where one teacher says that he/she has not dealt with gay student yet, so he/she can’t say much about the issue. In writer’s words: “ – – if one is not aware of lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils in the school, then homophobia is not a problem” (Epstein & al. 2003, 127). Because we have our own perspective or reality where certain issues don’t appear as problem, it’s easy to assume that others think the same way. Especially when things aren’t discussed. It’s important that teachers reflect their own behavior and think about how pupils with different backgrounds might interpret what they are saying. Teachers should be good examples and show by their behavior that everyone must be treated with respect. It’s important to understand different perspectives and realities so behavior can change and less violent reality can be reproduced. Interesting was also the discussion on how such problems as bullying and violence are recognized in school environment. And more specifically, how they sometimes are even denied in school environment. Bullying or being homophobic, for some to mention, are general problems in today’s society so it would be weird for them not to occur in schools as well. During my years in secondary school, I remember one of my teachers saying that there´s no bullying in our school. The reality, unfortunately, was pretty different than that so the existing reality was totally denied. It’s essential not only to recognize but also to admit the different realities that we are facing and dealing with in our everyday life. That would probably be the first step to make the realities face and interact with each other and not only exist separately.

The idea of multiple realities is very intriguing especially within the school context. It would be very important that teachers would be able to provide opportunities for their students to explore and familiarize themselves with topics and phenomena yet new and unknown. This can be done in several ways, e.g. by using art, sociodrama, guest lecturers, case examples and first and foremost by conducting upfront discussions. As school system represents the very institutionalized form of socializations, the naturalization of progress might be the only way to promote social justice. Vincent (2003, 7) argued in the Introduction of the book “Social Justice, Education and Identity” that education is for some a process of ‘border crossing’ but shouldn’t it be that to everyone? Openness in schools is crucial also because it supports students’ processes of identity formation –  as Epstein et al. highlighted (am. 2003, 125) it is necessary to know who the Other is, in order to know who you are. Of course identity as well as social justice both are fluid by nature but even more so it is important that the constant transforming is enabled through acknowledging that the truths are out there and in us.

P.s. Check this out! http://seta.fi/seta-julkaisee-moninaisuusoppaan-kouluille/

Group D: Annika, Minna, Paula & Sorella

The plural aspect of social justice (A)

In the first lecture of Social justice in education, we as a group had to think about real life examples of scenarios about us-them or us-you –type of situations had been present. The context was in educational institutes, although some examples we came up with happened in the workplace. Interestingly, almost everyone seemed to have an experienced of being “them,” or ”us with little initiative and power,” which might be rephrased to “the experience of being excluded.” However, at the same time, like we discussed on Monday, we have been told many times on various lectures that we as students, are “us” and then there are “others” who are not involved. This mainly points to us students being a part of something that unites us and makes us different from others who are not studying in a university. In this way we also have at least been once in a situation like that.

Through a discussion after the class, we shared our expectation and interest in this course. We found that all of us are interested in the dynamics and structure of the division between “us” and “them,” and also plural aspects of social justice. When it comes to the division, that would, in part, be because we all have ever been swayed by it in some sense, as shown our discussion during the class on Monday.  What everyone mentioned with enthusiasm was about plural aspects of social justice. What is notable is the shared idea that because of the plural aspect of social justice, it is impossible to define what it is.

When you choose your opinion about it, you are straight a way categorised to ”us” or ”them”. It is hard to talk about social justice and being a fair to everybody. As the article states, social justice has different point of views and they are connected to each other or even in tension with one another. The plural aspect of social justice can have different models where differences between recipients have to be taken into consideration or justice can depend on the context of a situation. On that premise, it is better to care about how you should treat such a plural and contextual existing. One of us shared his own experience, where, reading through the article of “Social justice, education and identity” he realized that what he focused on was just a small piece of a big picture. More precisely, he just focused on “recognition aspect” to deal with the topic of social justice because it is the very aspect that affects his life for better or worse. Here, you learn how people can be affected by their own experience and how it can limit their range of view. When a certain topic to discuss has various aspects connecting with each other complicatedly and changeably, people can easily reduce their point of view to one only based on their value created through their personal experience.

Although we could not even overview the whole picture of social justice, only to see how big and complicated it is, it was definitely worth to share the idea about how vulnerable our view can be facing such a difficult topic, to be prepared for a coming discussion in this course.

Group A

Some thoughts about the introduction literature

The literature for the first session of the course S 1.3 ”Social justice and diversity in education” was of introductory nature. The first one, ”Social Justice, Education and Identity” (edited by Carol Vincent), and more precisely, chapter 1 and the first seven pages in the introduction, take us in the right direction and orient us to what would follow.  A few words first of the article by Alan Cribb and Sharon Gewirtz, ”Towards a sociology of just practices. An analysis of plural conceptions of justice”.

You really should have started your reading with this article, as it undeniably argues for a conception of social justice as plural. Cribb and Gewirtz strongly criticize what they call a ”failure” to engage adequately with different claims to social justice (p. 15) – whatever definition is given to that concept. This action-orientedness is a kind of cross-cutting theme in the whole of their article. It can be seen even in the very last sentence of the article, in which Cribb and Gewirtz urge sociologists – we suppose they include all who are engaged in research and studying and teaching educational sciences – not only ”embodying particular conceptions of justice, but also as having direct effects on the possibility of these conceptions being realised.” (p. 28).

So what are those conceptions? There is an interesting table (p. 16) of dimensions of pluralism, which  shows tensions between three aspects of justice: distributive, cultural and associonational. Distributive and cultural justice are more or less clear, but we think their definition of associational justice needs an addition, and that is a sort of process of accommodation into decision making. They vaguely refer to that, but personally we have met people of ”subordinated groups”, and they have been content with what they have, distributively and culturally. It can be only after they realize that they really are subordinated and that there really is a possibility of change and ”associational justice” is possible, that this dimension of justice is possible in their lives. Let us not be too hegemonic in our conceptions of ”justice”.

Cribb and Gewirtz also show concern to what is called ”critique from above”, to describe educational policies and practices from the point of view of an outsider. Their argument is that based on the plural nature of social justice, research must engage itself and help create more social just policies and practices. This distancing is something they refer even in their ”Conclusion” (p. 28), and we think they make a point there.

The second reading is an article concerning ”Language Diversity and Language Policy in Educational Access and Equity” by James W. Tollefson and Amy B.M. Tsui. It deals with ”the role of language policies in mediating access and equity in education.” (p. 189). They convincingly argue that migration, urbanization and changes in the nature of work – all three aspects of globalization can be experienced in Finland, too –  emphasize the importance of language policies in education. Their key concept is ”medium of instruction” (MOI). In 1990 UNESCO decided that there must be universal access and equity in primary education.

Tollefson and Tsui give examples of various countries in the world, especially where English is promoted as MOI. There seems to be a tension between currently dominating lingua franca, the English language, and national languages, even inside the United Kingdom (Wales). Their examples include Hong Kong and Asian countries, e.g. China, India, Malesia, and Japan. They refer to an interesting study that observes that Mandarin Chinese is today a ”must-have” language in Asia (p. 207), even if English still dominates the scene. The domination of English has sometimes created even absurd situations. Tollefson and Tsui mention German students studying German philosophy and literature in English (in Germany, we presume).

At the end of their article, they unexpectedly and very shortly refer to cases in New Zealand, Solomon Island, and Native America and formulate five generalizations about MOI policies in education. We think they are good and appropriate, but introducing these cases and the generalization right at the end makes us ask: why do they base these only in those three cases? Why introduce all those other interesting cases concerning MOI and not to refer to them in conclusion? Somehow this conclusion (”Conclusion: reducing inequality and improving access”) is good, but surprising for a reader.

Group H