Classroom Tips: World Day of Social Justice

World Day of Social Justice

Celebrate, Generate, Initiate, Elevate

February 18th is World Day of Social Justice, a day on which the United Nation’s invites one and all to engage in activities that support efforts to eradicate poverty, achieve gender equity and increase social well-being and justice for all.  Of course social justice work is not one day’s work but we can use this day to celebrate social justice achievements made by ourselves and others, generate much needed attention and conversation about important causes and initiate actions that create change and elevate the social Changemaking in our local and international communities.

What is Social Justice?

Before we can engage with World Day of Social Justice let’s first take a moment to examine what social justice is all about.  The United Nations defines social justice as “an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations.”[i]  This means promoting equity and removing barriers faced by people of all identities.  So how do we engage in this important work that affects all of us?

Two Ways to Engage.

Most approaches to social change can be broken down into two important categories.  The first approach we call the Charity Approach, which aims to address immediate needs and the second is the Social Change Approach, which addresses root causes for long-term social change.  Both can be applied to most issues and both approaches are important and necessary but what exactly is the difference?

  1. The Charity Approach is most popular because it addresses immediate needs and its impact is immediately measurable. The Charity Approach often treats the symptoms of a social inequity by implementing accommodations, supports, funding, labour and short-term solutions.  Food banks and donating to food banks are an example of a Charity Approach applied to the social inequity of poverty.  Food banks are important to meeting the immediate needs of those living in poverty but ultimately do not address the poverty itself.
  2. Social Change Approach includes initiatives that promote the eradication of poverty such as raising the minimum wage, increasing access to employment, addressing systemic discrimination in hiring practices, housing, health-care and the legal system. This approach is focused on long-term solutions to large and often daunting problems which often makes this a harder approach to choose.

Choose Both!

Students often engage in one approach or the other, and most frequently it’s the Charity Approach.

This year on February 18th why not engage your students with both approaches? Activity ideas!

Get them thinking about the root causes of inequity and how they can address those inequities for long-term change.

For example, if students are interested in LGBT rights and safety within their school, take them through a reflective exercise that allows them to identify what changes can be made to affect the immediate inequities faced by LGBT students at school such as starting a safe space club or adding a gender-neutral washroom.  Also get them to think about the root causes of discrimination faced by LGBT students at school and how those can be addressed such as challenging gender norms and hetero-normative values amongst staff, students and within the school curriculum and policy.

This type of change is slow but its impact is long lasting.

Social Changemakers have been changing the world using these two-tiered approaches and will continue to do so with your help!

[i] http://www.un.org/en/events/socialjusticeday/