Social Justice

In A Theory of Justice (1971), John Rawls argues that where a democracy exists “justice is the first virtue of social institutions.” Because democracy requires a substantive concern for equity, the faculty of the School of Education is committed, in theory and practice, to social justice. This commitment involves a vision of education that “extend[s] the principles of liberty, equality, and justice to the widest possible set of institutional and lived relations” (Giroux, 1983). We believe that an education centered on social justice prepares the highest quality of future teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and administrators to assume an active role in shaping the social, cultural, and political future of their communities and beyond. We prepare educators to “cross physical, cultural, and economic borders as they develop shared meanings and purposes” (AACTE, 2003) in classrooms and other educational settings.

Realizing that inequalities persist in educational institutions, we are determined and committed to demonstrate democratic ideals for the teacher candidates and other school personnel in our programs. We recognize the challenges we face in preparing educators to be advocates for those on the margins of society. “Of the many challenges facing public schools today, none is more formidable than eliminating racial, ethnic, and economic inequities in educational opportunity and student achievement” (Larson and Ovando, 2001; Lather, 1991). Given the historical roots of injustice, we are committed to helping practitioners see the vast possibilities of moving toward an equitable and just world knowing that “extreme inequalities in matters of race, gender and class often survive on the implicit understanding that there is no alternative” (Ayers et al, 1998; Sen, 1992; Weis & Fine, 1993).

Our commitment to social justice is grounded in our accepting responsibility to expand the opportunities for an inclusive society. We believe “the substantive freedoms that we respectively enjoy are extremely contingent on personal, social and environmental circumstances” (Sen, 1992). With this in view, we are working to create a society that supports liberty, dignity, and freedom of expression for all. We develop in our students a deeper understanding of the quest for social justice. Also, we develop a respect for and a support of the inclusion of multiple cultures and voices in creating shared educational visions. We educate teacher candidates and other school personnel about issues of social injustice such as institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism (Fine et al, 1996; Nussbaum, 1999), and invite them to develop strategies and practices that challenge biases against non-English speakers, immigrants, and those with special needs. Thus, we strive not to reproduce the social, economic, political, and cultural inequities in society, but to explicitly build collaborations. These efforts will help to ensure input from all stakeholders and to generate opportunities for everyone to be co-owners, thus shifting the balance of power in ways that create a truly democratic society.


Our teacher candidates and other school personnel are prepared to:

  • demonstrate a knowledge of, language for, and the ability to create educational environments based on various theories of social justice;
  • develop strategies that create classrooms and other educational settings that favor inclusiveness over alienation and promote high expectations for students from historically oppressed groups;
  • demonstrate in their practice strategies that support every student’s effort to reach the highest level of academic achievement and to use pedagogies that embrace the wide range of cultures represented in today’s classrooms;
  • demonstrate a knowledge of the basic rights of all human beings and to encourage critical thinking and a sense of community among the diverse students with whom they practice;
  • develop learning communities in partnership with other stakeholders in schools and their neighborhoods to build collaborations that are democratic and empowering for all citizens;
  • engage in conversations with school communities and others to support those most disadvantaged by the socioeconomic, racial, cultural, linguistic, and economic inequities in our schools and society; and
  • be caring advocates and change agents for all students and their families in pursuit of academic excellence and social equality.


American Association of Colleges in Teacher Education (2003) Service Learning Monograph No.3. Washington, D.C.

Ayers, W., J.A. Hunt, T. Quinn and M. Greene (1998). Teaching for Social Justice: A Democracy and Education Reader. New Press.

Fine, M., L. Powell, L. Weis and L. Mun Wong, eds. (1996). Off White: Readings on Race, Power and Society. New York: Routledge.

Giroux, H. (1983). Theory and Resistance in Education: A Pedagogy for the Opposition. New York: Bergin and Garvey Press.

Larson, C.L. and C.J. Ovando (2001). The Color of Bureaucracy: The Politics of Equity in Multicultural School Communities. Wadsworth Press.

Lather, P.A. (1991). Getting Smart: Feminist Research and Pedagogy with the Postmodern. New York: Routledge.

Nussbaum, M. (1999). Sex and Social Justice. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rawls, J. (1971). A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Press.

Sen, A. (1992). Inequality Re-examined. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Sage Publications.

Weis, L. and M. Fine, eds. (1993). Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race, and Gender in U.S. Schools. New York: State University of New York Press.

Brooklyn. All in.