Last night on Twitter there was some disagreement about whether folks like Diane Ravitch qualify as "social justice" advocates. Ditto for school reform advocates like, say, Arne Duncan.
What I learned from the discussion was that people probably have very different notions about what it means to come at improving schools from a social justice perspective. For reform critics like Ravitch, opposing approaches that disempower classroom teachers or put pressure on traditional schools feels like social justice. For reform advocates like Duncan giving parents choices and making schools accountable for results feels like social justice.
Eager as they might be to claim the mantle of social justice advocacy, my sense is that both sides are wrong, and that the things that they spend most of their time advocating for are not the things that social justice advocates would prioritize for children and communities of color who most need better schools.
It's important to note that changes to education are not central to the current #BlackLivesMatter movement that embodies social justice advocacy in the current era. When education does come up, things like more charters, school desegregation, teacher empowerment, accountability, and student loans are not priority items.
So what would a social justice education agenda look like? Here's a highly imperfect guess at some of the priorities that might be highlighted. There's got to be a better version of this somewhere, but it's a start:
10/ Cops out of schools
9/ Ending defiance-based suspensions and expulsions
8/ Anti-racism /cultural awareness training for teachers
7/ High-quality universal preschool
6/ Living wages for paras, aides, and early childhood teacher
5/ Equitable distribution of certified teachers (and payroll costs) among district schools
4/ Limits on self-segregation of affluent students within neighborhoods and island districts
3/ Dramatic reduction in local control/property tax-based funding
2/ Giving parents right to legal action against inadequate education (as with IDEA)