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What Is All This Talk About “Social Justice”? Mapping the Terrain of Education’s Latest Catchphrase


by Connie E. North — 2008

Background/Context: As of 2006, “social justice” is frequently appearing as the centerpiece of numerous educational settings and spaces, such as article and book titles, teacher activist organizations, teacher education policy documents and mission statements, and scholarly conferences. Unfortunately, the organizations and individuals employing this label often fail to elaborate the substantive meaning of social justice education and the implications of its use.

Objective and Research Design: Given the wide range of terms and projects used to describe education for social justice, a focused analysis on the tensions and contradictions inherent in these models can render explicit and debatable their underlying assumptions and claims. To promote greater discussion about the possibilities for, and situational constraints on, education for social justice, the following review of educational literature maps out and evaluates the conflicting discourses about, and approaches to, social justice education.

Conclusions: The author concludes that singular approaches to education for social justice, as well as policy formation processes that exclude or marginalize the actors implicated in them, will not result in more just and equitable forms of education.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 6, 2008, p. 1182-1206
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15043, Date Accessed: 10/1/2014 1:58:54 AM

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About the Author
  • Connie North
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
    E-mail Author
    CONNIE E. NORTH received her doctorate from the Departments of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include antioppressive, democratic, and multicultural forms of education, and her work has recently appeared in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education and the Review of Educational Research.
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