On average, students of color are at least three grades behind their white peers. Many schools’ staff teams do not reflect the diversity of their students. Black and Latinx students are still less likely to be selected for gifted and talented programs.
Educational justice advocacy is about changing that. It’s about reimaging what education can feel and look like when listening to the voices of those most marginalized. It’s about students being their authentic selves without having to conform to a status quo. In short, educational justice is ensuring every pupil knows their academic and personal experiences matter.
Over the last year, conservative attacks on anti-racist and culturally responsive movements have grown significantly, making advocating for educational justice more crucial than ever. While educators and administrators band together, others must join in to keep collective action alive.
As advised by Danny Swersky, advocacy spaces should be caring, relatable, and sustainable. And institutions can do this by considering five key considerations.
Establishments must involve education stakeholders when constructing their teams. Collaboration is critical to ensure the best path forward is charted, in addition to preventing burnout.
Leaders must consider how they plan to build trust and form a community with teachers, parents, and other academic professionals. Individual skills and interests should matter, and schools should aim to democratize decision-making protocols for all-around educational justice.
Time for Celebration and Creativity
Celebrating collaboration and allowing time for creativity during organizational tasks can disrupt old routines, making room for new-and-improved political ideas.
Allowing teams to celebrate small wins muddies the terrible idea that productivity is a group’s only value and highlights that all contributions are critical to making the world better than the one we inherited.
The Care Structure
Despite the irony, organizing advocacy spaces can unknowingly perpetuate injustice. Team leaders can rely on gendered or racialized emotional care or labor through self-sacrifice and notions of urgency.
Activism — though clearly the way forward — brings logistical and emotional burdens. Thus, without protocols for caring for each other during these times, people resort to ineffective “self-care” to manage stress.
Shifting focus from “caring and supporting the organizer” to “caring and supporting the collective” is essential.
Root for a Healthy Pace
Notions of urgency incite problematic boundaries among organizers that prevent them from being honest about time constraints, interests, capacity, and needs.
Promoting unrealistic ideals of effort and time in organizing spaces risks reinstating the burnout-bringing conditions teachers already face.
Instead, establishments should aim for healthy pacing, where everybody is given time to collaborate, celebrate, rest, reflect, and reassess.
Magical change occurs when teachers, parents, and other industry professionals learn together. Educational institutions should host collaborative workshops and lectures to build trust and develop a sense of community which will spark ongoing intergenerational activism.
Educational Justice Advocacy: Keeping Public Academia Moving in the Right Direction
Educational justice advocates and group organizers have a rich history of making anti-oppressive change. Thus, institutions should aim to foster this work by intentionally creating spaces made for activism, allowing the equal infrastructure students require to thrive.