Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why is "social justice" in the course description?

Guest Blogger: Darcy Lear, a colleague of Ann's, who also works in Spanish & Entrepreneurship, Spanish for the Professions, and Community Service-Learning begins her contribution to the blog with this post...

I am so proud of the guidebook produced by the students in the fall 2008 section of the First Year Seminar I teach at UNC-CH: "Spanish and Entrepreneurship: Language, Cultures, and North Carolina Communities." It is a comprehensive guide to businesses and services available to Spanish-speakers in our county. The assignment was to gather all the information, but students went above and beyond, forming and re-forming groups to publish the guidebook.

At the end of the course, student feedback revealed that they all agreed that "social justice" had to be removed from the course description. We had not talked about social justice at all and I didn't plan to talk explicitly in those terms in future sections of the course so I took those words out. But I was also careful to point out to students that the very guidebook they had worked so hard to publish would be objectionable to a lot of people precisely because it encourages undocumented immigrants (and others) to access public services. I believe their work is a wonderful example of social justice: not only does the guidebook say "here is a convenient list of businesses and services," it also says "and by publishing it in this beautiful and widely available form we believe you absolutely have the right to use them."

I'm not sure if the students felt duped! I encourage them to post comments here so they can represent their own views on the matter.


  1. Great post--and great guide to Orange County!
    I think that in order for students to understand what "social justice" is, they must first have a very good understanding of the injustices that exist. Many of my students--and yours, I'm sure--are open, tolerant, curious people and simply do not imagine the racism, classism and "language-ism" that many Latinos (and others) face all the time! And the injustices can be subtle, so not everyone can recognize them for what they actually are.

  2. My name is Raleigh, and I was lucky enough to be a student in this class. You better believe that I never wanted to take "social justice" out of the course description, and I can't think of anyone else in the class that would want that either! However, that's none of my business.
    This class has opened so many doors for me to work with the Hispanic community to move TOWARD social equality. I would argue that social justice in its purest form is when different groups of people are valued equally by society.
    I could not be more grateful for this course, especially since the "social justice" part existed.
    Thanks for everything, Darcy.

  3. I couldn't agree more with Raleigh. This class was rewarding in more ways than one. "Social justice" was such a key factor in how I personally learned how to approach my peers and the Hispanic community. Like Raleigh said, it was also important in realizing social equality and human capacity for change. I truly enjoyed this class and would recommend it to anyone even slightly interested. Thanks for everything- I hope to see you soon Dr. Lear!

    Coty Lee