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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Moving from Volunteerism to Social Justice

by Ann Abbott


Spanish instructors always face a classroom with students of varying levels of Spanish proficiency. It's a difficult challenge, but one we are used to.  In a Spanish community service learning (CSL) course, I have recently realized that we face a classroom of students with varying levels of politicization and social engagement.  That's not necessarily a more difficult challenge, but it is one that I think fewer of us have thought about and how it our teaching should meet that challenge.

I have posted before about class activities that can help students distinguish between volunteerism and engaged citizenship--speaking at a School Board budget meeting and writing to our elected officials--, and Actividad 18-2 in Comunidades asks students to categorize various responses to social problems as charity, volunteerism or activism.

Now that we're towards the end of the semester, you might consider trying this simple yet challenging activity with your CSL students:

  1. Social injustice. Each student writes down a specific example of a social injustice that he/she has observed or learned about through his/her CSL work this semester.  Example: The grade school that I attended was in an affluent community. We had nice facilities, plenty of materials, fewer kids in each class and more after-school activities. When I go to work at this school, I see that there are leaks in the ceilings and peeling walls, there are few computers in the library and if I weren't in the classroom, one adult would be responsible for a class of 30 students.
  2. Socio-political issues. Pass your example to a classmate.  Your classmate reads the specific example and names a larger socio-political issue that it is connected to. Example: Inequities in education. Education tied to property taxes. 
  3. Social justice. Pass the paper to another classmate.  Your classmate reads items #1 and #2 and then writes at least one way that our society could work to achieve social justice on this issue.  Example: Implement a different or diversified funding source for all schools. 

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