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The Future of Social Justice

It’s time we start teaching kids that not everything has to end in tragedy. They too have the power to make change. According to Sydney Chaffee, education can be an extremely powerful tool for social justice.

At TEDx Beacon Street, we are on a kick of doing talks in interesting locations. Sydney Chaffee gave her talk at the Edward Kennedy Institute in Boston. She talked about social justice and political action on a replica of the senate floor – how symbolic! Chaffee’s talk is now featured on TED.com!

Chaffee says, “Teachers don’t just teach subjects, we teach people.” In order for children to become active citizens, we must build ingrain the concepts of social justice into the school system. We should teach students that history is ongoing, that there is always a potential for justice, and that they can play a role in it. They should be encouraged to articulate their own opinions, and to act out against injustice.

Adults have a responsibility to value children’s opinions, and to make them feel validated. We have to teach them that adults will support them, that they don’t need authority to tell them when to protest, and that they have power in their society. It is up to us to listen to them.

According to Chaffee, it is time for us to change the way we think about rebellion. We have to be flexible, creative, and brave. We have to accept that learning is messy, and rebellion is natural. She says, “Convenience and justice do not often go hand in hand.”

We live under the misconception that if we give kids too much freedom, they will walk all over us. We must understand that kids should be creative and have opportunities to brainstorm, and we can set our schools up to fit this model.

Chaffee writes in her blog, “I firmly believe that teaching is inherently a political act. Every choice we make in the classroom communicates our values… Whether we choose to talk with our students about changing the world or not, we’re teaching them lessons about what matters. And with so much activism coming from our kids right now, the choices we make about how to engage speak volumes.”

It is easy to lose sight of the fact that school should be about teaching people to change the world for the better. Let’s make a change.

Watch Chaffee’s talk here.