Do Educators Have a Responsibility to Use Technology and Social Media to Promote Social Justice and Fight Oppression?

When it comes to social issues people are always going to take different sides. Unfortunately, these sides have divided society into different groups– those who support an issue, those who don’t, and those who call themselves neutral. Because eduction is an inherently political environment, it comes as no surprise that this divide has entered itself into the classroom. Teachers, students, and the parents of students all have divided opinions. With so many different views floating around our schools, the question is: should teachers have the responsibility to exercise their social activism? In this week’s EDTC 400 debate, my class had the privilege to discuss this very topic. Our debaters were Jesse and Daniel. Jesse was on the proposition side while Daniel was on the opposition side.

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Proposition: Educators Have a Responsibility to Use Technology and Social Media to Promote Social Justice and Fight Oppression

In his opening statement, Jesse argued that educators have the responsibility because:

  1. Neutrality on social justice issues ignores the fears, concerns, and interests of students which can be damaging and ineffective.
  2. Staying silent online is complicit and leaves fake news to rein.
  3. It demonstrates positive digital citizenship.

Despite the differing views of students and students’ parents, Jesse argued that teachers have the responsibility to promote social justice and fight oppression. With the constant scrutiny over teachers, it can be difficult for teachers to discuss social justice issues, especially those that are controversial, nonetheless, discuss them they must! This article suggested by Jesse discusses the importance of speaking out, and the harms that neutrality brings:

Neutrality is itself a political choice, Dunn argues, and is one that bolsters the status quo. What results is a classroom that potentially ignores the fears, interests, and concerns of many students.

This quote aligns well with Jesse’s argument, which denies neutrality as an affective political stance, especially in the classroom. During the debate, Jesse argued that such ignorance carelessly allows students to remain unaware of the issues around them, as well as the fake news that circulates those issues. When teachers ignore addressing political issues, they also ignore the opportunity to teach about fake news and differences between fact, fiction, and opinion. Jesse takes this point further though, saying that neutrality also feeds ignorance by avoiding educational moments to teach about positive digital citizenship.

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Another article that he recommends encourages lessons around digital citizenship and emphasizes the ways that these lessons can teach about the validity of internet sources– another issue that tends to be quite political. It states:

One great way to utilize the internet is to have your students investigate the sources of articles or headlines found online. Teaching them how to use the internet to know whether certain information is fake or real is a great exercise. 

For me, this point of Jesse’s is particularly successful because it not only encourages positive digital citizenship, but allows teachers to be political in a diplomatic way. For teachers to be positive role models, being political is a necessity, however, there is way to be a political and a way not to be political. Forcing one’s views on others is the wrong way to be political, and this is where Daniel’s argument comes into play.

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Opposition: Educators Don’t Have a Responsibility to Use Technology and Social Media to Promote Social Justice and Fight Oppression

In his opening statement, Daniel argued that educators don’t have the responsibility because:

  1. Students are easily influenced.
  2. The education system is political.
  3. Teachers are under constant scrutiny from the public.
  4. Students should be encourages to think for themselves.

All of Daniels points listed above are true. Students are easily influenced and the education system is (extremely) political which is why the public cares so much about what teachers say, which therefor, is why students should be encouraged to think for themselves. Yes, this is valid, all very, very valid. Is neutrality the solution though? Let’s find out.

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This article provided by Daniel, discusses the scrutiny that teachers face and how this scrutiny has risen over time. Unfortunately, the microscope that has been placed over teachers is only getting closer. Back in the day, teachers were rarely on opposing sides with parents, but now, parents and teachers are so far against each other that snitch lines are being made to snitch on teachers that step over parent-made boundaries. Despite what Daniel’s article discusses, it closes with the following quote:

You make your living by teaching, but your profession is humanity.

This is slightly ironic for an article that seemingly encourages neutrality in teachers since I think that being for humanity is not being neutral. But do we really expect teachers to cross parents’ boundaries and take political stances? Perhaps, but also perhaps not. As Daniel mentioned, students are both easily influenced, but should also be able to think for themselves. If we teach students how to think for themselves, we not only are helping them to be critical thinkers and not be easily influenced, but we are also avoiding crossing parent-made boundaries. So the big question is: how do we teach easily influenced students to think for themselves?

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Making Individuals Out Of Students: It’s All About The Facts

Presenting facts to students, or better yet, sending students off to find the facts for themselves, is a tactful strategy that maintains a political environment within your classroom. This, however, is not enough. As previously mentioned, students must also be taught the difference between fact, fiction, and opinion. Once equipped with this knowledge, students can become critical thinkers who are able to use the facts they find to create their own stance. The making of unique individuals = success!

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