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Getting Buy-in for Social Justice

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How do you get buy-in for Social Justice issues that are not ‘front of mind for most people? Here’s some Tips and Insights gained from some recent Twitter Chats.

This post is inspired by my Pushing The Edge Podcast chat with Tom Snyder.

Click Play Below (15 mins duration) >

It’s also inspired by conversations with Rusul Alrubail (@rusulalrubail),  Matt Parker (@DrMattParker), David E Garcia, Jessica Lifshitz (@JessLif), and a number of other colleagues. 

You know that moment – you wanna pipe up and say something – but you’re nervous.

It didn’t seem to register when you tried previously. It’s like you said nothing at all.

You spend all your time, going back and forward in your mind, trying to get the perfect wording in your head.

So you don’t appear too pushy – or single issue (you don’t want to get accused of pushing your bandwagon).

So you’ll be noticed and acknowledged.

Then when you finally do pipe up – it’s like nothing. There’s little, if any response.

Meanwhile the conversation continues on –

  • on matters that you feel have far less consequence;
  • on matters that seem curiously detached from the impacts of gender, race/ethnicity, belief systems, sexuality, socio-economic situation, age, location, dis/ability. You get my drift.

Social Justice in Twitter Chats?

I’ve been thinking about Social Justice quite a bit lately – especially in relation to Twitter Chats.

You see, Social Justice is a key driver for me. I’m passionate about change in this area. 

So regardless of the Twitter Chat, I’m often thinking about the impacts of educational issues – from a Social Justice perspective. 

Let me illustrate:

I was in a Twitter Chat – focused on historical moments and figures in Education – in reference to Martin Luther King Junior day in the USA. 

I’m thinking about segregation, Alan Turing, and the StoneWall Riots.

YET the BIG issue that’s getting lots of traction in this Twitter Chat is TESTING.

Now I get that testing is a significant issue that challenges many educators.

But when it comes to a Twitter Chat topic influenced by the Martin Luther King Junior holiday in the USA, I was astonished as were other educators like Matt Parker and Rusul Alrubail at the invisibility of, and lack of traction for, social justice issues (see links to Matt and Rusul’s posts below).

I mean I would have given bonus points if the social-justice related implications of testing were prominent in this chat, but they weren’t.

Now this is not an unusual situation.

I often find that there’s little traction in issues relating to diversity – especially GLBTI (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) diversity – in Twitter Chats.

Asking hard questions or challenging the business as usual  generally doesn’t win too many favourites or re-tweets. 

So this whole area has lead to numerous convos with my PLN about what to do, about how to get more prominence and buy-in for social justice-related issues on Twitter.

Because as Jessica Lifshitz (@JessLifTeach) has commented – it can be quite exhausting continually trying to raise the issues – especially when there’s little response. 

So how might we get more prominence and greater buy-in?

Two factors come to mind, courtesy my chat with Tom Snyder and my PhD on Queer Youth (that still lives strong within me): Open-ness and Investment

  • Have a listen to my Podcast Chat with Tom. It’ll give you greater context for what I’m saying.
  • Plus Tom has some Top Insights about Changing the Way you’ve always done things and the value of relationships.

Tom’s been teaching for 20 years and describes himself as being fairly regimented  – Tables and Chairs in Rows sort of thing – until recently.

When I asked about the catalyst for shifting the way he’s always done things – he mentions Openness, along with a number of other factors that are especially critical (and worth digging into). 

Tom’s emphasis on Open-ness got me thinking about an oft-mentioned idea:

That if we can just educate people to the issues – it’ll open them up and get them on-board.  

Sure education has a role, but there’s many other factors to consider. For example: Investment.

People are invested in things staying as they are. The status quo works just fine for them. Why would you want to open up and change what works for you and the people that matter to you? 

Shaking things up  or re-thinking how we’ve always done things is not just an add-on – a new practice to take on. It likely involves re-thinking and re-configuring our worlds and our identities. That’s no small feat.

  • Why would you want to do that?  What are you going to get out of that?

Additionally there’s also our Passion for Ignorance which Deborah Britzman writes about.

She asks: What must we refuse to keep thinking as we do – highlighting that ‘ignorance’ is constructed over and over (although we’re often unaware of this process). 

If I were apply Britzman’s question to a Twitter Chat –

  • What tweets must I ignore to keep thinking the way I do – to keep my world and identities intact?
  • At a more subtle level, it maybe that some tweets in a twitter chat barely register – they’re not front of mind or central – they don’t significantly relate to us or our worlds. 

Turning the other way, we could also ask:

  • What must we acknowledge and make visible to keep thinking as we do – to keep our worlds and identities secure?
    • Or what must we talk about, and shine a light on in twitter chats to reinscribe our identity?

Where do we start? 

So getting buy-in around the issues that matter to us is complex. I don’t have a quick and easy answer but here’s some ways forward.

If we want more educators to buy-in to social-justice related concerns – getting to know them is crucial.

We need to find the points where our worlds and our perspectives can intersect with theirs.  As Todd Henry advises:

We need to contextualise what matters to us within the frameworks of what matters to them. 

AND

We need to find the hook or connecting point – to tie our ideas to their ideas.

AND

We need to understand their investments.

Here’s some possible starting points to get there (recognising that we probably want to apply these triggers to ourselves as well).

Endeavour to:

  • understand what makes them tick? What fires them up?
  • understand what they’ll say ‘yes’ to regardless of the situation. It’s that important to them.
  • identify what’s impacting them here and now – causing them distress and frustration (like testing). 
  • learn what they’re feeding themselves via their friendship networks, their Professional Learning Networks, their media.
  • understand what they must ‘refuse’ or what they must acknowledge and highlight – in Deborah Britzman speak to:
    • maintain stability, security and predictability in their worlds and identities;
    • maintain a sense that they’re making their way through the challenges of everyday life.  

Social Justice-Related Resources

Stand With Us for Social Justice in Education. Here’s a call to action post – with Tips and Insights to get you going.

Yes we do have an agenda: Navigating Social Justice in the Classroom with Rusul Alrubail

Listen to my chat with Rusul Alrubail (Opens player – 15 mins)

 

  1. My Make Change Happen Resource Page – has Tips and Useful books and podcasts relating to Change.
  2. Check out Matt Parker and Rusul Alrubail’s Social Justice infused posts. 
  3. Listen to Todd Henry’s Podcast Episode about Getting Your Ideas HeardThere’s some top insights here.
  4. Listen to Erin Stevenson talk about challenging her privilege – in Pushing The Edge with Greg Curran (Episode 3).
  5. Listen to Jenny Moes chat about identity and finding your place when you’re not like the majority – in Pushing The Edge with Greg Curran (Episode 7). 
  6. Check out the following Social Justice oriented Twitter Chats >> #educolor – #VLAStyle

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2 comments… add one
  • Tom Snyder

    Greg: As always a very courageous post. Leaving ones comfort zone is risky. The changes I made were certainly calculated and still the growth brings discomfort. I think that discussing “social issues” in documented public forums can create a sense of vulnerability when engaged and thus there is a tendency to shy away from them in these settings. I really admire your commitment to “social justice” for all and am glad that our interview has provided inspiration. Your courage inspires me as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for giving me a chance to share my perspective as well.
    Sincerely,
    Tom

    Reply
    • Greg Curran

      Hey Tom, thanks so much for your thoughts and your acknowledgement. You make an important point regarding the sense of vulnerability in discussing social justice in public forum settings. That’s why I so appreciate linking and connecting with educators who are speaking up – hopefully inspiring others over time to do the same. And knowing too that even though people may not speak up – they may be silently going YES!!!

      You inspire and encourage me too Tom. All of us in different ways can spur others on – even though we may not realise it.

      Reply

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