To commit to Brown v. Board of Education’s legacy of advancing social justice and democracy, it is necessary to look at practices (i.e., the types of discourse, experiences, processes, and structures) that promote the development and support of school leaders committed to social justice, equity, access, and diversity. Leadership preparation programs need to provide the knowledge base for aspiring school leaders to understand how they ought to respond to the changing political, moral, and social landscapes in which they live and work. Of equal importance is the curricular focus on interrelating social justice, democracy, equity, and diversity so that aspiring school leaders can identify practices that explicitly and implicitly deter social progress. Furthermore, these school leaders ought to be able to develop a knowledge base on how to respond to these injustices in their school leadership practices. As leadership development and preparation program personnel prepare new leaders, the discourse of social justice and marginalization is an important objective in the curriculum of preparation programs. Personnel in leadership programs have an opportunity to take part in discourse about how to shape the quality of leaders they produce for the good of society. To this end, researchers offer critical insights into the types of discourse, experiences, processes, and structures that promote the development and support of contemporary principals committed to social justice and democratic principles. Included in the research discussion are the tenets of social justice leadership, democracy, diversity and the digital divide, digital access, and digital equity.
Anthony H. Normore and Antonia Issa Lahera
Yongjian Li and Fred Dervin
The theme of social justice appears to be central in education research. A polysemic and sometimes empty notion, social justice can be defined, constructed, and used in different ways, which makes it a problematic notion to work with intra- and interculturally. Global education research has often relied on constructions of the notion as they have been “done” in the West, leaving very little space to constructions from peripheries. This problematic and somewhat biased approach often leads to research that ignores local contexts and local ways of “discoursing” about social justice. Although some countries are said to be better at social justice in education (e.g., top performers in the OECD PISA studies), there is a need to examine critically and reflexively how it is “done” in different contexts (“winners” and “losers” of international rankings) on macro- and micro-levels. Two different educational utopias, China and Finland, are used to illustrate the different constructions of social justice, and more specifically marginalization and belonging in relation to migrant students—an omnipresent figure in world education—in the two countries. A call for learning with each other about social justice, and questioning too easily accepted definitions and/or formulas, is made.
Intersectionality is celebrated in education research for its capacity to illuminate how identities like race, gender, class, and ability interact and shape individual experiences, social practices, institutions, and ideologies. However, although widely invoked among educational researchers, intersectionality is rarely unpacked or theorized. It is treated as a simple, settled concept despite the fact that, outside education research, it has become in the early 21st century one of the most hotly debated concepts in social science research. Education researchers should therefore clarify and, where appropriate, complicate their uses of intersectionality. One important issue requiring clarification concerns the question: “Who is intersectional?” While some critical social scientists represent intersectionality as a theory of multiple marginalization, others frame it as a theory of multiple identities. Either choice entails theoretical and practical trade-offs. When researchers approach intersectionality as a theory of multiple marginalization, they contribute to seeking redress for multiply marginalized subjects’ experiences of violence and erasure, yet this approach risks representing multiply marginalized communities as damaged, homogenous, and without agency, while leaving the processes maintaining dominance uninterrogated. When scholars approach intersectionality as a theory of multiple identities, meanwhile, they may supply a fuller account of the processes by which advantage and disadvantage co-constitute one another, but they risk recentering Whiteness, deflecting conversations about racism, and marginalizing women of color in the name of inclusivity. A review of over 60 empirical and conceptual papers in educational research shows that such trade-offs are not often made visible in our field. Education researchers should therefore clarify their orientations to intersectionality: They should name the approach(es) they favor, make arguments for why such approaches are appropriate to a particular project, and respond thoughtfully to potential limitations.
Alberto Arenas and Rebecca Perez
Marginalized knowledges are the intergenerational knowledges and skills from communities worldwide that hegemonic forces have pushed to the margins of society. These include facts, beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and competencies. Marginalized knowledges are part of the human capital that materially poor rural and urban peoples have developed over time—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. These knowledges are situated and contextualized in a given time and locality, and have evolved to fulfill economic, social, environmental, spiritual, or cultural needs. School systems worldwide in the 19th and 20th centuries adopted an official, hegemonic curriculum that ignored and displaced these vital knowledges at a great loss to poor communities. Fortunately, different pedagogies exist today (e.g., pedagogy of place; funds of knowledge; civic service) that seek to bring these knowledges to the center of school life and provide a complementary, parallel role to that of the school’s official curriculum.
Marginalized populations are by definition composed of people who have fewer possibilities and options in their lives than those studying them. This fact has to be reflected before, during, and after the research itself. There are many facets of this basic assumption. One of them is, how are marginalized perceived by the researcher? Are they helpless victims, or people who are able to tell their own stories? Another relevant detail is the personality of the researcher. When the researcher comes from outside the marginalized group, the key question is, which methodology can be best applied to give a voice to those who are marginalized? On the other hand, when the researcher is a member of the group being studied, the key question is how to achieve the distance necessary for analysis. There could be many more such relevant facets, but the quality of the final research product is partially determined by any number of decisions that are made during the planning of the research and the conducting of the research. All of these decisions have methodological consequences. There are a wide range of qualitative research approaches, such as participatory research, autoethnographic research, narrative and biographical research, or traditional qualitative research based on interviews with representatives of marginalized groups. In the early 21st century, there has been a shift away from a top-down, outsider perspective that sees the marginalized as helpless victims and toward more participatory research designs that promote and give a space to the marginalized voice. The common denominator of all these decisions is whose voice is being heard—does it belong to the marginalized group or to the outside world? Is it possible to overcome the boundaries between these two worlds? And what role does methodology play in this story?
Marta Caballeros, Jeannette Bran, and Gabriela Castro
Inclusive education, as stated in declarations and human development goals, features in the educational policies being implemented in Central American and Caribbean (CA-DR) countries (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic). The policies seek to give the entire population of each country permanent access to quality education services, and they have a particular focus on people with disabilities. However, there are considerable challenges to be overcome, caused by a combination of historical factors and the sociopolitical and economic context. Some of the countries still have significant levels of poverty and inequity, both of which hinder the development of inclusive education. At the same time, inclusive education is expected to help eradicate social exclusion and facilitate social mobility. This paradigm began as an effort to secure disabled people’s right to education, and countries have since been working to offer disabled people access to regular schools. Nevertheless, segregated education services or services with an integration aim still persist. Moreover, poverty causes many students to drop out of school, or never to enroll at all. Each country has vulnerable or marginalized groups in its population. The work being done, from an inclusive perspective, follows two main routes: reorienting education systems toward inclusivity; and offering these groups affirmative actions to ensure their regular attendance at mainstream schools that have quality programs for all. If CA-DR countries are to achieve inclusive education, they must fulfill two requirements. Firstly, they must develop intersectorial interventions that revert causes of exclusion—education policies in isolation are unable to do that. Secondly, they must take action to ensure that inclusive education is achieved in practice in the classroom. There are advances toward inclusion, but more work is needed to answer the question of how CA-DR countries can develop inclusive societies, based on social protection and quality education services for all, that give proper attention to diversity, practice equity, and promote social mobility. Bottom-up strategies are valuable in the effort to achieve inclusive education.