Teaching Social Justice


Social justice is a broad topic. The world in which we live is complex, filled with wonder and angst and joy, suffering and pain. There are injustices, human trafficking, political oppression and extreme poverty in both hemispheres.

Social justice is defined as "... promoting a just society by challenging injustice and
valuing diversity.” It exists when "all people share a common humanity and therefore
have a right to resources." In conditions of social justice, people are "not to be
discriminated against, nor their welfare and well-being constrained or prejudiced on
the basis of gender, sexuality, religion, political affiliations, age, race, belief, disability,
location, social class, socioeconomic circumstances, or other characteristic of
background or group membership.” (Toowoomba Catholic Education, 2006.)

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over 65.3 million people are displaced around the world due to war and persecution. The Institute for Criminal Policy Research shows that there are millions of prisoners incarcerated globally with the U.S. holding over two million; China, close to 1,700,00; and with the Russian Federation and Brazil having over half a million and India over 400,000.

It is estimated that over 30 million people are held as slaves in the world today and the most vulnerable population to enslavement are children. It is reported that Haiti has the second-highest rate of slavery with 1 child in every 48 held in captivity. India holds the highest rate of slavery, including practices of bondage, child marriage and sex slavery.

It is estimated that 60% of the world’s population live in cities. ”By 2030, the world is projected to have 41 mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants each. Tokyo is projected to remain the world’s largest city in 2030 with 37 million inhabitants, followed closely by Delhi where the population is projected to rise swiftly to 36 million.” (UN World Urbanization Prospects)

Racism, xenophobia and Neo-Nazism are on the rise globally. In the United States, the unsettling of confusion and fear resulting from shootings of Black Americans by police has led to a new epidemic of misunderstanding and extreme verbal clashes between groups. In Europe, right-wing parties have made political gains in France, Germany, Greece, Finland, Denmark, the Netherland, Hungary, Austria and Italy. Civil War in Syria, continued conflict in Iraq, Yemen, Somali,Yemen and Afghanistan has resulted in thousands of people fleeing their countries weekly--only to be turned away from borders not their own. The founder of the French Party Front Nation has gone so far as to suggest that Ebola could be released on migrants in order to decrease their numbers. Of course, social justice problems are distinctly different geographically, but the injustice remains the same.

As cities grow, so do problems and challenges which include the inability to deal with the multiple needs of the city’s hundreds of thousands and millions of people. Often neighborhoods become segregated and crowded, healthcare services and public assistance decrease as poverty continues to grow. Expectations of schools and law enforcement become unrealistic and communication among all citizens limited. Compound this with the large number of new arrivals, including immigrants, refugees, homeless military veterans and families living on the streets, the scarcity of jobs and we have a too familiar scene of need, unrest and anger. Cities have always been challenged but not to the degree in which they find themselves currently. Each of the problems mentioned above is linked to the other—not one is independent of the other.

Issues of social justice are essential to helping each person, no matter the age, confront their own perspectives of people and places different from their own environment. Social justice concerns are local, national and international.

Teaching Social Justice

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