If You Ain’t About Social Justice, You Don’t Belong in the Classroom

“The system needs teachers who regard teaching as a political activity and embrace change as part of the job.”—Cochran Smith

Our students need educators who endorse a holistic education—and that includes preparation for ongoing activism and resistance.

Students ill-prepared to resist the pervasive white supremacist undergirding of society cannot be considered well-educated. Teachers unable to engage their work through a social justice lens and framework should be considered unprepared and not highly qualified to effectively teach our students.

The inherent racist realities that were baked into American political, judicial, and economic systems continue to persist. Those who will lead the charge in eradicating these oppressive systems are in our classrooms and more are in mothers’ wombs.

Teacher of the Year Steps Up

It is refreshing to see the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, use her platform to illuminate the moral imperative of providing students with this holistic education that includes tools to dismantle white supremacy.

As a white educator, it is my duty to educate myself and work against this injustice…I realized that my education had occurred within a racist system that privileged Eurocentric achievements. I would need to do significant work to correct my ignorance.

Education is a tool for social justice. It can empower students to stand up for themselves and create change. It can only do this, however, if teachers like me hold ourselves and each other accountable for confronting the system’s historical inequity.

Imagine if all public school teachers had this internal call to action. We’d be that much closer to a population poised to bring about a just society.

What do you think?

About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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