Here, we’ve taken a moment to define our viewpoint on terms commonly related to social justice education. While they are not fully comprehensive, we hope they offer clarity on our commitments and approaches. If there are other words we use that are not defined here, please let us know! We’d love to consider adding them.
Theatre of the Oppressed
As a tool for liberation, Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) was developed by Augusto Boal in Brazil in the 1950s to provide communities with a means to explore the oppressive contexts in which they were living. Directly inspired by Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (learn more), Boal’s radical form of theatre engages participants as “spect-actors”, equal partners in the process of creating dialogue and action. Since its conception, TO has been used globally (e.g., Brazil, France, United States of America) to provide marginalized groups with ways to communicate about the oppression they experience. This platform invites groups to strategize ways to challenge existing forces, including governmental and legislative powers. In fact, in 1971, Boal was exiled from Brazil because of the government’s fear of his controversial pedagogy and the power it has to alter the power balance of a society. Today, practitioners of use this pedagogy in various settings: education, prisons, community organizing, political activism, and more.
Dialogue is a very specific form of communication that relies on the honest sharing of individual’s experience and perspectives in a pursuit of identifying a truth that reflects the multiplicity of realities. In dialogue, everyone has the responsibility of contributing as both learner and teacher. This is achievable through sincere active listening, individual risk-taking and story sharing, a commitment to not intellectualizing experiences, and thoughtful structured facilitation.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
UDL reminds us to ensure that everyone has access to the learning environment without need for accommodation, specifically ensuring that no one is isolated, marginalized or denied access because of a disability. This pedagogical commitment requires intentionality in the preparation of materials and curriculum, and in-the-moment decision making during sessions that reflects values of universal accessibility.
Social justice focuses on systematic and actionable change that puts equity and inclusion at the focus. To advance attitudes, community cohesion and institutional culture, incorporating the concepts core to social justice work is essential. A social justice framework suggests a critical examination of the underlying systems of privilege and oppression that commonly affect our actions and interactions. Applying social justice principles requires an active and on-going commitment to counteract injustices and oppressive practices through regular personal reflection and methodical organizational change.