For and Against

The School—Education Dialectic in Social Justice

Authored by: K. Wayne Yang

Handbook of Social Justice in Education

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  June  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805859270
eBook ISBN: 9780203887745
Adobe ISBN: 9781135596149


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“I shall create! If not a note, a hole./If not an overture, a desecration.”1 Gwendolyn Brooks’s (1968/1992) poem, “Boy Breaking Glass,”captures a fundamental dialectic in human agency: that between constructive and destructive action. Nowhere is this more relevant than in considering the agency of oppressed peoples when facing institutions that ostensibly benefit them, such as youth of color vis-à-vis schools in the divested urban ghettos of the United States. The school–education dialectic refers to how social justice efforts must simultaneously deconstruct oppressive school systems while constructing emancipatory projects of education. Given that schooling in the United States more often reproduces than disrupts class-based inequalities (Bowles & Gintis, 1976, pp. 125–126), inculcates racist and misogynist ideologies rather than critiques them (hooks, 1994), and promotes a colonial agenda over one of self-determination (Woodson, 2000), human agency, that is, the ability to transform these very structures of social reproduction (Giddens, 1979), becomes an obligatory focal point in any discussion of social justice.

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