Editor's Choice Collection: Research Highlighting Traditionally Marginalized Voices Theory & Research in Social Education

Theory & Research in Social Education

Students have an extraordinary capacity to critically read and write the world around them, which is a necessary prerequisite to their liberation. Activating (and nurturing) such a capacity requires that educators establish a justice imperative in their teaching and learning practice. That is, one’s pedagogical orientation must be framed by an unrelenting commitment to aid in the liberation of individuals/students on the margins of society—those for whom schooling has primarily functioned to sustain their subordination.

To engage in justice work, then, is to be(come) comfortable with the uncomfortable. Sometimes it means saying what others refuse to acknowledge. Similarly, what is justice without a liberation ethos? A freedom project of any kind begins with featuring divergent worldviews/perspectives or voices on issues of broad significance.

The scholars in this virtual issue on “Research Highlighting Traditionally Marginalized Voices” insist educators raise our voices to routinely question and problematize common sense notions of “liberty and justice for all.” The articles in this volume examine the doing of a justice-oriented pedagogy. Said differently, each author meticulously documents the tensions that emerge when social studies educators refuse complicity in systems of domination as evidenced by their moment-by-moment pedagogical decisions. These are professional decisions made with the explicit aim of illuminating the contradictions of our democracy.

Maribel Santiago encourages teachers to purposely dig into the nuances of widely-celebrated civil rights victories such as the landmark Brown v. Board and Mendez v Westminster school desegregation cases. Building on Santiago’s argument that social studies teachers must attend to the silences and gaps in history for particular groups such as Mexican Americans, Ashley Woodson insists on disavowing master narratives about Civil Rights that tend to be heterosexual and male-centered. That is, educators must enable young people to self-determine in social studies classrooms, in part, by activating students’ agency to practice seeing themselves in the long struggles for equality in the United States. These scholars argue that such an orientation to teaching and learning requires more complicated, intersectional reads of historical events. Hillary Parkhouse, like Santiago and Woodson, advocates for a critical pedagogy that embraces the confounding details of oppressed peoples’ shared histories. Her paper illuminates how educators, themselves, are positioned to act as tools for transformation, essential to shaping how young people come to imagine themselves in the world they have inherited. Similarly, Sandra Schmidt, Ashley Taylor Jaffee, and Amanda Vickery separately examine the central role of social studies (teacher) educators to construct more expansive notions of citizenship. Their work draws attention to whose voices in our society are privileged, what individuals tend to be silenced, and the learning conditions (e.g., curriculum, exposures, classroom arrangements, etc.) that are essential to humanize those whose citizen rights are too often called into question.

While American (public) education is marked by an overreliance on whitewashed curriculum that omits the histories, contributions, and experiential knowledge of an incredibly diverse populace, the authors in this virtual issue of TRSE emphasize the possibilities of inviting students into deep, ongoing discussions of power and privilege in the United States. Their scholarship demonstrates promising pedagogical approaches that enable K-12 students and preservice teachers to more intelligently interpret how dominant American narratives of progress, inclusion, and citizenship cohere to maintain—rather than eliminate or disrupt—anti-black racist cis-hetero-patriarchal capitalist social relations. The result of their findings is a compendium of intellectually rich theoretical perspectives that advance a new vision of schooling. That is, an education that prepares students to more critically decide how they will participate in, and ultimately transform, society rather than simply reproduce its oppressive logics and structures. 

Dr. Chezare A. Warren is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. Dr. Warren is a nationally recognized researcher in the field of urban education and teacher education. His scholarship is centered on improving the education outcomes of young Black men and boys across the P-20 education pipeline. He can be reached at chezare@msu.edu.