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A New Course in Social Justice with Dr. Francisco Torres

POSTED: Sep. 28, 2021

In these complex times when social justice, abolitionist teaching, critical race theory and the like are under attack, it is more important than ever for our community to take a stand for positive systemic change in our society and the ways we envision schooling. ADED 20000 Topics in Social Justice in Teaching and Learning is a course I co-designed with Adolescent and Young Adult Education (ADED) faculty to address the greater systemic barriers we saw in the way we prepare pre-service teachers and the dispositions we hope they will carry into schools and society.

KSU Students Protesting on Campus in 2020
As the syllabus states, “as a starting point for this course, this class assumes, accepts, and is built upon the facts that racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Blackness, etc. exist in our schools/society and that critical engagement in educational spaces is one way to combat those inequities.”

At the root of this new course is love. And when I say “love,” I mean love that seeks to dismantle systems of oppression by asking what we really mean when we say, “we love teaching” and that we want to be teachers because “we love our students.” When we say we love our students or teaching, we tend to mean the process of promoting intellectual growth in young minds, but this course pushes us to realize that no real growth can be had if racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism, etc. continue to dominate our society and schools. In that sense, this course attempts to instill in pre-service teachers that having love for education or our future students involves being a co-conspirator with our students for their liberation and ours.

Beyond a deeper understanding of love and what it entails in schools, this course will also focus on the need for pre-service teachers to see themselves as change makers. To do that, they need to better understand themselves and what they intentionally or unintentionally bring into classroom spaces. For example, we explore how our own upbringing in relation to race, gender, class, etc. may affect how we see our students, the districts we choose to work in, and the outcomes of our students in our spaces. This work is hard and sometimes uncomfortable, but my hope is that, through that unease, we can all grow together for the benefit of the K-12 students we will impact.

Students Studying Together
Although ADED 20000 is designed for pre-service teachers, especially those wishing to enter the ADED program, this course has transformative potential for all students and is open to all majors at Kent State. Many of us are the product of and/or part of the U.S. educational system that has treated us differently based on how we represent, what we stand for or against, our religious beliefs, cultural background, etc.

I am a Puerto Rican scholar who never had the opportunity to see people from my community represented in my K-12 schooling, whether in books or as teachers, and a course like this one made me aware of that inequity. We all deserve to be represented in our schooling. As we interact in our world, it’s important to recognize when we are able to make a difference, and this course can help students in this regard. My hope is that you will join me on this journey of self-actualization, determination, and social justice.

Written by Dr. Francisco Torres, Assistant Professor in the Adolescent and Young Adult Education program.