"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Social Justice--Meet Madison Avenue

There are many educationists and educators who have been so brow-beaten by conservatives intent upon preserving the current out-of-whack social system that they have abandoned, even, the term "social justice" from their working vocabularies. Of late, we see half the term, "justice," surviving in some schools' guiding documents, as if the Constitution and the legal system will be enough to combat the corrosive effects of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism that undergird, and undercut, our social lives.

With the disappearance of the term, social justice, there goes, too, the principles and practices aimed at combatting oppression, hatred, bigotry, and the more subtle behaviors and policies that perpetrate the many unfairnesses surrounding race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. One of most prominent examples of capitulation occurred recently with the national accrediting concern, NCATE, and its decision to follow the path of least resistance by caving to right-wingers who are angered and threatened by the prospect of a teacher corps committed to dispositions grounded in principles of equity, equality, and fairness. Such is the state of politics in America, when social justice can be successfully demonized as a partisan value that is too offensive to remain on our list of cherished institutional ideals.

It is encouraging, then, to see the goals of social justice making a comeback, even if it is on Madison Avenue and not in the agencies where we might expect it, say, in the institutional values of what was at one time the most respected teacher education accrediting body of the Land.

A clip from the NYTimes:

FOR the first time since the Advertising Council was founded in 1942, the organization — which directs and coordinates public service campaigns on behalf of Madison Avenue and the media industry — is introducing ads meant to tackle a social issue of concern to gays and lesbians.

The campaign, which is scheduled to be announced by the council in Washington on Wednesday, will seek to discourage bullying and harassment of teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

The campaign, created pro bono by the New York office of Arnold Worldwide, urges an end to using derogatory language, particularly labeling anything deemed negative or unpleasant as “so gay.” That is underlined by the theme of the campaign: “When you say, ‘That’s so gay,’ do you realize what you say? Knock it off.”

There will be television and radio commercials, print and outdoor ads and a special Web site devoted to the campaign (thinkb4youspeak.com). Some spots feature celebrities, the young actress Hilary Duff and the comedian Wanda Sykes, delivering the message.

The campaign is on behalf of a nonprofit organization in New York called the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or Glsen (pronounced glisten), which promotes tolerance among students. Glsen is spending about $2 million to develop and produce the campaign. . . .

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