This paper examines some of the experiences, theories and practices I have learned preparing for and teaching 9th/10th grade Social Studies at the Compass School. My journey is a continued effort of trying to understand what it means to be non racist, non oppressive, and teach about the events and history of the world in a way that leads to liberation. The specifics of this paper examine some of the current theories in education and the experience of trying to apply them in my teaching.

As I started my student teaching, Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast were about to become headlines around the world. I was immediately challenged to examine how we as teachers and community members respond to and teach about the events and issues occurring around us? As catastrophic events continued to unfold over the weeks after Katrina hit, it became clear to some that more than just a storm had hit these communities. I believe that as teachers and world citizens we are responsible for addressing the issues of oppression going on around us, which also means to talk about the events occurring in the lives of our students. If we do not do this then we send a very clear message that we do not care about those issues and the people affected or that they are not important. We are sending a message that as teachers we do not care about their lives as students, or the experience of those who are facing oppression. We are saying by our lack of attention that we in fact are complicit in the oppression by our inaction to it. In interpreting various educational theories through the lens of trying to create curriculum, I came to understand the importance of not only discussing and naming it but working to address it. For me, teacher and activists are part of a whole, inseparable. So how do we as educators teach about social justice in a way that demonstrates both awareness and action?

Richard Shaull in the forward to Pedagogy of the Oppressed writes

“There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, Or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (Freire, 1970)


Education | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change