Social Justice Education in a Diverse Classroom: Examining High School Discussions about Race, Power, and Privilege

Anjalé D. Welton, Tiffany Octavia Harris, Priya G. La Londe, Rachel T. Moyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High school students who participate in social justice education have a greater awareness of inequities that impact their school, community, and society, and learn tools for taking action to address these inequities. Also, a classroom that consist of students with a diverse set of identities creates an ideal circumstance in which a teacher can build upon student differences in order to facilitate meaningful discussions about social justice, especially issues of race. Therefore, in this article we use qualitative case study approaches to examine a high school course on social justice education, paying specific attention to the classroom pedagogy and dialogue on issues of race, power, and privilege. The course was purposefully diverse in enrollment, which brought students together who might not have had interactions with each other prior to the class. We employ Hackman's (2005) five components of social justice education (SJE) as a framework for the analysis of the pedagogy and discussions constructed in the classroom, as well as a common language for what constitutes as social justice education in our research inquiry. Students in the course developed a facility for defining and identifying various forms of oppression and injustice. However, we questioned to what extent these very same issues played out in the class dialogue. Due to the level of student diversity, the course was a unique space to learn about racism and intersecting issues of social justice. However, there was still some student resistance to acknowledging certain aspects of racism. In conclusion, we discuss how social justice education is not absolved from, but rife with complex racial politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-570
Number of pages22
JournalEquity and Excellence in Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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