At the beginning of August I had the privilege of convening with 37 educators from across  Canada who are passionate about education. For three days we met in Northern Ontario. No cell phone reception. No Internet connection.  Unplug’d. We were completely isolated from the usual barrage of tweets, email, and non-stop information. The purpose of this was so we could be wholly engaged and attentive to the discussions at hand. We forfeited technology for the company of fellow teachers, consultants, administrators, university professors and school trustees, who care so much about meaningful education that at some point, we’ve suffered for  it.

The goals of our summit were threefold:

• to provide a setting that fosters relationships among geographically and linguistically disparate Canadian educators;

• to create a platform for Canadian classroom leaders to consolidate their thinking by sharing stories and experiences; and

• to promote a culture of experimentation and research in Canadian schools.

Unplug’d was truly unique because it was not organized by government or industry. These were not top-down mandates. We gathered as grass roots educators seeking to create change from ground level.  While we were all “techie” people, technology was rarely the center of conversation. Instead, we spoke deeply and passionately about what truly matters in education.

All 37 of our voices coalesced in the release of a publication entitled, “Why _____ Matters“,  which communicates our vision for the future of K-12 education in Canada.  I share my piece on “Why Social Justice in Education Matters” with you here, along with some video comments.

____________________________

“Where you live should no longer determine whether you live.” Bono

 

Human oppression, animal exploitation, and ecological degradation occur today at rates likely unprecedented in human history. And it’s destroying our world.

More people are enslaved today than during the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade.

One billion people are malnourished or starving, living on less than a dollar a day.

Two billion live on less than two dollars a day.

That’s almost half the world’s population.

Rainforests destroyed and species lost forever, all for short-term profit.

But this is not the final story.

We know things need to change. So do our students. It’s time our classrooms are structured to help our students impact the world —now. That what they learn and do in school actually matters; it helps create the change we need.

Technology allows individual voices to come together and speak with one voice. It’s time to use this voice.

Social Justice explores, and then lives out in tangible ways, how to live with compassion and respect for others. It invites students to envision creative solutions for the problems our world is facing, and then begin implementing those changes, while challenging others to do the same.

History will judge us by what we do, or do not do, right now. We cannot say we didn’t know. We cannot say we didn’t have the resources or ability. We may need to admit we didn’t care.

It’s not about charity. It’s about justice — and the clock is ticking.

 

About the author
Shelley Wright is a teacher and education blogger living in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada. She has taught high school English, science and technology, and currently works as a National Faculty member and PBL consultant for the Buck Institute for Education (BIE). Her passion is social justice and helping her students make the world a better place. She blogs at Wright’s Room. Follow her on Twitter at @wrightsroom.