- Advancing Social Justice: Tools, Pedagogies, and Strategies to Transform Your Campus by Tracy Davis and Laura M. Harrison
Tracy Davis and Laura M. Harrison
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2013, 272 pages, $42.00 (Hardcover)
In the first sentence of Advancing Social Justice: Tools, Pedagogies, and Strategies to Transform Your Campus, Tracy Davis and Laura M. Harrison explain “[t]his book is about theorizing and practicing social justice education differently” (Davis & Harrison, 2013, p. xvii). Addressed to faculty, practitioners, and students, the text outlines a framework to advance “a sustainable social justice agenda in the twenty-first century” (p. xx). Emphasizing humility, individual meaning making, process, uses of power, and systemic and structural issues, the authors nickname this framework “Social Justice 2.0,” a technological metaphor that illustrates the need for a new perspective and the “unfinished” nature of social justice education. The authors define social justice as “an attempt to establish integrity between mission and action” (p. 22) in classrooms, institutions, and society at large.
In chapter 1, the authors begin by deconstructing epistemological assumptions. Critiquing positivist ways of knowing, the authors advance what they describe as a “postpositivist framework” in which “reality is understood as constructed, which raises questions about the constructor” (p. 4). Participatory research is offered as an epistemological alternative in which knowledge is co-constructed through praxis, a cycle of reflection and transformative action (Freire, 1970). Chapter 2 defines social justice, distinguishes between equity and equality, and offers 38 core concepts as an initial “toolkit.” Situating these concepts in prior social justice education scholarship, the authors invite readers to “treat these terms as sites of engagement, debate, and reconstruction if necessary” (Davis & Harrison, 2013, p. 26) and then map connections between social identity construction, intersectionality, and structures of power, oppression, and inequality.
Chapter 3 traces the history of social (in) justice in U.S. higher education. Davis and Harrison succinctly outline higher education’s legacy of exclusion from the colonial era through the present, chart the history of affirmative action, and consider possibilities and limitations of educational policy as a remedy for past discrimination. Modeling praxis, the authors weave critical reflection questions into the chapter (e.g., “If you didn’t already know these facts, why is this the first time you have heard them?” p. 55). In chapter 4, the authors introduce critical pedagogy as a “fundamental foundation for social justice education and action” (p. 100), discussing [End Page 637] hegemony, power, and critical consciousness.
Chapters 5 through 7 identify possibilities and challenges of social justice education in practice. Chapter 5 is a moving and deeply engaging account of barriers to and strategies for engaging both “heads and hearts” (p. 104) without diminishing either the intellectual or the emotional realm. Animated by poignant examples from Harrison’s teaching experience and reflections from Palmer (2007) and others, this chapter recommends strategies of immediacy, appropriate self-disclosure, “moving past ‘getting it’ to ‘being in it’” (p. 122), and connection, trust, and vulnerability. In chapters 6 and 7, the authors propose critical media literacy and organizational theory as key competencies and sites of student and educator engagement. Aimed at deconstructing systems of power and privilege, these refreshing approaches are important because “students cannot understand how the status quo is maintained without being exposed to the role of media in reality construction” (p. 139) and “the possibilities for truly creative approaches to old problems come from building organizations that are truly different” (p. 169).
Chapter 8 crystallizes central concepts of Social Justice 2.0 while reminding readers that these ideas “cannot be memorized or simply accepted, but must be critically consumed and animated through the actions of each person” (p. 172). The authors advocate for counterhegemonic practices, including the use of counternarratives. They encourage educators to match learners’ meaning-making capacity with effective learning strategies. Finally, they reaffirm the importance of social justice ally development (Reason, Broido, Davis, & Evans, 2005). The book concludes with an invitation “to embrace ambiguity, unrest, and disruption” (p. 196) and “disruptive performances” (p. 197) as a remedy to the prevailing logics of certainty, stability, and order that...