Social Justice and Anti-Oppressive Education

Social Justice and Anti-Oppressive Education

“Race is still real; it still exists. We may question its necessity, the right of anyone to establish such markers and its validity as a scientific concept” (Rosenblum and Travis, 2012, p. 240). Race is becoming the biggest issue of social justice in today’s world. Furthermore, in their book Rosenblum and Travis (2012) write about some other issues related to social justice such as social status differences, gender, class lines, disability, and other situations of unequal power that engender oppression. There have been some approaches to dealing with social justice issues, but these issues seem to be difficult to address. However, I believe social justice issues can be deconstructed. In this paper, I discuss: social justice issues, anti-oppressive education, social justice leadership and its impact to my school in Indonesia.

Social Justice Issues

 Lucas, Henze & Donato (1990) focused their study on the language of minority students as a social justice issues that needs to be remedied to increase student achievement. They found out that Latino, Asian or Afiran-American students actually have the same potential talent as White American students, but they cannot express their ideas in writing and speech. Additional English class is not enough to address this problem. The schools need also to include their cultures as the approach of learning the language. In addition, the increase of the conflicts in the globe recently has impacted the increase of the immigrants. Lopez, Sribner and Mahitivanichcha (2001) have a concern on the immigrant’s issue that educators need to focus on. The stereotype given to the immigrants’ students are those who have lower ability, lower English and lower economic status. In line with this, Ahser (2007) focuses on four issues regarding to social justice: race, culture, gender and sexuality in education. Similarly, Kumashiro (2000) expands the common classification of marginalized students in the society; he uses the term “queer” to refer to persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersexed. From those focuses of the social justice issues, I can conclude that Social Justice Issues is the term used to address some inequity treatments given by school to the students due to the some situations of unequal power such as: race, gender, social economic statues, culture, language, etc. We need an effective approach to address the social justice problems.

Anti-Oppressive Education

The term anti-oppressive education was introduced by Kumashiro (2000). He defined anti-oppressive education as an effort and commitment of the educators and or researchers to subversive views of the purposes of education, the roles and responsibilities of teachers, and how we want students and society to change especially with the issue of oppression or social justice.  Delpit (2006) supported the idea of anti-oppression by giving some approaches for social justice issues such as bringing parents and community members into the university classroom, going out to community gatherings to acquire such first hand knowledge, working hard to develop multicultural staff, expanding the curriculum by inducing cultural and diversity in the classroom. Delpit (2006) and Lopez, et. al (2000) have the same concern on parental involvement. Lopez, et. al (2000) wrote some ways to increase parental involvement at school by: (1) initiating parental contact, (2) making non-traditional strategies and means to get parents involved in their children’s education, (3) giving adult education and training for parents, and (4) being accountable to parents. In line with this, Asher (2007) has some notes on how to deal with the anti-oppressive education. She wrote three methods to unpack tensions of multiculturalism in education: (1) teachers serve as a site for modeling critical, (2) teachers serve as self reflective engagement with the difference, and (3) teachers serve as democratic participation. I do agree with the third approach that we need to give democratic participation in the classroom no matter what race, gender, or social status of the students are. Theoharis (2007) also gave some strategies in dealing with social justice leadership. He suggested all principals to: (1) raise students’ achievement, (2) improve school structure (3) re-center and enhance staff capacity, and (4) strengthen school culture and community. In addition, Lucas et. al (1990) focuses on language aspect for the social justice issue. They suggested educators to respect and acknowledge the linguistic and cultural diversity of the students and to help motivate students to gain their confidence in the classroom. The approaches and strategies given by researchers above are evident that we need to be brave to take some actions to oppose the idea of oppression and marginalization. All components in the schools should adopt the idea of some experts above in order to give impact on their buildings.

Social Justice Leadership and its Impact to my School

 To implement anti-oppressive education at school, principals should be able to understand their role as social justice leader. Theoharis (2007) contended that social justice leaders are those who support a process built on respect, care, recognition and empathy. He also defined social justice as “addressing and eliminating marginalization in schools” (p. 223). From the definition given by Theoharis (2007), I can connect to the social issues in my school in Indonesia. If in the United States, race becomes the major problem in marginalization. In my school, “tribal” stereotyping is now becoming the topic of marginalization. Indonesia has hundreds tribe across the country. Each tribe has their own identity and fanatic. In my schools, Malay tribe dominates the students, and the rest of the students are Javanese tribe. Consequently, teachers tend to treat students differently. Teachers are more likely pay more attention to those who are from Malay tribe. As a result, students who are from Java score lower than the majority students. In my opinion, the idea of anti-oppressive education and the social justice leadership are considered to be the solution of the tribe marginalization in my school. Social Justice leader (principal) should be able to give the same right for the minority students in the school in order to be able to see the world as the Malay students see the world. Thus, if I become a principal in the future I will enact anti-oppressive education in my building to give a positive impact for both my staffs and my students.

In conclusion, social justice issue still exists in today’s world. This phenomenon can occur anywhere, not only in the United States. Even though in my country, Indonesia, we do not have the kinds of racism different as in the US. However, we do practice the so-called marginalization according to tribal differences. It means the dominant tribe in the school is more likely have more privilege than those who are from minority tribe. I do believe, social justice (oppression and marginalization) also occurs in other countries with or without a tribal component as we have in Indonesia. In dealing with social justice issues, some experts in this article have a very good remedy: anti-oppressive education. One role that can be used by school principals in enacting anti-oppressive education is being social justice leader. The final outcomes of these approaches are the deconstruction of social justice issues and school effectiveness.






Asher, N. (2007). Made in the (Multicultural) U.S.A.: Unpacking tensions of race, culture, gender, and sexuality in education. Educational Researcher, 35(2), 65-73.

Delpit, L. (2006) Other Peoples Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: New Press.


Kumashiro, K. (2000). Toward a theory of anti-oppressive education. Review of Educational Research, 70(1), 25-53.

Lucas, T., Henze, R., & Donato, R. (1990). Promoting the success of latino language minority students. An exploratory study of six high schools. Harvard Educational Review, 60, 315-400.


Lopez, Scribner, and Mahiticanichcha (2001). Redefining Parental Involvement: Lessons From High-Performing Migrant-Impacted Schools. American Educational Research Journal.

Rosenblum, K. and Travis, T-M. (2013). The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex, and Gender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. New York: McGraw-Hill. (6th Edition).

Theoharis, G. (2007). Social justice educational leaders and resistance: Toward a theory of social justice leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 43(2), 221–258


  1. Pauline Lipman – 2009 NNOMY Conference.
  2. Analysis of Thomas Sugrue’s “The Origin of the Urban Crisis.”
  3. Changing Education Paradigms.



2 thoughts on “Social Justice and Anti-Oppressive Education

  1. Thanks for finally writing about >Social Justice and Anti-Oppressive Education | Educational Website
    <Liked it!

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