Re: letter to the edequity list

KatherinH (
Fri, 3 Oct 1997 10:35:56 -0400

I think this is a question we must all struggle with. I will prefice my comments
with a note that I am speaking from my own perspective as a US-born first
generation European American woman, but I recognize there are may other takes on
this question. And I would love to hear from others from around the world. That

The concept of equality is critical to our education/social framework but I
think we need to examine what we mean very carefully. For me, we can have
equality, without having social justice. I don't think the reverse is true.
Equality can be narrowly defined as "everyone having the same" or being treated
the same, but this could also be done in the context of totalitarianism or a
homoginizing of culture/society that denies the wonderful human dynamic and
energy that comes from valuing diversity.

A US writer, Manning marable wrote, "democracy is not a thing, it is a process
of expanding opportunities for all citizens and the ability to control decision
making from the bottom up. This requires certain prerequisities for a decent
life for all within the political society--full employment, decent housing,
education, health care, and so for. The battle for full democracy leads
directly and inevitably toward the promise of economic equality. The challenge
of all democracies is not to make the rich richer but for all of us to excercise
greater economic and political rights." This feels like a definition of social
justice for me.

I tend to define equality and equity within the context of critical democracy
and social justice, in which every citizen's contribution is essential to the
health of the whole. For me, the principles of freedom, equality, and justice
need to be combined to develop a system in which individuals/groups can
dialogue/stand in solidarity and create societies that are egalitarian rather
than hierarchical. Education then is a place to begin to test out this process,
to provide the space and context for students from a wide range of backgrounds
and experiences (formed by gender, race, class, ethnicity, disability, religion)
can engage in the practice of citizenship daily--engaging with one another with
dignity and respect and caring. Thank you for raising the question and I look
forward to a dialogue here with others. And I invite you and your co-authors to
share your insights and work with this group so that we can learn from you.

Katherine Hanson
WEEA Equity Resource Center at EDC

Subject: letter to the edequity list
From: at Internet
Date: 10/1/1997 3:06 PM

Dear edequity list members

I am working with Tuula Gordon, Janet Holland and other
colleagues on a project on 'Citizenship, difference and
marginality in schools: with special reference to gender', and
writing a book called Making Space: Citizenship and difference
in schools.
We are having trouble with the concepts of social justice and
equality. We have noticed the following shift: social justice' is
being used instead of equality'. We are interested in the
implications of this. How is social justice' defined? Have we
lost out by not using equality'? Is there anything wrong with
equality'? Any ideas?

With best regards
Elina Lahelma
Department of Education
PO Box 39, 00014 University of Helsinki

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