As part of a series highlighting AISB service learning groups, the Social Justice Council shares the work they’ve been doing during the last two pandemic years— with a focus on generating awareness of topics related to social justice and practicing their skills to advocate for the improvement of those issues.
First, what is the Social Justice Council?
During lockdown in 2020, we all saw people taking to the streets to protest what happened to George Floyd. We talked about the Black Lives Matter movement in class and on social media, and tried our best to understand the nuances of what it meant to “defund the police.”
For many students, this sparked an interest in learning more about the many social justice issues presented in the news; and so MYP Humanities and DP Geography Teacher (and also Ec2-Gr12 Intercultural Curriculum Coordinator) Jacqueline Whitney decided to start a Zoom group to hold discussions.
“I was really inspired by the activism at this school over the last year or two,” says Whitney. “I had seen increasing examples of student leadership and commitment to different social justice issues, but there wasn’t a proper forum.”
Since its founding, the group has grown beyond online conversations, and meets weekly to create educational resources for the AISB community—in the form of Slideshows (shown below) and Instagram posts @revamp.aisb.
What are their goals?
Council members are working on a variety of initiatives, but with the same goal: to make our school more inclusive.
This is happening by educating students on social issues and vocabulary, partnering up with other groups, like the International Service Learning Council, to train their members in creating social justice initiatives, and working to “decolonize the curriculum.”
The decolonization of curriculum, one of the group’s long-term projects, involves assessing the texts taught in English, humanities, and language classes. The group is looking at the diversity of the pool of authors, as well as the themes they cover.
“It’s clear that international schools generally do a good job of promoting the idea of international mindedness and desire to produce ‘global citizens,’ but we don’t always go deep enough,” explains Whitney. “In the last year, we’ve seen international schools be more intentional about advancing the work of anti-racism, equity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice; our hope is that we can build a new lexicon at AISB that fosters students’ intercultural communication skills and creates a greater sense of belonging.”
A look at what they’ve done so far
In the 2020-21 school year, the Social Justice Council didn’t have a chance to present its mission around the school. Of course, due to the pandemic, all interactions of our school community were limited, so there wasn’t a lot that could be done. That being said, the Social Justice Council was still able to organize online presentations and discussions on different issues, which have been linked below.
These presentations were centered around how minorities are affected by society’s ideologies. The ideas were then connected back to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), a set of goals set by the UN to be achieved by 2030, to create a “better and more sustainable future for all.”
The Roma Community has been an especially marginalized minority in Romania. One presentation takes a look at SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities. This student group specifically analyzed different aspects of inequalities the Roma community faces within our society, and what our community can do to help.
Teaser: Over 500,000 Roma were murdered during the Holocaust. That is about 70-80% of the entire Romani population at the time.
Link to Presentation: Marginalization of Roma: how can we help?
The Black Lives Matter Movement has been pushed to the forefront of news and media outlets after the killing of George Floyd in the spring of 2020. To play their part in educating about this topic of injustice, systematic racism, and white privilege, the SJC created a presentation that focuses on Anti-Racism, connected to SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, and SDG 10.
Teaser: On average, black men in the US receive sentences that are 19.1% longer than white men who committed the same crime.
Link to Presentation: Anti-Racism
SDG 5, Gender Equality, relates to equal pay and equal rights between all genders. The Social Justice Council took on the issue of Gender Inequality in Romania, which scores third-to-last on the EU’s Gender Equality Index. The presentation includes multiple organizations inside and outside of AISB and the research the UN has accumulated over the years.
Teaser: The gender pay gap for people between 20 and 64 is 17.6% in Romania, while in the EU, it averages at 11.6% (men being employed 17.6% times more than women).
Link to Presentation: Gender Inequality
For AISB’s Earth Week (organized by the Eco Council), the Social Justice Council got involved by introducing the idea of Environmental Racism and Justice. This presentation looks at the connection between economic disparity and environmental injustice, going into detail about e-waste, how the Roma community is affected, and how you can help.
Teaser: Guiyu, China is the single largest e-waste dump in the world, where over 80% of the children there suffer from lead poisoning.
Link to Presentation: Environmental Racism and Justice
Down the line, Whitney says she would love to “broaden the horizon” of the council by having more members take on student leadership roles around the school, to integrate equity and social justice issues in everything we do.
Additionally, the group would like to focus on their Instagram page. Several posts are in the making, related to social justice vocabulary, key conflicts, and local issues. The team is also creating podcast episodes on the Belarus-Poland border and Passport Privilege.
According to Whitney’s 2020 co-leader, MYP and DP Language Teacher Peter Daignault, the longterm goal is to educate and continue important conversations. “I remember class discussions around the novel To Kill a Mockingbird,” he explains. “Students would ask if this novel was written so long ago, why does racism persist? The answer really is that each new generation must learn. They must repeatedly be taught diversity, inclusion, dignity, and equity until they become a cultural value. Once those elements of a society are embraced and celebrated culturally, it becomes the fabric of one’s identity.”
How to get involved
Since its founding, the council has gained a lot of attention from upper secondary students and has now tripled in size. If you are eager to learn more about social justice issues, feel it is important to use your voice to spread awareness, want to be courageous, and show leadership, be sure to join the Social Justice Council by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.