Using Iris Marion Young to Discover the Meaning of Justice for Rural Students and Teachers

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Hernan CUERVO, Youth Research Centre, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
While social justice is a contested term but usually invoked as an explicit concept, research studies looking at how rural school participants make meaning of it is rare in the educational literature. This seems surprising given the different well-documented inequalities endured over time by rural schools (e.g. lack of breadth of curriculum; staffing shortage; deficient infrastructure and cost of services; and students’ educational performance). This paper examines what social justice means for teachers and students in public schools in rural Australia. It draws on data from a qualitative study using focus groups and semi-structured interviews with 40 secondary school students and 24 teachers in rural places in the state of Victoria. I draw on the prolific work of Iris Marion Young (1990, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2006) to construct a plural model of social justice that overcomes the shortfalls of the liberal-egalitarian model -which usually equates social justice solely with distribution of resources- to include the dimensions of recognition and participation. Drawing on the data and on Young’s theory of justice, the paper answers the following questions: What does social justice mean to rural school participants? Can we learn what is happening in rural schools through the concept of social justice? Which dimension of social justice is dominant in rural school practices? What are the possibilities for enacting a more plural social justice in rural schools? How can socially unjust discourses and practices be interrupted in rural schools? Answers to these questions are a first step to discovering what social justice means in rural settings and how socially just rural schooling is.  Without this understanding, policy makers, educators and researchers alike risk continuing to adopt an insufficient or limited model of social justice, a one-size fits all approach to issues of social inequality.