Every morning, diverse groups of American students – rich and poor, black and white, rural and urban, gay and straight - begin the school day by rising, facing the flag, and pledging allegiance to a country that claims to be indivisible, ensuring liberty and justice for all. Students learn about the core democratic value of equality, which dictates that Americans have the basic right of equal treatment regardless of background, belief, economic status, race, religion, or sex. In addition, they learn about the core democratic value of justice, a fundamental belief that American society offers the same benefits and has the same obligations to all of its citizens. While both of these values teach students that individuals and groups are not favored over other individuals or groups, we need not look further than the very system that champions these tenets of social justice, the American education system, to recognize that disparate inequalities not only exist, but continue to be perpetuated.
In 21st century America, there is an ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, a situation exacerbated by a combination of the deregulation and trickle-down economic policies instituted by the Reagan administration, the anti-worker legislation enacted during the Clinton administration, as well as the continued support of big business and tax breaks for the rich to the detriment of the middle and lower classes by the Bush II administration. Where America should have been moving toward an enlightened society, its policies have ushered in a New Feudalism where other industrialized nations have instituted much more progressive policies. Social justice in education implies that all students have equal education opportunities. .
My experience as a classroom teacher tells me this is not the case.