Guest Editorship Issue: Equity and Social Justice
IntroductionWe are delighted to announce as guest co- editors of the current issue of JIAE two faculty members from the Adult Education Department at Buffalo State: Dr. Susan K. Birden, professor and department head, and Dr. Andrea B. Nikischer, assistant professor. Essays included in this issue provide new and thoughtful insights on ways social justice can be attained in today’s communities of practice.
Maria Ceprano & Tamara Horstman-Riphahn
Message from the Guest Editors
On a bitterly cold snowy day in early March 2015 a group of educators, community activists, academics, and graduate students gathered for the Eighth Annual Conference for Equity and Social Justice on the State University of New York – Buffalo State campus in Buffalo, New York. The frigid outdoor temperatures failed to dampen the passion and zeal of the presenters, respondents, and attendees of the conference whose thoughtful perspectives on social justice and equity warmed all of our hearts, inspired our spirits, and stimulated our insights on: “Meaningful Change: Transforming Communities of Practice.” The conference theme materialized in sessions about schooling and academia in urban, rural, and suburban contexts; grassroots education efforts with immigrant and refugee populations; and critical examination of individual and institutional examples of oppression and privilege as well as strategies for overcoming them. The research represented at this conference grappled with issues from North America to Asia and involved disciplines ranging from philosophy and sociology to music and dance. As co-directors of the conference, we pledged to attempt to capture some of the diverse thinking presented at the conference in a collection of essays that would represent the scope and depth of the ideas that instigated so many enthusiastic discussions that day.
This collection of essays represents the fulfillment of that promise. These authors demonstrate varied approaches and strategies for negotiating, mitigating, and transforming impediments to equality. The essays take into consideration the authors’ particular communities of practice by focusing on the unique demographic, geographic, institutional, and cultural characteristics that those of us who are committed to social justice must take into account if our dreams of equality can have the possibility of being transformed into reality.
In the first essay in this volume, “Religious Literacy in the New Latino Diaspora: Combating the “Othering” of Muslim Refugee Students in Nebraska,” Jessica Sierk examines how communities in the Midwest have changed, or failed to change, schooling practices as they are undergoing demographic changes resulting first from the New Latino Diaspora and later from African refugee resettlement. As Sierk demonstrates, the cultural and religious differences, particularly with the Muslim refugee populations, demand that administrators and teachers develop new cultural and religious competencies if they are going to ensure the educational success of children and youth. Sierk concludes her essay with recommendations for schools and communities who are grappling with these issues.
Lifang Wang’s essay, “Counter-Discourses and Alternative Knowledge: Rural Chinese Female Students Accommodating and Resisting the Discourse of Quality (Suzhi) at Higher Education Institutions in China,” summarizes her extensive qualitative research study with rural female students who are engaging in higher education. Wang’s interviews describe how the Chinese discourse on quality (suzhi) is based on standards in schools and colleges in urban centers, thereby labeling rural students’ knowledge “deficient.” Wang’s interviews describe the ways in which these young women are not only developing knowledge and skills necessary for university level academic work in spite of inequitable preparation, but also how they are learning to cope emotionally by constructing counter-discourses that value the knowledge and skills gained from their rural upbringings.
“Dissertation Journeys of Scholar-Practitioners in an Educational Leadership for Social Justice Program” shares case studies of doctoral students’ experiences about learning how to wrestle with the institutional and cultural barriers in various school systems in California in which they are conducting their doctoral research. Ardella Dailey, Margaret Harris, Bobbie Plough, Brad Porfilio, and Peg Winkelman describe the paths explored by these emerging scholar-leaders and their faculty advisors as they begin the process of interrogating the inequities and oppression in their learning communities. In this essay the authors describe the process, as well as the difficulties and rewards, of navigating the doctoral students’ own histories and helping them grapple with the requirements of academic research when so many of their research findings challenge established institutional policies and practices.
Jason Ashley’s essay, “Teachers’ Opinions on Teacher Preparation: A Gap between College and Classroom,” reports on survey data collected about teachers’ perceptions about the effectiveness of their teacher education programs in preparing them for the classroom. His research indicates that even though myriad changes have occurred in teacher preparation program assessment over the past decade, there is a substantial gap between beginning teachers’ perceptions about what they know and what they need to know when they start their careers.
Finally, we end this collection of essays with David J. Wolken’s essay that seeks to interpret and resist the phenomena associated with the fluid and elusive concept of the “postmodern.” In “Toward a Pedagogy of the Absurd: Constitutive Ambiguity, Tension, and the Postmodern Academy” Wolken undertakes the task of analyzing Albert Camus’s work on the concept of the “absurd,” relating it to the work of critical theory in the academy. He suggests that there is value in thinking about the “absurd” in relation to the challenge of critical thought/identity and moving from theory to practice.
Together these essays represent an important contribution to the discussion about social justice. In illuminating new problems, producing new insights, and suggesting strategies for transforming their communities of practice these authors ask us to think and act creatively, thoughtfully, and divergently, while continually focusing on our shared vision for an equitable society.
Susan K. Birden & Andrea B. Nikischer
Dissertation Journeys of Scholar-Practitioners in an Educational Leadership for Social Justice Program
Ardella Dailey, Margaret Harris, Bobbie Plough, Bradley Porfilio, and Peg Winkelman