The Military Child Well-being Toolkit

The MCEC Military Child Well-being Toolkit has been created to provide accessible social-emotional supports and resources directly to parents, educators, school counselors, administrators, and other youth-serving professionals working with military-connected youth.

Social Justice

-Nelson Mandela

Social justice is about distributing resources fairly and treating all students equitably so that they feel safe and secure—physically and psychologically (Alvarez, 2019).

Social justice focuses on raising awareness of the social and political issues that unfortunately impact student education and experience. It centers around raising students’ consciousness about inequality within educational, social, environmental, economic, and political aspects of life. Social justice also concerns itself with creating lenses to recognize and interrupt inequitable patterns in society. Military families tend to be exposed to different cultures, customs, languages, religions, traditions, and ethnicities around the world. Parents, caregivers, educators, and other professionals can choose to model inclusive choices and behaviors, kindness, and an optimistic curiosity towards people who look or speak differently.

Marilyn Cochran-Smith states, “Social justice-oriented approaches in education refer to standpoints and scholarly traditions that actively address the dynamics of oppression, privilege, and isms, recognizing that society is the product of historically rooted institutionally sanctioned stratification along socially constructed group lines that include race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. Working for social justice in education means guiding students in critical self-reflection of their socialization into this matrix of unequal relationships and its implications, analysis of the mechanisms of oppression, and the ability to challenge these hierarchies” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2009).

In addition to social justice, educators can consider two more strategies to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion among their diverse military students: multicultural education and/or culturally responsive teaching. The Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain Webinar provides context for some of the information below (Hammond, 2014).

Multicultural education focuses on celebrating diversity and creating positive and social interactions across differences. It also exposes students to diverse literature, multiple perspectives, and inclusion. The American University School of Education defines multicultural education (2020):

Multicultural education values different student cultures and prepares students to thrive in a diverse world. At its core, multicultural education fosters equality, justice, and equity, and it establishes the reality of philosophical ideals in classroom environments. Multicultural education is what schools implement to establish equitable educational opportunities for all their students. It is also an ongoing process of helping students succeed in their academic and personal lives.

Engaging and encouraging meaningful conversations within schools and classrooms about race, racial equity, and racial justice can help set the stage for a lifetime of respect, empathy, strength, pride, and understanding for the generations to come. Race Forward (2021) clarifies the distinctions between racial equity and racial justice. “Racial equity is the process for moving towards the vision of racial justice. Racial equity seeks measurable milestones and outcomes that can be achieved on the road to racial justice.” It is important to understand racial equity is necessary, but not sufficient, for racial justice to occur. For clarity, see the definitions below:

Racial equity is a process of eliminating racial disparities for people of color through the intentional and continual practice of changing policies, practices, systems, and structures by prioritizing measurable change.

Racial justice is the transformation of society to eliminate racial hierarchies and advance collective liberation, where Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have the dignity, resources, power, and self-determination to fully thrive.

Culturally responsive teaching practices center culturally responsive strategies around the cognitive aspects of teaching and learning pedagogy. Culturally aware and inclusive teaching practices are meant to promote engagement, enrichment, and achievement of all students by embracing a wealth of diversity, identifying and nurturing students’ cultural strengths, and validating students’ lived experiences and their place in the world (Samuels, 2018; Pijanowski & Brady, 2021; Zygmunt, 2016). There is a focus on improving the learning capacity of diverse students and a concern to build resilience and an academic mindset by pushing back dominant narratives about people of color.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and nationwide unrest have impacted the US education system in a myriad of ways, specifically by revealing decades of systematic disparities. Culturally responsive teachers can:

  1. Promote engagement and achievement by connecting curriculum to students’ daily lives, cultural backgrounds, and concerns.
  2. Deploy rigorous daily activities to help students make connections and sense of the world around them.
  3. Encourage students to become agents for positive change.
  4. Call attention to educational injustice and bolster learning opportunities for all students.
– Angela Powers, Kansas Co-Chair of the NEA Social Justice Taskforce
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Alvarez, B. (2019, January 22). Why social justice in school matters. NEA.

American School of Education (2020, May 19). What is multicultural education? An educator’s guide to teaching diverse students.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (2022). What is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?

Department of Defense Education Activity (2022, January 5). Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Federal Reserve. (n.d.) Diversity, equity, and inclusion. Office of the Inspector General.

Hammond, Z. (2014). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Corwin Press.

Grabowska, K. (2020). Crop man reading book on grass in sunshine. Pexel.

Milken Institute of Public Health. (2020, November 5). Equity vs. equality: what’s the difference? The George Washington University.

Pijanowski J.C., Brady K.P. (2021) Handbook of social justice interventions in education. Springer international handbooks of education. In: Mullen C.A. (eds)

Defining social justice in education. Springer, Cham.

Race Forward. (n.d.) What is racial equity?

Race Matters Institute. (2014, April 2). Racial equality or racial equity? The difference it makes. JustPartners, Inc.

Samuels, A. J. (2018). Exploring culturally responsive pedagogy: Teachers’ perspectives on fostering equitable and inclusive classrooms. SRATE Journal, 27(1), 22- 30.

Sensoy, Ö., & DiAngelo, R. (2009). Developing social justice literacy an open letter to our faculty colleagues. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(5), 345– 352.

The School of Education at Channel Islands. (n.d.) What is a “social justice framework”?

U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.) Department of Education equity action plan. Department of Education Equity Action Plan.

Zygmunt, E., & Clark, P. (2016). Transforming teacher education for social justice. Teachers College Press.

Disclosure Statement: These tools are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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