Particular Learning Environments

Ayla: Good morning my name is Ayla. What I wanted to say is as I’m listening, I’m hearing us speak about social justice and equity as though people who don’t do things a certain way don’t also believe in social justice and equity. What I want to say is that there are people who exclude other people because they believe that is what is equitable or because that is their social justice. I just want to remind us not to make any assumptions about how people believe and how they define those words. I just want to say that first.

There are children who are excluded from particular learning environments because they learn in particular ways and there are arguments that that is equitable. There are people who speak a different language and are put in a separate space because there are people that believe that that is equitable. We are having conversations with each other today that will strengthen us, that will help us articulate our thoughts.

My challenge is to reach out to someone who either is … and I almost want to really speak to people who are in places of privilege. There’s been a lot of talk about people who don’t have voice, people who less than, in order for those people to have a space in the room it is the people who have it is the people who have it who have to give it up. In our conversations with people who have very different views than we have, instead of walking away or instead of wanting to go back to our own comfort zones, what we need to do is sit down and together redefine what some of these words mean.

Jonathan: Thank you.

Karla: Hello Karla Haas Moskowitz from Colorado and I want to piggyback on … thank you for your words Ayla. These are some things that come up for me as I consider equity and social justice in terms of learning environments. I look at schools and learning environments as places that potentially mirror society and potentially shape our world and because of that, they carry great deal of importance and potential.

Therefore as we look at equity and social justice, when I think about it, I think of access, I think of ways in which individuals and collectives and communities can access that which they believe they need, and I think that also invites me to think about how challenging that is because when we all live together in spaces and not away on our own, we have to think about how what we need intersects with what other people might need and how that works together.

I haven’t quite figured that out except that I’m not sure that we have developed equitable spaces to talk about equity. Equitable spaces to talk about social justice. To stay engaged with one another and to negotiate those spaces because I agree wholeheartedly that sometimes we have to kill the Buddha in terms of things that we are attached to. Because of what we believe it means to be involved in a socially just classroom or an equitable space.

We have to think deeply, I know I challenge myself or hopefully will continue to challenge myself to think about the ways in which I stay open to the ideas and needs of others and the pathway of others to reach their equitable places and also to honor myself with compassion and others so that we can do that together. It is much easier said than done and I think it’s relational. Sometimes I watch schools focus on activities, I see schools focus on curriculum, bells and whistles, trips and fun things to do in circles when sometimes it’s as simple as the way in which a teacher and a student and a parent and a community member are together in a space where there’s safety and somehow that links to equity and social justice for me.

Selena: Good morning, my name is Selena and I am from El Salvador and I also live here in Colorado and I work in Central America. I just want to say that one of the guiding principles of the conference has to do with language and taking a look at how we use language and the importance of taking a look at how our own use of language carries unexamined privilege, unexamined consequences of interpretation for others.

Coming from where I come from, the term democracy is a very loaded term and we throw it around as if everybody understands what it is. We use the term democratic learning as if everybody has an equal understanding of what it is and I just want to invite us to think about that. Often times the people for whom we think democracy is for don’t have a say on how they understand it or how they define it. I also would like us to think about the fact that terms like equity and social justice can create a great deal of fear in people.

My training is in psychology and I work with populations who have survived and overcome quite a bit of trauma and you could talk about democratic learning all you want but if we don’t make time to listen to people’s fear and how fear keeps people from participating, we’re not going to go very far. I just want us to think about that, the other point I want to make is; often times we think of democracy as the majority and often times the people perhaps who need democracy the most are the minority who have needs that perhaps are not represented in terms of numbers.


That’s all I have to say and I also apologize that I’m going to have to leave early today because I have to be in court in Dallas, Texas this afternoon. Thank you.

Rochelle: My name’s Rochelle, I’m scared and I work with Bela, I’m for New Orleans. I’m really big on reflection and execution because I hate going to meetings, I hate sitting down talking to people for three to four hours. Reflection was really big to me with equity and social justice and democratic environments is really understanding the environment that you’re going to and really humbling yourself to their cultural differences and their language barriers.

It really bothered me especially in New Orleans where there are different educational systems that come in New Orleans and are like, “we have this amazing program that wants to help you but you don’t have any say in what we do.” How is that helping me? You call yourself helping me when I don’t know you. When you’re personal to me, you haven’t struggled with me; you can’t understand me so when working with equity also think about trust.

A lot of big corporations, a lot of organizations, a lot of individuals come in with these amazing ideas or resources and helping communities and they don’t trust their community’s wisdom, trust their community’s efforts on getting their own resources. In social justice, you can’t understand somebody else’s struggle if you don’t ask and inferring on what their problems are is like, “I’m going to put on you,” “Oh, you’re having a problem with money? Okay I’ll help you with money.” I’ve never asked you what you have a problem with, I haven’t asked your community on what their problems are and I haven’t asked how you want your problems to be solved.

That’s vague on me is we come in with these beautiful ideas as organizers but we don’t humble ourselves to the communities that we’re in and we don’t accept that we have shortcomings ourselves as the organizers. That we aren’t always going to understand, that we’re not always going to have the answers that we think we always have.