By Stephanie Guo
This spring, CCA students scrolling through course profiles on the school website found a brand new elective in the Social Science Department: Social Justice. What is Social Justice? The name evokes images of starving children, oppressed minorities, and polluted skies. There are, without a doubt, hundreds of thousands of social issues that need to be addressed not only in the world, but also in our own nation, state, and town. Look hard enough, and you’ll find individuals that need help extricating themselves out of tough situations everywhere. The question, then, is how to quickly and effectively help them. Social Justice seeks to answer this question.
According to Mr. Gilbert, one of the teachers in CCA’s Social Science department who helped make the elective a reality, Social Justice began as an elective at our neighboring La Costa Canyon High School and was eventually adopted by nearby San Dieguito Academy. It was first taught by Christopher Greenslate, an LCC teacher now at High Tech High, and resulted in a successful project that educated La Costa Canyon students on the hazards of plastic water bottles and sold reusable water bottles. To legitimize the course, Mr. Greenslate managed to have Social Justice cleared as an elective for the University of California and California State University systems. The Social Science department at CCA hopes that the Social Justice elective here will be just as successful.
According to Mr. Gilbert, Social Justice at Canyon Crest Academy will incorporate three units: human rights, animal protection, and environmental ethics. Students will study complex local and societal problems. Mr. Gilbert and other Social Science department teachers hope to have students try and solve these issues, or, at the very least, become more aware of them. The objective is to have students link classroom learning to the real world during the school day, not just at clubs or other extracurricular activities. Initiatives students will hopefully undertake include collaborations with international organizations, marketing, and, of course, research projects. However, Social Justice will not all be community service; community service is just one facet of the larger whole. Mr. Gilbert hopes students will explore things they’re interested in if given the freedom to do so.
Even so, the class is obviously still quite structured; for example, the Social Justice elective aligns closely with Common Core research and writing standards. Mr. Gilbert believes that the class will complement existing on-campus initiatives like TedX, Interact, and Key Club that have an activism component, but doesn’t want Social Justice students to be limited to collaborations with these groups. He wants them to be inspired and encouraged by these efforts but for students to develop and submit their own projects. Hopefully, he says, Social Justice students will explore working at or even founding their own nonprofits after high school, too.
What does a typical day in class look like? The Social Science department teachers aren’t too sure, but Mr. Gilbert thinks that it may include exploring organizations on your own free time, presentations by guest speakers, and various forms of activism. Whatever it is, it’s going to be exciting.
The Social Justice elective is not restricted to underclassmen. It seeks active, energetic, and enthusiastic trailblazers that are willing to take a risk in their own community and beyond. If you’re interested, consider taking Social Justice.