A term that occasionally gets kicked around at this blog (and I can think of few terms more deserving of a good kicking) is “social justice.” Over at Legal Insurrection, Prof. Jacobson observes that
He who defines the terms, controls the debate.
There is no better example than “social justice,” a term which as defined by academia and the media means left-wing policies, setting conservatives back on their heels. Who could be against “social justice”?
I figured that one out during my first run through grad school. A girlfriend told me she was joining a group called “Students for Peace and Justice.” I asked her if there was a campus group in favor of War and Iniquity. We split up not too long after.
Meanwhile, in the comments to my post a few days back about Lisa Gutierrez’s lecture, blogroll newcomer Huck (a thoughtful, civil blogger, even if we disagree) and I had a conversation in which I argued that good teaching is “social justice.” This is because I believe that the term in current usage is deceptive — true justice doesn’t require the adjective (e.g., rough or poetic justice, both of which terms are in fact concessions that our ideal justice is not being met). But let me put it another way.
Mondoville College is affiliated with a Lutheran denomination. Although that’s not my particular faith tradition, I’ll cheerfully syncretize bits of it. In that spirit, there’s a passage from Martin Luther that I like quite a bit, in which he argues that the Christian shoemaker isn’t the guy who carves crosses into the soles of the shoes he makes, but the one who makes good shoes and sells them at a fair price. Likewise, I believe I work for justice by teaching as passionately and honestly as I can, attempting to make my students’ lives a little more thoughtful and a little more beautiful, by trying to make sure that the words and ideas of people like Chaucer, Milton, and Shakespeare persist in another generation of heads. It’s not what everyone wants — and at $42K a year in my ninth year here, the market reflects that — but I’m doing it in case someone does. And something I also think is to the point, I’m not doing it as a means of colonizing anyone of a different heritage — I’m doing it because it’s cool stuff that I want to share.
And so, as I notice things like the “#OccupytheMiddleAges” hashtag on Twitter, I continue to do what I think is just: I make my shoes.