My school has a social justice theme, specifically it is a magnet school using the theme, “Facing History and Ourselves.” Facing History and Ourselves is an organization that does quite a lot of outreach and education, as well as writing curriculum, running workshops for teachers and students, and putting together resources for teachers and classrooms. Facing History and Ourselves describes itself as “an active and continuous process that calls on each of us to connect the choices of the past to those we face today. To build a more just and equitable future, we must face our history in all its complexity.”1 This historical theme is challenging to engage with in introductory scientific units about electricity, magnetism, and radiation, but it fits well into a conversation around climate change and other environmental issues.
Issues related to our theme that come up in a discussion on environmental science include:
- the disparity in health and access between people of color and white people, and also people of lower socioeconomic status and people who are more wealthy
- questions of whether people should take action, and what action(s) may be morally required
- understanding the global history of colonialism, including how Europe benefited from centuries of taking wealth and natural resources from everywhere else and now seeks to restrict the ability of the countries that had their resources taken to follow the same path toward industrialization
Each of these discussions is important, but they all boil down to the same thing: a discussion on what is fair and what is right, and ultimately what we must do to ensure future generations have a habitable planet. Unfortunately in this case, what is fair and right and beneficial for future generations is also expensive, and so people have known what they should do for decades but we have not done it, because it is expensive and it does not directly benefit us!