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CATESOL Book Review: Social Justice in English Language Teaching, Edited by Christopher Hastings and Laura Jacob

Michelle Skowbo

Social Justice in English Language Teaching
Christopher Hasting & Laura Jacob, Editors (2016), TESOL Press

Social Justice in English Language Teaching

By Nancy Kwang Johnson and Kara Mac Donald 

With the CATESOL Spring Virtual Conference just around the corner in early May with a focus on transformation, inclusion, diversity, and engagement, it seemed appropriate for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion panel coordinator, Nancy Kwang Johnson, to be invited to contribute to featuring a publication on advocacy for diverse student population for a book review leading up to the Spring Virtual Conference. There are numerous books on social justice in the classroom, but the desire to highlight a book specifically addressing English Language Teaching was a principle criterion.  Moreover, CATESOL Education Foundation Diversity, Equity and Inclusion grant recipients will be using the book in their workshops.  Social Justice in English Language Teaching (ELT) (Hasting & Jacob, 2016) was selected as it closely aligns with membership needs and is also a TESOL Press publication. However, it is valuable to note that this publication was reviewed in the CATESOL Blog, Book Review column in April of 2020 by Kara Mac Donald with Kristen Arps. Some CATESOL Blog readers may recognize it. Nonetheless, it is featured again in light of the conference theme as it can provide valuable insight for those familiar with the book to revisit its content, as well as introducing a new resource for those who are not. In light of the conference focus, this review is more in depth than the prior one. Additionally, as is the structure of the books to some degree, where at the beginning of the book conceptual issues are presented and addressed regarding practice-based responses with a more applied focus later in the book, with case studies, curriculum approaches and instructional suggestions. The book review language and style of the chapter reviews reflects more in-depth conceptual reflection of the content early in the review and a more tangible practitioner language style towards the end.  
Part I

In Chapter 1 of this section, U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan (2009) sets the stage for social change – the classroom.  With a call to action for teachers, Duncan asserts that “great teaching,” in so many words, is associated with a “daily fight for social justice” (3). Charles Hall juxtaposes two paradigms, the White Man’s Burden model deployed during the colonial period to Paolo Friere’s (1970) emancipatory model.  While the former promotes the culturally hegemonic proselytizing mission of colonizers, the latter argues for “a pedagogy which must be forged with, not for, the oppressed” (7).

Hall provides an agency-structure framework in which the teacher’s role, as a facilitator, empowers students and their communities.  While Chapter 2 challenges teachers to critically explore the relationship between race and power, Chapter 3 portrays the teacher as an advocate of the learner’s cultural capital.

Part II

In Chapter 4 of this section, Valerie Jakar and Alison Milofsky examine the intersection between peacebuilding and English and beg the question, “How do we engage language learners in difficult conversations around identity, conversations that encourage individual and group reflection and lead to social change?” (41). Both authors assert that self-reflection is a requisite first step and provided some guidelines for using peacebuilding as a pedagogical tool such as (1) emphasizing multiple narratives, (2) creating dialogue, (3) engaging students, (4) sharing authentic stories (realia), and (5) empowering students.  Chapter 5, with a focus on integrating peacebuilding and social justice in a critical and intercultural manner, highlights how language educators may use identity narratives, class letter writing and diversity-friendly strategies for learners who have experienced trauma-induced by violence.  Chapter 6 provides a historical glimpse at Korean-Japanese relations (dating back to the colonial period, 1910-1945, when the Korean language was devalued as the second language and subsequently banned) to the present.  In the context of linguistic oppression, this chapter demonstrates how English may be used to bridge relations between colonizer-colonized populations.

Part III

In Chapter 7 of this section, Ali Fuad Selvi, Nathanael Rudolph, and Baburhan Uzum pose the following question, “What is the current state of professionalism in a glocalized profession such as ELT?” (83).  Selvi, Rudolph and Uzum conceptualize professionalism and “NS” as constructs.  At the epicenter of this discussion lies the belief that one’s “language ownership, use and instruction” (84) matters.  The authors debunk the myth of monolithic “NEST” or “NNEST” communities.  Chapter 8 continues with the theme of ownership and attachment to “correct” English.  Native speakerism and varieties of English (colonial and U.S.) are also examined through the lenses of discrimination.  In Chapter 9, “Provincializing English: Race, Empire, and Social Justice,” Suhanthie Motha proposes that “a social justice orientation to TESOL would ensure that it is a provincialized English, one with a thorough understanding of how the language is racialized and colonized, of how learning English changes us,” and “how spreading English changes the world” (115).

Part IV

In Chapter 10 of this section, Adriana Truscott provides an analysis of the language rights and indigenous education in Australia – from the perspective of a non-Indigenous educator.  As a means of offsetting the invisibility and misrepresentation of indigenous EAL/D Learners, Truscott integrates convergence, divergence, and code switching in her classroom and proposes that “TESOL must lead in creating a space where English is understood to be multifaceted, part of an ecosystem, and owned equally by Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups” (132).  Truscott aspires to create a classroom ecology in which Indigenous populations are able to learn English in a manner that “is not invasive, but emancipatory” (132).  Chapter 11 addresses linguistic and cultural discrimination of racial minorities.  Elisabeth Chan shares the racial microaggressions she endures, personally and professionally, in response to her self-identification as an American.  Chapter 12 focuses on the theme of privilege (McIntosh, 1998) within ELT and teacher training.  And in Chapter 13, Shelley Wong and Rachel Grant propose that W.E.B. DuBois’s “double consciousness” theory may be deployed as “a tool for racial, linguistic and cultural outsiders” (173).  Wong and Grant assert that it would empower language learners to work from “one’s marginalized and privileged identities to be allies of and advocates for and with those who are the most exploited, oppressed, alienated, and vulnerable” (173).

Part V

This section of the book focuses on methods of inclusion, pedagogical awareness, integration activities, and teacher awareness approaches. In Chapter 14, Kirti Kapur, reflects on gender separation in her native India, and historically in societies as a whole, and examines how this dynamic is reproduced in schooling. She argues how the fields of gender studies, social justice and ELT, as established and active realms of inquiry, can be joined together to advance education and make it responsive to society’s and learners’ needs, by addressing teaching through activities and language that is inclusive. She states, “It is […] incumbent upon ELT scholars and practitioners to adopt strategies that prevent isolation resulting through language” (181). And offers the words of poet Rosenberg (2004), “why is it she, would hold both she and he but he, is only he? and why is it her, would claim both her and he yet him, is only him?” (181). In Chapter 15, Mayra C. Daniel and Melanie Koss explore gender socialization and assumed appropriate roles for males and females, and how curriculum and instructional design can break these stereotypes and foster intercultural competence. They suggest literature for children and adolescents can be utilized as a means of a social justice instructional approach – teaching English learners, developing awareness of representations and means to discuss them. Carter A. Winkle, in Chapter 16, addresses the need for a classroom environment where all students feel free to express themselves and participate in classroom activities with a focus on an LGBTQ+ inclusive frame. If learners struggle with identity issues in the larger society and possibly at home and in their personal close networks, this obstructs learning and language acquisition. Like many underserved student populations outside of the mainstream hegemony of ELT resources, teachers of LGBTQ+ student populations know how identity issues matter and are a critical factor for ELLs’ success. 

Part VI

This section is comprised of three chapters and focuses on “Working Across Borders and Advocating for Students.”

A discussion regarding teacher preparation and training as a means for social justice is presented in Chapter 17, where Baburhan Uzum and Mary Petrón argue for teacher education programs to offer content on ESL and related issues with field experience in practicum programs. They examine the ELL situation in Texas and ELT certification in the state as an example, where requirements for obtaining and engaging in professional development requirements are minimal and insufficient for the context’s needs. Christine E. Poteau discusses the concept of using interdisciplinary pedagogies in Chapter 18.  The intent is to suggest a means in which social justice issues can not only be presented to teachers-in-training, but that they also encounter opportunities to engage and dialogue with these issues through in-service learning and collaborative online tasks to heighten their intercultural competence. The section wraps up with Michael L. Conners examining how social justice in teaching can serve as a powerful tool for educators, but also shares the challenges that accompany it in Chapter 19. He describes the high school dropout rate, and how that intersects with the experiences of undocumented immigrants based on his experiences as a teacher. He describes a study he did surrounding the undocumented immigrants in his school through an anonymous inquiry and call for action to support the needs of such students. He closes his chapter with a statement that although possibly disappointing, serves as a force to motivate readers as educators. He shares that “[t]his research confirms my original fear. I do indeed perpetuate an “untruth” to my students each and every day: that the American Dream is attainable through hard work (which requires higher education); yet, in reality, the American Dream is a “dream deferred” for most of my students.” (255).

Part VII

This section moves to offer specifically practical classroom suggestions on how social justice activities can be incorporated into ELT that are adaptable across various proficiency levels and age groups. Alexis Gerard Finger’s suggestions on ways to contend with prejudice are presented in Chapter 20 through the use of movies, videos and plays/skits, where activities developed around them develop insight, understanding of the other and tolerance. Having addressed raising awareness and compassion among students, David Royal in Chapter 21 moves to suggesting ways on how teachers can uncover and consider explicit and implicit stereotypes they may hold and how these may inform classroom practices, while encouraging them to use supplementary material from the community and society in classroom instruction. Lastly, several authors join together, Silvia Pessoa, Nada Soudy, Natalia Gatti, and M. Bernardine Dias, in Chapter 22 to offer a case study of launching a community adult English literacy program for migrant workers that is operated by undergraduate student volunteers. 

In closing, a current focus of our field is critical approaches to applied linguistics and ELT, as educators contend with and move to address inequalities of their students regarding language and literacy, socio-cultural, and socio-political acquisition and proficiency. With this in mind, the Summer and Fall monthly Blog Book Reviews will be addressing social justice and advocacy books among other ELT topics of interest to membership. Among the monthly book reviews addressing a range of topics of course, keep an eye out for more review of texts on social justice.

Nancy Kwang Johnson, MPA, PhD (Government, Cornell University) is the CATESOL Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force Coordinator.  She is pursuing her MA, TESOL at USC where she focuses on Critical Race Theory; Language, Culture and Assimilation; Nationalism; Diaspora and Post-Colonial Studies.

Kara Mac Donald is an Academic Student and Faculty Development Trainer at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, Monterey, CA, where she supports both teachers and students in academic development. She also is the Blog Book Review column coordinator and editor.

Call for Book Review Co-Authors

If you are interested in co-authoring a book review slated for the coming months or if you would like to recommend a book that you would like to review as co-author/sole author in future issues, please contact Kara Mac Donald,