The Role of Education and Critical Literacy

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The role of education in a democracy is that an education can provide someone with the knowledge of past occurrences of oppression that can be used to fight current social injustices, while the role of critical literacy is that it can help one recognize social issues that continue to affect society. If someone lacks an education or critical literacy skills, than he or she may be unaware that injustices are occurring, or will lack knowledge on how these injustices can be fought against.

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In Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he states that “”freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”” (King 1). In other words, social justice can only occur if those who are oppressed can perceive it is occurring, and then articulate demands on how the issue might be resolved. King also recognizes the value of a historical education on previous injustices, as he cites how German oppression of the Jews was legal under German society. Because he has this knowledge, he can recognize that just because something is legal, it does not mean it is ethical or non-oppressive. One must have an education to perceive injustice, and only once an injustice has been recognized can one seek change.

Similarly, Goldie Taylor’s article in Blue Nation Review (2015) recognizes Brittany Newsome’s efforts to see the removal of the Confederate flag from state buildings. The confederate flag is clearly a symbol of longstanding racism throughout the American south, but one would only recognize this if one had a proper education. To bring awareness to the issue, Newsome engaged “”in a courageous act of civil disobedience”” (Taylor, 2015, para. 1) by climbing the South Carolina capitol building to remove the flag. This would be the exact same type of scenario that King addressed, which would be support of civil disobedience if it resulted in true social justice. King’s letter addresses how he would have broken German law to support the Jewish population, and in Taylor’s article, we see how Newsome broke American laws to also advocate for social justice.

While education is essential for social justice, critical literacy would also be an important skill, particularly in the modern era. The problem is that knowledge is not enough; action must also be taken to fight for social justice. In Brooks’ The Problem with Wokeness (2018), Brooks identifies that “”wokeness puts more emphasis on how you perceive a situation…than what exactly you plan to do about it”” (Brooks, 2018, para. 4). Wokeness is increasingly seen in the modern world on social media, where many people may make posts regarding perceived social injustices, but this amounts to little more than creating a dialogue, and not resulting in any positive actions being taken. Education might help someone become more woke, in that it can provide knowledge on how to perceive social injustices, but critical literacy can help people better understand how to support change. It is one thing to have an education that shows how racism has long been a problem in government; however, critical literacy skills can help people actually research candidates that would support more equality, and these skills can also help people navigate all the manipulative social media posts and identify the best possible course of action.

Overall, both education and critical literacy skills are necessary to advocate for true change. Education on past injustices, as evidenced by King and Taylor’s articles, can help someone identify when social injustice is occurring. Critical literacy skills, as supported by Brooks’ article, can help citizens identify the best course of action to pursue in support of social justice.

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The Role of Education and Critical Literacy. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved from