Social Change Education Research Paper Starter

Social Change Education

(Research Starters)

This essay begins with orienting the reader to Social Change Education (SCE), defining the theory in terms of design and utility, and tracking how it has evolved as an effective means of augmenting communication and action for the oppressed. The reader is offered a comparison of the SCE design to the hegemonic "classic" model of education. Orientation to the growing popularity of social change education with examples of local, historical and more global applications is underscored by examples of SCE in practice, and its relative success in one global health care initiative. This essay advocates for SCE; a contrasting view is recognized but is not fully explored within the scope of this document. The literature review and analysis is intriguing and readers will likely look for further examples of the model's utility.

Keywords Authoritarianism; Capitalism; Consciousness; Globalization; Hegemony; Marginalized; Oppressed; Popular Education; Social Change Education; Social Justice

Educational Theory: Social Change Education


We live in a global society; electronic communication happens in the blink of an eye. Realistically, electronic interconnectedness can limit important face to face engagement. Email, cell phones, and the Internet are but a few reasons why electronic communication is outpacing valuable interpersonal interaction. As a society, we've become less invested in relationships and more invested in information-sharing, enhanced by the very facility of our instant electronic connections. Because of our busy lives, too often we shelter up in our homes at night and listen passively to headlines delivered to our living room. News headlines are real, but most don't really seem to impact our day to day living. Many forget to question the veracity of what we are told by the media; seldom do we forcefully question the rhetoric of those in power. We are told what to buy in our capitalist society; sometimes this power is so insidious we are not even aware of its impact. We hear about war and terrorism, and we assume our government is doing the right thing for all concerned. The politicians vying for presidential nominations are honest, we hope; or are they sponsored by the rich and powerful, colluding to keep us in our ignorance?

In our conscience, we know there are injustices for which we should take ownership: The environment is deteriorating; crime holds communities in fear; fuel prices are becoming prohibitive; countries threaten ours, and we live in fear of terrorism or natural disaster. Making positive change requires that we become agents for social change. Social change education has evolved over the years in response to exploitation and alienation of the lower classes. Social change speaks for the downtrodden or marginalized; it addresses unjust conditions under which groups of people suffer economically, socially, or politically. It is of no surprise that the wealthy, the capitalists and the politicians are presumed averse to the SCE movement. It is primarily through control and intellectual supremacy that the lower classes may be quieted.

How Does Social Change Happen?

Social Change Education (SCE) is not the answer to the world's injustices, but it does provide a proven framework through which the weaker, poorer, less educated, and exploited can speak and be heard. SCE doesn't look like a college course. There are no books or exams in the classic sense, no podium from which a professor lectures. In SCE, the instructors are the students and the students the instructors. The opposite of authoritarianism and intolerance, SCE builds success through the self-reflection of its participants; it encourages and builds reflexive, not rigid responses to change. Bringing people together who are like-minded, with a common mission and goals to challenge existing power arrangements, can turn a single railroad car into a proverbial speeding locomotive.

What is Social Change Education (SCE)?

Every organization, every community has a unique culture, no matter the size or construct. All of us have experienced the flavor of a workplace, a religious organization or an academic institution; and many of us have been challenged to understand the way decisions are made or why events sometimes happen to us rather than with us. When groups are not involved in the decision-making process, unrest, mistrust, and perceived (or real) oppression occurs. These inherent problems, common to any group with designated leaders and followers, can be mitigated by using SCE.


SCE is not a new philosophy; its essential principles for success date back decades. The reader will understand more by reviewing the summary below:

The key underpinnings to SCE include:

• Jointly involving people to draw in their history and experience, broadening perspective and providing a much more robust learning experience than a classic didactic lecture model.

• Getting people invested and excited when group learning is facilitated well - and everyone is guaranteed a voice.

• Allowing members to feel ownership in decisions. SCE is not about having information pushed to the learner from a leader. SCE does not promote a leader that limits input from all constituents, intentionally or unintentionally.

SCE (Popular Education) Defined

Social Change Education has developed over time in response to exploitation and social alienation of affected groups. The oppressed, a term which should be considered broadly, refers to those not of the elite class (even the middle class, for example) - but of those who must learn to examine their responsibility to make change and speak for themselves. Knowledge of social change is not inherent, especially for ordinary people, oppressed or disadvantaged; it is a learned skill that requires facilitative leadership. Many people live under the hand of hegemony, and it is only when they become aware of opportunities for successful change that they can begin to coalesce their local experience and wisdom to change their oppressive circumstances. SCE is a threat to the dominant class in any hierarchal setting; keeping the oppressed in a status quo limits their very desire to challenge. The oppressed class, like a captive, cannot see 'outside the box' and often becomes afraid to voice resistance.

A three year collaborative called Globalizing Civil Society from the inside Out (GCS), from the Center for Justice, Tolerance and Community of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Inter-American Forum of the Collins Center for Public Policy in Miami Florida, is quoted below:

"Popular Education {synonymous with SCE} has a rich history in social justice struggles around the world, and is being used today by grassroots organizations as a leadership development tool that builds critical consciousness, as an organizational methodology, and even as a philosophy of life. Grassroots organizations, looking to unpack the abstract concepts that oftentimes muddle the public's understanding of global economy, have devoted themselves to popular education as a means to communicating the issues and the connections to their membership base," ("Globalizing civil society," 2005).

SCE appears to have made some inroads to teacher education as well. In a qualitative practitioner-research case study, four university faculty members attempted to “disrupt the hegemonic domestication of candidates enrolled in an undergraduate teacher education program (Ritchie, Cone, Sohyun, & Bullock, 2013).” During the semester right before their student teaching, 16 candidates at a large public university in the southeastern U.S. enrolled in four content methods courses. Taught by Ritchie, Cone, Sohyun, and Bullock themselves, the curriculum of these courses “emphasized social justice dimensions of teaching rather than just focusing on skills and strategies.” Drawing from the multiple data sources, the authors found both possibilities and limitations of teacher education for social change and argued that greater resources are needed for teacher education to effect true social change (Ritchie, Cone, Sohyun, & Bullock, 2013).

Barriers to Social Change


A sense of discomfort lurks in the minds of many Americans. Here in our freedom and wealth, too few proactively contribute to broad social initiatives for improvement. The reality is that many of us try to...

(The entire section is 3721 words.)