Dealing with Difference Institute


2014 Dealing with Difference Theme: Social Justice and Education

Over the past several decades, educators have become increasingly aware of the diversity and inequity among school systems and their negative effects on colleagues and students. They began to focus on multicultural education and the need to go beyond the traditional, limited content and perspectives offered by a white patriarchal approach. In doing so they expanded their vision and became more inclusive in multiple ways when approaching history, the social sciences and the humanities, and even the sciences and math. When doing so, some educators became aware that they needed to explore their own cultures and those of their students if they were to interact effectively across their cultural differences. Their commitment to multicultural education moved them toward a commitment to cultural competence, an awareness and understanding of the value and perspectives of multiple cultures that allowed them to respond effectively to their culturally diverse students. However, educators were also conscious of the need to move beyond the cultivation of communication skills if they were to counter the inequity present within school systems and within the larger society. Activism in the name of social justice and equity became an imperative.

Tuesday, May 13 Presenter/Workshop Facilitator

Dr. Heather Hackman: “Social Justice Education: An Indispensable Element in 21st-Century Education”

Dr. Heather Hackman will be opening the 2014 Dealing with Difference Institute with a presentation/workshop that will offer participants a clear overview of the role of social justice in education. She will discuss what social justice is in the context of the university as well as in P-12 schools. Some questions she will explore with DWDI participants are: What does social justice look like? What does a commitment to social justice mean in day-to-day faculty/staff interaction with students and with each other in terms of awareness and/or action? 

Since this keynote session is a presentation and workshop, participants will have opportunities to interact with each other as well as with Dr. Hackman as they consider these questions. They will be able to explore ways in which the ideas and insights she offers apply specifically to their own work and research.

In an interview with Dr. J. Q. Adams at Western Illinois University's Quad City campus, Dr. Hackman discussed her work as a faculty member in the Human Relations and Multicultural Education Department at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and as a consultant and workshop facilitator whose primary interest is social justice education. Though aware of the value of diversity education and cultural competence that revolve around the awareness and appreciation of cultural difference and cultural values, she stresses the importance of social justice in education. Dr. Hackman indicates that, when social justice is the goal, educators and students probe more deeply into the historical events and decisions that form the contradictory foundations of the USA, most notably, its democratic ideals and its disenfranchisement of whole segments of its population, including women and people of color.

A social justice framework demands critical thinking: exploration of issues from multiple non-dominant perspectives, rigorous self-reflection, and examination of power and privilege, liberation and oppression. It encompasses a study of the construction of “race,” of “whiteness,” and of white privilege. As important: a social justice framework inspires empathy and action. Dr. Hackman’s perspective on education and history has been influenced by many scholars and activists, including Paulo Friere, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Dr. Joy DeGruy, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities, and Waziyatawin, who wrote What Does Justice Look Like? Another resource Dr. Hackman has found valuable in her teaching and her work as a consultant is the California Newsreel/PBS documentary series Race—The Power of an Illusion.

Dr. Hackman has been teaching and training on social justice issues since 1992 and was a tenured professor in the Department of Human Relations and Multicultural Education at St. Cloud State University in St Cloud, Minnesota for 12 years before she began focusing full time on consulting. She has taught courses in social justice and multicultural education (pre-service and in-service teachers), race and racism, heterosexism and homophobia, social justice education (higher education leadership), oppression and social change, sexism and gender oppression, class oppression, and Jewish oppression.

Dr. Hackman received her doctorate in Social Justice Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2000 and has taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Westfield State College, Springfield College, St Cloud State University, Hamline University, and the University of St Thomas. In 2005 she founded Hackman Consulting group and consults nationally on issues of deep diversity, equity and social justice and has focused most of her recent training work on issues of racism and white privilege, gender oppression, heterosexism and homophobia, and classism. She has published in the area of social justice education theory and practice, racism in health care (with Stephen Nelson), and is currently working on two books, one examining issues of race, racism and whiteness in education through a model she calls “cellular wisdom,” and another addressing anti-racism professional development training for E-12 professionals.

In 2009, Dr. Hackman was awarded a Research Fellowship with the Great Place to Work Institute and has developed corporate training rubrics that combine her social justice content with GPTWI’s “trust” frameworks. She has sat on the board of Minnesota NAME as president and the board of Rainbow Families, has served on numerous committees committed to multicultural and social justice work, and since 2012 has served as a member of the Advisory Council for the White Privilege Conference. While never losing sight of the need for social justice , recent research and conference presentations have focused on climate change and its intersections with issues of race, class and gender.