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The drive for “social justice” in education

I get emails occasionally from readers. This one interested me:

“I am a student at the University of Southern California’s M.A. program in occupational therapy. In 2010 our national organization, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), included Social Justice in our code of ethics. About 12 states incorporate by reference AOTA’s code of ethics as part of their licensing requirements, meaning that getting an occupational therapy license and keeping it requires adherence to social justice, which is a set of political values and a political agenda that is today associated with those who are termed left, liberal, or progressive. For example, the code of ethics states that we are to advocate for social justice, which requires an equitable distribution of resources to all individuals and groups. Professors also use the requirement as an excuse to teach “social justice activities” in class.”

Interesting. The email continues:

“This is actually a trend in all the health sciences today. My hope is that this trend can be stopped as it normalizes setting political litmus tests to practice a profession. In 2015 AOTA votes again on the contents of its code of ethics and I will be submitting a motion to remove the social justice requirement. I am working now to educate members on this issue before the 2015 vote.”

“One of the things that makes this a hard road to travel is that if I tell a health science student that social justice is a highly political concept used today to promote a left/liberal/progressive agenda, they easily shrug it off because of the way in which the material is presented to them. They are simply told things like, “social justice is about fairness in receiving society’s resources” or something equally bland and nice-sounding.”

The correspondent, by the name of A.D, asked me to sign a statement with others opposing this. As a Brit, I am not sure whether any signature of support from me would be valid but I am happy to lend my voice to this issue. As the late FA Hayek famously pointed out, “social justice” is one of those question-begging terms that takes as given such ideas as the presumption in favour of equal distribution of wealth by some sort of “distributor”. It is not a neutral term – ideas of socialism and state ownership are baked into it. And while “justice” is a word that might mean something, “social justice” is very different.

I wish this gentleman success. You can visit his website here. And he has a related item with a large number of comments here.

19 comments to The drive for “social justice” in education

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Why not ridicule the whole concept by relabelling it as ‘Cosmic Justice’? There’s a lot of injustice out there in the cosmos! Why should the Dinosaurs get wiped out, just because a Meteor wanted to suicide? Why should your Northerm Hemisphere have most of the land? Why should Jupiter be allowed to stop the asteroids from forming their own planet?
    The public wants answers- and then action!

  • Myno

    I fear for this young fellow’s being allowed to continue his studies. He is brave.

  • If this is required for a license, it sure sounds to me like a violation of the 14th Amendment equal protection clause, if not the Article VI proscription against religious tests.

  • YogSothoth

    I tend to respond of talk about “social justice” with
    talk of “conjugal justice”. Why should only an elite
    few of the men get the majority of the hot women?

    What we need is a program where these men’s
    gorgeous girlfriends or wives should be made to
    sleep with a corpulent loser or homeless guy
    periodically so as to promote a more equitable
    distribution of resources to all
    individuals and groups.

    How’s that taste?

  • I remember back in the 1980s an article in the Spectator, I think, saying that despite there being a Conservative government at the time (or possibly because there was a Conservative government at the time) it was then impossible for a person to qualify as a social worker in the UK if he or she held mainstream Conservative beliefs. (Libertarian beliefs weren’t even on the radar). The reason for this situation was similar to this case highlighted by Mr Duran, i.e. the insertion of political content into the professional requirements to practice as a social worker.

    I do not know if it has changed in the UK since. Looking at the glorious history of social work since then, I would be surprised if it had.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Thanks for this post.
    I was utterly disgusted after reading it and the links.
    So, on the basis that it was true/genuine, I sent a request to thefire.org (CCd to “Alejandro Duran” uscotindoctrination.AT.yahoo.com) suggesting that they might be able to help, and left a comment at uscotindoctrination.com that he get in touch with thefire.org

    I loved what they did re Firefly at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I had to watch the whole series after that. Was good fun – a sort of Science Fiction Western cowboy serialisation. Recommended watching!

  • The problem is, the people who inserted this requirement for social justice into the code of ethics won’t even see it as being political. It is such a core component of their thinking that they will be unable to comprehend a decent person objecting.

    This is what makes fighting it all so difficult.

  • Andrew Duffin

    This is another example of my rule that the prefix “social” negates the meaning of whatever it qualifies.

    Thus social justice is actually injustice; the social wage is money you get for NOT working; a social contract is not a contract at all since it only binds one side; and we all know what we think about social workers.

    It’s a good rule.

  • Andrew Duffin:

    My rule of thumb is to replace “social” with “anti-social”.

  • Sam Duncan

    Hah. As usual, someone got in before me. Peter A. Taylor, in this case. It seems to me that the no-prayers-in-schools mob often divert attention from what “the establishment of religion” actually is. And the principle here is identical: if you don’t sign up to a particular set of beliefs, you’re barred from certain offices and professions; often even from studying them.

    If I were a Yank, I’d be far more worried about the establishment of “social justice” than whether my kid’s teacher said “God”.

  • RRS

    As part of an “Essay” I have been trying for more than 25 years to assemble on the more general subject of “Obligations” (in the context of social organizations), I encountered classical references observing the “Justice of Athens was not the Justice of Thessaly.”

    Thus, Justice can be seen to have (possibly only) a “social” context. Next came consideration of what might be common in all social organizations that gives rise to a concept of something designated as “Justice” (however differing) in each and all of them. That “something” seems to be that in each grouping there is a commonality (peculiar to the grouping) of recognition and acceptance of certain human obligations in their relations with one another and with their surroundings within that social organization. From there it was a short step to surmise a correlation of the differences in concepts of Justice to the differences in the commonality of obligations.

    This has led to a current view that in most, if not all, social orders, Justice, as a concept, consists of the performance of Obligations. In turn, the “Ethical” in each social order are those commonly acceptable means selected and employed (and the motivations for selection) for the performance of Obligations. Thus do Ethics among social orders vary as well.

    Then, encountering Hayek’s question, a possible answer seemed on offer. If – Justice is the performance of Obligations, then “Social” Justice must imply the performance of those human Obligations through socially organized facilities extent within the Social Organization, which might include religious establishments, civic organizations, and even the mechanisms of governments. Thus many individual obligations may be subsumed as group obligations for performance.

    Of course, any word, like Justice, can be used for any descriptive convenience, but the conceptual intent requires a clear understanding. To use the term “ Justice” to describe the results of material transactions, such as “Distribution,” or “Participation,” without consideration of the Obligations involved in the transactions, and the Ethics involved in their performance, will not advance understanding, no matter how elevated the dialogue.

  • Sigivald

    Unless the AOTA code *defines* social justice, or the statute does, there’s no problem.

    As a law, it’ll be up for a vagueness challenge if applied.

    As a “code”, simply define social justice as the libertarian principles and say you’re avocating it.

    They live by defining terms how they want; fight back the same way.

  • RRS

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

  • veryretired

    Countingcats zeroes in on the critical element in a comment above—statists cannot conceive of any issue for which the answer is other than a government solution.

    The reason for this is a fundamental error in statist/collectivist thinking—the belief that having intentions toward a laudable end is the same as achieving that end.

    Conversely, the statist cannot comprehend any objection to the state as the agent for delivering any particular good, so opposition to the program must be mean-spirited opposition to the desired objective.

    This is because the state, obviously, is the only entity which can achieve any social good, according to the statist worldview. Therefore, if you oppose the state, you oppose the good.

    Unless you understand this mentality, statist reactions are incomprehensible in such cases as opposition to state run health care or state run education.

    The classic statist responses to anyone who objects to these and other programs is “Oh, you don’t want poor people to have health care.” or “So, you don’t believe all children should receive an education, huh?”

    The next time you have the time and energy to waste discussing anything with a member of the collective, notice the enormous blind spot they have towards any possible good being achieved without state intervention.

    When you’re a one-trick pony, that’s all you have.

  • Paul Marks

    Once the objective of licensing (under all the boiler plate language about “protecting” people) was to increase the incomes of people doing certain occupations (at the expense of their customers – and of people forbidden to compete for this custom).

    The classic case is lawyers – once anyone could offer their services to help someone in court. These days someone like Abe Lincoln would die a railroad construction worker – forbidden to represent people.

    As Milton Friedman showed (many decades ago) that even medical licensing is not really for the benefit of those in need of medical services – it is for the financial benefit of those who provide medical services.

    All this is bad enough – but it is not enough for the collectivists.

    Why just rip people off financially when you can also spread your ideological agenda?

    So such things as the requirement to spread “Social Justice” is pushed.

    Soon one will not even be allowed to be elected to public office without such committments.

    Harold Laski suggested this 60 years ago – elections would continue, and people could even vote for different candidates AS LONG AS THEY ALL ACCEPTED……

    As for “Social Justice” itself ……

    The idea that income and wealth are (rightfully) the property of the collective and are to be “distibuted” in line with some political rule, is incompatible (totally incompatible) with traditional concepts of justice (as in the Common Law) as to-each-their-own.

    Such writers as Hayek, Oakeshott and Antony Flew have pointed this out.

    Of course “social justice” is incompatible with the principles of the Constitution of the United States, as these are the principles of Civil Society – which is what collectivist “social justice” is against.

    Bottom line?

    Do not accept the principle of licensing.

    It is not just a financial rip off any more – it is now much worse than that.

  • A.D.

    Hello Good Sirs (and Madam?)

    It warmed my heart to see this website – the battle is always the more difficult for being a lonely one.

    For those interested in how AOTA defines social justice you can find it here: http://www.aota.org/consumers/ethics/39880.aspx.

    AOTA’s Ethics Commission says that its conception of social justice is an inclusive one, that it can even include libertarian conceptions of justice and they deny any political motivation whatsoever. They only seek to promote God’s Goodness on earth and they, as good Jedis, work as one with all the forces of light in the universe. It is only I and those who oppose social justice who are being political. According to one of the members of the Ethics Commission, their conception of social justice which is so inclusive that even libertarians can be for it, is based on a right to needed health care. This is what this member said about the word distribution in the definition: “Distribution in this context means that everyone has the opportunity to receive medical care. And that people have a right to needed health care to maintain their normal functioning.” (See statement by Barbara Hemphill here: http://otconnections.aota.org/forums/p/9397/65099.aspx)

    Now would you say that that sounds inclusive of libertarian views or that somebody does not understand what libertarian views are? I think it’s latter but that’s probably just because I am being political.

    To YogSothoth: I have addressed your precise concern in my article “Romantic Justice.”

    As for a new name for social justice, I’ve always been fond of “neo-communism,” but I would settle for “I Want the Stuff of Anybody With More Stuff Justice”


  • Alisa

    What Humpty Dumpty said.