Thesis: Social Justice Children

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Social Justice and Children

Social Justice

Social justice can be a difficult concept to explain becomes it encompasses such broad principles. "Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. Social workers aim to open the doors of access and opportunity for everyone, particularly those in greatest need." (National Association of Social Workers, 2008). Social justice encompasses every aspect of social life. That means that social justice pertains to goods including health, welfare, safety and education programs and the distribution of these goods to all members of society. Social justice goes beyond the distribution of material goods. It also includes societal beliefs and behavior regarding others in society (Longues & Scanlon, 2001). One of the most significant aspects of social justice is that it includes the decision-making process for how public goods are allocated. Social justice has two components: relational justice refers to the inputs and distributive justice to the outputs.

Relational...justice refers to the decision making processes that lead to decision about distributions of goods and services and to the relationships between dominated and subordinate groups... Distributive justice refers to the way economic and social goods and services are distributed in a society." (Longues & Scanlon, 2001). These two components help explain how principles of social justice can try to ameliorate some of the more basic societal problems.

Personal experience with social justice

Like most people in this world, I have personal experience with social injustice. I have personally witnessed the impact that the disparate distribution of resources and power can have on individuals and families. First, I have witnessed enough poverty, both in the United States and outside of the United States to be painfully aware of how unfairly distributed financial resources are. A visit to any non-tourist area of any country outside of the United States or western Europe reveals that the majority of the people in the world live in conditions that do not exceed the poverty guidelines established by western countries. Homelessness, hunger, disease, and filth are the daily norm for billions of people worldwide, and social relief efforts have not made an appreciable dent in those numbers. In fact, this economic disparity is so startling that many resorts, who are able to provide affordable luxury to traveling Americans because the cost of local labor is so cheap, take great steps to hide the surrounding poverty from their guests. These steps include large walls between the resort and the surrounding area, such as one would find on a visit to Breezes resort in Jamaica, to use of flags of convenience for cruise ships, so that ships sailing out of America can ignore American wage and labor laws. However, many American tourists going abroad may never be exposed to this type of poverty and may never actually understand the unequal distribution of this world's resources.

In fact, many middle-class Americans truly do not understand how unequally financial resources are distributed in America. One need only take a drive through diverse areas of any major city to begin to understand the size of that disparity; some people have almost incomprehensible wealth, while others live in conditions that few outside of the lower class even realize still exist in America. What compounds that problem is that the urban poor, who are relatively visible to those who care to investigate their living conditions, live in relative affluence when compared to people who live in poor rural areas, like Appalachia. I attended a school district that drew children from both middle-class and lower-class areas, and one of my good friends when I was a child came from an impoverished family. While her mother was a good parent, she simply did not have the financial resources necessary to meet all of her family's needs. The family frequently lost the use of power or water for days at a time, because of an inability to pay utility bills on time. Their pantry was barren, compared to the overstocked pantry at my home, and snacks at their house frequently consisted of peanut butter and bread or other inexpensive fare. Dinners at their home almost always included rice and beans, staples that I now realize are always affordable, and I remember my friend being surprised that we ate meat every night in my home. My friend's clothing was clean, but it was always second-hand, so that it sometimes did not fit appropriately. I always remember feeling ashamed that I complained to my parents about not being able to buy everything I wanted after visiting her home.

However, I did not understand the true degree of income disparity until befriending a very wealthy boy when I was in high school. My first visit to his home, I found myself lost because the house was so huge. Fortunately, they had an intercom system, which helped me find my place. The neighborhood he lived in is one that I would identify as upper-middle class today, but it seemed incomparably wealthy when I was a child. They had a maid come in to clean their home and do laundry twice a week, and a service to do their lawn and maintain their pool. They had the garage space for five vehicles, and new vehicles to fill each space. In fact, my friend received a brand new BMW convertible for his 16th birthday, which was astounding to me. His mother rarely cooked; instead, the family either brought in dinner or dined out, but their pantry and refrigerator were always fully stocked. It was a house where none of the inhabitants seemed to ever experience financial wants, much less financial needs. The contrast, not only with my own household which was comfortable, but on a budget, but with my poorer friend's home, was startling. What was even more startling to me was when I discovered through my social-work oriented research that this friend would not be considered wealthy by American standards of wealth.

My experience with social injustice is not limited to observations of other's living conditions or to noticing the disparity in the allocation of financial resources. I am very familiar with how sexual inequality impacts the opportunities available to men and women. Like all people, I have seen how gender preferences create different opportunities for males and females. It is impossible to live in this society without noticing that management positions are disproportionately filled by males. In fact, any public school student is bound to notice that while the population of teachers is disproportionately female, the same is not true for the population of principals, revealing gender disparity in education, a traditionally female- dominated field. Moreover, anyone who has personally been the victim of sexual or domestic violence knows that this is a society that still perpetuates the ideal of male domination. This is true even if victims are male, because men who are victimized are marginalized by many in law enforcement and social service, since they fail to conform to gender norms.

In my own family, one of my cousins became pregnant as a teenager, and watching that experience helped highlight the power differences between men and women. While she was able to attend high school up until the time that she delivered her child, her school district moved her to an alternative school, which was otherwise devoted to children with behavioral problems. However, the father of the child was never moved from his home campus. The school district had a nursery program for new mothers, but it was on a specific campus and students could not take honors or advanced placement work in the program. Moreover, because my cousin gave birth during the school year, she had to petition the school district to be able to move ahead a grade, since she missed four weeks of school following the delivery of her child, and then another week later in the year when the baby got a bad illness. The father of the child did not miss any school. My cousin had immediate financial responsibility for the baby, but had to fight for almost a year to get the father of the baby to provide any financial support, and, because he was a minor without a job, my cousin had no way of enforcing that support order. The county would not charge the father with neglect for failing to provide for her child, but ordered a child protective services investigation when my cousin relayed that she did not have enough money to purchase diapers for the baby. The investigation was immediately closed, because the baby's needs were being met, but they did not order a similar investigation for the father.

This episode made it clear to me that gender disparity still exists. What made that even more clear was a recent discussion with my cousin, who is now in her 30s, happily married, and a college graduate, about the father of her child. He went on to a four-year college immediately after high school, and did not pay any child… [END OF PREVIEW]

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