Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, DREAMers, transgender equality . . . the last year or so has been filled with unprecedented efforts to achieve social justice for all. Whether you're interested in a career that furthers the goals of these movements or simply a concerned individual who wants to know more, college offers the opportunity to examine issues from many different angles and explore possible solutions.
Dictionary.com defines social justice as "fair treatment of all people in a society, including respect for the rights of minorities and equitable distribution of resources among members of a community." To this end, students often find thought-provoking classes in disciplines such as the following:
A nation's political system influences the rights and treatment of its citizens. Courses in this discipline might cover questions such as:
- Who makes laws, and are they enforced fairly?
- What actions could give under-represented groups a greater voice in government?
- What factors play into making policy decisions?
Money not only affects everyday life, it plays a huge role in who has power. Economics classes might look at things such as:
- How can the nation better allocate its resources?
- What barriers exist to lower-income members of society improving their situation?
- Why do women and minorities continue to earn less money than white males?
The American Sociological Association defines sociology as "the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior." Among the plethora of possible topics covered in sociology classes are:
- What beliefs do various groups within society possess?
- How does one's family and community shape behavior?
- How do factors such as gender, sexual identity, and race affect how a person is treated in various settings?
African American studies
A simple description of this discipline is the study of people of African descent in the United States. However, the range of subjects potentially covered in courses is vast and may include:
- How have different historical events shaped the lives of African Americans?
- What are microaggressions, unconscious bias, and systemic racism?
- How can images and stores created by black authors, artists, and film-makers increase understanding of African American experiences?
This increasingly popular multidisciplinary field examines the unique experiences of people who themselves immigrated from Latin America and other Spanish-speaking countries or who trace their ancestry to individuals who did. Areas that might be covered include:
- How do language barriers impact the educational experience of Spanish-speaking students?
- How does the history of the United States look different if told from the perspective of Hispanic Americans?
- How do media portrayals and stereotypes of Latinos play a part in immigration issues?
Drawing from a wide range of academic disciplines, women's studies looks at how gender influences people's lives. Questions that could be discussed include:
- How have the rights of men and women differed through the years, and where does the issue of legal equality stand now?
- How do family and household duties impact the lives of women?
- What role does gender play in educational and career decisions?
Finally, more and more colleges are offering classes dedicated specifically to examination of sexual orientation and gender identity. Topics often explored include:
- What prejudices exist against people who identify as something besides heterosexual?
- How has the U.S. legal system influenced the rights and treatment of individuals in this group?
- What strides have the LGBTQ community made over the years, and what societal challenges do they still face?