Being the editor of a Major Reference Work is seen by many academics as the pinnacle of their career. Seeing their own hard work and that of their colleagues culminating in a finished published Springer Nature Reference, a moment to be incredibly proud. During this series of blog posts, we will be speaking to the editors, contributors and Springer Nature colleagues who make them happen.
We spoke to Carol A. Mullen, editor of Handbook of Social Justice Interventions in Education and Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Virginia Tech in the United States.
Could you please give us an overview of your handbook?
This handbook contains 57 chapters edited by me (Carol A. Mullen). The book’s thesis is that intervention is a critical component of social justice that transcends general ethical precepts. From around the globe, the contributors present contemporary social justice interventions in education. To cover the field comprehensively, the book is subdivided into five parts.
The contributors are strong advocates of justice from various academic disciplines, professional fields, and countries. Together, these scholar–practitioners present literature-enhanced frameworks and, importantly, describe implementable social justice challenges and breakthroughs in learning environments. Their innovative and dynamic theory-informed applications in real-world contexts animate social justice theory and practice. Numerous justice-oriented positions, policies, methods, strategies, and tools are offered for the study of complex, difficult problems. While knowledge and educational and social utility are advanced, no “one way” is espoused for imagining the global community in which we live.
What has inspired you to edit this handbook?
From Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr., many inspirational activists have expressed the belief that together we can make profound and even lasting changes. Ut Prosim—That I May Serve—is the motto of Virginia Tech, a global land grant university, which as a faculty member I interpret as service in support of conscious, sustainable change. Frequently, little attention in the literature is paid to educational interventions, including what the knowledge looks like in practice. Intervention, a breakthrough area, demands attention as a critical component of social justice in theory, research, and practice within educational contexts. I thought it was time to explore the practical sides of social justice theory in action within an international collection devoted to this topic. Considering that much about the treatment of social justice has been theoretical or abstract, this collection takes an important next step.
An international forum for contributors from various societies, cultures, and disciplines was developed to address missing aspects of social justice in educational fields. I was envisioning a volume that offers actionable social justice frames, interventions, applications, and implementation that aid in improvement, revitalization, restoration, healing, and transformation within (inter)national settings. As such, this handbook extends the work of social justice education in new directions through frameworks, leadership, intervention, application, implementation, and engagement.
How will this handbook benefit scholars/practitioners?
Making available educationally and socially important material by people known for their courageous work provides scholars/practitioners with the latest on social justice interventions. Readers can build on the trends that emerged from the various chapters, and they may discover new ideas, strategies, and ways forward for fulfilling the mission of social justice in their own context.
As operationalized, social justice advocacy calls upon educators in the critical work of creating just and equitable societies, and socially-just education, through scholarship, teaching, and public service. As directly concerns the work of many contributors to this volume, social justice involves preparing education stakeholders like teachers, leaders, and parents for equity-minded work that benefits children, youth, families, and school communities.
Having a lasting impact on injustice in educational institutions, communities, and societies requires that social justice precepts and visions be implemented. Possibilities are envisioned and explored, and outcomes reported. To truly advance socially just education, we must collectively work towards inclusive, impactful interventions; re-imagine systems and norms; and produce new knowledge bases by deconstructing existing ones. By moving intervention to the fore, as a global community of equity minded scholar–practitioners, in this handbook we privilege applications of social and racial justice, and live investigatory work guided by theory. Thus, the hallmark of this collection is actionable social justice frames, interventions, applications, and implementations in (inter)national settings that aid in the progress toward revitalization and transformation rooted in equity, with benefit for current and future generations.
As a leading expert in the field, what do you consider to be the most interesting issue(s) faced in the area of international education specific to social justice?
To me, the most interesting issue faced in international education specific to equity and justice concerns the role of education in helping to mitigate national and global threats to health, life, and liberty. Education and schooling are not insulated from pandemics, traumatic racial violence, colonizing weaponry, and massive protests demanding systemic change. Social justice theory into action allows for traditional thinking, toxic mores, and disciplinary silos to be dissolved in favor of innovative, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary approaches to new educational worlds. Social and racial justice interventions in education—like those presented in this collection—proactively respond to horrific racial tragedies and ongoing colonization of minoritized populations that can be ignored in mainstream schooling and education. We educators are living with the distress and helplessness systemic racism causes, compounded by other dangers of global threats to humanity like colonization and climate change.
The contributors to this handbook illustrate different ways of enacting social and racial justice. Notably, we (a) frame and appraise the status of social justice literature; (b) feature interventions and explorations in leadership settings and domains; (c) address interventions and explorations but within preK–12 contexts; (d) examine interventions and explorations in higher education settings; and (e) comparatively grapple with social justice in various educational situations. When social justice advocates enact applications that are research- and evidence-based as well as anecdotally supported, we present ourselves as part of the change that looks to a socially just, healed, and transformed world.
How was this work received by your peers, colleagues, and the University?
The handbook, an intensive two-year project, is now published on SpringerLink. Some of the chapters have already been read and cited (as shown in ResearchGate) in publications and dissertations. And there are instances of authors’ chapters being highlighted as newsworthy in their university’s media platforms.
In one case, Virginia Tech, my home university, has been publicizing this handbook in the context of its diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, with announcements appearing via websites and social media platforms.
In another case, a chapter’s contributors were interviewed by their university—the emerging academic and faculty mentor (co-authors) shared with me that they were feeling more hopeful. Their new Springer publication on anti-racism strategies for combating systemic racism in higher education institutions was gaining traction within their predominantly white institution and during the COVID-19 global crisis.
Furthermore, the buzz surrounding the collection concerns its timeliness in advancing the conversation about social and racial justice advocacy and educational innovation in this contemporary moment of civil unrest and revolutionary resistance. Between supporting movements like Black Lives Matter and Indigenous rights and trying to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the effects of the pandemic, many authors, feeling exhausted, struggled to complete their chapters. We were and remain personally affected by the horrific racial tragedies and brutal murders of innocent people of color. Yet those who delivered on their promise of writing the chapter often conveyed that they had persisted because of the importance of this project in drawing attention to, and raising awareness about, social justice intervention as a concept and practice in contemporary education.
What is next for you in your chosen field?
I continue to wrestle with social and racial justice in my writing and research in educational leadership, policy, and practice. I am keen to continue unraveling possibilities for advancing intervention in international education as a transdisciplinary phenomenon that spans the social sciences and humanities. Just as I personally (co)-authored numerous peer-reviewed chapters in this handbook that arose out of interventionist studies (ranging from pedagogies for decolonizing education to preserving Black education legacy), I plan to continue cultivating the advocacy work of scholar–practitioners, worldwide. Like in decades past, I am dedicated to including dissertation and other emergent research on education and policy in the scholarly discourse by shaping it for dissemination.
Looking ahead, widespread inequalities in the publishing world regarding whose works get published and cited need addressing. In this collection, I ensured broad representation of gender, race, ethnicity, and multiple identifications, extending to nationalities and career and academic statuses, not only attracting renowned and expert professors in their fields, but also doctoral students, teachers, administrators, and early career professionals from Australia, Canada, Greece, Israel, Italy, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States. I would like to see new indices in publishing emerge in educational research that encompass diversities relative to the authors being published and cited. By systemically working towards remedying structural inequalities, value would be placed on the salient contributions of people of color, females, LGBTQ+ populations, students, and other nonmainstream populations. These editorial values were reflected in the new handbook as is evident by the contributors, locations, and identifications, and will continue to be.
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