Crafting Justice through Ethical Experiential Education

(Guest Post by Abhayraj Naik)

Justice, experiential education, and an ethical vision and practice of social justice (for educators, learners, governments, universities, NGOs, research institutions, and ethical corporations in India and everywhere else) remain on top of my mind (and on top of my to-do list!) for 2018.

I recently had an opportunity to participate in two multi-country panels – “Crafting Justice through Clinical Legal Education” and “Teaching legal ethics to break down walls: how teaching legal ethics can empower students and lawyers to strengthen and improve the legal systems in which we work” at the Global Alliance for Justice Education (GAJE) 9th Worldwide Conference in Mexico last month. I look forward to your support in developing and deploying insights from these events in multiple contexts soon! 

The GAJE ‘Crafting Justice’ panel in Mexico in December 2017 built on an earlier event ‘Crafting Justice’ that my team and I had coordinated and organised for Azim Premji University in Bangalore, India in April 2017. The Crafting Justice events in Bangalore, India (public exhibition, by-invitation conclave for educators and practitioners, and a public conference with students, educators and practitioners as co-panelists) were motivated by at least five intuitive propositions as listed below. Over the course of the two-day events and subsequent reflections, each of these (related) intuitions were confirmed and re-affirmed by the stories, views and opinions shared by the participants. More recently, in Mexico, these points once again found strong agreement and affirmation from a global community of educators and justice practitioners.

The original motivating intuitions for Crafting Justice emphasized:

  1   URGENCY IN THINKING, TALKING AND ACTING TOGETHER ON JUSTICE EDUCATION 

There is an urgent need for educators, practitioners, learners, and all persons interested in justice and education to come together again and again to re-examine fundamental premises about education, ethics, learning, social roles, and the limits of (im)possibility in light of the current state of justice worldwide and the historical meta-narrative of the 20th and 21st century. The point, bluntly put, is that – despite isolated and sometimes emphatically popular success stories, the overall battle/effort against injustice is not doing too well – what with totalitarianism sweeping to democratic power everywhere, ecological and refugee crisis, surveillance and security states, caste and racial and religious and gender violence, financial crisis and deepening poverty, and so on. One has the intuition that something somewhere definitely needs to change transformatively and immediately for the overall upliftment of lives instead of a sedate business as usual approach that ignores suffering. This raises key questions of introspection for all educators everywhere that need to be tackled head-on and resolved in a way that allows us all to live sensibly in a world gone mad. 

  1. INTERDISCIPLINARITY, TRANSDISCIPLINARITY AND POSTDISCIPLINARITY 

Solitary disciplines of knowledge are (and have proved to be) inadequate to respond effectively to the complexity and enormity of the challenges faced. New bodies of knowledge that are interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and postdisciplinary will be required to be adequate to the tasks for education and justice going ahead. 

  1. A NEW PARADIGM FOR THE UNIVERSITY 

Standard conceptualizations and articulations of the university are inadequate to respond effectively to the needs and challenges of the way ahead. These hegemonic constructs, and their real world realisations, must be challenged, exposed, and replaced by a new paradigmatic vision for the justice-university of the future (and the unfolding present). 

  1. AN EMERGENT APPROACH THAT IS EXPERIMENTAL, INTENTIONAL, DELIBERATIVE, AND HUMBLE

Amongst all the uncertainties, the one certainty that is unassailable based on what history has shown us, is that there is no one correct answer, no panacea for all ills, no one-size-fits-all solution. As the title Crafting Justice suggests, the best approach and the best solution for any context will only emerge from a process that is itself experimental, intentional, deliberative, and humble in its approach. 

  1. VIOLENCE, SUFFERING AND INDIFFERENCE AS THE MAIN FOCUS

It is impossible to have meaningful (justice) education if one loses sight of or underestimates the significance of violence, suffering and indifference in the world and in our immediate midst. A new manifesto for experiential education must place these concerns/phenomena at the centre of all discussions.  

Video recordings of most of the discussions in Bangalore (in English) are available at the Crafting Justice website. More detailed documentation for the GAJE panels in Mexico should be soon available on the GAJE website.

– Abhayraj Naik (abhayraj@aya.yale.edu) is a consultant and researcher based in Bangalore

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