“When I heard about the special issue call for proposals, I talked to Professor Martel and said, ‘we have to do this,’” Ortaçtepe shares. Language education scholars have long been interested in social justice issues, but although there is no language education journal that specializes in social justice, there have been other special issues that dealt with race, gender, and LGBTQ issues.
“We wanted to put together a special issue that would be broader in scope and reflect the wide array of social, economic, and cultural issues and the related power relations,” Ortaçtepe adds. “But more importantly, we wanted to provide a platform for the stories of teachers fighting injustices, the voices of marginalized students, and glimpses of social justice education from language classrooms.”
Program Chair Martel adds that students in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Teaching Foreign Language (TFL) degree programs have multiple opportunities to immerse themselves in social justice issues. “They take a core course on sociolinguistics, in which they learn about the relationship between language and power, and can choose to take electives such as Language Teaching for Social Justice and Language for Peacebuilding, to give just a few examples. Furthermore, this year’s Symposium on World Languages Education, which was entirely student-run, was themed “Language Teaching in 2020: Tackling Racial Inequity.””
Putting together this special issue of the TESOL Journal was therefore a natural extension of the programs’ focus on social justice, Martel adds. “Thanks to the project, Professor Ortaçtepe and I were able to expand our connections with scholars in the field, enrich the courses we teach with new knowledge, and above all hopefully make a difference in the lives of the many who continue to remain marginalized in our societies.”
“We began this work in 2019,” says Ortaçtepe, ”before COVID-19 hit, before online education took hold, and before the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality was rekindled. The special issue couldn’t have come out at a better time.
Among authors in this issue are two Middlebury Institute graduates, Brandy Barter-Storm MATESOL ’12 and Tamara Wik MATESOL ’11, who wrote about “Using social justice graphic novels in the ELL classroom.”