Skip to main content


Dawn Stracener,
Core: Humanities



Western culture has a long history of what constitutes justice and the role of a power hierarchy in society. Plato believed that if ruler intellectually understood good, he would be good and work for the benefit of society. Aristotle, on the other hand, felt that a ruler would become good only if he engaged in the practice of just and virtuous actions. Classical republicanism stressed that the primary purpose of government was to promote the common good of the whole society and that civic virtue was a necessary characteristic of citizens. Yet with the Enlightenment, came a paradigm shift from the idea of ruler to the concept of leader and embedded in these new ideas was the notion of social justice.

With the advent of the American and French Revolutions, the ‘new leaders’, philosophers, and innovative thinkers, both men and women, began to examine what constitutes social justice in a democratic society. Students in this seminar will investigate how the legacy of ‘other’ constructed strict class divisions that helped maintain the status quo, shaped gendered rules of conduct, and constructed racially prejudiced views to maintain westernized power structures. Our present world is a reflection of this legacy we will explore literature that speaks with our Western voice and the voices of marginalized populations to recognize how social justice was shaped by an understanding of the essential components of democratic civic responsibility. Students will develop an intellectual understanding of critical social justice theory past and present in order to develop their own theory on what constitutes social justice in society. 


 “Is everyone really equal?”: An introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, Ozlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo

Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift

The French Revolution and Human Rights, Lynn Hunt

The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition, Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx

Peoples Movements, People’s Press: The Journalism of Social Justice Movements, Bob Ostertag

A Cup of Water Under my Bed, Daisy Hernandez

The Seneca Falls Declaration

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948

Intersectionality 101, Olena Hankivsky


All students are expected to voluntarily and regularly contribute to class discussions.  Effective participation is dependent on you keeping up with all the reading assignments.  Various short in-class assignments will be given often, i.e. free writes, role play, debates.  These assignments are designed to generate class discussions and/or give you a place to start when analyzing texts or doing written assignments.  In addition to participation and assigned readings students will also be given the following assignments for assessment: one group presentation which will include an individual 2 page paper; two analytical essays on the assigned readings; attend 2 Legacy Lectures (students must turn in a 1 page summary paper for each lecture) and a final synthesis paper.


Dawn Stracener has a Ph.D. in Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies with a focus on how issues of gender, race, and class define social environments, create identities, and construct communities.  Her MA is in Modern European history with an emphasis on how cultural and gender issues have shaped modern day Western societies. Dawn has spent 18 years developing learning environments to address issues of social injustice in our communities.