Is an educational philosophy that views schools as tools to solve social problems. Social reconstructionists reason that, because all leaders are the product of schools, schools should provide a curriculum that fosters their development. Reconstructionists not only aim to educate a generation of problem solvers, but also try to identify and correct many noteworthy social problems that face our nation, with diverse targets including racism, pollution, homelessness, poverty, and violence. Rather than a philosophy of education, reconstructionism may be referred to as more of a remedy for a society that seeks to build a more objective social order.
Outraged at the inequity in educational opportunities between the rich and the poor, George Counts wrote Dare the School Build a New Social Order? in 1932. He called on teachers to educate students to prepare them for the social changes that would accompany heightened participation in science, technology, and other fields of learning, without compromising their cultural education. This text was important in the development of social reconstructionist schools in the United States. For social reconstructionists, the class becomes an area where societal improvement is an active and measurable goal.
The reconstructionist classroom contains a teacher who involves the students in discussions of moral dilemmas to understand the implications of one’s actions. Students individually select their objectives and social priorities and then, with guidance from the teacher, create a plan of action to make the change happen.
For example, a class may read an article on texting while driving and watch a documentary on the need for awareness in school systems. Also, a police officer or a loved one of someone who has been affected by texting while driving may speak to the class and describe dangerous and fatal events that have resulted from choosing to text while driving. If the article, the movie, and the speaker inspire them, the students may take on a long-term awareness project.
One group may choose to analyze the regional news coverage on texting while driving, while another may choose to conduct a survey, analyzing student viewpoints on the subject. Either or both groups may schedule meetings with political leaders and create programs or legislation. Alternatively, they might create a web page and present it to the media. All the while, the teacher advises on research techniques, writing skills, and public communication methods, building core skills that will be applicable across a broad range of topics.
An excellent example of social reconstructionism is the 2007 movie Freedom Writers. In the movie the teacher was determined to get the students interested by requiring them to write. Students were allowed to write about anything they wanted and were free to express themselves in their journals however they pleased. The journal writing not only taught basic writing skills; in some individual instances, it helped to bring students out of a life of crime.