When critical thinking abilities are promoted hand in glove with empathy, students gain an awareness of injustice and an understanding of power dynamics. They may become more conscious of the ways they have experienced injustice at the hands of adults, and more observant of injustice towards others.
Such awareness equips students to identify and interrupt injustice through self-assertion, a critical skill necessary to function in the world as an empowered being. It can lead to a personal stance as an ally: someone who strives to use their power to defend others’ rights. Students’ awareness combined with skill-building enables them to advocate not only for themselves, but also for others who experience injustice.
Some of these skills involve identifying and articulating one’s feelings, needs and concerns, forming constructive arguments, imagining options and problem-solving.
Taken together, these skills build logically toward the need for planning and self-organization. As we explore difficult issues, raising young people’s awareness of injustice and the importance of equity and inclusion—in our schools, our communities and in the world—we need to instil a sense of hopefulness and optimism rather than despair. We can do so in part by equipping young people with tools enabling them to work for change through the development of an action plan.