Should schools teach social justice?

Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Sunday 29 October, Church House, London


Many teachers think gaining academic knowledge on its own is not enough for young people to avoid inequality, discrimination and marginalisation today. Instead, schools need to go beyond narrow academic goals and teach our children how to combat racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, poverty and promote environmentalism. Others think academic knowledge is valuable for its own sake and should be defended, and worry it is being consistently diluted to make room for social-justice concerns.

But hasn’t the education system always been political? Some argue that social justice is a natural extension of a liberal, democratic education, and that it is essential for becoming a well-rounded adult. Furthermore, ‘British values’, in one way or another, have always informed school curricula. Are concerns about social justice more of the same, or is this a unique problem of too many teachers bringing their personal political agendas into the classroom?

Is social justice morphing into advocacy education and undermining impartiality? Should we accept social justice in schools as a natural reflection of discussions in wider society, or is it time to insist on a clear distinction between the political and educational domains? Is there a place for social justice in the classroom?

Dr Debbie Hayton
teacher; trade unionist; columnist, Spectator and UnHerd; author, Transsexual Apostate: my journey back to reality

Eric Kaufmann
professor of politics, University of Buckingham, author, Taboo: how making race sacred produced a cultural revolution

Michael Merrick
director of schools, Diocese of Lancaster; former teacher; education and social commentator

Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert
director, Don’t Divide Us; author, What Should Schools Teach? Disciplines, subjects and the pursuit of truth


Kevin Rooney
history and politics teacher; editor,; convenor, AoI Education Forum; co-author, The Blood Stained Poppy