Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 283–292 | Cite as

Against the grain: science education researchers and social justice agendas

  • Monica L. RidgewayEmail author


This paper is written in response to Alberto J. Rodriguez and Deb Morrison’s article entitled, “Expanding and Enacting Transformative Meanings of Equity, Diversity and Social Justice in Science Education.” The authors provide a historical account of science education social justice research efforts within the USA and support the need to more critically incorporate social justice research agendas in science education. They summarize four main rationales used in science education research for engaging in equity, diversity and social justice: the economic, moral, demographic shift, and sociotransformative arguments. The authors remind researchers to consider systems of power and privilege when advocating for marginalized people, arguing that social justice should be embodied by the researcher and constantly be enacted within their work. The authors question why few have taken up social justice science education research. This paper expands on these authors’ arguments by offering a critical race analysis of the social justice construct in science education research. I conclude with suggesting the need to deconstruct whiteness within social justice science education research agendas.


Equity Social justice Critical research Education researcher Science education 



  1. Battey, D., & Leyva, L. A. (2016). A framework for understanding whiteness in mathematics education. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 9(2), 49–80.Google Scholar
  2. Brayboy, B. M. J. (2013). Tribal critical race theory: An origin story and future directions. In M. Lynn & A. D. Dixson (Eds.), Handbook of critical race theory in education (pp. 108–120). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bullock, E. (2017). Only STEM can save us? Examining race, place, and STEM education as property. Educational Studies, 53(6), 628–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Collins, P. H. (2002). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York, NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dumas, M. J. (2014). ‘Losing an arm’: Schooling as a site of black suffering. Race Ethnicity and Education, 17(1), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gholson, M., & Martin, D. B. (2014). Smart girls, Black girls, mean girls, and bullies: At the intersection of identities and the mediating role of young girls’ social network in mathematical communities of practice. Journal of Education, 194(1), 19–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gholson, M. L., & Wilkes, C. E. (2017). (Mis) taken identities: Reclaiming identities of the “Collective Black” in mathematics education research through an exercise in Black specificity. Review of Research in Education, 41(1), 228–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gutiérrez, R. (2013). The sociopolitical turn in mathematics education. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(1), 37–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gutiérrez, R. (2017). Political conocimiento for teaching mathematics: Why teachers need it and how to develop it. In S. E. Kastberg, A. M. Tyminski, A. E. Lischka, & W. B. Sanchez (Eds.), Building support for scholarly practices in mathematics methods (pp. 11–38). Charlotte, NC: IAP.Google Scholar
  10. Gutstein, E. R. (2016). “Our issues, our people—Math as our weapon”: Critical mathematics in a Chicago neighborhood high school. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 47(5), 454–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Johnston-Guerrero, M. P. (2016). Embracing the messiness: Critical and diverse perspectives on racial and ethnic identity development. New directions for student services, 154(2016), 43–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the achievement gap to the education debt: Understanding achievement in US schools. Educational Researcher, 35(7), 3–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Larnell, G. V., Bullock, E. C., & Jett, C. C. (2016). Rethinking teaching and learning mathematics for social justice from a critical race perspective. Journal of Education, 196(1), 19–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Le, P. T., & Matias, C. E. (2018). Towards a truer multicultural science education: How whiteness impacts science education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 14, 1–17.Google Scholar
  15. Leonard, J., & Martin, D. B. (Eds.). (2013). The brilliance of Black children in mathematics. Charlotte, NC: IAP.Google Scholar
  16. Martin, D. B. (2013). Race, racial projects, and mathematics education. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(1), 316–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Martin, D. B., & Gholson, M. (2012). On becoming and being a critical Black scholar in mathematics education. In O. Skovsm, O. Skovsmose, & B. Greer (Eds.), Opening the cage (pp. 203–222). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Maulucci, M. S. R. (2012). Social justice research in science education: Methodologies, positioning, and implications for future research. In B. Fraser, K. Tobin, & C. J. McRobbie (Eds.), Second international handbook of science education (pp. 583–594). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McGee, E. O. (2016). Devalued Black and Latino racial identities: A by-product of STEM college culture? American Educational Research Journal, 53(6), 1626–1662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McGee, E., & Bentley, L. (2017). The equity ethic: Black and Latinx college students reengineering their STEM careers toward justice. American Journal of Education, 124(1), 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mensah, F. M., & Jackson, I. (2018). Whiteness as property in science teacher education. Teachers College Record, 120(1), 1–38.Google Scholar
  22. Mutegi, J. W. (2011). The inadequacies of “science for all” and the necessity and nature of a socially transformative curriculum approach for African American science education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(3), 301–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nelson, S. L. (2016). Different script, same caste in the use of passive and active racism: A critical race theory analysis on the (ab) use of house rules in race-related education cases. Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, 22, 297.Google Scholar
  24. Nelson, S. L. (2017). Racial subjugation by another name: Using the links in the school-to-prison pipeline to reassess state takeover district performance. Georgetown Journal of Law & Modern Critical Race Perspectives, 9, 1.Google Scholar
  25. Nelson, S. L., & Grace, J. E. (2015). The right to remain silent in New Orleans: The role of non-politically accountable charter school boards in the school-to-prison pipeline. Nova Law Review, 40, 447.Google Scholar
  26. Patton, L. D., & Bondi, S. (2015). Nice white men or social justice allies?: Using critical race theory to examine how white male faculty and administrators engage in ally work. Race Ethnicity and Education, 18(4), 488–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Reynolds, R., & Mayweather, D. (2017). Recounting racism, resistance, and repression: Examining the experiences and# hashtag activism of college students with critical race theory and counternarratives. The Journal of Negro Education, 86(3), 283–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ridgeway, M. L., & McGee, E. O. (2018). Black mathematics educators: Researching toward racial emancipation of Black students. The Urban Review, 50(2), 301–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ridgeway, M. L., & Yerrick, R. K. (2016). Whose banner are we waving? Exploring STEM partnerships for marginalized urban youth. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 13(1), 59–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rodriguez, A. J. (1998). Guest editorial: What is (should be) the researcher’s role in terms of agency?: A question for the 21st century. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(9), 963–965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rodriguez, A. J. (2015). What about a dimension of engagement, equity, and diversity practices? A critique of the next generation science standards. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52(7), 1031–1051.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Smith, L. T. (2013). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. London: Zed Books Ltd.Google Scholar
  33. Tate, W. (2001). Science education as a civil right: Urban schools and opportunity-to-learn considerations. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(9), 1015–1028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Walls, L. (2016). Awakening a dialogue: A critical race theory analysis of US nature of science research from 1967 to 2013. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 53(10), 1546–1570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Walls, L. (2017). Equitable research: A bridge too far? Cultural Studies of Science Education, 12(2), 493–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Whelan, M., Ridgeway, M., & Yerrick, R. K. (2017). Pushing past clichés: Latina and Black women’s perceptions of the dietetics major and profession during career exploration. Journal of Latinos and Education, 17, 1–15.Google Scholar
  37. Woodson, C. G. (1933). The mis-education of the Negro. Trenton, NJ: First Africa World Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Teaching and Learning, Peabody College of EducationVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations