Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Susan Katz

Second Advisor

Ursula Aldana

Third Advisor

Rosa Jimenez


Affluent youth often experience intense pressure to succeed academically, while conforming to narrow definitions of success that only serve to replicate the power and privilege of their own communities. Therefore, students schooled in affluent settings need to understand and problematize the roots and impact of their power and privilege, a process requiring awareness of and empathy with the experiences of others less fortunate. Social justice education is uniquely equipped to help students do exactly that. Using a qualitative design, this case study of a social justice education program in an affluent public high school explored how teachers committed to this program enact anti-oppressive practices. Data collection included individual/focus group interviews with the six program teachers alongside document analysis of student work and individual interviews with administrators. Four major themes emerged. First, close teacher-student relationships lie at the core of the social justice program; otherwise, the program could not engage students in a transformative and democratic experience. Second, social justice education must prepare students in an affluent school to challenge their position of privilege. Third, teachers use critical pedagogy as a learning guide, enabling and encouraging student-student interaction, engagement, collaboration, and responsibility. Fourth, to ensure program sustainability, more professional development is needed to support learning how to teach for social justice. Overall, the very existence of the program shows how the teachers at the school counteract oppression through offering a challenge to the traditional approach to schooling. The students in the social justice program have become empowered to move beyond their culture of achievement to learn how to act and become agents of change.