Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Internships and Social Justice

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Internships and Social Justice

Article excerpt


The term "social justice" is popular among social advocates around the world. Purportedly, this term was first used in 1840 by the Sicilian Jesuit Priest, Luigi Taparelli d'Azeglio (A World Connected, 2005). Born in 1793, Taparelli was a "widely known Catholic polemicist in the heated mid-nineteenth century era of social revolution in Europe..." (Behr, 2005). The future Pope Leo XIII was among his students when Taparelli taught at the Collegio Romano in the 1820s.

Taparelli created a theory of society that would become important in future Catholic social thought. In his major work, Theoretical Treatise on Natural Right, he argued that the greater society was made up of smaller societies and that they were all indispensable for the pursuit of the good. In this context, when the inferior society (smaller group) was weakened it weakened everyone. That interdependence lent content to questions of social justice. Taparelli theorized about a society where social support was a right (Behr 2005).

Taparelli's idealized society looked harmonic and entertained issues of social justice. Nevertheless, his description of society's universal laws emphasized society's natural hierarchical nature. In contrast, centuries later, those who used the term social justice emphasized social equality not hierarchy.

A sense of equality, a commitment to the less well-off, fair distribution, and an idea of a better world are all part of most twenty first century definitions of social justice. For example, for Medea Benjamin, cofounder of Global Exchange and Code Pink, "Social justice means moving towards a society where all hungry are fed, all sick are cared for, the environment is treasured, and we treat each other with love and compassion" (Kikuchi, 2005). For Paul Jones, executive director of the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, social justice simply means "complete and genuine equality of all people" (Kikuchi, 2005). And Kirsten Moller, executive director and co-founder of Global Exchange, includes "no kids going to bed hungry" and "no one without shelter or health-care" in her definition of social justice (Kikuchi, 2005).

International Conventions and Rules signed and/or accepted by the South African government provide one of the most succinct working definitions. Social justice is the "ideal condition in which all members of a society have the same basic rights, security, opportunities, and obligations and social benefits." (White Papers, 2005).

Clearly, the ideals of social justice have been embraced by many people and groups. In the American Counseling Association, social justice counseling has been referred to as a "fifth force." Some faculty try to integrate social justice into their teaching. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how college student internships can be used to provide exposure to social justice ideals.

First, there will be a description of the general value of internships and the pedagogical goals internships are purported to achieve. As we will see, the two most popular reasons for providing internships are to enhance student knowledge and skills, and to create experiences of civic education. Clearly, these are valuable goals but they do not necessarily engage students with social justice issues. I will demonstrate how it is necessary for faculty to make a special effort in the design of their internships, if they want social justice to be a prominent part of their course agenda.

Unfortunately, there is an underlying irony in this academic exercise. While internships may be used as a vehicle to raise social justice issues, unpaid internships themselves work contrary to social justice ends.

Eighty percent of college graduates have had an internship and roughly half of all internships available to them are unpaid (Lee, 2004). Available evidence suggests that the best and most competitive internships are unpaid. To begin with, "unpaid internships are concentrated in the most competitive fields, like politics, television, and film" (Lee, 2004). …

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