Example #72 Geography and Justice

What if learning about map projections were about fairness?

Greg wanted his students to see that mapmaking can involve questions of fairness. He wanted to make them aware that other cultures see the world differently, and justice could require that we recognise that in the ways we depict the world.

"I changed the way I introduced the session, starting with a series of questions using a Mercator projection. Example questions include:

  • Which country/continent is central on this map? (Europe)
  • Which is the largest on this map, Greenland or China? (Greenland)
  • Which is the largest on this map, Alaska or Mexico? (Alaska)
  • Which is the largest on this map, Europe or South America? (Europe)
  • Which countries are ‘on top’? (Northern countries)

"I showed other projections (Peters projection, reverse maps with south at the top and medieval maps with east at the top). I asked the same range of questions. Students compared the two sets of answers. We learned about the different projections then I gave the students a set of questions for discussion:

  • What messages are sent by the Mercator projection?
  • How would you feel if your country was always at the edge, underneath or drawn smaller than it actually is?
  • Does it matter how someone represents your country?

"I changed the class display and added a reverse map, an early map and maps that showed different perspectives on the world."

What’s going on here?

Greg saw his work on maps as an opportunity to explore virtues in geography. He did this not only in the interests of accuracy but also out of a desire for justice and out of concern for others.

He engaged students in asking critical questions about familiar maps and moving from questions of detail to questions involving empathy (concern for others' perspectives) and justice.

He reshaped his practice by rethinking the questions he used, naming fairness as a focus, setting up a contrast that would provoke reflection, and checking the use of the display.

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

Justice and fairness are an integral outworking of faith and apply to everyday things such as maps. The Bible applies God’s justice to areas as diverse as weights and measures and boundary markers. Christians are called to reflect God who is loving and just in their own lifestyles. Seeking justice now is grounded in hope for the future, and acts as a signpost to God’s Kingdom when all will be love and peace, justice and joy.

What difference does it make?

Greg’s way of teaching this lesson raised the awareness of students to the implicit bias in many maps and helped them to see the practical relevance of thinking in terms of justice. Having once done this, students might find it easier to recognise this happening in other contexts.

Where could we go from here?

Teachers could look at places where an assumption of superiority is made in other subjects, for example, the assumption that modern is superior to old in design; the assumption that now is superior to the past in history.

Digging deeper

The West often sees itself as superior to other cultures and this attitude is expressed in a range of ways, including maps. It takes humility (Ephesians 4:1-2) to look at the world through other people’s eyes and see things differently.

Values in the Bible are not abstract; they are embedded in character and lived in the world, in everyday life, and that includes how we draw maps. For Christians, values are ultimately drawn from the character of God (1 Peter 1:16; 1 John 4:7) and revealed in the character of Jesus (1 John 2:6). We act from our character – our character determines our actions and our actions show our character and values.

Only God is good, which means this: in him and him alone all values have their first source and final completion … Only in him do values and their authenticity and definitive confirmation. Without him — without the reference to God — the whole world of created values remains as it were suspended in an absolute vacuum.
Pope John Paul II APOSTOLIC LETTER DILECTI AMIC

Biblical spirituality is very earthed; God is often experienced through the things of this world and our senses. The Bible affirms the world as God-made (Genesis 1:1) while recognising its imperfect nature. Christian faith affirms the world and its people as the arena through which God works and where he interacts with people (Esther 4:14). As a result, geography (along with any subject) can be spiritual and character-forming.

Explore similar examples:

What if history were about different types of riches and poverty? (Primary)
What if teaching percentages made students aware of injustice?
What if you planned a history unit around justice, mercy and humility?

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1As a prisoner of the Lord, I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. 2Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. 3Try your best to let God's Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. 4All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God's people. 5We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. 6There is one God who is the Father of all people. Not only is God above all others, but he works by using all of us, and he lives in all of us. 7Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us. 8As the Scriptures say, When he went up to the highest place, he led away many prisoners and gave gifts to people. 9When it says, he went up, it means that Christ had been deep in the earth. 10This also means that the one who went deep into the earth is the same one who went into the highest heaven, so that he would fill the whole universe. 11Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, 12so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. 13This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. 14We must stop acting like children. We must not let deceitful people trick us by their false teachings, which are like winds that toss us around from place to place. 15Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head 16of the body. Christ holds it together and makes all its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love. The old life and the new life 17As a follower of the Lord, I order you to stop living like stupid, godless people. 18Their minds are in the dark, and they are stubborn and ignorant and have missed out on the life that comes from God. They no longer have any feelings about what is right, 19and they are so greedy that they do all kinds of indecent things. 20But that isn't what you were taught about Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and you heard about him and learnt about him. 22You were told that your foolish desires will destroy you and that you must give up your old way of life with all its bad habits. 23Let the Spirit change your way of thinking 24and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy. Rules for the new life 25We are part of the same body. Stop lying and start telling each other the truth. 26Don't get so angry that you sin. Don't go to bed angry 27and don't give the devil a chance. 28If you are a thief, stop stealing. Be honest and work hard, so you will have something to give to people in need. 29Stop all your dirty talk. Say the right thing at the right time and help others by what you say. 30Don't make God's Spirit sad. The Spirit makes you sure that some day you will be free from your sins. 31Stop being bitter and angry with others. Don't yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. 32Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.
1From Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. To God's people who are scattered like foreigners in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2God the Father decided to choose you as his people, and his Spirit has made you holy. You have obeyed Jesus Christ and are sprinkled with his blood. I pray that God will be kind to you and will keep on giving you peace! 3Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, he has given us new life and a hope that lives on. 4God has something stored up for you in heaven, where it will never decay or be ruined or disappear. 5You have faith in God, whose power will protect you until the last day. Then he will save you, just as he has always planned to do. 6On that day you will be glad, even if you have to go through many hard trials for a while. 7Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed. They will show that you will be given praise and honour and glory when Jesus Christ returns. 8You have never seen Jesus, and you don't see him now. But still you love him and have faith in him, and no words can tell how glad and happy 9you are to be saved. That's why you have faith. 10Some prophets told how kind God would be to you, and they searched hard to find out more about the way you would be saved. 11The Spirit of Christ was in them and was telling them how Christ would suffer and would then be given great honour. So they searched to find out exactly who Christ would be and when this would happen. 12But they were told that they were serving you and not themselves. They preached to you by the power of the Holy Spirit, who was sent from heaven. And their message was only for you, even though angels would like to know more about it. 13Be alert and think straight. Put all your hope in how kind God will be to you when Jesus Christ appears. 14Behave like obedient children. Don't let your lives be controlled by your desires, as they used to be. 15Always live as God's holy people should, because God is the one who chose you, and he is holy. 16That's why the Scriptures say, I am the holy God, and you must be holy too. 17You say that God is your Father, but God doesn't have favourites! He judges all people by what they do. So you must honour God while you live as strangers here on earth. 18You were rescued from the useless way of life that you learnt from your ancestors. But you know that you were not rescued by such things as silver or gold that don't last for ever. 19You were rescued by the precious blood of Christ, that spotless and innocent lamb. 20Christ was chosen even before the world was created, but because of you, he did not come until these last days. 21And when he did come, it was to lead you to have faith in God, who raised him from death and honoured him in a glorious way. That's why you have put your faith and hope in God. 22You obeyed the truth, and your souls were made pure. Now you sincerely love each other. But you must keep on loving with all your heart. 23Do this because God has given you new birth by his message that lives on for ever. 24The Scriptures say, Humans wither like grass, and their glory fades like wild flowers. Grass dries up, and flowers fall to the ground. 25But what the Lord has said will stand for ever. Our good news to you is what the Lord has said. A living stone and a holy nation
1Dear friends, don't believe everyone who claims to have the Spirit of God. Test them all to find out if they really do come from God. Many false prophets have already gone out into the world, 2and you can know which ones come from God. His Spirit says that Jesus Christ had a truly human body. 3But when someone doesn't say this about Jesus, you know that person has a spirit that doesn't come from God and is the enemy of Christ. You knew that this enemy was coming into the world and now is already here. 4Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God's Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world. 5These enemies belong to this world, and the world listens to them, because they speak its language. 6We belong to God, and everyone who knows God will listen to us. But the people who don't know God won't listen to us. That is how we can tell the Spirit that speaks the truth from the one that tells lies. 7My dear friends, we must love each other. Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows that we have been given new life. We are now God's children, and we know him. 8God is love, and anyone who doesn't love others has never known him. 9God showed his love for us when he sent his only Son into the world to give us life. 10Real love isn't our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven. 11Dear friends, since God loved us this much, we must love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is truly in our hearts. 13God has given us his Spirit. That is how we know that we are one with him, just as he is one with us. 14God sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. We saw his Son and are now telling others about him. 15God stays united with everyone who openly says that Jesus is the Son of God. That's how we stay united with God 16and are sure that God loves us. God is love. If we keep on loving others, we will stay united in our hearts with God, and he will stay united with us. 17If we truly love others and live as Christ did in this world, we won't be worried about the day of judgment. 18A real love for others will chase those worries away. The thought of being punished is what makes us afraid. It shows that we have not really learnt to love. 19We love because God loved us first. 20But if we say we love God and don't love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don't love the people we can see? 21The commandment that God has given us is: Love God and love each other!
1My children, I am writing this so that you won't sin. But if you do sin, Jesus Christ always does the right thing, and he will speak to the Father for us. 2Christ is the sacrifice that takes away our sins and the sins of all the world's people. 3When we obey God, we are sure that we know him. 4But if we claim to know him and don't obey him, we are lying and the truth isn't in our hearts. 5We truly love God only when we obey him as we should, and then we know that we belong to him. 6If we say we are his, we must follow the example of Christ. 7My dear friends, I am not writing to give you a new commandment. It is the same one that you were first given, and it is the message you heard. 8But it really is a new commandment, and you know its true meaning, just as Christ does. You can see the darkness fading away and the true light already shining. 9If we claim to be in the light and hate someone, we are still in the dark. 10But if we love others, we are in the light, and we don't cause problems for them. 11If we hate others, we are living and walking in the dark. We don't know where we are going, because we can't see in the dark. 12Children, I am writing to you, because your sins have been forgiven in the name of Christ. 13Parents, I am writing to you, because you have known the one who was there from the beginning. Young people, I am writing to you, because you have defeated the evil one. 14Children, I am writing to you, because you have known the Father. Parents, I am writing to you, because you have known the one who was there from the beginning. Young people, I am writing to you, because you are strong. God's message is firm in your hearts, and you have defeated the evil one. 15Don't love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father. 16Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father. 17The world and the desires it causes are disappearing. But if we obey God, we will live for ever. The enemy of Christ 18Children, this is the last hour. You heard that the enemy of Christ would appear at this time, and many of Christ's enemies have already appeared. So we know that the last hour is here. 19These people came from our own group, yet they were not part of us. If they had been part of us, they would have stayed with us. But they left, which proves that they did not belong to our group. 20Christ, the Holy One, has blessed you, and now all of you understand. 21I did not need to write to you about the truth, since you already know it. You also know that liars do not belong to the truth. 22And a liar is anyone who says that Jesus isn't truly Christ. Anyone who says this is an enemy of Christ and rejects both the Father and the Son. 23If we reject the Son, we reject the Father. But if we say that we accept the Son, we have the Father. 24Keep thinking about the message you first heard, and you will always be one in your heart with the Son and with the Father. 25The Son has promised us eternal life. 26I am writing to warn you about those people who are misleading you. 27But Christ has blessed you with the Holy Spirit. Now the Spirit stays in you, and you don't need any teachers. The Spirit is truthful and teaches you everything. So stay united in your heart with Christ, just as the Spirit has taught you to do. Children of God 28Children, stay united in your hearts with Christ. Then when he returns, we will have confidence and won't have to hide in shame. 29You know that Christ always does right and that everyone who does right is a child of God.
1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was barren, with no form of life; it was under a roaring ocean covered with darkness. But the Spirit of God was moving over the water. 3God said, I command light to shine! And light started shining. 4God looked at the light and saw that it was good. He separated light from darkness 5and named the light Day and the darkness Night. Evening came and then morningthat was the first day. 6God said, I command a dome to separate the water above it from the water below it. 7And that's what happened. God made the dome 8and named it Sky. Evening came and then morningthat was the second day. 9God said, I command the water under the sky to come together in one place, so there will be dry ground. And that's what happened. 10God named the dry ground Land, and he named the water Sea. God looked at what he had done and saw that it was good. 11God said, I command the earth to produce all kinds of plants, including fruit trees and grain. And that's what happened. 12The earth produced all kinds of vegetation. God looked at what he had done, and it was good. 13Evening came and then morningthat was the third day. 14God said, I command lights to appear in the sky and to separate day from night and to show the time for seasons, special days, and years. 15I command them to shine on the earth. And that's what happened. 16God made two powerful lights, the brighter one to rule the day and the other to rule the night. He also made the stars. 17Then God put these lights in the sky to shine on the earth, 18to rule day and night, and to separate light from darkness. God looked at what he had done, and it was good. 19Evening came and then morningthat was the fourth day. 20God said, I command the sea to be full of living creatures, and I command birds to fly above the earth. 21So God made the giant sea monsters and all the living creatures that swim in the sea. He also made every kind of bird. God looked at what he had done, and it was good. 22Then he gave the living creatures his blessinghe told the sea creatures to live everywhere in the sea and the birds to live everywhere on earth. 23Evening came and then morningthat was the fifth day. 24God said, I command the earth to give life to all kinds of tame animals, wild animals, and reptiles. And that's what happened. 25God made every one of them. Then he looked at what he had done, and it was good. 26God said, Now we will make humans, and they will be like us. We will let them rule the fish, the birds, and all other living creatures. 27So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women. 28God gave them his blessing and said: Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth. 29I have provided all kinds of fruit and grain for you to eat. 30And I have given the green plants as food for everything else that breathes. These will be food for animals, both wild and tame, and for birds. 31God looked at what he had done. All of it was very good! Evening came and then morningthat was the sixth day.
1When Mordecai heard about the letter, he tore his clothes in sorrow and put on sackcloth. Then he covered his head with ashes and went through the city, crying and weeping. 2But he could go only as far as the palace gate, because no one wearing sackcloth was allowed inside the palace. 3In every province where the king's orders were read, the Jews cried and mourned, and they went without eating. Many of them even put on sackcloth and sat in ashes. 4When Esther's servant girls and her other servants told her what Mordecai was doing, she became very upset and sent Mordecai some clothes to wear in place of the sackcloth. But he refused to take them. 5Esther had a servant named Hathach, who had been given to her by the king. So she called him in and said, Find out what's wrong with Mordecai and why he's acting this way. 6Hathach went to Mordecai in the city square in front of the palace gate, 7and Mordecai told him everything that had happened. He also told him how much money Haman had promised to add to the king's treasury, if all the Jews were killed. 8Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the orders for the murder of the Jews and told him that these had been read in Susa. He said, Show this to Esther and explain what it means. Ask her to go to the king and beg him to have pity on her people, the Jews! 9Hathach went back to Esther and told her what Mordecai had said. 10She answered, Tell Mordecai 11there is a law about going in to see the king, and all his officials and his people know about this law. Anyone who goes in to see the king without being invited by him will be put to death. The only way that anyone can be saved is for the king to hold out the gold sceptre to that person. And it's been thirty days since he has asked for me. 12When Mordecai was told what Esther had said, 13he sent back this reply, Don't think that you will escape being killed with the rest of the Jews, just because you live in the king's palace. 14If you don't speak up now, we will somehow get help, but you and your family will be killed. It could be that you were made queen for a time like this! 15Esther sent a message to Mordecai, saying, 16Bring together all the Jews in Susa and tell them to go without eating for my sake! Don't eat or drink for three days and nights. My servant girls and I will do the same. Then I will go in to see the king, even if it means I must die. 17Mordecai did everything Esther told him to do. Esther invites the king and Haman to a dinner