Rebecca Solnit and How Pockets of Hope Have Saved America

In my recent post on Medium, I decided to take a crack at the largesse we call “curriculum” and why textbooks have never been sufficient:

While I’ve appreciated the effort to collect resources (see#CharlottesvilleSyllabus from graduate students at the university), I’ve become wary of collecting resources for the sake of collection. Without a pedagogy that centers critical thinking, examination, inclusivity, and agency, history will repeat itself. (Xian Barrett does a great job laying out some of the tenets for good teaching here.) It’s not enough to just put a list and ask folks to just deliver in the era of Common Core State Standards and scripted lessons. It’s even more critical to insist on pedagogy, environment, and all of their manifestations. A curriculum is only as good as the accompanying approaches and the conscientiousness of the adults in charge of its intent.

At the end, I also posit that this textbook mess often leaves it up to the protestors, scholars, and other agents to clean up the mess as best they can. People who work under this umbrella know that the fruits of their labor will probably not be harvested in their lifetimes. America had a million chances to get this moment right, including but not exclusive to: 1776, 1863, 1937, 1945, 1964, 2001, 2009, and 2012. In those moments, however, “many sides” ideologies prevailed.

It’s no reason to give up hope, however. Rebecca Solnit, author and spiritual guru in times of chaos, wrote this piece in a recent re-up of her book Hope In The Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities:

It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative … Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.

And what other profession needs hope the way teaching does? Hope is the reason so many of us stay in the profession. What’s more, hope can’t – and shouldn’t be – a neutral act. It’s a flashlight we point in the direction we’d like to take ourselves and those around us collectively. Teaching is a political act. Ultimately, our teaching sets precedent for how future generations view the spaces they inhabit.

Critical thinking alone won’t save us. Give hope the keys.

photo c/o