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Optimism or Realism

Jenny Chen's picture

Throughout the last two weeks, I often think of the ideas of realism and optimism. It was Pim's reading "To Hell With Good Intentions" that I first began thinking of these ideas more coherently. Good intentions can be measured through optimism and realism. There is a certain amount that outside forces can contribute to a community before changing the underlying structure of the community. In the idealistic event that this should occur, the contribution can be measured in both optimism and realism. However, as Ivan Illich implies, there are no true good intentions. There can be optimistic intentions, usually those that cause tremendous change followed by tremendous downfall. On the other hand there are realistic intentions, and those are usually the things that could be done, but are not becuase the "tremendous changes" are happening. 

I connected these ideas to education and literacy. Another idea that comes and goes throughout our discussions is the idea of power. Generally the connection is that the greater the education, the greater the literacy, and thus the greater the power that individual holds. But at the same time, the opposite is true. It ends up being a circular trend that never ends. There are infinite problems in education depending on the socio-economic statues of the people living in a given area. Those people do not have the same opportunities as those in higher economic statuses and this reflects not only themselves but their children as well. Therefore, it is a vicious cycle where those in power stay in power and those who are not are always pushed farther down. 

Now you may ask where the ideas of reaslism and optimism tie in. How is the United States trying to remedy this educational problem is the first question. In order to try to create a more stable learning environment the No Student Left Behind program was started but instead of children being educated on a more even level, the result was the faster learning children excelled tremendously while those who do not learn as quickly are dragged through the education system. The program was "optimistic" but the measures taken were drastic and thus were the consequences. Realism would be for schools to be getting more funding rather than budget cuts. Realism would be to create standardized tests that actually tested knowlege and rather than ones ability to memorize and perform under a stopwatch. Realism is an education in an environment that promotes learning rather than one that stresses the need to follow a laundry list. Are more optimistic or realistic measures taken to fix the education system? 


alesnick's picture

action steps (even if small)?

You raise a lot of important, broad ideas here.  Which ones are most compelling to you right now?  Which suggest pathways to action you might try as a way of exploring them further?  My sense is that you are asking how important hope is, and how much to hope for.  Yes?