Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Postcard 3/29

Ben Hart's picture

This week, my postcard is about intentions. Growing up, I grew to somewhat resent the statement "at least you tried your best."  I certainly think trying your best is necessary but this statement passes off the responsibility of the person taking the action. "At least you tried your best" sounds like "well, you tried your best, and even though you were off the mark, you don't have any responsibility for being off the mark." Instead, trying your best should be mandatory and then from there we can learn what we can do differently or better. Sometimes, failure comes even when we've done our best.

Connecting this to Between the World and Me, Coates offers that "it does not matter that the 'intentions' of individual educators were noble. Forget about intentions," (33). The point Coates is trying to make is that we have to look at the systemic oppression rather than giving the educational system a pass because of its intentions. He says later, "Mistakes were made. Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best. 'Good intention' is a hall pass through history," (33). Intentions, as Coates says bluntly, are an insidious pass that we give ourselves.

Moving forward in this class, I would like to explore more closely the systemic disempowerment of our schools as opposed to the intentions of individual educators. The intentions of a single educator do not change the educational system we have. I think this is an interesting point though, since we can learn what is best from great educators and personal experience. Similarly, this class is titled "Empowering Learners" as opposed to "Empowering Education." I'm looking forward to exploring this further as I continue this semester and my reading of Between the World and Me.


alesnick's picture

This point is so important, that "the intentions of a single educator do not change the educational system we have."  Also, it is true that intentions are often weak and even confuse the issue when it comes to impact.  On the other hand, I also recognize a place for intention, in individuals at least, when it comes to aspiring to see a commitment through.  Once a friend who I mistakenly imposed on forgave me, saying that they recognized that my intentions were good and accepted that.  It was a blessing.  But I think the difference is that this was interpersonal, not institutional.