This week I received two doses of idealism, which made me realize I’d sunk into something like pessimism of late. As a result I’m more optimistic about the future, despite everything.
The first jolt came from a tv interviewer, who was asking me to imagine the world of teaching and learning twenty years from now. Boston came up in this discussion, accidentally, as we first spoke by cell phones as I drove to and from that city, and then when the tv channel’s film crew traveled to my house along the exact same route.
After I laid out a grim vision of the powerful forces keeping education from changing (you know the drill: economics, professional development, public and private bureaucracies, etc), the interviewer gently, very gently asked me to be idealistic. Don’t be handicapped by what you think is most likely to occur, she said (and I paraphrase), but say more about what could happen if we make the right decisions.
That floored me, and makes me want to apologize to you, dear readers. I have been emphasizing the glass half empty, like campuses closing and performing the queen sacrifice. I’ve been spending too much time with macroeconomics, getting bogged down in the grim news about America’s employment and income data. I’ve had to do this, because these things are real, and we need to think them through. But following these inquiries in depth, I lost sight of human capacity and agency.
The second jolt came from Regis College, where I led a one-day digital storytelling workshop. After struggling through Boston’s hellish traffic and roads I staggered onto campus, to be met by… a group of passionate, thoughtful, and creative faculty and staff. They were ready to start the new academic year, and were raring to dive in. Storytelling and its digital manifestations lit their imaginations. I left the day inspired and invigorated. (That’s a fine stone tower on the Regis campus above) I even navigated my way north from the Boston zone in happiness. Yes, happiness in Boston at rush hour, that’s how far the day totally turned around my mind.
Analyzing education at the macro level in 2013-14 has infected me with gloom. That’s not an irrational gloom, since we are in an enormously stressful time. Surely I don’t have to enumerate reasons here. My Russian ancestry doesn’t exactly predispose me to being chipper, either. But of late I’ve failed to pay enough attention to the positive developments. And I haven’t been open enough to the ways we can shove history around and make things better.
I’ll try to remember this. I’ll hew more to hippies like Jim Groom and Alan Levine, folks getting the good work done. The rest of you: let me know if I fall off the beam.
And how can there be so much optimism coming from Boston? As a native New Yorker I’m a bit appalled, so I’ll conclude on a fiercely musical note.