Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 397–414

Pedagogies of Hope

Authors

    • School of EducationUniversity of Sheffield
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11217-012-9336-1

Cite this article as:
Webb, D. Stud Philos Educ (2013) 32: 397. doi:10.1007/s11217-012-9336-1
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Abstract

Hoping is an integral part of what it is to be human, and its significance for education has been widely noted. Hope is, however, a contested category of human experience and getting to grips with its characteristics and dynamics is a difficult task. The paper argues that hope is not a singular undifferentiated experience and is best understood as a socially mediated human capacity with varying affective, cognitive and behavioural dimensions. Drawing on the philosophy, theology and psychology of hope, five modes of hoping are outlined: patient, critical, sound, resolute and transformative. The key aim of the paper is to illustrate how different modes of hoping are associated with different pedagogical strategies. Phrased differently, the paper seeks to delineate a range of pedagogies of hope. The phrase ‘pedagogy of hope’ is very much associated with critical theory—one thinks instantly of, for example, Paulo Freire, Henry Giroux or bell hooks. There are many pedagogies of hope, however, and an explicitly conservative text such as William Bennett’s Book of Virtues has as strong a claim to the title as Freire’s radical and utopian ideas. A broader argument, therefore, is that there is nothing inherently radical or subversive about a pedagogy of hope. Pedagogies of hope can serve to reproduce social relations as well as to transform them.

Keywords

Philosophy of hopePedagogyCritical pedagogyUtopiaSocial reproduction

Introduction

Hoping is an integral part of what it is to be human. It has been described as the cardinal theme of human existence, ‘the most human of all mental feelings’ and ‘a condition for the possibility of leading a human life’ (Schumacher 2003; Bloch 1995:75; McGreer 2004:102). Its significance for education has been widely noted (e.g. Bullough and Hall-Kenyon 2011; Duncan-Andrade 2009). Paulo Freire once remarked that ‘without hope there is no way we can even start thinking about education’ and a recent Editorial in the Cambridge Journal of Education declared that hope is ‘a core underpinning of education and all its processes’ (Freire 2007a:87; Andrews 2010:323). Hope is, however, a contested category of human experience and hope studies has become a very crowded field. Jaklin Eliot refers to the emergence of a ‘hope industry’ as the baton of hope has been passed from theology to philosophy and the health sciences (Eliot 2005:27). Literature reviews have identified twenty-six theories of hope and fifty-four definitions, while pinning down the characteristics of hope has been compared to catching the spring breeze (Lopez et al. 2003; Benzein and Saveman 1998; Li et al. 2008). Stressing the significance of hope is easy enough—most would agree, I think, that students, teachers and policy makers operate better with it than without it—but getting to grips with the characteristics and dynamics of hope is a more difficult task.

This becomes evident if we ask the simple question: what is hope? Is it an emotion (Lazarus 1999), a cognitive process (Waterworth 2004), an existential stance (Crapanzano 2003), a state of being (Fromm 1968), a disposition (Day 1969), an attitude (Dauenhauer 2005), a state of mind (Pettit 2004), an emotion which resembles a state of mind (Bar-Tal 2001), an instinct (Mandel 2002), an impulse (Ricoeur 1970), an intuition (Polkinghorne 2002), a sociohormone (Tiger 1979) or a subliminal ‘sense’ (Taussig 2002)? Is it a biologically-based reaction shaped by natural selection (Maier and Watkins 2000) or a socially constructed pattern of behaviour (Averill et al. 1990)? Is it an anthropological constant such that ‘the human being is incapable of not hoping’ (Schumacher 2003:147) or a learned thinking pattern such that some human beings are capable of not hoping because they were not taught to think in this manner (Snyder 2002)? Faced with such an array of competing conceptions, should we conclude that hope defies all categorisation (Kast 1994)?

The suggestion here is that hope is best understood as a socially mediated human capacity with varying affective, cognitive and behavioural dimensions. It may well be true that ‘hope belongs to the hard, unchangeable core of our anthropological specificity’ (Mandel 2002:247), but the mode in which hope is experienced at any particular time, in any particular culture, within any particular group, is the result of a complex process of social mediation. What this means is that different individuals and social classes, at different historical junctures, embedded in different social relations, enjoying different opportunities and facing different constraints, will experience hope in different ways. Comparative empirical research confirms that hope ‘looks and behaves’ differently across cultures and social groups (Lopez et al. 2003:103). Hope is not a singular undifferentiated experience but a socially mediated human capacity experienced in different modes with varying affective-cognitive-behavioural dimensions (Dufault and Martocchio 1985; Farran et al. 1995).

Drawing on the philosophy, theology and psychology of hope, the paper outlines five modes of hoping: patient, critical, sound, resolute and transformative. The modes of hoping are differentiated on the basis of the objective, the cognitive-affective activity and the behavioural activity characteristic of each. The key aim of the paper is to illustrate how different modes of hoping are associated with different pedagogical strategies. Phrased differently, the paper seeks to delineate a range of pedagogies of hope. Just as hope is not an undifferentiated experience, so too different pedagogies of hope will operate, take hold and predominate in different contexts and at different junctures. It is beyond the scope of the paper to offer a sociological or historical analysis. One key point, however, is worth emphasising. Although the phrase ‘pedagogy of hope’ is very much associated with critical theory—one thinks instantly of, for example, Paulo Freire, Henry Giroux or bell hooks—there is nothing inherently radical or subversive about hope or a hope-driven pedagogy. As I highlight during the course of the paper, pedagogies of hope can serve to reproduce social relations as well as to transform them. This then raises questions about how pedagogies of hope operate at the present historical juncture.

Patient Hope

Patient hope is underpinned by a sense that we as human beings are wayfarers who remain as yet undefined, have within us what we could become, and are travelling the path to ourselves (Dauenhauer 1986; Marcel 1962). As John Macquarrie puts it, ‘man is not yet himself and is on the way to fulfilment of what he has in him to become’ (Macquarrie 1978:23). Hope is the human attribute which simultaneously reconciles us to our ontological status as a traveller and propels us along the path to ourselves. In broad terms, it is characterised by ‘an openness of spirit with respect to the future’ and offers ‘an intangible umbrella that protects hoping persons by casting a positive glow on life’ (Godfrey 1987:64; Dufault and Martocchio 1985:380).

The openness of spirit with respect to the future translates as a hope directed toward an objective which defies any attempt to map it. Hope is directed toward the ontological journey itself and is characterised by the conviction that being en route makes sense and has meaning (Dauenhauer 1986). For Gabriel Marcel one of the defining features of hope is that the nature of its objective ‘transcends imagination’ and ‘every kind of representation’ so that in hoping ‘I do not allow myself to imagine what I hope for’ (Marcel 1962:45–46). To imaginatively represent to oneself the object of one’s hope creates an illusion open to disappointment. To refuse this temptation is to embrace, in true openness of spirit, the meaningfulness of one’s status as homo viator. For Marcel, therefore, hope refuses to lay down any conditions, makes no claims on the future and insists on nothing.

The positive glow cast by hope has three dimensions: it is underpinned by a basic trust in ourselves, others, life and the underlying goodness of the world (Sacks 2000; Schumacher 2003); it affords a feeling of safety and security of and in one’s being (Kast 1994; Marcel 1962); and it instils a patient calm. Precisely because of the security afforded by its positive glow, hope allows one to relax and to let life take its course, providing the hoping human with the ‘freedom to let events unfold in their own time’ (Kast 1994:146). For Crapanzano, this sense of calm and ease is characterised as ‘a sort of positive resignation’, while for Marcel hope represents a ‘positive non-acceptance’ of life’s trials and tragedies, a non-acceptance which is to be distinguished from revolt because its characteristics are silence, modesty, timidity, humility, patience, relaxation, and security (Crapanzano 2003:27; Marcel 1962:38).

As one might expect, patience is the key behavioural dimension of this mode of hoping. For Marcel, ‘I hope in thee for us’ is the most adequate expression of what ‘to hope’ means (Marcel 1962:60). To hope is to appeal to the existence of a certain creative power in the world, and while it is hope’s ‘mission’ to respond to conditions of adversity, the response requires no ‘sense of effort’ on the part of the hoper (Marcel 1962:31, 36). In seeking delivery from present darkness, ‘hope is not interested in the how’ and is not searching for a concrete solution to life’s trials, for the ‘technical question’ of ends and means is alien to the character of hope (Marcel 1962:51–52). Rather, to hope is to be patient, ‘to take one’s time’, to trust in the underlying goodness of the world and to rest assured that a solution to life’s trials just will be found (Marcel 1962:39).

Bernard Dauenhauer offers a secular reading of this mode of hoping. For Dauenhauer, to be human is to be essentially and radically, always and necessarily, en route. Rejecting the notion of a human telos, he argues that hope is directed primarily toward other human beings and is characterised by an expectation concerning their efficacious agency. What the hoper looks for in the agency of others is not the realisation of a determinate goal, for hope transcends all such goals and the outcome of human action is always indeterminate. Rather, the hoper expectantly awaits transformations in their relationships with other humans and the non-human world, these transformations being valued for their own intrinsic worth. To hope is thus to ascribe intrinsic value to one’s enroutedness, to place one’s trust in the efficacy of human agents whilst accepting its contingent indeterminacy, and to possess the conviction that whatever journey we are taken on by ourselves, via others, will be of positive worth. Emphasising the similarities between his own reading of hope and what he regards as the Old Testament understanding, Dauenhauer (1984) argues that hope is associated with quietness, ‘standing firm’ and ‘waiting for’. For Dauenhauer, as for Marcel, ‘hope demands patience’ (Dauenhauer 2005:87).

The generic features of patient hope can be summarised thus: taking as its objective a process of becoming or perennial enroutedness which defies representation but is instilled with meaning, hope as a cognitive-affectiveactivity is characterised by a secure trust in the behavioural activity of an Other. Such hope is other-directed and patient. In its behavioural dimension, to hope is to take one’s time and await an essentially unforeseen future. Marcel is at pains to emphasise that taking one’s time is not the same as passive resignation. Because it requires effort and strength to rise above the trials of life and wait with humility and patience, he describes the behavioural dimension of hope as that of ‘active waiting’ (Marcel 1967:280–281). Dauenhauer (2005) also emphasises that to stand firm and abide patiently in hope requires boldness and courage. In hope one stands steadfast amidst life’s trials and humbly though courageously perseveres, securely confident that a solution to life’s trials will be found.

A good example of a pedagogy that is framed by patient hope and seeks to instil it is William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues (1993). Bennett—US Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan—regards the prime function of education as ‘moral literacy’ and his book (a bestseller that spawned many sequels and a television series) provides a “how to” guide for the moral education of the young (Bennett 1993:11). Collecting together hundreds of stories, the book is designed to educate the hope of our children—to train them to place their hope in the journey we wayfaring humans are travelling and to adopt the cognitive-affective and behavioural characteristics of a hope that is humble, quiet and patient.

The stories collected in The Book of Virtues confer meaning and coherence on events while refusing to point to a specific goal or outcome, functioning rather to instil the virtues of trust, patience, responsibility, perseverance, steadfastness and fortitude. Thus we have stories that teach self-discipline and self-restraint in the face of adversity; that assure us that suffering is an unavoidable part of human existence; that tell us to wait with patience and humility for our daily bread; to steel ourselves against all the unfairness life has to offer; and to ‘bring ourselves to endure cheerfully’ (Bennett 1993:552). We are urged to follow Penelope’s lead in her long, patient, constant wait in hope after hope for the return of Ulysses and to develop the strength of character of Job in his patient and humble suffering of torment.

To hope patiently is to place one’s trust in our shared journey and to rest assured that our enroutedness has meaning and coherence. For Bennett, the stories collected in the volume help to anchor children in their culture by fostering a trust in its underlying goodness and instructing them to live securely in the knowledge that being a wayfaring ontological traveller makes sense. Thus we have stories emphasising that America is a nation of compassion, founded on faith, embodying freedom, equality, justice and humanity; that we should trust in God and the spirit of America, imbued with its history, tradition and meaning; that we should trust in our leaders and their wisdom, our friends and their loyalty, our parents and their love. In The Book of Virtues he instructs us that our ontological journey has meaning and that good things come to those who wait.

Bennett equates education with moral development and moral development with moral instruction. Drawing inspiration from Bennett, Jonathan Sacks also insists that the key priority of education should be ‘the reinstatement of virtue and moral literacy within the curriculum’ (Sacks 2000:179). It then becomes the responsibility of the parent and the educator to help instruct children how best to live their lives in patient trust, faith and hope. The pedagogy of patient hope is education as moral instruction and cultural transmission; education to embed and reproduce cultural tradition, imbuing this tradition with meaning and coherence. In Dauenhauer’s terms, hope-driven education is an exercise in ‘guiding and goading’ with the aim of making possible the renewal of one’s community (Dauenhauer 1986:194).

Critics argue that the kind of virtue ethics and character education proposed by Bennett are philosophically flawed and practically ineffective, premised as they are on an outdated passive reader theory (Harman 1999; Leming 2000). For Michael Apple, the success of Bennett’s books is indicative of a ‘conservative restoration’ and the insidious reconfiguring of the common sense of society (Apple 2004). It is, indeed, easy to attack Bennett’s book as mere conservative dogma and it has rightly been criticised for its distortion of history (Carlson 2003). The problems run deeper than the explicit conservative dogma one finds in Bennett’s work, however. For Marcel, hope cannot ground a movement for social transformation and it is an illusion to think that readjusting the material, social and institutional conditions of life can alleviate human suffering: ‘There can be no question here of my attempting to define anything resembling a political line of action. What we have to deal with is rather an inner attitude’ (Marcel 1978:244). Individuals are confronted with a choice—either one welcomes or rejects the gift of hope. To welcome and embrace this gift is to orient oneself toward the world in a spirit of humble, trusting patience, and to orient oneself to others in a spirit of loyalty, fidelity and love. Hope is ‘the subordination of the self to a superior reality’, dissolving the tension between self and Other, domesticating the circumstances of life and ‘witnessing that nothing can be done and nothing changed’ (Marcel 1965:182, 204). Rather than leading one to transform the world itself, hope leads one instead to transform one’s ‘inner attitude’ towards it. The Book of Virtues offers a powerful example of the pedagogical operation of patient hope; a conservative pedagogy that guides and goads us to readjust our inner attitude towards others and the world so that we develop secure trust in the meaningfulness of our shared journey and learn to wait with patience amidst life’s trials.

Critical Hope

Like patient hope, critical hope is characterised by an openness of spirit with respect to the future. For Moltmann (1970) the proper objective of hope is a new heaven and new earth, a future which is radically new and unpredictable. For Ernst Bloch, the objective of hope is the Novum Ultimum, the Absolute and Authentic human All, the nature of which is ‘still utterly opaque’ and ‘remains still concealed’ (1995:1375). For each, however, the openness of spirit which characterises hope does not imply that one can say nothing about its objective, as is the case with patient hope. Bloch argues that hope, the human longing born of the No to deprivation and the experience of unfulfilment, is necessarily directed toward a world without degradation, suffering and anxiety. For Moltmann, humans can grasp the future, not in positive terms, but as ‘the negation of the negative’ (Moltmann 1970:114).

In the cognitive-affective domain, the experience of hope is captured by the phrase ‘something’s missing’. For Moltmann, hope is grounded in the contradiction between the word of promise and the experiential reality of suffering and death. As the promise of a future which is not-yet, the objective of hope stimulates in the affective domain a ‘passionate suffering and passionate longing’ which manifests in the behavioural domain as ‘the criticism of present misery’ (Moltmann 1967:16, 1970:114–115). For Bloch, hope is experienced as a restless, future-oriented longing for that which is missing; a response to an inchoate future—the authentic human All—that calls to the present. This emotion takes on a cognitive dimension when it is consciously known and recognised as the feeling that draws us on into what is better. In the behavioural domain, conscious-known hope is always critical of that which exists precisely because it comprehends itself as an interior force pushing the hoper toward the not yet discovered and as yet concealed Absolute All. The hoper has no clear idea of what this Absolute All might be, but experiences its lack and its forward pull as the compulsion to critically negate the negative.

The key difference between the experience of patient and critical hope is highlighted by one of the stories collected in Bennett’s Book of Virtues. In ‘To the Little Girl Who Wriggles’, the restless girl who refuses to sit still is warned that she will turn into an eel and be eaten by a shark; the moral being (so Bennett tells us) that we must learn to sit still and quash all restlessness (Bennett 1993:32–33). This chimes with Charles Péguy’s epic poem The Portal of the Mystery of Hope—an extraordinarily powerful articulation of patient hope. For Péguy ‘The journey is the goal’ and what matters for the hoping human ‘is not to go here or there, is not to go someplace, To arrive someplace’ but ‘What matters is to go, always to go, and (on the contrary) not to arrive’ (Péguy 1996:109). Péguy presents hope as the mysterious virtue that enables humanity to endure a life of endless repetition; a seemingly futile procession of trials and disappointments. Its effect is to soothe and console suffering creatures, on whom bad days fall like persistent slanting autumn rain. A key theme of the poem is that hope demands that the trials of life be endured with patient, quiet serenity. The activity of hope is characterised as sleeping soundly while to lie awake restlessly and to wriggle and fuss is to be unfaithful to hope (Péguy 1996:118–120).

Wriggling restlessly, lying awake and refusing to sit still are, however, some of the defining characteristics of critical hope. To take a literary example, in George Orwell’s 1984 Winston Smith is animated by critical hope. His hope is directed toward ‘the place where there is no darkness’ and Winston is stimulated by the pull of this future promised by O’Brien in his dreams. ‘The place where there is no darkness was the imagined future, which one could never see, but which, by fore-knowledge, one could mystically share in’ (Orwell 1949:107). In the affective domain, what this meant for Winston was that ‘always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something that you had a right to’ (Orwell 1949:63). This sense that something’s missing, felt in the stomach and the skin as the hoper responds to the pull of a mystical future, stimulates critical protest against the way things are.

Protest is thus the behavioural response associated with this mode of hoping. For Moltmann, to live in the light of hope is to critically engage with the suffering of the present while remaining open for the coming kingdom. The emphasis is placed not on attempting to define and attain a fixed goal, which would ‘close’ the future and ‘cancel the wayfaring character of hope’, but on the ongoing process of criticising present negatives in light of their promised negation (Moltmann 1967:23). Bloch, however, was always sensitive to the fact that even conscious-known hope, left to its own devices, can lose its way. The will-full critical imperative to negate the negative can lead in different directions, some of them concrete and truly transformative, some of them abstract, fanciful and fruitless. On its own, ‘hope merely rises above the horizon, whereas only knowledge of the Real shifts it in solid fashion by means of practice’ (Bloch 1995:1367). While conscious-known hope provides us with the understanding that we as humans are being drawn towards the Authentic All, allowing us to rise above the horizon of the present and glimpse the as-yet-undefined future, only Reason provides the knowledge and direction required in order to prevent it getting lost in fanciful abstractions that will ultimately lead us astray (Bloch 1995:1375). For Bloch, therefore, hope needs to be trained and educated.

Henry Giroux best exemplifies the pedagogical operation of critical hope. For Giroux, like Bloch, hope is seen as a restless, future-oriented longing for that which is missing (Giroux 2001). A pedagogy framed and driven by such hope is one which refuses to accept the completeness of the present while at the same time refusing to impose a predetermined vision of the good on students; it is a pedagogy driven by the forward pull of the future but a pedagogy that refuses to focus on a final static goal (Giroux 2004). In this context, Giroux talks of the need ‘to tap the hidden utopian desire’ located in the experiences, discourses and relations within which students are embedded outside the classroom, and of the need to ‘uncover the submerged longings’ that can be found within all social and cultural practices (Giroux and McLaren 1991:174, 178). The educator is thus engaged in a process of ‘excavating’—by means of a critical interrogation of the student voice—these hidden and submerged desires and longings (Giroux and McLaren 1991:179). The popular cultures within which students are immersed become the ‘educational starting point’ and the role of the educator is to excavate these cultures, locate their hidden utopian dimensions and then use these to ‘provide a sense of direction’ as students begin to discern future possibilities (Giroux 2000:155, 2007:30). The educator thus taps into the sense that ‘something’s missing’ to uncover the future-oriented longings that stimulate a critical engagement with the present.

As an open-ended pedagogy seeking to excavate the hidden utopian dimensions within students’ lived experiences, the emphasis is places strongly on creating spaces of possibility. Plenty of examples of how this might operate are contained in the volume exploring Utopian Pedagogy (Coté et al. 2007a, b). Here educators variously describe their attempts to carve out spaces in the system that allow one to catch glimpses of future possibilities. Toews and Harris-Martin, for example, describe the Secwepemc Cultural Education Society (SCES) program in British Columbia, a partnership between the Kamloops Indian Band and Simon Fraser University. Here, all participants became teachers–students and the students set the educational agenda. One student recounts how assuming the role of subject in the program while at the same time having her subjectivity challenged, of participating in pit cooking as well as reading some ‘extraordinary texts’ and thus being exposed to ‘the totality of human experience’, helped her to recognise more clearly her hopes, dreams and fears (Toews and Harris-Martin 2007:274–277). A pedagogical experiment such as this can be seen as an attempt to uncover the submerged future-oriented longings of students restlessly protesting in hope against the sense of present unfulfilment. Toews and Harris-Martin themselves certainly see the experiment as a pedagogy of hope in the Blochean sense (Toews and Harris-Martin 2007:277).

There are significant limitations, however, to the pedagogy of critical hope. For Giroux, the process of pedagogical excavation involves distinguishing between those cultural practices that ‘open up’ human possibilities—and that point towards the future that calls to the present—and those that ‘diminish’ them (Giroux and Simon 1992). Without a clearly articulated vision of the future against which to judge present lack, this is a difficult pedagogical endeavour. Bloch only succeeded by prespecifying (in spite of his own proscriptions against so doing) the utopian content of the future. A student expressing a passion for Jazz, for example, would be challenged and guided by the Blochean educator towards embracing Russian folk music. This is because Bloch himself regarded Jazz as dehumanising ‘vomit’ and Russian folk as offering a glimpse of human authenticity (Bloch 1995:394). Giroux distances himself from this normative and prescriptive element of Bloch’s educated hope, although, without it, his pedagogy runs the risk of romanticising the process of dialogue and losing sight of the goal—the humanised future—towards which his project is directed. At times, Giroux himself recognises this. He concedes, for example, that ‘without a vision of the future—without asking “Empowerment for what?”—critical pedagogy becomes reduced to a method for participation’ (Giroux and McLaren 1991:158). The pedagogy of critical hope, however, refuses to delineate such a vision of the future. Giroux and others reject Paolo Freire’s assertion that ‘the teacher’s role is more than simply opening up a way. It is necessary, at times, that the educators have the courage to take responsibility for the job of showing the way’ (Freire 1993:116, 2007a:37). Such an approach smacks of ‘the indignity of speaking for others’ and a genuine pedagogy of hope is said to be less concerned with designating ‘a point of arrival’ than creating ‘a point of departure’ (Coté et al. 2007a:324, b:14). The danger here, however, as David Harvey neatly puts it, is that in striving to achieve the delicate balance between guiding students towards a vision of something better without filling this vision with normative content, a pedagogy of critical hope runs the risk of ‘getting lost in the romanticism of endlessly open projects that never have to come to a point of closure’ (Harvey 2000:174).

Sound Hope

Sound hope is directed toward a concrete specific goal. The proper objective of such goal-directed hope is commonly taken to be a desire that is both significant to the hoper and future-oriented (Waterworth 2004:5–6). In analysing what it means to hope for such an objective, we can begin by referring to two cognitive acts. The first is described by Luc Bovens as ‘mental imaging’, or the ‘devotion of mental energy to what it would be like if some projected state of the world were to materialize’ (Bovens 1999:674). To hope is thus to conjure in one’s imagination a picture of the world in which the objective of one’s hope has been realised. The second—and this, for many, is precisely what renders hope something more than mere desire—is the cognitive act of believing the objective to be possible of attainment (Lazarus 1999:653; Schumacher 2003:67). This is the mode of hoping referred to by Aquinas as ‘a movement of the appetitive power ensuing from the apprehension of a future good, difficult but possible to obtain’ (Aquinas 1927:40.2). It is also the mode of hoping to which analytical philosophy has devoted most attention. As formulated by John Patrick Day, ‘a hope is identical with a desire plus a probability-estimate’, where ‘A desires in some degree that Q, and A believes that the probability of Q is >0<1’ (Day 1969:89, 1991:37).

An extensive literature highlights the dangers associated with ‘false hope’, an overconfident probability estimate akin to wishful thinking and liable to lead to frustration, disappointment and despair (see Polivy and Herman 2000). In the ‘hope = desire + probability estimate’ model, false hope is likely to develop when the fervour of the desiderative aspect serves to raise the subjective probability estimate beyond that which is warranted by the available evidence (Averill et al. 1990:96; Bovens 1999:678). Macquarrie refers to this as ‘the pathology of hope’, in which hope runs riot and loses its grip on reality (Macquarrie 1978:15). This raises interesting questions about the relationship between hope and ‘the evidence’. Waterworth distinguishes between ‘hope because of reality’ (‘probability hope’), which is ‘grounded in what is perceived as relatively likely in the short to medium term on the basis of what is’, and ‘hope in spite of reality’ (‘possibility hope’), which is ‘grounded in what is perceived that could be the case, at least in principle’ (Waterworth 2004:63, 4). For some, ‘sound hope’ is always probability hope, requiring a careful study of the evidence and an accurate calculation of the likelihood of one’s hoped-for objective coming to pass (Godfrey 1987:30). Precisely in order to avoid the dangers associated with false hope, Bovens argues that the strength of the hoper’s beliefs ‘should be determined by the available evidence’ (Bovens 1999:678). Sound hope can thus be characterised as a hope directed toward a significant future good involving a probability calculation which, in order to prevent the hoper losing their grip on reality, is based on a careful study of the evidence.

In terms of its associated behavioural response, some argue that sound hope helps counteract risk aversion. Bovens in particular emphasises that ‘the value of hope is that it makes us focus on the possible gains in more than fair gambles’ (Bovens 1999:672). He also claims that ‘fear is an antidote to the risk proneness that makes us all too eager to take up less than fair gambles’ (Bovens 1999:672). Sound hope is thus a highly regulated counter to risk aversion. The careful survey of the evidence characteristic of sound hope leads the hoper to identify which gambles are worth taking and which are not. One may hope for the entire set {significant future good the estimated probability of which is >0<1}, but only a particular subset {more than fair gambles} prompts a behavioural response. The relationship between sound hope and action is thus uncertain and contingent. Some hopes would be considered less than fair gambles and not worth actively pursuing while those considered more than fair gambles may prompt goal pursuit.

This resonates with the notion of ‘complex hope’ as developed by educationalists associated with the Institute of Education in London (Grace 1994; Halpin 2003; Thrupp and Tomlinson 2005) and the ‘robust hope’ project involving educational researchers at the University of Western Sydney, Australia (Arthur and Sawyer 2009; Sawyer et al. 2007; Singh 2007). For both complex and robust hope, the key characteristics are that the objective of hope is realistic, is grounded in a sound assessment of the evidence, recognises the obstacles confronting its realisation and is vulnerable to evidence that counts against it. Objectives that are overly ambitious are dismissed as less than fair gambles. While inspiring hope is presented as the educator’s duty, it is also their responsibility to avoid the kind of hope variously derided as fanciful, naïve, unrealistic and ‘hokey’ (Duncan-Andrade 2009). The kind of ‘sound’ hope that educators are called on to embrace and nurture is one that offers no illusions and is grounded in a realistic grasp of structural constraints (Carlson 2005).

For Singh (2007), a pedagogy of sound hope begins with a critical analysis of current policy initiatives, identifying any elements of ‘good sense’ that could form the basis of a future-oriented desirable objective of hope. The feasibility of acting to attain this objective, i.e. calculating the probability and establishing whether the objective can be considered more than a fair gamble, then requires extensive research and a sound evidence base. If sound research establishes that the desired objective is realisable within existing structural constraints then one has ‘a robust vision of hope’ and the hope-driven educator can reasonably engage in goal pursuit (Sawyer et al. 2007:228). As an example, Arthur and Sawyer (2009) discuss practices within an Australian pre-school. The school is not presented as a site of ‘radical democracy’ of the kind envisioned by Giroux—they regard it as naïve and fanciful to hope for such given the structural constraints in which education is embedded—but it is presented as ‘a site of robust hope’ (Arthur and Sawyer 2009:172). Identifying the ‘good sense’ within a regional non-mandated curriculum policy framework, staff within the preschool engaged in sound research in order to identify practices that would enhance boys’ engagement with educational processes. In this case, the key initiative was to improve connections between community, home and school to establish a collaborative learning community and to evoke within this community a sense of agency and resilience. For Arthur and Sawyer the school is a site of robust hope because hope-driven educators acted to realise an objective that was both desirable and feasible within existing structural constraints.

Pedagogies of sound hope comprise pragmatic responses to localised conditions. The specific goals, activities and interventions will depend upon the particular social, economic and policy contexts in which educators are acting. Sound hope gives rise, in short, to specific projects of incremental change. It is somewhat surprising, then, to see pedagogies of ‘complex’ and ‘robust’ hope presented as utopian projects. For Sayer and Singh, ‘a robust vision of hope’ is ‘a vision of utopia’ (Sawyer et al. 2007: 228) while for Halpin the pedagogical operation of complex hope revolves around radical ‘exercises of the utopian imagination’ (Halpin 2007:243). One encounters here the seemingly paradoxical situation in which a pedagogy that ‘lives in the awareness of the world’s limitations’ and is directed towards ‘realistic’ objectives (Halpin 2001:401) is simultaneously presented as a utopian project ‘offering radical challenges to the status quo’ (Halpin 2003:37).

When compared to the patient and critical modes of hoping articulated by Marcel and Bloch, the cognitive-affective characteristics associated with sound hope—a desire plus an evidence-based probability estimate—can seem somewhat banal. Sutherland dismisses it as philosophically uninteresting (Sutherland 1989:200) while Pettit terms it ‘superficial hope’, the lowest common denominator present across the myriad usages of hope in the English language (Pettit 2004:153–154). In the behavioural domain too, Singh recognises that the pedagogical initiatives framed by sound hope could be seen as ‘mundane’ and ‘modest’ (Singh 2007:335). On the one hand, this is unproblematic—it merely highlights that pedagogies of hope can sometimes lack philosophical profundity and be modest in their aims. On the other hand, however, issues are raised by the utopian claims that accompany the discourse of sound hope. Within both the ‘complex’ and ‘robust’ hope projects, a concerted effort is made to redefine the utopian. Utopia is no longer a vision of an alternative state or society but is rather ‘a vision of utopia which has the possibility of achievement in present socio-economic conditions’ (Sawyer et al. 2007:228). This ideological recuperation of utopia is troubling because its effect is to delimit the range of the possible—the possibilities offered by radical utopian hope are limited to what can reasonably be achieved within existing parameters—and to suppress the critical and transformative modes of hoping that can genuinely be associated with the utopian.

Resolute Hope

Sometimes we hope against the evidence. For Pettit (2004:159), ‘[t]o have hope is to have something we might describe as cognitive resolve’. Given that humans are emotional creatures subject to anxiety, grief and despondency in the face of brute fact, forming strategies on the basis of evidence-based calculations of ‘how things are’ would often lead us to ‘collapse in a heap of despair and uncertainty, beaten down by cascades of inimical fact’ (Pettit 2004:160). Hope is precisely that quality which enables human beings to galvanise their cognitions in a way that overcomes the burden of evidence. For Pettit, hope is ‘a positive piece of mental self-regulation’, a process by which we actively adopt a particular attitude and construct ‘a supportive and stable image around which to organize our feelings and actions’ (Pettit 2004:159, 163). In many substantial cases, to hope for/that p is to desire p and to possess the cognitive resolve that enables one to set aside one’s evidence-based belief in the probability of attaining p and to organise one’s feelings and actions on the assumption that p is attainable. This mode of hoping is referred to here as ‘resolute hope’.

The most fully developed model of resolute hope is that offered by Rick Snyder. He defines hope as ‘the perceived capability to derive pathways to desired goals, and motivate oneself via agency thinking to use those pathways’ (Snyder 2002:249). Snyder’s reading of hope downplays its relation to objective conditions and foregrounds the self-referential belief of the hoper. To hope is to perceive oneself as capable of producing plausible routes to one’s desired goals and to perceive oneself as capable of achieving one’s goals by moving along the identified pathways (Snyder 2000). Those hoping resolutely will tend to be more energetic, outgoing, determined and less risk-averse than those who are not and, ceteris paribus, far more likely to attain their desired objectives (Snyder 2002). Indeed, in Snyder’s model of hope, such is the sense of possibility that ‘false hope’ is rendered a misnomer. For Snyder, the frustration and disappointment resulting from an overconfident probability estimate is best designated false optimism, the negative affect stemming in large part from a lack of perceived agency. For the resolute hoper, agentic self-confidence means, firstly, that ambitious outcomes are more likely to be realised and secondly, that if they are not, hopeful energies will be directed toward different pathways or new goals.

Robust hope is thus considerably more than ‘a desire plus a probability estimate’. There is no uncertainty or contingency regarding the relationship between resolute hope and human action. To hope resolutely is to be a dogged anti-determinist. To hope in this mode is to assume that one has the freedom to initiate events on the basis of goals that one sets oneself, and to assume that the world is fluid, plastic and capable of being moulded by one’s agency as it moves along the pathways one has identified. While sound hope takes the world as a given and makes calculations based on the evidence—what are the chances? to what extent am I in control?—the resolute hoper strives to take control and create the chances.

Snyder is explicit in the prescribed pedagogical interventions he believes necessary to educate resolute hope. He stresses the importance of the ‘social climate’ of the school and talks of ‘high-hope and low-hope classrooms’ and the crucial role of ‘the high-hope teacher’ (Snyder et al. 1997:122, 125, 137). A key role of the high-hope teacher is goal setting, working individually with each pupil to identify a specific objective of hope and then to support and guide the pupil in their endeavours to achieve this goal. While goals may be small at primary school, these should develop as the student progresses. Crucially, setting ambitious goals with a high risk of failure, disappointment and even embarrassment is not seen as naïve or ‘hokey’—‘realism’ is an antonym to resolute hope and ‘risk’ a synonym (Snyder et al. 1997:120, 142). While hoping ‘against the odds’ may seem fanciful to a low hoper (and a less than fair gamble to a sound hoper) it might be worth the risk to a resolute hoper (McDermott and Snyder 2000:128). In encountering failure, the self-perceptions of the resolute hoper mean they respond by devising different pathways or directing their energies toward different objectives.

Snyder (Snyder et al. 1997:109–156) also identifies ways of incorporating hope into the classroom through structured, dedicated ‘hope activities’. Hope is regarded as a learned thinking pattern that needs to be instilled through instruction and example. He proposes open class discussions of the ways in which the hopes of the pupils have been achieved or thwarted, and the way in which they responded; he recommends that ‘hope stories’ be read aloud each week in which the protagonist sets a goal, feels empowered to achieve it and confronts the obstacles on the way. In many of the stories the protagonist does not achieve their goal and encounters disappointment, but nonetheless learns lessons that are applied when seeking to attain the next goal. Finally, Snyder sees the writing of hope stories as key to embedding hope in the classroom, in which the pupils recount their own tales as protagonists of hope-driven goal pursuit. Borrowing a term from Patrick Shade, what Snyder offers is a prescriptive pedagogical strategy designed to share stories and personal narratives of hope in order to enable students to develop ‘habits of hope’ (Shade 2006).

The pedagogy of resolute hope raises a number of concerns. It is, first of all, resolutely individualist. The models of hope offered by Pettit and Snyder are models of self-efficacious private hope. Pettit thinks primarily in terms of the individual hoping resolutely in the face of personal adversity, while Snyder’s theory focuses on the kind of hopeful thinking that enables individuals to attain academic, sporting and occupational goals. The behavioural activities associated with such a mode of hoping can, of course, be personally transformative—cognitive resolve may enable the hoper to act in spite of the evidence and overcome adversity while effective pathways and agency thinking may enable the hoper, against all odds, to achieve excellent academic grades. Nonetheless, the pedagogy of hope is divorced from considerations of the wider social, economic and policy context. The pragmatic account of hope offered by Shade (2006) addresses this concern a little. Shade emphasises the importance of nurturing ‘habits of hope’ (resourcefulness, courage and persistence) that he regards as operating in much the same way as Snyder’s pathways and agency thinking, but Shade’s account is framed from the outset by a sensitivity to the wider social issues that impinge on a child’s education. Even here, however, the pedagogy of hope is conceived primarily in terms of nurturing habits of hope within individuals in order that they can overcome obstacles and attain their own private goals (Shade 2006:222).

This links to a second concern regarding the ideological basis of pedagogies of resolute hope. Snyder and Shade each talk of ‘levelling the playing field of hope’ through a reconfiguration of practices within the school and classroom. Snyder’s prescribed hope activities are designed to instil in us the conviction that we can all, with the requisite willpower and waypower, achieve our goals. For Shade, promoting pathways and agency thinking within the school (in the context of an equitable school funding policy) will not only enable us all to attain our personal goals but will also begin the process of ameliorating wider social conditions of poverty and violence (Shade 2006:193). This, then, is a pedagogy of the American Dream; a pedagogy premised on the idea that equality of opportunity for the realisation of our hopes can be established within society as it is presently structured and a pedagogy that tells us that we can attain the objectives of our hopes if we are taught effective pathways and agency thinking.

Transformative Hope

Like resolute hope, transformative hope is a mode of hoping against the evidence. For Richard Rorty, the activity of striving to ground one’s beliefs in the evidence is characteristic of the pursuit of knowledge and understanding and alien to the field of hope. He argues that ‘humans have to dream up the point of human life’ and our belief in the possibility of attaining the goal we dream up lies not in the evidence but rather in the inspirational qualities of the goal itself, its capacity to ‘astonish and exhilarate’ and thereby expand the horizons of possibility. The proper objective of hope is a ‘shared utopian dream’ and to hope for such is to possess ‘a sense that the human future can be made different from the human past, unaided by non-human powers’ (Rorty 1998:106, 1999:208). A hope is not a desire plus a probability estimate grounded in a survey of the evidence, but rather a utopia plus a sense of possibility grounded in a confidence in the powers of human agency. It is ‘taking the world by the throat and insisting that there is more to this life than we have ever imagined’ (Rorty 1998:138).

To hope in this mode is to experience the world as open to collective human design and history as an adventure. For Gustavo Gutiérrez, ‘hope makes us radically free to commit ourselves to social praxis, motivated by a liberating utopia…And our hope not only frees us for this commitment, it simultaneously demands and judges it’ (Gutiérrez 2001:223). This collective, mutually-efficacious and socially transformative mode of hoping is rooted in shared experiences, becomes ‘the driving force of a future-oriented history’ and ‘fulfils a mobilising and liberating function’ (Gutiérrez 2001:200, 203) For Gutiérrez, the meaning of human life on earth is to establish justice, and hope is the force which drives, demands and judges this project. Taking as its objective a positively annunciated utopian goal, the cognitive-affective dimensions of hope comprise a consciousness that human beings are self-organising and self-determining historical agents and a confident belief in the transformative power of collective action. Confronted with a world of poverty, suffering and degradation, what hope demands is instrumental goal-directed social praxis.

Although the cognitive characteristics of transformative hope are in some ways similar to those of resolute hope (an anti-deterministic perception of the world as malleable), and its behavioural characteristics share something in common with critical hope (the critical repudiation of the present), transformative hope is distinct from each. Whereas the resolute hoper resolves to continue striving for their personal goals within society as it is presently structured, the transformative hoper critically negates the present and is driven by hope to annunciate a better alternative. This positive annunciation—an act demanded by transformative hope and expressive of the confidence placed in the capacity of human beings to resolve human problems—is an activity alien to the critical hoper.

A distinguishing feature of this mode of hoping is the nature of its objective and the manner in which this comes to be shared by the members of a group. The first point is important because theories of hope often ignore the question of how people come to have the goals that they have. It is assumed that people have goals and hope is then presented as a particular way of relating to these emotionally, cognitively and behaviourally. In most cases the goals are taken to be personal ones pertaining to mental and physical health or to things such as material acquisition, academic and financial success. In the case of transformative hope, however, the objective is a qualitatively different organisation of society and a new way of being.

With regards to how this objective comes to be shared by the members of a group, the collective impulse for change is likely to be born of a sense that the shared desires of a group are unattainable—even allowing for a group-level version of cognitive resolve and agency thinking—within society as it stands. The utopian platform presented by an individual or movement becomes an objective of hope if this articulates the amorphous impulse of the group and is perceived by its members as so doing. Born of the frustrated desires of a social group, the utopian objective, by means of its exhilarating and astonishing qualities, expands the horizons of possibility and gives rise to a sense that the human future can be made different from the human past, unaided by non-human powers. The cognitive-affective dimension of transformative hope, a profound confidence in the transformative power of collective praxis, thus develops as the objective of hope feeds back into the outlook of the group whose thwarted desires gave rise to its production. The cognitive dimension of hope in turn grounds and inspires concerted goal-directed action, i.e. the behavioural dimension of hope.

A pedagogy of transformative hope will be explicitly political. It will draw on the thwarted desires of the student body and strive to mobilise action around a vision of a better way of being. Although Paulo Freire warned against the arrogance of utopian prophets, he also stressed the need for a utopian vision that can illuminate and guide the hoping subject along the path toward a humanised future (Freire 1994:78, 1996:187; Freire and Shor 1987:13–14). For Freire, progressive education is an inspirational process through which the educator seeks to mobilise the educand with a dream; a pedagogic practice through which the impossible, by virtue of the strength and conviction with which it is dreamed and announced, becomes possible. The aim of education as a political act is to move beyond dialogue, critique and the articulation of well-founded possibilities. In the face of a reality that sickens and offends, it becomes the responsibility of the educator to announce their utopian vision and to mobilise support for it, thereby transforming it into a shared utopia dream (Freire et al. 1994:37).

Freire has been criticised for his paternalistic elitism (e.g. Coben 1998). In articulating his pedagogy of transformative hope, however, he tells us: ‘What is implied is not the transmission to the people of a knowledge previously elaborated, a process that ignores what they already know, but the act of returning to them, in an organized form, what they themselves offered in a disorganized form’ (Freire 1978:24–25). The project of ‘teaching better what the people already know’ is a political one aimed at exhilarating, motivating, inspiring and evoking transformative hope (Freire 2007b:273). The cognitive-affective and behavioural dimensions of transformative hope resonate with Freire’s notion of conscientisation as the critical insertion into history of real subjects animated by a profound confidence in the transformative capacities of human agency and committed to confronting and overcoming the ‘limit situations’ that face them (Freire 1972b:71–72). The discourse of conscientisation is the discourse of transformative hope; a hope against the evidence that recognises the obstacles before it and yet grows in strength in spite of these, and a hope experienced by the hoper as ‘the taking of history into their hands’ as they strive for the ‘untested feasibility’ that lies beyond the concrete material data of every limit situation (Freire 1972b:81, 1994:176, 2007b:71–72).

It is interesting to compare Freire’s characterisation of the transformative educator with Polly Toynbee’s characterisation of the role of the politician. Toynbee suggests that ‘It is the job of politicians to articulate people’s strong if inchoate emotions, to crystallise ideas and paint a comprehensible picture of society as it is—and as it could be’ (Toynbee 2010:12). This is precisely what Freire regards the job of educators to be and is illustrative of the association he makes between education and politics. For Freire education is always political and politics always pedagogical. His is a pedagogy designed to evoke, stimulate and guide the cognitive-affective and behavioural dimensions of transformative hope. For Freire, liberatory pedagogies ‘cannot exist without being driven by fundamental visions of a utopian society’ and the transformative pedagogue needs ‘the courage to take responsibility for the job of showing the way’ (Freire and Rossatto 2005:17; Freire 2007a:37). A pedagogy of transformative hope will never hide behind a veil of neutrality and as a consequence will always generate criticism and opposition. From the perspective of other modes of hoping it could be characterised as impatient, reckless, unsound, naïve and fanciful. As Freire acknowledges, a pedagogy of hope that seeks to drive ‘the precarious adventure of transforming and recreating the world’ is a pedagogy ‘full of risk’ (Freire 1972a:72, 41)

Conclusion

Hope can be experienced in different modes and pedagogies of hope can take different forms. This is the simple argument presented in the paper. Some complexity is added if we consider two further ideas. The first is that societies possess collective cognitive and emotional orientations (Bar-Tal 2001). The collective cognitive-emotional orientation of a society is shaped and organised by the dissemination of core ideas, beliefs, myths and collective memories through such channels as public political discourse, the media, art, literature and the education system. Through these channels, society members learn how to feel, appraise, express, and behave in accordance with, particular cognitive and emotional frames. The second is that in order to reproduce itself capitalism requires that individuals study, sell their labour power, consume, save and invest. It therefore requires that individuals possess a positive orientation toward the future. Put another way, the reproduction of capitalist relations of production requires that individuals possess hope (Braithwaite 2004).

One often encounters claims that we are living in ‘unhopeful times’, that neoliberal hegemony has placed hope under threat and that we have lost our ‘vocabulary of hope’ (Lambert and Parker 2006; Giroux 2007; Ludema et al. 1997). The need to develop a pedagogy of hope is presented as one of the most urgent tasks facing educators. This misses the point that hope abounds under the reign of neoliberalism. Hope is central to the collective cognitive-emotional orientation of advanced capitalist societies, and is sustained by the operation of pedagogies of hope. The sense that one’s significant desires are unattainable generates frustration, disillusionment and despair. Conversely, the perception that one can attain one’s objectives, even in spite of the evidence, if one engages in determined goal pursuit premised on effective pathways and agency thinking, is a source of social stability. Snyder’s pedagogy of resolute hope aims to reduce the incidence of disillusionment among certain social groups and thus reduce the threat of social disorder (Snyder and Feldman 2000). The cognitive, affective and behavioural dimensions of sound hope, meanwhile, are inscribed within the institutions of social life. This is the hope of the risk assessment, of evidence-based policy and of the ‘realism’ that concedes that human agency is inhibited by wider structural constraints. Parading itself as ‘utopian’ and thus delimiting the bounds of the possible, a pedagogy of sound hope is restrained in its objectives—proposing, for example, a curriculum that enables children to ‘come to terms with’ the social, economic and political realities of contemporary capitalism (Halpin 2003:108).

The success of Bennett’s The Book of Virtues testifies to the strength of the presence of patient hope within the collective cognitive-emotional orientation of American society, a mode of hoping characterised by what Marcel termed the ‘domesticating’ of circumstances; making oneself feel at home amongst life’s trials and tribulations in the secure trust that such trials have meaning. At the same time, the restless agitation characteristic of critical hope—the yearning, the feeling of unfulfilment, the protest born of a sense of lack—is everywhere pathologised and disciplined. As for transformative hope, sustained discursive work across the cultural field has ensured that utopian ideas stretching beyond the narrow confines of the ‘realistic’ are derided as ‘fanciful’ and ‘hokey’.

It is beyond the scope of this paper to offer a detailed analysis of the modes of hoping that predominate within the collective cognitive-emotional orientation of contemporary life and the ways in which these are sustained by the operation of pedagogies of hope. The paper has sought merely to argue that hope is not a singular undifferentiated experience, to offer a taxonomy of modes of hoping, and to point to particular pedagogical initiatives that are framed by and serve to evoke each of the modes of hoping. A broader point made throughout the paper is that there is nothing inherently radical or subversive about a pedagogy of hope. Pedagogies of hope can operate to conserve and reproduce existing social relations as well as to transform them.

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012