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Defeating Despair

Defeating Despair

In Rethinking Globalization, we don't feature classroom activities that present full-blown, worked-out alternatives to corporate-driven globalization. Frankly, when I've tried to design lessons to get students to imagine overarching social alternatives, these have not been compelling. The distant and utopian feel to imagining the Good Society can unwittingly make fundamental change seem less attainable, and more dream-like.

This is not to say that imagining alternatives is unimportant. On the contrary, if we don't find ways to emphasize possible alternatives to today's increasingly privatized, ecologically ruinous version of globalization, then we run the risk of losing students to cynicism. Writing about how McCarthyism crippled U.S. political discourse long after Joseph McCarthy was gone, Salt of the Earth director Herbert Biberman said, "One was free to attack our mores, institutions, personages without limit or fear, so long as one also despaired and offered no alternative." Critique without alternative equals despair.

To provide a sense of alternatives, we have focused more on highlighting concrete examples of past and present resistance to the dire threats posed by profit-driven globalization. Rethinking Globalization is filled with instances from which students can find hope and vision for the future.

But unless teachers make these examples explicit, students may continue to lock in on, "This is sooooo depressing," and fail to recognize the glimpses of hope along the way. Thus it's important to draw students' attention to how moments in the past and present can prefigure aspects of a world we'd like to live in. Over the course of a school year, we can also help students recognize how much their own global awareness has grown, and perhaps their commitment to act for justice. This too can be a source of hope.

VIEWS OF HUMAN NATURE

Arguments against radical change are almost always premised on gloomy portraits of human nature: People are naturally selfish and materially acquisitive. Hope for a more cooperative, egalitarian, and peaceful future must be grounded in a contrasting set of interlocking beliefs about human beings. These beliefs - abundantly highlighted in Rethinking Globalization - include:

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