From Naive Optimism to Robust Hope: Sustaining a commitment to social justice in schools and teacher education in neoliberal times

August 2007

Source:  Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 35, Issue 3 August 2007, pages 257 - 272

Drawing on a school ethnography and the voices of graduate students, this paper explores the concept of robust hope with reference to the ideal of social justice in education policy and practice. Although the arguments to support a commitment to social justice in education systems, schools and teacher education programs, are often well-articulated, the pedagogical and political strategies to achieve such goals often remain elusive.

If we are to reclaim the utopian imagination of socially just schools and egalitarian society we need to move beyond naive optimism to cultivate a notion of robust hope that is praxis-oriented and fully cognisant of the complexities, tensions and difficulties associated with the task. "Getting real" in this sense requires the development of conceptual ideas to critique existing social arrangements, a vision of an emancipatory alternative, and a set of political strategies and resources to affect progressive change.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of contesting market-driven approaches to education, this study reveals that there are "resources of hope" in schools, educational institutions and the broader community to guide teachers and teacher educators in pursuing a goal of socially just schooling.

Updated: Jan. 14, 2008