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ERIC Number: EJ791397
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1086-4822
Hope and Learning: The Outcomes of Contemporary Student Activism
Quaye, Stephen John
About Campus, v12 n2 p2-9 May-Jun 2007
For years, educators and politicians have sought to foster a sense of hope among students--a hope that moves them beyond cynicism about society and incite them to envision better days ahead. Yet as Princeton University professor of religion and author Cornel West discusses in his 2004 book "Democracy Matters", many students today are disillusioned with the minimal progress that has been made since the various civil rights movements of the mid-twentieth century. As college students experience changes in their identity, values, beliefs, and career aims, many must grapple with disappointment. Working to define who they are, what they believe, and how they want to relate with others, they can become upset or disheartened by the problems they see plaguing society: wealth inequality; covert and blatant acts of discrimination and intolerance; dishonesty and corruption among politicians; campus environments that are still unwelcoming to various racial and ethnic minority groups, women, students with disabilities, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people; and myriad other problems. When students see little positive social change, cynicism, not hope, is a likely outcome. Contemporary student activists have found ways to circumvent this cynicism and, at the same time, avoid naive idealism. They have enough hope to prevent themselves from abandoning efforts to effect positive social change and enough social concern to keep themselves from abandoning their goals. Today's student activists organize their efforts based on something the author calls critical hope. Critical hope is not based in a naive belief that racism, sexism, classism, and other unjust practices can be easily extinguished; instead, it is anchored in the belief that by challenging inequitable behaviors, college students can work to improve their circumstances and those of their current and future peers. When students become active, their critical hope often leads to three learning outcomes that are valued in higher education: appreciation of differences, cultivation of students' voices, and connection to global society. When educators closely observe student-initiated efforts, they can see how to transform institutional structures to support students in achieving these learning outcomes. In this essay, the author encourages educators to pay attention to the multiple forms of activism in which students participate and to examine the learning and the hope-filled attitude that follows from student activist efforts. (Contains 13 notes.)
Jossey Bass. Available from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774. Tel: 800-825-7550; Tel: 201-748-6645; Fax: 201-748-6021; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Washington