The Right Kind of Hope


Earlier this week, my class on social justice in Education discussed Jeffrey M. R. Duncan-Andrade’s article and video entitled, “Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete” (found here). Jeffrey founded a wonderful school program called “Roses in Concrete” where children from urban areas are put into a classroom that will foster their many capabilities and help them succeed in school. In his article, Jeffrey discusses three types of false hopes that teachers give students who come from underprivileged backgrounds, which include (1) “hokey hope” (2) “mythical hope” and (3) “hope deferred.” After explaining the wrong kinds of hope, Jefferey provides us with his idea on the “right” kind of hope, which he entitles “critical hope.” I will go over each one a little further, so that we can all learn how to avoid these types of false hopes.

Hokey Hope:

Hokey hope is probably the most prevalent type of false hope, at least in the opinions of me  and my classmates, and it is basically the pick yourself “up-by-your-bootstraps” idea that if the urban youth would just work hard enough, “pay attention, and play by the rules, then they will go to college and live out the ‘American dream’.” Jefferey is quick to contend that he does not undermine the importance of hard work in order to produce change. However, he feels that this type of hope ignores all of the “inequities that impact the lives of urban youth” before they even get into the “under-resourced schools that reinforce an uneven playing field.”

Mythical Hope:

Mythical hope is a type of false hope that recently intensified with the Obama administration. This type of false hope focuses on “celebrating individual exceptions” while denying the suffering of the majority of underprivileged communities. The idea is that by looking to powerful people, like Obama, we can inspire children by saying that if he can make it through the system, you can too. Jeffrey explained that ultimately, mythical hope “depends on luck and the law of averages to produce individual exceptions to the tyranny of injustice, and thus it denies the legitimacy of the suffering of the oppressed.”

Hope Deferred:

Hope deferred is a type of hope that is built on a “progressive politics of despair” which Jeffrey claims is used for a “justification for poor teaching.” Many teachers who fall victim to using this type of hope are so overwhelmed by the challenges of helping urban youth succeed in the traditional school system, that they “consider themselves unequipped” to develop hope in this despair. Instead of blaming the students for their poor situations, they blame the “system” and they feel that the only hope we have is through a reformed school system and society.

Before reading his article, I was unaware of how these three types of “false hopes” are implanted within the school system. However, when I thought back to my own grade-school experiences, I remembered seeing some form of all three of these false hopes. Although, it may seem at first that Jeffrey is just pointing out inefficiencies in teachers, he does provide us with a representation of the right kind of hope to use in urban schools: critical hope.


Critical hope, according to Jeffrey, “rejects the despair of hopelessness” as well as the “cheap American optimism,” which is the base of many false hopes. In order to provide critical hope, teachers must demand commitment and active struggle against evidence ” in order to cut the “deadly tides of wealth inequality, group xenophobia, and personal despair.” There are three elements, which all must operate holistically, in order to make critical hope effective; these elements are material, Socratic, and audacious hope. Material hope basically means providing students with rigorous academic material that is related to the “harsh realities of poor, urban communities.” Socratic hope is basically the base of truly loving your students and caring for their lives outside of the classroom. In order to be a great teacher, you must take risks and accept challenges that will be uncomfortable for us, but beneficial for our students. If these urban students see their teachers constantly reflecting on their successes and failures, and struggling with how to best help their students, they will truly feel loved and cared for. Lastly, in order to critical hope to be successful, we must have some element of audacious hope, which is basically a willingness to share in these students’ struggles. This relates back to Socratic hope in that it fosters a loving relationship between the teachers and the students, and helps lead these students to trust their teachers.

Overall, I thought his article was very enlightening and impactful, and I found it especially important for teachers pursuing a classroom in an urban area. Although we may not be able to understand the struggle, we must get involved in it in some way, in order to help these students truly succeed. If you are interested, please watch the video below, where Jeffrey Duncan goes into much more detail about his ideas on critical hope.


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2 Responses to The Right Kind of Hope

  1. meerabp says:

    Thank you for this great post! I never really considered this concept but reflecting back now, I can definitely see how these different types of hopes have been implemented in classroom settings. I agree that hope is a powerful thing and even a slight modification from using a “wrong” type of hope can be impactful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. liznels says:

    This is a great post and super relevant to today’s political climate and issues around diversity, achievement gap and policy reform. I do agree that good teachers can be the “actual” hope that can actually change these students lives. However, I think that getting teachers who are willing to put in the extra effort for these kids is another issue. Most teachers who are placed in schools with a lot of poverty and hopelessness are new teachers who don’t have the experience or resources to be these teachers. What do you think is a good way to go about equipping teachers and supporting them as they give the extra mile for their kids?

    Liked by 1 person

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