Hope and education keys to be better future, says English professor

As a baseball enthusiast, Dale Jacobs hopes his beloved Detroit Tigers can live up to their pre-season expectations and have a deep run in to the playoffs this fall.

However as an educator, he’s keenly aware that the concept of hope involves much more than his own personal ambitions.

An associate professor in English Language, Literature and Creative Writing, Dr. Jacobs has spent a lot of time thinking about hope and how it relates to education. A paper that he wrote on the subject called “What’s Hope Got To Do With It?” was originally published in the Journal of Advanced Composition in 2005. That paper was recently selected to be printed again in a special, soon-to-be-published book called Education as Civic Engagement: Toward a More Democratic Society, which pays tribute to the journal’s 10 most outstanding articles of the last decade.

Among the paper’s sources of inspiration is Gabriel Marcel, a philosopher and theologian who died in 1973 and once said that “we must not confuse hope and ambition, for they are not of the same spiritual dimension.”

“Hope is decidedly not about individual aims, desires, or ambitions,” Jacobs writes in the paper. “It is not possible as an ‘I’ but only as a ‘we’ – or, more properly, as the articulation or joining together of individuals into what Marcel refers to as communion.”

Jacobs described the piece as his attempt “to help us begin to theorize hope and bring together some of the important strands of thinking about hope in relation to pedagogy.”

“It’s really taking Marcel’s ideas about hope and using them to think through teaching and how we can act towards our students, act towards each other as faculty and towards administrators,” he said.

Much of the paper is devoted to the notion that by inspiring a sense of hope in their students, educators ultimately create a better world.

“I am not saying that hope can change the world all by itself,” he writes. “What I am suggesting is that hope is a necessary condition of our work as educators attempting to bring about change. Hope problematizes time by opening it up to our intervention, allowing us a starting point from which we can articulate and move toward a shared vision for the future.”

Jacobs is also hopeful that reprinting the article in a new edition will help share its fundamental message with a much broader audience.

“I was pretty happy that it would get new readership,” he said.