Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Better World

Recently, I gave an argumentative writing prompt to my senior Intro to College Comp class, asking them if the "world is getting better." The subsequent discussion - as they debated their positions in class - confirmed most of what I believe about young people. Roughly two-thirds of the class saw the world as improving, while the rest were more pessimistic. Both side made valid assertions, and the discussion reinforced my opinion. Despite all the naysayers of gloom and doom on issues from education to the economy to health care to the environment to our "culture," I'm upbeat and hopeful about the time in which I live - and I can't imagine wishing to live in any other era.

Certainly, reasons for pessimism abound, and the economy/fiscal/jobs crisis leads the charge. Disparity in wealth at current levels is never good for a society, and the lack of solutions about how to reverse the credit/cash crunch are slim. Rising health care costs always make me anxious, and I see no end for the conflict about how to cut spending and raise revenue for society to meet its basic expectations. Education costs are certainly getting out of hand, and the results for sixty percent of our population are disheartening. Additionally, I worry about popular culture and its licentiousness as my children head toward adolescence.

Nevertheless, the world is a wonderfully opportunistic place these days, and the future knows no limits. My students talked about the increases in technology that improve health care and daily life. They reminded me how many students are taking advanced calculus and sciences in high school - the types of classes reserved for college in the past. They are an incredibly tolerant generation who will probably see less violent crime and prejudice in their world. While the war against islamic terrorism is certainly troublesome, the world sees far fewer wars and deaths from violence than at almost any time in history. Additionally, we have a lot of altruistic people out there who are doing the heavy lifting - and financing - with the hope of clean water and development for impoverished peoples. Changes are happening - albeit slowly - in education, and access is increasing worldwide.

Ultimately, the world is what we make it. And, thus, if our image is positive, our world most certainly will move in that direction. Thus, I asked my students at the end of class, not if the world was getting better, but if they were.

So, how about you.

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