Learning How to Hope: Reviving Democracy through Schools and Civil Society (Oxford University Press, 2020)

by Sarah Stitzlein, Ph.D.

Democracy is struggling in America. Citizens increasingly feel cynical about our system and doubt they can influence public policy. Distrustful of other Americans and elected officials, some are even turning to authoritarian alternatives. Hyper-partisanship and recent contentious presidential elections have deepened political despair. While some citizens get swept up in optimism during campaign cycles, they often later find themselves frustrated with elected leaders as they wait for change. This book seeks to revive democracy by teaching citizens how to hope. Hope animates life in a democracy, moving citizens forward through new challenges, new ideas, and new experiments. The form of hope described in this book is more than just a campaign slogan or a self-help program, it is an informed call to citizen engagement that opens new possibilities for our country. Drawing on examples from life in America today and John Dewey’s pragmatist philosophy, this book explains how schools can cultivate hope through our habits and how action in our communities can sustain hope. It shows how we can build trust, grow political agency, and shape an improved American identity through hoping together. This book provides guidance for learning how to hope in schools, universities, and civil society. It describes what hope is, why it matters to democracy, and how to teach it.

Please note that the e-book is open access and available to download for free here.