The Abandonment of Hope: Curriculum Theory and White Moral Responsibility

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Journal of Curriculum Pedagogy




In this article, I suggest that an ideology of hope, even “educated” (Giroux, 2003) and “radical” (Farley, 2009) conceptualizations, might be problematic for curriculum theory because it operates to reinscribe White privilege and perpetuate the assumption that Whites can transcend the critique of Whiteness (Applebaum, 2010). The call for an abandonment of hope not only relinquishes the possibility for White moral innocence but also challenges traditional notions of moral responsibility that “not only fail to expose white complicity but also contribute to the normalization of denials of complicity that protect systemic racism from being challenged” (Applebaum, 2010, p. 5). Drawing from Gaztambide-Fernández’ (in press) critique of the humanist foundations of curriculum theory, as well as the assertion that curriculum is fundamentally a colonizing enterprise (Tuck & Gaztambide-Fernández, 2013), I examine the work of Paulo Freire (1970) toward a critique of hope as a humanist endeavor, and, as such, a racial project (Murad, 2010, 2011). Then, by engaging Levinas’ (1998) concept of “useless suffering,” I explore how an abandonment of hope might allow White curriculum scholars to enact Applebaum's (2010) rearticulated notion of moral responsibility that calls for “uncertainty, vulnerability, and vigilance” (p. 5). While such a position accepts White moral innocence as a hopeless impossibility, it offers, through acceptance of that impossibility, an opening for White people to act ethically within the context of White complicity.