In a December 19, 1929 letter written from his prison cell, co-founder of the Communist Party of Italy and political prisoner Antonio Gramsci claims, “I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” Seeing as how Gramsci would spend 11 years in Mussolini’s prisons before dying at age 46, he had plenty of reason to be pessimistic.
Since then, Gramsci’s association of pessimism with the rational intellect and optimism with stubborn will seems to have become almost a truism. In fact, it seems to be a popular sentiment today that optimism is somehow illogical, that we must delude ourselves into thinking positively: “mind over matter,” as the mantra goes.
It seems to me, however, that teachers have plenty of logical reasons for being unapologetic optimists. Continue reading