It’s difficult to construct a new social order when the only social orders we know are the ones we were raised within. It requires some social imagination — the ability to see new possibilities.
As Albert Einstein allegedly said: “Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be… to raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination.”
Unfortunately, our social imaginations are not exercised much within most contemporary educational institutions. At best, we have opportunities to examine the past and present with a critical eye. But social criticism, in the absence of social imagination, is a sterile endeavor. It leads to cynicism and apathy rather than agency and change.
When I engage my students in critical discussions that require them to exercise their social imagination — to articulate possibilities for the reform or reconstruction of the institutions we are examining — most of them become anxious and uncertain because they are seldom asked to think in these ways. I can see it in their faces. “Will this be on the test?” some of them wonder. “No,” I think to myself, “this is the test”. Imagine that.