Recently, Marvel’s X-Men have shot back into the spotlight both in publishing and super- heroics.
This resurgence started off with the House of X/Powers of X mini-series in Summer 2019, and continues into 2020 with numerous X-titles and storylines.
One of the key elements of this new “Dawn of X” relaunch is that Professor X has created a paradise island nation for all mutantkind.
The idea of a mutant utopia is NOT new in X-Men comics. In fact, there have been multiple “Mutopia” worlds in alternative universes, including House of M and Battleworld. One look at these stories shows that people’s ideas of a perfect world can be VERY different.
One of the most famous X-Men Utopias was an island in San Francisco Bay. Actually, before it was an island, this particular utopia was an asteroid controlled by Magneto. But it’s not that strange when you consider the recent Dawn of X utopia is the living mutant island Krakoa. (Hooray for comic books!)
Here’s the problem with utopias: They almost always end in catastrophe.
Think of any fantasy or sci-fi story featuring a utopian society. Typically, these worlds go crumbling down just in time for the thrilling climax, if they haven’t already collapsed to kick off the adventure.
Also, many utopias hide a dark secret that becomes their undoing. It looks like this sort of thing may happen soon for the X-Men’s Krakoan utopia, thanks to shapeshifter Mystique (and Professor X? Magneto?).
What about schools and classrooms? Is it possible for such a place to be utopian?
I once heard a principal at a large school speak about the “Perfect Day.” He said that a perfect day is NOT when nothing wrong happens. Rather, a perfect day is when issues come up, and the school teachers and staff handle them the right way.
I like this attitude. It’s not optimistic or pessimistic, but just plain pragmatic.
We are all human, teachers and students alike. None of us are perfect. So why would a school full of kids and adults ever be perfect?
In fact, teachers must be careful whenever we think we have reached perfection. No teacher is perfect, no matter their experience or awards. We all struggle and succeed in different areas, and we can all get better at something. The same is true for every day of school.
There is a short essay by Tim Slater in The Physics Teacher warning teachers about utopian school days. It’s called “When is a good day teaching a bad thing?” and you can find it HERE.
And here’s a teaser:
Read the entire article and consider what sort of “Hidden Contract” you may be establishing with your students and colleagues. It’s not that well-behaved, on-task students are a bad thing. Far from it. But pause and consider why and how these expectations arise.
Do your students follow directions and contribute to class because they WANT TO or because the HAVE TO? (An easy way to find out is by leaving the room, or checking with the substitute teacher after an absence.)
Naturally, there are times when students (and all of us) do things because we have to, whether we like it or not. Exercise. Healthy diet. Pay taxes. Change diapers.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit there is a positive payoff from these efforts, even if they are not easy. In many cases, practicing good habits in such endeavors will also increase the ease and even enjoyment.
A “perfect” classroom is impossible (and potentially dangerous). But hopefully teachers can instill solid skills and dispositions in students. One sign of maturity is doing things we don’t feel like doing. Another is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. (I’ve also heard this is the definition of integrity.)
So we may never reach school wide utopia. But maturity and integrity make for a good start!
*Admittedly, a much better pun than “School-topia” is “Edutopia.” But George Lucas already has the rights to that one. Take a look at this resource for educators, starting with https://www.edutopia.org .