Thomas More’s Utopia, published in Latin in 1516, describes the conditions of the England of the Early Tudors in Book I after his visit there and what a country might be “if all were well” in Book II.
Ironically, utopia means “nowhere” in Greek. More chose the contrary idea of “what might-be” in his Utopia:
- Where no one is idle and the fruits of labor are shared equally
- Where a short working day leaves leisure for everyone to take pleasure in living
- The vexed problems of human relationships are handled with intelligence and understanding.
- Marriage bonds are sacred, but sometimes divorce is recognized as just and wise
- The older and younger generations get along without friction.
- Where neighbor helps neighbor and nation helps nation
Where could one find this Utopian civilization? As the Greeks declared, “nowhere”!! But why not dream? Why not imagine? Why not try to improve the quality of life where we live? Good for you, Thomas More. Thank you for starting this dialogue 500 years ago.
The King of Utopia, King Utopus, brought “all rude and wild people of the world to excellent perfection in all good fashions, humanity, and civil gentleness” (71). They now surpass all the people of the World. I love this!
This is my first time reading Utopia. Thank you, Parnassus Bookstore in Yarmouth, Massachusetts for providing a lovely, gently used, 1947 edition for me to discover on a recent vacation. [photo of Parnassus]
More thinks of all aspects of building his perfect city including economics, agriculture, politics, and healthcare, to name a few. As an Educator, my favorite section of More’s creating his perfect city was “learning”.
In More’s Utopia, “Learning” must include 1) Grammar by Constantine Lascaris and Theodorus Gaza; 2) Linguistics by Hesychius and Pedanius Dioscorides; 3) Composition by Aldus Manutius; 4) Poetry by Aristophanes, Homer, Euripides, and Sophocles; 4) History by Thucydides, Herodutus, Herodian, Hippocrates, and Galen. Definitely a good start!
Utopian model for ENG COMP course
I am currently reevaluating a university course in English Composition and Rhetoric that I am teaching in light of recent challenges in AI, Dual Credit, Online Learning- asynchronous vs synchronous, Academic Integrity, and Digital Learning and Fluency.
In addition to the standard skill development for an English Composition course—effective writing, critical reading and thinking skills, analyzing texts, and documenting in MLA—there are many things to consider in the area of Digital Fluency:
- In the age of “streaming” (TikTok, Instagram, YouTube), how can I train students to be more Digitally competent for Academic courses at the University level? To identify and cite credible sources for Academic Research.
- How to prepare students to write in their professional lives in the workplace–in this Digital age
- As the students in my university courses are a combination of Digitally-Native and Non-Digitally Native, what should my standards be for Digital competency? Do I need to provide Digital skills in the course curriculum or require that they are Digitally competent as a prerequisite? How would I test for this?
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
What is the Utopian model for this ENG COMP course? —“if all were well”!
I will conclude with More’s typographical farewell in Utopia:
Thus, O liberal supporter of good
Learning and flower of this
Our time, I bid you most
Sir Thomas More. The Utopia. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1947.
I remember appreciating More’s Utopia in college. The points you list are so compelling and worthy of repeated consideration.
I can’t even begin to think how you approach teaching in today’s digital age. Navigating digital content could be its own class. When it comes to writing and composition, I think one of the skill sets that young people lack is the ability to disconnect and focus—regularly and for long periods of time. Could Hemingway have finished a single novel if he’d been checking his phone every thirty minutes?
Wishing you luck and inspiration. Students need to hear from mindful instructors like you.
Hi Carol, this is a good reminder, to help students disconnect from their smart devices in class. I appreciate your well wishes! Robyn
I read it in my last year of French classes (in French high school).
We read 3 books with the Utopia theme: this one, Erewhon by Butler, and… sadly, I can’t remember the 3rd. My excuse is it was back in 1982…
But I remember how nuch I enjoy comparing them
Hi WordsandPeace, I am not familiar with Erewhon, I will look for it. Good to hear from you, Robyn
More’s Utopia is a book I’ve heard about in various contexts, but I’ve never read it. I think it’s a beautiful thing that human beings for all their faults have always had questing souls wanting to make the world a better place.
I can’t imagine the difficulties you face in designing this course, but because I don’t like the idea of excluding students who aren’t so tech-savvy, here’s a suggestion, predicated on the idea that every intake of students is going to have new skillsets that didn’t exist when the previous intake arrived, and some that you won’t have yourself (or maybe not even know about.) Why not spend the first lesson having them contribute to developing the skill set they ought to have, forging it into a graded rubric in 4 to 6 stages, ranging from minimum to advanced. At the start of the unit of work, they have to identify the skills they have (which may range all over the rubric) and hand it in to you as their starting point. Wherever they are on the rubric, they must progress by one stage, and grading is based on how many stages they are able to progress.
This would also give you the opportunity to assign learning buddies who can coach each other, and you could make that worth an advanced student’s time by including being able to teach a digital skill as one of the skillset elements.
It would also enable you to negotiate elements of the skill sets that they didn’t have at the start of the unit as an assessment tool, e.g. prepare an animated TikTok presentation of a Teachers’ Guide to detecting AI!
Hi Lisa, These are great suggestions, I appreciate your time and thought into this important paradigm shift in Higher Education. I am meeting with my Dean soon to discuss this Digital Fluency Initiative and will consider your suggestions. Some items of consideration: How to infuse digital skills and what should they be; How to develop critical users of technology; Digital native and non-digital native-how to meet the needs of both; Student AND Faculty training in Higher Ed Digital skills; Developing writing skills for the workplace? as well as for Academia. Training in credible Academic Research–do we now consider TikTok, Youtube, and Instagram as starting points (students already do consider these). Thank you again for your interest and help! Robyn
I think it’s so difficult.
Just today I enquired about ways to make Tweets more accessible to disabled readers, and received a helpful reply that set me exploring some initiatives. I don’t mind describing my images, and I’m fine with using this font rather than that one.
But I balked at the idea that the language and sentence structures that I use “should” be simplified. Maybe it sounds mean, but I don’t want to write my book reviews so that they are accessible for adults with 10-12 year-old reading levels. Never to write in the passive when the passive is what’s called for. Never to use the perfect word because it’s got too many syllables or a foreign expression because AI can’t read it aloud on an app. I am writing for a niche audience of readers of literary fiction. It would take all the pleasure of writing away if I couldn’t express myself as I do.
I think there is a risk in all this digital stuff and an earnest desire to be inclusive, that graduates will not have to, at some stage, deliver essays and seminar presentations at a standard that reflects the meaning of a university education.
Thanks for sharing this idea. Publish in Latin in the 1500″s . We did this in school years ago .
I found your site and let’s follow each other. Anita
I am following you! Great blog
I think this is very true growing up I had this Idea that going to university would solve all my problems and it was as you say a kind of Utopia dream. Unfortunately I never made it to a brick university but I am doing work with the Open University.
LazyLiterature, I applaud you for your quest of knowledge and understanding–whatever avenue that takes you there! Thank you for your comment. I hope to hear from you again, soon. Robyn