LMA LVA The Idea of Progress Intro Method

December 16th, 2013.

E. Lecatre- LVA – The Idea of Progress

January 8th, 2014.



Why is the modern view of progress so impoverished?

Things today are not quite that bad. (…) In the rich world the idea of progress has become impoverished. Optimists in the Enlightenment and the 19th century came to believe that the mass of humanity could one day lead happy and worthy lives here on Earth.

Some thought God would bring about the New Jerusalem, others looked to history or evolution; (…) some wanted a perfect language, others universal education; some put their hope in science, others in commerce; some had faith in wise legislation, others in anarchy. Intellectual life was teeming with grand ideas. For most people, the question was not whether progress would happen, but how.

The idea of progress forms the backdrop to a society. Society must in principle be able to move towards its ideals, such as equality and freedom. It matters if people lose their faith in progress. And it is worth thinking about how to restore it.

> This extract is a conclusion because it reflects on the loss of faith in progress and recapitulate on good and bad sidesof progress in very general terms.

> We can also sense the optimism of the writer who wants us to believe in progress again.

From The Economist, The idea of progress : Onwards and upwards, Dec 17th 2009

Why “Progress” Isn’t Always Progress

While there have been certain social milestones made in the last two centuries when it comes to

human social progress, other forms of economic or technological progress hasn’t all been good. Certainly, we can celebrate the end of slavery, segregation, and polio. We should hail the progress that the women’s rights movement has made in the last century, and feel relieved that advances in medicine mean we can cure most cancer and help women deliver babies safely as compared to several centuries ago. (…)

However, the endless quest for progress has brought us such environmentally destructive practices as natural gas fracking, tar sands, and risky deep water drilling. More consumption means more pollution, more rainforests cut down to accommodate agriculture, more trees cut to manufacture paper for magazines and junk mail.

In the mainstream media today, progress is akin to a national religion. When the economy isn’t growing, we’re not making progress. (…) This is the Story that our culture lives by. (…) Do we even stop for one minute to consider that the story we’re telling ourselves isn’t correct? That from the perspective of the planet, and thus ultimately from the human perspective, progress isn’t always progress?

Published by CarolynBaker.net, 4th February 2011 –

> Compared to extract n° 1, this article is much more personal and biased. We can sense that the author feels strongly about progress. He addresses the reader very straightforwardly in the end so the opening question is striking.

> This extract sounds like an introduction because there are general ideas and long time lapses mentioned but above all, we want to learn more. This article is opinionated so it’s a good start for a conversation.

  1. What do these texts have in common? (source, topic, style?)

  2. Which text sounds like an introduction? Which one sounds like a conclusion? Why ?

  3. Find examples of : opening question / situation or historical timeline / key words / negative sides of progress / positive sides of progress. > Place them in a table.

  1. Use one element from each column to compose your ‘oral’ introduction / conclusion.

    Beatrice’s draft: Backdrop of society – move towards ideal – direction of progress?

    > Medicine / medical field

    • Saviour Siblings newspaper article from the Telegraph
    • My sister’s keeper by Picoult > novel > saviour siblings

    in favour of humanity > surviving as an individual in good health

    genetics in favour of ‘the survival of the fittest’

    Gattaca sci-fi movie > genetics eugenism
     Intro example:
     " So the notion I'm dealing with today is the Idea of Progress. In my view, progress is the backdrop of any society as it pushes us towards an ideal of happiness or perfection. Seeing the world as it is today, we can question this direction and ask how far can progress go?
     I'll focus on the medical field and especially on genetics.                                                                With the help of two fiction stories: Jody Picoult's My sister's Keeper and the science fiction film Gattaca I will explore the kind of future medical progress has to offer and consider the ethical issues raised in a newpaper article about Saviour Siblings.
     What future is guaranteed by medical progress and how far can it go?"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s