argument top image

What is existentialism? Show more Show less
Back to question

The very definition of 'existentialism' is debatable. Some believe that the term is rooted, and only intelligible, in the realm of philosophy. Thus, existentialism can be understood as a philosophical approach. Yet, there are ways in which the works of key existentialist thinkers span other disciplines, such as literature.

Existentialism is a philosophy Show more Show less

Existentialist thinking gained prominence from the late 19th century with key thinkers (and writers) being Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Although some thinkers did not explicitly identify with the movement, the emphasis placed on, and their belief in, the free will of agents in determining their life is what lead to them being labelled as existentialist.
(1 of 2) Next position >

The central message of freedom and choice has educational implications

An existentialist approach to education is motivated by, and rooted in, the very beliefs of autonomy and defining one's own identity that key thinkers advocated. Applying this philosophy in educational settings presents us with practical teaching and learning methods that prioritize the student .

The Argument

Existentialism emphasises individuality and coming to know oneself through reflection and using one’s agency to make choices in order to shape life according to one’s desires. That said, we could understand the purpose of existentialism in education as learning to develop a sense of self. This existentialist approach to teaching would favour the student’s choice and freedom to shape their learning experience through the exercise of personal agency. Schools and other educational institutions would thus have the role of aiding students to learn more about self, society and the world. The teacher would facilitate this by encouraging students to explore activities which are meaningful to them in order to preserve individual identities. [1] In saying that, a key element of an existentialist approach to education would assure that the teacher would not enforce or encourage certain activities that aligned with their own moral compass. That said, the curriculum would be student-led as opposed to being determined by adult persons or specialist bodies. [2] Through experiencing the tangible results and direct consequences of their choices, students would come to learn more about who they are and how they influence their lives. Ultimately, the function of educational institutions would be to develop students’ personalities and self-realization in a healthy way, rather than to attain specific qualifications or to reach certain academic milestones.

Counter arguments

While it may be that we can marry existentialism and education, we must bear in mind that the former has historically not been associated with the latter. [3] Moreover, a complete existentialist approach in education is yet to actually be applied which brings into question whether the educational implications are indeed feasible. There is already room for students to greatly choose and shape their learning experience within current teaching methods but within certain constraints. The mere presence of constraints means that these methods aren't existentialist in any shape or form and suggest that the idea of a student-led curriculum, without the influence of specialist bodies, is impractical and misguided.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.academia.edu/35003287/The_Influence_of_existentialism_on_teaching_methods
  2. https://www.nepjol.info/index.php/AV/article/view/5309
  3. https://www.nepjol.info/index.php/AV/article/view/5309
This page was last edited on Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 00:33 UTC

Explore related arguments