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Happiness, Hope, and Despair

Rethinking the Role of Education


Peter Roberts

In the Western world it is usually taken as given that we all want happiness, and our educational arrangements tacitly acknowledge this. Happiness, Hope, and Despair argues, however, that education has an important role to play in deepening our understanding of suffering and despair as well as happiness and joy. Education can be uncomfortable, unpredictable, and unsettling; it can lead to greater uncertainty and unhappiness. Drawing on the work of Søren Kierkegaard, Miguel de Unamuno, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Simone Weil, Paulo Freire, and others, Peter Roberts shows why these features of educational life need not be feared; to the contrary, they can be seen as a source of hope and human fulfilment.
After years of negotiating an education system dominated by the language of competition, performance, and economic advancement, students and teachers often long for something different; they seek not just measurable success but also opportunities to ask searching questions of themselves and the world they encounter. Happiness, Hope, and Despair makes an important contribution toward meeting this need. It fosters a rethinking of the nature, purpose, and value of education, and opens up possibilities for further scholarly and professional inquiry.


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Introduction: Living on the Edge: Happiness, Hope, and Despair in Education 1 Chapter 1: Education, Faith, and Despair: Wrestling with Kierkegaard 11 Chapter 2: Doubt, Discomfort, and Immortality: Educational Possibilities in the Work of Miguel de Unamuno 23 Chapter 3: Attention, Asceticism, and Grace: Simone Weil and Higher Education 37 Chapter 4: Hope, Despair, and Liberation: Paulo Freire and Educational Struggle 51 Chapter 5: Educative Suffering? Dostoevsky as Teacher 71 Chapter 6: Pain, Pleasure, and Peacefulness: An Educational Journey 87 Chapter 7: Complicating the Curriculum: Happiness, Despair, and Education 101 References 119 Credits 131 Index 133

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