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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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The author and publisher gratefully acknowledge permission to reproduce ma- terial from the following sources. Chapter 1 is reprinted with the permission of the Philosophy of Education Society. Originally published as Peter Roberts, “Education, Faith, and Despair: Wrestling with Kierkegaard,” in Philosophy of Education 2013, ed. C. Mayo (Urbana, Illinois: Philosophy of Education Society, 2013), 277–285. The orig- inal version is available online at Parts of the paper have been expanded for publication in the current volume. Chapter 2 is based on Roberts, P. (2015). Doubt, despair and hope in Western thought: Unamuno and the promise of education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47 (in press). By permission of the publisher (Taylor & Francis Group: An earlier version of chapter 3 was published as Roberts, P. (2011). Attention, asceticism and grace: Simone Weil and higher education. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 10(3), 315–328. By permission of the pub- lisher (Sage Publications: Chapter 4 draws, in part, on Roberts, P. (2008). Liberation, oppression and education: Extending Freirean ideas. Journal of Educational Thought, 42(1), 83–97. By permission of the editor. 132 happiness, hope, and despair Chapter 5 is based on Roberts, P. (2014). Educative suffering? Dostoevsky as teacher. The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 36(5), 372–385. By permission of the publisher (Taylor & Francis Group: www. Parts of chapter 7 and the Introduction draw, with kind permission from Springer Science+Business Media, on Studies in Philosophy and Education, Happiness, despair and...

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