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Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education

Learning from Myths and Metaphors

Mordechai Gordon

Myths and metaphors share not only an ability to call our attention to aspects of our world of which we were previously unaware, but also a propensity toward symbolic meanings and interpretations. In Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education: Learning from Myths and Metaphors, Professor Gordon draws on some well-known myths and metaphors of various Existentialist thinkers and writers as a lens and an interpretative framework with which to explore a variety of issues in philosophy of education. His book argues that symbolic or metaphorical interpretations can offer us representations of problems in education that go beyond what we can gain when we consider them only in their literal sense. Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education is an excellent classroom text for a variety of foundations courses, including the Philosophy of Education.

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Part II

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· 5 · nietzsche on the significance of learning about the past1 Introduction Why should we teach children about the past? What significance, if any, is there in exposing students to certain “classic” texts in history, literature, phi- losophy, and science, as well as great works of art? What is the purpose, in short, of an education that introduces students to the cultural traditions of their past? Historically, these questions have received quite a bit of attention, particularly from various conservative thinkers and educators. Conservative thinkers from Plato to Allan Bloom have argued that learning about the past and the great works of tradition is essential in order to glorify and imitate them. These thinkers claim that the major works of our heritage should be taught because they contain invaluable insights for our lives. Studying these works, they believe, can combat the relativism, anti-intellectualism, nihil- ism, and even barbarism that threatens our youth and society in general. For Pragmatists, on the other hand, the value of the past is not so much as an educational end that should be emulated but rather as a means that can help us make sense of the present and anticipate the future. Pragmatists like William James and John Dewey assert that the past is important in so far as it can help us make sense of our current problems and inform our impending decisions. 92 existential philosophy and the promise of education In this chapter, I will propose an alternative rationale concerning the significance of learning...

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