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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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Chapter 4: Hope, Despair, and Liberation: Paulo Freire and Educational Struggle

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Paulo Freire has long been regarded as a pedagogue of hope. The link between hope and education has been explored by a number of thinkers over the centuries (see Halpin, 2003). Freire addresses this theme most directly in Pedagogy of Hope (Freire, 1994), but references to hope appear frequently in his other writings, from the classic early text, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1972a) to posthumously published books such as A Pedagogy of Indignation (Freire, 2004) and Daring to Dream (Freire, 2007). In Pedagogy of the Oppressed Freire speaks of hope as one of several fundamental requirements for authentic dialogue, the other pre-requisites being love, humility, faith, and critical thinking (1972a, pp. 62–65). At first glance, it might appear as if Freire is trying to inspire rather than theorize here, with a rallying cry based on a set of virtues similar to those found in the Christian Gospels. An appeal to hope in this manner, it might be said, could have rhetorical value but has no place in serious educational scholarship. This chapter suggests that such an interpretation of Freire’s intentions would be a mistake. When Freire’s work is read holistically, it is clear that he provides a robust philosophical justification for the pedagogical significance of hope, regarding it as not merely a practical necessity but a defining feature of human existence (see further, Kirylo, 2011; McLaren, 2000; Mayo, 1999; Morrow and Torres, 2002; Roberts, 2000; Schugurensky, 2012). Hope for Freire has ontological, epistemological, ← 51 | 52 →ethical, and educational...

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