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Thinking and the Sense of Life

A Comparative Study of Young People in Germany and Japan- Educational Consequences

Gerhard Schaefer and Ryoei Yoshioka

Do cognitive/metacognitive abilities favour recognition of sense in life or not? Based on a sample of more than one thousand secondary schools students in Japan and Germany, the correlation between intelligence and perception of sense in life has been empirically examined. The study draws the conclusion that there is no clear correlation between cognition and sense. Finding sense in life seems to be independent from the level of thinking and to be independent as well from particular areas of commitment (e.g. science, technology, art and religion). The main factor discovered so far is a cultural/national one: The majority of Japanese students approve of the idea of sense in life whereas the majority of German students do not. The book discusses the different historical background of the two peer groups as a possible explanation and draws conclusions with respect to education.
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5. Postface: Educational Consequences

Extract

Education is not filling barrels,

but fanning flames.

Heraklitos

Considering the fact that apparently most of the German secondary school students, age 15/16 years old, do not believe in any higher sense of life, but just want to live, and that most of the Japanese students do believe in it, but confess they are still in search of finding it, we have to ask ourselves what could be a generalized “sense for all”, independent of age, sex, nation, special hobbies, etc. Such a “sense for all” going beyond any specific person-bound senses could then become a general goal of “education for all”, i.e. a goal for general education.

In this connection it is essential to look at those items of tasks 1 – 4 of the study reported here which have been marked by most students (more than ≈ 80%) of both populations indicating that these items were highly appreciated as something valuable in life. The items together would then, as a “commonly felt desire”, constitute an empirical basis for a general sense for all.

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