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The Pursuit of Wisdom and Happiness in Education

Historical Sources and Contemplative Practices

Sean Steel

Publication Year: 2014

Explores the nature and role of wisdom in education.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix -x

This book could never have been published without the support and kind regard shown toward me by the fine people at SUNY Press, and Beth Bouloukos in particular. Special thanks are also due to the editors at Paideusis, the Journal of Educational Thought, the Canadian Journal of Education, and Springer Journals for...

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pp. 1-6

This book arises as a response to questions derived from my own experiences, aspirations, and frustrations as both a high school teacher and a student. Perhaps a good way to begin would be with a quoted reminiscence from a young student...

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1. Stating the Problem: The Loss of Wisdom in the Modern World

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pp. 7-40

In his book The Decline of Wisdom, Gabriel Marcel, an early French existentialist philosopher, reflects on his experiences of horror and anxiety while wandering through the ruins of inner Vienna in 1946. What bothered him most was not the physical destruction of so many irreplaceable monuments of an honorable past...

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2. Aristotle’s Understanding of Wisdom and Wisdom’s Pursuit

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pp. 41-64

Aristotle begins his discussion of wisdom or sophia in the Nichomachean Ethics by distinguishing between what he sees as the two basic ways in which this word is used. On the one hand, the term sophia is employed to denote “those men who are the most perfect masters of their art,” such as master craftsmen; today, we would...

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3. Boethius: The Relevance of Philosophy and the Need for a Wisdom Atmosphere in Education

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pp. 65-86

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being an English teacher is having the good fortune to read Shakespeare over and over again with my students. It is not uncommon across educational jurisdictions for students, en masse, first to be introduced to Shakespeare in grade nine when they read Romeo and Juliet. This...

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4. Moses Maimonides’s Warnings against the Pursuit of Wisdom in Schools

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pp. 87-94

The twelfth‑century Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides brings forth a very difficult challenge to the main contention of this book that the pursuit of wisdom is not only appropriate in the modern public school, but of central importance, and that an atmosphere in which such a pursuit might be promoted ought to be...

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5. Thomas Aquinas and the Gift of Wisdom

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pp. 95-130

In our discussions concerning the nature of wisdom and its pursuit in the context of education, the writings of Thomas Aquinas are valuable not only as an extension of Aristotle’s thoughts, but also as a departure from them. On the one hand, Aristotle is praised most highly by Thomas as...

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6. “Forget about Wisdom! Let’s Innovate!” A Critique of Current Trends in Education Reform

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pp. 131-140

Throughout our examination of ancient, medieval, and modern views concerning wisdom, we have seen that, although modern writers cannot agree on what is the precise nature of wisdom, there is nonetheless a broad consensus that wisdom is an important element of a proper education. More heartening than this, our...

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7. The Same Old Story: A History Lesson with St. Augustine about Education Reform

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pp. 141-150

Despite the claim of modern-day school reformers that their “vision” of education is “transformational” there is, in fact, nothing new or transformational about it at all. Indeed, a little familiarity with history shows that the ambitions and “values” promoted in such reforms are identical to those that drove achievement in schools...

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8. The Problem of Introducing Schole into Schools Today

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pp. 151-174

One need not be a philosopher, of course, to recognize the hollowness of strict pragmatism and the self‑concerned demand that all things contribute to and be useful for our own successes. Thankfully, much of what we do and a good deal of what we enjoy about our lives—our true friendships, our love for our intimates...

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9. Gareth Matthews’s Defense of Philosophizing with Children

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pp. 175-186

Children and youth have been invited to philosophize at least since the time of Socrates’s discussions with paides and neanioi. In modern times, attempts to promote philosophizing with children and youth in an institutionalized school setting have been proliferating around the world since the 1970s with the inception...

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10. Matthew Lipman and the P4C Movement

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pp. 187-210

Ironically, Gareth Matthews’s own personal strengths as a philosopher who can engage and lead children in philosophic inquiry have been grounds for criticism among some writers on the subject of pursuing wisdom in schools. Matthews’s vast knowledge of philosophic literature and traditions informs both his dialogues with children and his...

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11. What Philosophy Is Not

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pp. 211-230

In P4C literature, philosophy is characterized as “thinking about thinking,” or metacognition. Although philosophy certainly involves “thinking about thinking,” philosophy is not simply metacognition. Rather, philosophy, as the love of wisdom, has knowledge of “reality as such” as its object. Hence, true philosophy concerns...

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12. A Brief Statement on the Unity between the Philosophic and Contemplative Traditions

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pp. 231-234

Thus far in this book, we have come to see that the sophistic education with which we are so familiar is hostile to the “pursuit of wisdom” (philosophia), and that our modern emphasis on “total work” serves to undermine (with the intent of eradicating) the possibility for schole and its concomitant activity of theoria, or...

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13. Technological Education and the Need for Contemplation

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pp. 235-248

Throughout this book, I have argued that contemplation, or theoria, ought to take greater precedence in education than is currently the case; more specifically, I have been careful to emphasize that, most of all, it is important that there be a noetic “taking up” (anairesis) of whatever is seen toward its ground in what is the highest...

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14. The Challenge of Contemplative Education Programming in Schools

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pp. 249-266

Brian Stock has commented thoughtfully on the long‑standing Western bifurcation of academics from contemplative traditions. In particular, he questions the frequent supposition that the break between contemplative, spiritual practice on the one hand and academic study on the other occurred during the Reformation or the...

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15. Examples of Contemplative Education in Schools

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pp. 267-276

When I think back to my own youthful experiences of school in the ’70s and ’80s, I can only recall one example of what might pass muster today as “contemplative education.” I attended public school in Canada at a time when it was still legal for the Lord’s Prayer to be recited in Ontario classrooms. Not myself being religious...

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16. A Proposal for “Metaxic” Education, or an Education of the In-Between

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pp. 277-308

In my experiences as a high school teacher, I have found that the most wonderful and meaningful part of education is unfortunately not the focus of what we do as teachers. As a typical English teacher, I mostly focus on helping my students to learn how to write and to read and to think critically about their studies. I work...


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pp. 309-326


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pp. 327-342


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pp. 343-352

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438452142
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438452135

Page Count: 362
Publication Year: 2014