Existential Philosophy as Attitude and Pedagogy for Self and Student Liberation

Sheryl Joy Lieb


Grounding myself in existential philosophy, I speak to an existential pedagogy of resistance in which the individual educator might reclaim her subjectivity and agency in these neoliberal times. Such a pedagogy, teaching as and for resistance, emerges from an intentionally proactive manifestation of the “existential attitude” (Solomon, 2005, p. 1), a consciously internalized realization of one’s own personhood amidst the oppressive realities of a dehumanizing educational system.

In the portrait that follows, I represent my stance against neoliberal education as a resistor within and defector from the K-12 public school system where I worked as a teacher/librarian for thirteen years. Now, as an instructor (foundations of education) of undergraduate students preparing to be future teachers, I continue to position myself as a resistor by exposing my students to critical and philosophical forms of pedagogy that can be adapted to their own evolving teaching philosophies and future pedagogical practices. Using excerpts from a semester’s worth of autobiographical field notes (Spring 2013), I offer a portrait of pedagogical resistance against neoliberalism’s prescriptive teaching model whereby I emphasize existential themes of freedom, subjectivity, choice, action, and responsibility within a seminar setting. My purpose is to encourage students to develop their individual capacities for self-inquiry, personal expression (verbal and written), interactive dialogue, philosophical thinking, and relationship building.

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ISSN 1715-0094  Workplace