Existential Philosophy as Attitude and Pedagogy for Self and Student Liberation

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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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Voices from the Ground
Author Biography

Sheryl Joy Lieb, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

I am a recent PhD (Educational Studies with a Concentration in Cultural Studies), April 2015, in the Department of Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations. My primary scholarly interests encompass philosophy of education, existential studies, critical and cultural studies, and various forms of narrative research and writing.