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Thursday, February 8 • 12:00 - 13:00
Existential Threat and Education

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As William James (1917) notes: “Back of everything is the great spectre of universal death, the all-encompassing blackness… the worm at the core of all our usual springs of delight” (p. 140). Existential fear, and how humans manage that terror, lurks behind many of our thoughts and deeds. Terror management theory (TMT) notes that all living creatures, humans and otherwise, share an innate drive for continued life. What makes humans unique (as far as we know) is that we are aware that we will eventually lose “the battle against death”. Humans have reacted to this existential problematic by developing ways to reduce our fear through immortality projects (e.g., legacies through procreating, erecting monuments, etc.), self-esteem, and worldviews. Anyone or anything that challenges our self-esteem or worldview (intentionally or not) subverts our coping mechanisms, throwing us into existential terror and thus eliciting negative reactions. TMT provides possible responses to the questions: How do my motivations for teaching affect the educational endeavour, and why is it often so difficult to engage with non-dominant perspectives in the classroom? An awareness of existential processes that impact education provides an opportunity to engage with privilege and oppression in a way that might mitigate hostile responses.

Speakers
avatar for Cathryn van Kessel

Cathryn van Kessel

Assistant Professor, University of Alberta
Cathryn van Kessel is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta in Secondary Social Studies Education. As a secondary school teacher, Cathryn taught junior and senior high social studies and Latin for a decade, and now teaches social studies curriculum and instruction classes... Read More →


Thursday February 8, 2018 12:00 - 13:00 MST
Westin: Turner Valley Rm 10135 100 St NW
  Social Studies / Études sociales  General Interest / Intérêt Général
  • Chairperson Linda VandenBerg - Greater Peace #13
  • Room Details Lecture Max Capacity - 100
  • Grade Focus General
  • Tags English