Wisdom Begins with Wonder

Educational nihilists

There are many parallels between education and medicine.  As I was paraphrasing the Hippocratic Oath to create The Educator’s Hippocratic Oath, I came across a term I needed to look up – therapeutic nihilism.

Therapeutic nihilism is a contention that curing people, or societies, of their ills by treatment is impossible

Therapeutic nihilism – Wikipedia

I was slapped in the face by the relevance of this term to education.  Many teachers develop educational nihilism at some point.  They begin to believe that truly educating children is impossible.  They sit in the staff lounge and rant about “kids these days.”  They sit at their desk and give out worksheets all day.  They are just counting down the years until retirement.

The question is – are they a cause of the problem or a symptom of the failure of the system?

Either way, we need to overcome the educational nihilists in our schools in order to inspire real change.



3 comments ↓

  • #   clobbered on 08.21.10 at 11:50 am     

    Many people come to hate their jobs as they get older – cooks, neurosurgeons, you name it. Some never loved them in the first place. Others did, but were burnt out by the system, or by repetition. I am not sure this is a problem that can be completely solved under any educational philosophy. I think that makes me a realist rather than a nihilist :-)

    The problem is coming up with a fair system that replaces burnouts with young and/or more enthusiastic teachers, without simultaneously allowing a mechanism where really good but senior teachers are replaced in favour of young cheaper teachers.


  • #   Mr. Rice on 08.21.10 at 1:13 pm     

    I agree with what you are saying, except for this part –

    “I am not sure this is a problem that can be completely solved under any educational philosophy. I think that makes me a realist rather than a nihilist ”

    By definition, that makes you a nihilist, if you really believe the problem can’t be solved.

    I think the impetus has to be local and teacher-driven. The nihilists among us need hope. They need reinvigoration. They need support and they need to feel that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

    If none of those things make them care enough to try at their job then they need to leave yesterday.


  • #   Kyle Sardonicus Amadeus Stanfield on 12.10.12 at 9:18 am     

    It is a self-aggravating condition that everyone is for which to blame. Student and teacher alike fail themselves and each other because, in nihilistic despair and a refusal to face themselves as the harbinger of death, the very nothingness goes unrealised and nobody on any side fights to change anything—they have become complacent in their nihilism and are happy just as Sisyfus remains happy eternally rolling that boulder up a hill to nowhere.


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