Education and Self-Cultivation: Foundational Changes for Existential Flourishing
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The strained relationship between pedagogy and self-cultivation is often overlooked in favour of more pressing and profitable concerns within educational institutions. However, the end of education is not a well-paying job. It is often thought that education will produce a certain type of learned individual. Students are entered into educational institutions from a very young age and spend most of their youth within them, subsequently forming a part of themselves, their self-identify and agency, through these institutions. A significant amount of trust is placed in the hands of educators not only to impart information about various subject matters but to teach students how to think. This, however, is a difficult task which cannot be completely accomplished; thinking is a skill which an educator can promote but only the individual can cultivate. If self-cultivation is not the end of pedagogical practice and education, there is something deeply contradictory between the theoretical and practical values and aims of educational institutions.This thesis will address the problems caused by the neglect of self-cultivation within the pedagogical practices of contemporary educational institutions. I argue that self-cultivation, existential learning and flourishing should be the focus of these institutions. Educational institutions can make alternative efforts not only to improve the learning environment for these students but to prepare them to cope with existential questions. By acknowledging and focusing on the significance of self-cultivation, educational institutions can and should make efforts not only to teach useful, marketable skills and information but to also nurture the agency and mental well-being of the student him- or herself. My hope is that this thesis will be the first step towards answering a larger concern: How can educational institutions alleviate the struggles of students, particularly the seemingly growing number who are suffering from depression, by appealing to notions of self-cultivation?