A “More General Crisis”: Hannah Arendt, World-Alienation, and the Challenges of Teaching for the World As It Is

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume, 112 Number 2, 2010, p. 464-487.

Focus of Study

This article explains the shift in thinking about the purpose of education from being primarily about and for “the world” to being for “life.”
Arendt holds progressive educational ideas responsible for this shift, although she concedes that the progressives were simply reflecting the “prejudices” of the modern age. This article explains what these prejudices are and how they work against a conception of education that will help us overcome the phenomenon of world-alienation.

The author explores what this suggests for rethinking the content of the teacher education curriculum.

Research Design: This article is a philosophical analysis.


If world-alienation is the fundamental problem, then the educational solution would seem to be to make education more worldly. However, the author’s reading of Arendt’s critique of the most worldly disciplines—political philosophy, history, economics, and the behavioral sciences—shows that each of these disciplines has contributed to the phenomenon of world-alienation.

This suggests that simply returning to an education based on “the disciplines” (or “content knowledge,” in contemporary educational discourse) will not be all that helpful unless the “return” to the disciplines brings the problem of world-alienation to the fore and shows how each of these disciplines has, at times, contributed to this phenomenon.

Arendt, Hannah. "The Crisis in Education" in Between Past and Future: Six exercises in political thought (New York: Viking, 1961).

Updated: May. 25, 2010