Educational Thinking and the Conservation of the Revolutionary

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 112 Number 2, 2010, p. 488-508.

Prior work on Hannah Arendt and education has focused on democratic education, multicultural education, and conservatism in education. Most of these studies have concentrated on her essay, “The Crisis in Education.” While this study extends that work, it does so by taking up the lesser studied but equally relevant piece, “Reflections on Little Rock.” Furthermore, sparse attention has been paid to Arendt’s work on thinking in relation to work on education. This piece seeks to fill these gaps in the scholarship on Arendt and education.

Research Question

Following Arendt, The author’s inquiry is concerned with what we might call “the life of the student mind.” Two central questions guide this inquiry: What are students qua students doing that prepares them in advance for renewing a common world?
How, as students, are they engaged with the world without being asked to take responsibility for it?

Research Design
This study is a comparative exegesis of Arendt, reading her early essays, “Reflections on Little Rock” and “The Crisis in Education,” through the lens of Thinking, the first volume of her final and posthumously published work, The Life of the Mind. The study is heavily supported by research conducted in the Arendt digital archives.


This exegesis reveals new insights into Arendt’s mapping of the educational sphere and the principal activity taking place therein, namely, educational thinking.

The close comparative reading of Arendt’s early and later work produces a philosophical construction of the educational sphere as a liminal zone between past and future, a gap between the private sphere of the home, and the political sphere of the public realm.
In turn, the primary result of this study is the articulation of a distinctly Arendtian conception of educational thinking as occurring in an existential space of solitude where students, withdrawn from the continuity of everyday life, engage in an activity that enables them to reflect upon and critically reimagine the world and thereby prepare for world-caring.

Arendt, H. (1959), 'Reflections on Little Rock', Dissent 6(1), pp. 45–56.

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

Arendt, Hannah, “Thinking”, The Life of the Mind, , Volume I, New York: Harvest, 1981.

Updated: May. 25, 2010