According to this philosophy, the students and teachers would do whatever they felt inspired to do at that moment, and curriculum would be loose. The existentialist teacher eschews structure. The existentialist does not attempt to become a specialist because to do so is too restricting. I agree with the quote, "Specialization diminishes a man-He is a creature of knowledge, not the master of it. " I also appreciate the existentialist vision of education as a "conversation between persons in which each person remains a subject for the other, a conversation.
With this viewpoint, the teacher is not authoritarian, and does not stand up in front of the class and lecture all day. Finally, the existentialist teacher helps students achieve self-realization. I agree that the purpose of education is more than just to memorize multiplication tables or vocabulary words. There is a reason why students don't like school, and if more teachers incorporated the fundamental philosophies of existentialism in their classrooms, more students would enjoy school. Learning would be more fun. I had an existentialist teacher in high school.
The class was social studies, but we did not have a textbook. Rather, the teacher taught to us from Buddhist teachings and encouraged each student in the class to discuss the meaning of life. Instead of memorizing historical data, we learned how to think creatively about our world and about our own selves. The existentialist classroom can focus on any subject. In fact, the true existentialist classroom focuses on as many subjects as possible, and is not restricted to math, English, science, or history. However, when teaching restrictive subjects like math, the teacher uses highly creative methods rather than rote learning.
The existentialist teacher brings in various multimedia materials, and welcomes technology as a tool for teaching. The teacher teaches whatever the students appear interested in on that day rather than force them to focus on one specific thing. The students and teacher might sit together in a circle, rather than in typical classroom format. Students are encouraged to tell stories and share jokes. They might perform some creative projects with art or music. Games are also encouraged. The existentialist class is frequently held outside on the lawn on sunny days, or alternatively, goes on a field trip to a park or wherever seems fun that day.
If it's raining, the teacher might bring in a movie to teach a unit on cinematography or on a specific theme. The existentialist classroom also incorporates current events as a means to expand the students' awareness of their universe. Furthermore, the teacher imparts knowledge regarding psychological and social coping skills; the existentialist class is not about rote memorization of specific materials but rather on the big picture: the meaning of life and the life purpose behind education. The existentialist views humanity as integral in the perception of reality.
Rather than see a physical universe "out there" that exists independently of the person as a realist would, the existentialist knows that human consciousness alters reality. Human beings are therefore active creators and participants in the universe. In order to better understand the metaphysical underpinnings of the universe we first need to better understand ourselves. The quote "Man is nothing other than what he makes himself" refers to the power of human consciousness in shaping personal as well as collective reality: we are what we think.
Human beings are born with free will; free will is neither good nor an ideal; often free will is a source of our pain and suffering, for when we make mistakes we suffer the consequences. Therefore, free will enables human beings to make painful mistakes in order that we may learn and grow. Because of the absolute nature of free will, each person is ultimately responsible for his or her own actions. Knowledge is highly variable, and not as absolute as some may believe. An individual's knowledge depends on his or her interpretation of the world, and is also highly dependent on his or her personal value systems.
Beliefs inform reality. While some knowledge has been codified, the codification of knowledge is not absolute. Human beings are continuously shifting our view of the universe, as our understanding expands and grows. Moreover, people in different cultures and from different backgrounds have different worldviews and therefore have different knowledge. No one form of knowledge is any more or less valuable than another, just different. Specialization is an attempt to own knowledge, to master something completely. However, specialization "diminishes the man" because specialization is by definition limiting.
The existentialist teacher seeks as many different opinions as possible to enrich the conversation. Teaching is a process of conversation and collaboration, a back-and-forth sharing of ideas. All teachers must be aware of their limitations and not attempt to falsely represent themselves as "experts. " An existentialist curriculum will focus on the humanities because of the openness and creativity inherent in the humanities. Students actively participate; they don't simply sit back and try to absorb material from the teacher.