Mount Holyoke philosophy professor Thomas Wartenberg has recently been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to lead a four-week seminar for schoolteachers on existentialism next summer.
“The seminar will be a way for teachers to gain more of a background in existentialism,” says Wartenberg. “Existentialism is a broad cultural phenomenon,” he says, that addresses the sorts of questions young people are asking in their day-to-day lives.
Existentialism, which grew in importance in the twentieth century, focuses on personal identity and finding meaning in existence. Wartenberg says that young people, especially those in grades 7-12, are at a stage in their lives where they are “thinking about their own autonomy and identity.”
“We’d not be realizing our mission as educators if we weren’t introducing these ideas to young people,” he adds.
Wartenberg is well known for his work with teaching philosophy to children in three local elementary schools: the Jackson Street School in Northampton, the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion School in Hadley, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence in Springfield. With this seminar he is looking forward to working with teachers of older children.
The NEH is a federally funded, independent grant-making agency. Each summer, the NEH awards educators like Wartenberg with competitive grants to develop and run seminars for schoolteachers to help preserve and improve humanities teaching in K-12 schools.
Wartenberg’s seminar is open to full-time schoolteachers, with applications for admission accepted from later this fall until March 1, 2011. Fifteen teachers from around the country will be selected and given a stipend and campus housing during the seminar, which is scheduled for July 4–29. Two seminar spaces are reserved for graduate students who plan to pursue K-12 teaching.