Project 8: Monograph on contemplative wonder and education

8 January 2018

Quite a lot has been and is being written about wonder these days, but much less on wonder and education. Project Leader Anders Schinkel will devote a monograph to this subject. The book will draw attention to, and explain, the importance of contemplative wonder – a type of wonder that is a response to the mystery of existence – for education in general, and for moral and political education in particular.

Many people – whether educators or not – will agree that an education that draws no inspiration from wonder is dead, an education that does not inspire wonder barren. Wonder is commonly perceived as akin to curiosity, as stimulating inquiry, and as something that enhances pleasure in learning. But many experiences of wonder are rather different, and do not have an obvious place in education: wonder at the bare fact of existence, for instance (the fact that there is something rather than nothing); or being struck by wonder at a magnificent sunset, the magical swirling murmurations of a million starlings. Such experiences (more akin to, but still distinct from, awe) are likely to leave us lost for words; they are a silent response to mystery, and as such seem rather anti-educational. Yet as Schinkel will argue in this book, this type of wonder – contemplative wonder – is of fundamental educational importance. It pierces frameworks of understanding that are taken for granted and perceived as natural, draws our attention to the world behind our constructions, and it may spark or deepen our interest in the world as something worth attending to for its own sake rather than for our purposes. Contemplative wonder opens up space for the considerations of (radical) alternatives wherever it occurs, and in many cases is linked with deep experiences of value; therefore, it is not just important for education in general, but also, more specifically, for moral and political education.