University of Cambridge > > Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars > ‘The Gentle Art of Teaching: Camus, Taoism and Education’

‘The Gentle Art of Teaching: Camus, Taoism and Education’

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What does it mean to teach? How might lives be transformed by teaching? What tensions must be negotiated by those whose who are taught? This paper addresses these questions in relation to Albert Camus’s posthumously published semi-autobiographical novel, The First Man. I identify two key pedagogical figures in the life of the novel’s central character, Jacques Cormery: his elementary school teacher, Mr Bernard, and his mother. Mr Bernard adopts a strict but loving attitude toward the students in his classroom; Jacques’s mother provides a quiet, subtle demonstration of teaching as a gentle art. I attempt to understand these two approaches in the light of Taoist ideas, paying particular attention to the theme of acceptance and resistance. The analysis offered here, I suggest, has broader implications for the way we think about teaching across the human lifespan.


Peter Roberts is Professor of Education at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. His primary areas of scholarship are philosophy of education and educational policy studies. He has published widely in international journals. He is the author or editor of ten books, the most recent of which include Paulo Freire in the 21st Century: Education, Dialogue, and Transformation (2010), The Virtues of Openness: Education, Science, and Scholarship in the Digital Age, with Michael Peters (2011), and From West to East and Back Again: An Educational Reading of Hermann Hesse’s Later Work (2012). Professor Roberts is Director of the Educational Theory, Policy and Practice Research Hub at the University of Canterbury, and Vice-President of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia. In 2010 he was a Canterbury Fellow at the University of Oxford, and in 2012 he has been an inaugural Rutherford Visiting Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge.

This talk is part of the Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars series.

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