Good is all around us, Angela B. Hurley believes. Unfortunately, says the professor of education at Transylvania University, the negative often distracts our attention and drowns whatever impact something positive might have made. For example, almost everyone turns their eyes toward parents screaming at a misbehaving child, but few notice the examples and lessons of excellent parenting that are far more common while largely invisible.
Recognition afforded to people who “stand above the crowd” creates a similar disconnect.
“We live in a time when you have to be exceptional to be noticed, and we’re always telling our young people, ‘Be the best you can. Be exceptional. Go out and excel,’” Hurley says.
“But if everyone did that, we’d have to change the meaning of the word ‘exceptional,’” she adds. “And, in doing so, we devalue the importance of the normal, everyday actions that we do in our lives, that give us joy as human beings and give us meaning. Much of what is really important is what we’re not even noticing.”
Hurley, the 2016 recipient of NIU’s James and Helen Merritt Distinguished Service Award for contributions to philosophy of education, will speak on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 4 p.m., on “The Importance of All We Do Not See” in the Holmes Student Center’s Sky Room. A reception begins at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome.
Named for the late James Merritt, philosopher of education and professor in the College of Education, and the late Helen Merritt, artist and professor of art history in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the series welcomes scholars who have deeply influenced educational thought and practice.
“Both [James and Helen Merritt] shared a vision of philosophy of education defined by a belief that this subject could really help teachers in a practical way,” says Kerry Burch, professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, “not only to teach their respective subjects better, but also to gain insight into the deeper purposes of education.”
“It was Jim’s hope,” adds colleague Leslie A. Sassone, “that we would all better understand that, in his words, ‘Every feature of teaching and learning has a relevance to philosophy of education.’”
While Hurley will focus on a question – How do we live good lives in a culture that values exceptionality? – she also plans a direct message to current and future educators.
Following political philosopher Hannah Arendt’s notion that bringing children into the world “opens a space for them,” Hurley will challenge the audience to ponder “what our culture seems to be focusing on at this point, that a new one coming into this life would see emphasized.”
“How should we transform education for children and youth so they live their lives in a more joyful and meaningful way?” she asks. “I hope everyone who comes realizes that the ordinary things we do have great meaning, and that it matters how we interact with all of the people in our lives and on the earth.”
For more information, visit http://www.niu.edu/philosophy-of-education/merritt/index.shtml.