November 9: Search for Meaning

One name that continues to come up in the foundations course is Hannah Arendt. The opening quote that was shared in the very first session of the course was one of Arendt that states “The whole dimension of the past has also been endangered. We are in danger of forgetting, [and in such] oblivion [we will lose the] dimension of depth in human existence” (as quoted by Scheuerman, 2014). In the following session she was mentioned again as well as her discussion of “vita activia” from her book titled the Human Condition (1958) which provides an explanation of the Greek concept of meaning as a participatory endeavor for the wellbeing of all and most recently, in our last session her coined phrase “the banality of evil” was mentioned by Dr. Scheuerman as he discussed the importance of providing more than just knowledge, but a moral education, to our students. Arendt appears to have a distinct vision of humanity that is dependent on morals and based on her experience of war torn Europe and the atrocities of the Holocaust. There is no shock of her concern for the wellbeing of all, the danger of forgetting and “the banality of evil” (Arendt, 1963).

As a teacher candidate, my research about Arendt began where it would for most people in the year 2014, online. I began by looking up her biography, provided by the Jewish Virtual Museum which also included a list of her works and information about her professional career including her study of philosophy and teaching career. My results also included a timeline of her life provided by the U.S. Library of Congress as well as her name in the headlines more recently during the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trials which she attended and recorded in her book titled, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963). Searching her name in SPU’s database led me to a variety of works where her name was tagged and one in particular that caught my eye titled “Educational Leadership and Hannah Arendt” by Helen M. Gunter (2013). Educational Leadership, Management and Administration is the central focus of this book, and Gunter (2013) uses the works of Arendt to engage educational leadership with the issues of freedom, politics and practice. Although I admit I did not have time read the entire book this week, I did learn a few interesting details about Arendt from the first chapter.

Arendt was expelled from school for, as according to Baehr (2003) “leading a boycott of the teacher’s classes” (as cited by Gunter, 2013, p. 2) after receiving an inconsiderate remark from her teacher. Her activism carried over into her studies at the university level (having hidden political refugees in her apartment (Gunter, 2013, p. 3)) as well as into her adult life when she was detained by the Gustapo and sent to an internment camp from which she escaped into New York. In her lifetime, Arendt had a concern for politics, education and history and described herself as “something between a historian and a publicist” (Gunter, 2013, p. 4). In Arendt’s biography written by Young-Bruehl (1982) it is emphasized that her message was “that people should be politically responsible in their lives” and in Arendt’s own words “it is our duty to be citizens, looking after the world and taking responsibility for what is done in our names” (Gunter, 2013, p. 4).

What a truly interesting woman and such a powerful message for our youth today. A lot is to be said about education of heart and mind. Schools have a responsibility to society to instill the pillars of moral education into the lives of our youth and parents, as their children’s first teachers, need to reinforce this responsibility at home. From the brief look into the life and works of Hannah Arendt, it is very clear that the trials of the time she lived and grew up in shaped her to be an individual to challenge leaders and all members of society to live their lives for the good of others, or in Arendt’s own phrase, vita activa.


Gunter, Helen M. (2013). Hannah Arendt and Educational Leadership. Retrieved from

Scheuerman, R. (2014, Autumn Quarter). EDU 6120 Foundations. Lecture notes retrieved from Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA.

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