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Reverence in Classroom Teaching

by Jim Garrison & A.G. Rud - 2009

Background/Context: Our article develops insights from Paul Woodruff’s book, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (Oxford University Press, 2001), to discuss reverence in teaching. We show how reverence is both a cardinal and a forgotten virtue by situating it within the philosophical tradition of virtue ethics, which involves traits of character as embodied predispositions to act in certain ways in concrete contexts. Virtue ethics sometimes conflicts with abstract, rule-governed ethics, much as the ethics of care does. Virtue ethics appeals to emotional conviction in ways that rule-governed ethics does not. This article looks specifically at the emotions of shame and respect that are associated with reverence for the high ideals that may bind together an otherwise diverse, even diverging, schooling community.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this article is to understand spiritual dimensions of teaching by elucidating the cardinal and forgotten virtue of reverence. Reverence has a power beyond a typical understanding of it as something religious. The article shows reverence in a wider context that does not diminish its spiritual connotations, but rather shows its importance and relevance to teaching in today’s classrooms. The study considers how the virtue of reverence is supported by appropriate classroom ritual and ceremony and discusses several examples of reverence and irreverence in classroom teaching.

Research Design: Philosophical analysis combined with qualitative case study analyses as illustrations.

Conclusions/Recommendations: To be reverent is to realize that we as humans are limited and imperfect, and the proper reaction to this state is humility, awe, and wonder. In subsequent articles, we will examine reverence in educational leadership and in a school’s community. Our goal in this article and those to follow is to restore reverence to its rightful place in the ordinary daily activities of teachers in relation to administrators, students, and parents in school and in the community.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 11, 2009, p. 2626-2646
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15446, Date Accessed: 4/19/2021 6:02:36 PM

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About the Author
  • Jim Garrison
    Virginia Tech
    E-mail Author
    JIM GARRISON is a professor of philosophy of education at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. His work concentrates on philosophical pragmatism. Jim is a past winner of the Jim Merritt award for his scholarship in the philosophy of education and the John Dewey Society Outstanding Achievement Award. He is a past president of the Philosophy of Education Society and current president of the John Dewey Society. He is author of “Teacher as Prophetic Trickster” (forthcoming in Educational Theory).
  • A.G. Rud
    Purdue University
    E-mail Author
    A. G. RUD is an associate professor of educational studies at Purdue University. His research interests focus on the philosophy of education, particularly the moral dimensions of teaching and learning. He edits the journal Education and Culture (http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/eandc) for the John Dewey Society and authored a chapter on Albert Schweitzer and education in Ethical Visions of Education: Philosophies in Practice (Teachers College Press), edited by David T. Hansen.
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