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date: 25 June 2024

Gratitude and Educationlocked

Gratitude and Educationlocked

  • Inga BostadInga BostadUniversity of Oslo


Gratitude may at first glance seem foreign to philosophy of education. Being grateful is often described and interpreted in psychology, anthropology, sociology, or religious contexts, while philosophers have to a lesser degree regarded gratitude as an interesting topic, and there is no agreed upon definition or status of gratitude in philosophy of education. However, the discipline of pedagogy is more than what happens in school, in education and upbringing; it may be interpreted in a broad sense, as the study of how we live together for the renewal and reproduction of a society, and thus the concept of gratitude throws light on the double relationship between teacher and student, wherein one both gives and receives, and makes us see ourselves as relational and dependent on others. In the philosophy of education, gratitude may work as a critical concept revealing imposed social and political orders, power relations, and repressive mechanisms as well as delineating interdependence and interconnectedness, appreciating the efforts and contributions of others as well as social justice.

One can define gratitude as a positive, appropriate, and immediate feeling or attitude toward, or a response to, an advantage or something beneficial. Gratitude thus depends on a subject, a being with some kind of intention, consciousness, or emotional life directed toward something or someone. Being grateful to others may express and accordingly justify social hierarchies as well as a balance between actions and benefits, between behavior and quality of life. There are thus arguments for seeing gratitude as both a critical and an enlightening concept. Some argue that gratitude is first and foremost an imposed burden, and that the debt of gratitude is intimately interwoven with, but also differs from, being grateful, as the first implies that a person experiences indebtedness to someone for having received something that also requires some kind of response or reciprocation. Others view gratitude as a neglected and meaningful enrichment of people’s lives: gratitude may promote feelings of community, responsibility, and belonging. Moreover, it can strengthen our appreciation of other people’s efforts and kindness, and of valuable social and cultural institutions. Someone is grateful because they acknowledge what someone else has invested, and being able to express gratitude, or being hindered from it, is also part of the pedagogic relation. It is first and foremost the relationship that defines gratitude; it is both something other than the object—the undertaking or the experience that makes us grateful—and in relationship with that object. To be grateful expresses a sense of life, a condition that addresses not only what you get, but also the responsibility we have as relational human beings.


  • Educational Theories and Philosophies

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