There are deep connections between education and the question of life's meaning, which derive, ultimately, from the fact that, for human beings, how to live—and therefore, how to raise one's children—is not a given but a question. One might see the meaning of life as constitutive of the meaning of education, and answers to the question of life's meaning might be seen as justifying (a particular form of) education. Our focus, however, lies on the contributory relation: our primary purpose is to investigate whether and how education might contribute to children's ability to find meaning in life or at least deal with the question. This issue is not only theoretically interesting (though relatively neglected)—it also has practical urgency. For people have a need for meaning that, if unfulfilled, leads to personal and potentially social crises—a need that often expresses itself first and strongly in adolescence; and there are reasons to have doubts about the contribution of today's traditional formal education system to the meaningfulness of children's (and future adults’) lives. We argue for the importance of frameworks of values, as well as for a greater emphasis on the affective dimension of meaning, though we reject pure subjectivism. The underlying purpose of this article, however, is not to argue for a particular comprehensive position, but to persuade philosophers of education of the importance of the issue of life's meaning in thinking about education today.
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