Hanan A. Alexander
Reclaiming Goodness: Education and the Spiritual Quest begins with the premise that sound models for achieving both spiritual fulfillment and the “good life” are lacking in contemporary culture. Arguing that contemporary education is responsible for having abandoned spirituality and the cultivation of goodness in people, Hanan A. Alexander advances a definition of spirituality which acknowledges an integral connection to education.
For Alexander, spirituality requires that we seek to “discover our best selves in learning communities devoted to a higher good.” He explores how spirituality provides an orientation toward a meaningful life and how, in our pursuit of that goal, it gives us a vision of the good life. For Alexander, this renewed vision of spirituality is necessary to provide the ethical framework so many of us seek; to achieve such a state of spiritual health, he proposes reenergizing liberal education.
In their extreme responses to the spiritual crisis, both relativists and fundamentalists have misused education as a method for promoting narrow ideological goals and producing individuals ill-equipped to act autonomously. Taking a cue from the golden mean of Aristotle and Maimonides, Alexander suggests situating education between the subjectivism and relativism of the left and the dogmatism and fundamentalism of the right. For Alexander, revitalizing education is a way to correct the misguided notion that extremism is an appropriate response to the spiritual crisis of modern society.
Reclaiming Goodness charts a way to reintegrate ethical and spiritual values with the values of critical thought and reason. Written in accessible and non-technical prose, it will be of interest to professional educators as well as to a wider audience.
“Hanan Alexander turns his incisive mind to addressing spirituality and education in a marvelously integrative, challenging, and generative book. The work is integrative in drawing from three faith traditions, and also from the philosophy of education and broader philosophical discourse on questions of goodness. The work is challenging because it analyzes major social-religious-educational issues with sharpness and clarity. It also challenges people to think, to ask questions of themselves, to ask questions of Alexander, and even to argue with him. This is exactly what Alexander wants of his readers; intelligent spirituality is his goal. Finally, this work is generative. It stirs bold visions of education for goodness and clears practical pathways for religious peoples to travel. Alexander poses the possibility of a spiritual renaissance—most fully possible when religious and other communities are fully engaged in educating spirituality. I say a huge thank you to Hanan Alexander for daring to put goodness at the center of spiritual life and for equipping readers to see how this might be done!”—Mary Elizabeth Mullino Moore, Professor of Religion and Education, and Director of Program for Women in Theology and Ministry, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
“ Reclaiming Goodness represents a sophisticated analysis of the spiritual crisis that marks modern life and offers an imaginative program for a renaissance of values and a revitalization of meaning in the present situation. Hanan Alexander draws upon a wide array of philosophical, sociological, and historical resources, as well as the Bible and classical
rabbinic sources, in constructing the argument of book. Impressive in its learning and judicious in its diagnosis of the challenges confronting educators and others in the present-day world, Reawakening Goodness also contains positive proposals for the construction of enduring and humane purpose for modern persons.” —David Ellenson, I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
“ Reclaiming Goodness invites profound reflection on the relationship between education and spirituality. Hanan Alexander complements his clarity of analysis with a passion for the educative potential of religious traditions. His outstanding book deserves a wide readership.—Mary C. Boys, Skinner & McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology, Union Theological Seminary
“ Reclaiming Goodness is a powerful and important book. It will be noticed not only because it goes against the grain—spirituality, liberal education, education for the good life—but also because the book is so clearly the narrative expression of someone who has passionately lived a life of spirituality, education, and scholarship. The book is profoundly marked by Alexander’s biography.”—Michael Connelly, Professor, Director, Center for Teacher Development, University of Toronto
“This is an insightful and compassionate book that seeks to connect philosophy with religion; rationality with spirituality; and the cosmic with the secular. I recommend it highly to those in quest of an education that seeks to continue our responsibility to create a society rooted in a consciousness of loving-kindness.” —David E. Purpel