fear management education (2)

Some (provocative) educational researchers have recently asked for all of Education and teachers to make a turn

"...we hope to re-orient [make a turn in] the educational project...one with lower stakes, a shift from immortality to more 'goodness.'" 

(van Kessel & Burke, 2020, p. 216). [1]


Whoa! that's a mighty 'Call.' 

On what basis is it made? The simpler interpretation perhaps is my own take from reading this paper carefully. They ask Education (all its stakeholders), but specifically teachers of school teachers, to: 'Be Humble, Be More Courageous' --a slogan for a T-shirt, don't you think? What do they mean by "de-escalation of teaching as an immortality project"? [2]

Where I got that slogan from was specifically from p. 226, where the co-authors wrote, "We posit an educational disposition [turn] that is humbler, which, paradoxically requires more courage." 

The implicit assumption behind their 'Call' is a critique, more or less, that all stakeholders in Education (specifically, teachers of school teachers, and teachers themselves) have been not humble enough, not courageous enough-- which, is a critique worthy to consider, and I have thought of it myself for over four decades (albeit, I might use different conceptual language and discourses). They are saying nearly everyone to do with Education is too arrogant (acting brave) but (paradoxically) also too fearful (i.e., they've been cowards, more or less). Strong stuff... they are going to raise a lot of 'hackles' I would imagine. Time will tell. 

On my part, I have taken their assumption and claims (and use of Terror Management Theory, via Ernest Becker's thought) very seriously. Only recently, in the past few weeks am I chewing and stewing over their papers; the other one is on "evil" [3]. 

For brevity here, lest it be said, in the field of Education, from my point of view, we have before us a 'turn' that is called out loud and clear by two contemporary North American-based educators of a good deal of breadth and depth, and it ought to be heeded--at least, to take up the "conversation" as they would say. I encourage any one to read these, albeit, they are rather academic works. I am particularly interested in this project of theirs, which I am now calling the van Kessel-Burke Hypothesis (i.e., 'Be humble, Be More Courageous' --and, that will lead to nonviolence and non-evil --that is, what they call "more 'goodness'" --in the world). 

The vK-B Hypothesis is particularly interesting to me because of its boldness (to say the least), paradoxically, while calling for more humbleness--in that it is their offering of what I will call from here on Terror Management/Education (TME), and that initiative needs to dialogue [4] with my own 31 years promoting Fear Management/Education (FME) [5]. Curiously, we as researchers and teachers, as writers and educators, have not prior to this last few weeks encountered each other before. 

Let the conversation begin... all are invited. 


1. van Kessel, C., & Burke, K. (2020). Teaching as an Immortality Project: Positing weakness in response to terror. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 52(2), 216-29. Both of these authors are professors in faculties of Education (Canada, and USA, respectively).van Kess Burke 2020.pdf

2. There's a large body of thinking (theorizing) on "immortality" relevant to Ernest Becker (and others), of which I'll not say more here, but "immortality project" has a deep historical and evolutionary, cultural and political, importance--for simplicity, re: van Kessel & Burke, the notion involves a meta-motivational drive/seeking, which is universal to human beings (theoretically)--brought on as a defense mechanism to ward off the "fear of death" (i.e., mortality awareness).  

3. Burke, K. J., & van Kessel, C. (2020). Thinking educational controversies through evil and prophetic indictment: Conversation versus conversion. Educational Philosophy and Theory. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/00131857.     2020.1767072

4. I began this dialogue with TMT theory (and Sheldon Solomon) recently; see a summary of these engagements in Fisher, R. M. (2020). Dialogue between terror management theory and fear management education. Tech Paper 94.pdf In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. 

5. E.g., a summary of near 25 years of my research on fear and fearlessness is put together in a first tome (a beginning synthesis) in Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield. 



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I have just published a new Tech Paper 94.pdf, "Dialogue Between Terror Management Theory and Fear Management Education" based upon my recent FearTalk 9 with guest Sheldon Solomon, one of the core founders of TMT and other materials in which we both are looking at how to bring our work together in a new synthesis. 

  1. R. Michael Fisher,[i] Ph.D.  2020       Technical Paper No. 94


There’s something ‘wrong’ in the field of fear management, the author had expressed in his 2010 tome, The World’s Fearlessness Teachings. Using a transdisciplinary approach to fear and fearology, he has sought how best to engage other theories. Within philosophy of existentialism (a la Ernest Becker) and the applications to social psychology (empirical studies of human behavior via Pyszczynski et al.), he found their contributions on terror (fear) management intriguing. The author, a specialist in fear management/education (FME) has been citing and at times teaching about terror management theory (TMT) since the early 2000s. In 2007 he published his first attempt to integrate TMT through an “integral” lens, to serve as one way to up-grade what he saw as some of the weaknesses in TMT, even though he highly admires TMT. In 2020 he engaged in an in depth interview dialogue with Sheldon Solomon, one of the three core founders of TMT, and it is this Technical Paper No. 94 which offers an extensive transcript from this exchange. As well, the author includes a letter to Solomon on potential ways of upgrading TMT, especially as the world spins within the extraordinary challenges of the coronavirus epidemic and lots of death—never mind, the overall context of an Anthropocene era, which both Solomon and the author acknowledge and attempt to offer good FME.   


[i] Fisher is an Adjunct Faculty member of the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, AB, Canada. He is an educator and fearologist and co-founder of In Search of Fearlessness Project (1989- ) and Research Institute (1991- ) and lead initiator of the Fearlessness Movement ning (2015- ). The Fearology Institute was created by him recently to teach international students about fearology as a legitimate field of studies and profession. He is also founder of the Center for Spiritual Inquiry & Integral Education and is Department Head at CSIIE of Integral & 'Fear' Studies. Fisher is an independent scholar, public intellectual and pedagogue, lecturer, author, consultant, researcher, coach, artist and Principal of his own company (http://loveandfearsolutions.com). He has four leading-edge books: The World’s Fearlessness Teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century (University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield), Philosophy of fearism: A first East-West dialogue (Xlibris) and Fearless engagement of Four Arrows: The true story of an Indigenous-based social transformer (Peter Lang), Fear, law and criminology: Critical issues in applying the philosophy of fearism (Xlibris); India, a Nation of Fear and Prejudice (Xlibris); The Marianne Williamson Presidential Phenomenon (Peter Lang).  Currently, he is developing The Fearology Institute to teach courses. He can be reached at: r.michaelfisher52@gmail.com

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