Who would have thought a philosophical movement started in 300 BC by a Greek merchant, Zeno of Cyprus, would turn out to be a lifestyle of many people in the 21st century? Stoicism is a popular school of thought and is often misunderstood as the ability of enduring hardships and pain while putting up a straight face and showing no emotions.
The idea is that stoics do not wear their emotions on their sleeves, but simply keep to themselves and suffer within. In today’s day and age where people, especially millennials, encourage others to speak out, openly cry, discuss and seek help, stoicism suggests to do the opposite.
However, the philosophy of stoicism has inspired many to embrace what they believe is the best way to avoid negativity, that is to be more negative. This school of thought suggests that any kind of problem a person faces, no matter how severe it is, is not the end of the world. Say a criminal is sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Stoicism suggests to dive deep in what consequences lie ahead. The person would not be able to see his family, would face humiliation in his community, would have to leave behind his entire life’s work, despite all that, it would not be the end of the world because he would be still alive. Simply by being more negative about the current situation, stoics can perform better under stressful conditions.
Similarly, the majority of the students suffer greatly from stress and anxiety of failing grades, diminishing academic performance, peer pressure and much more. Hence, it has become significant to inculcate this ideology among them and give them the self-strength they need to face academic pressures.
The concept of success has been engraved in today’s generation. An individual would be deemed as successful when they get straight A’s, have all their work done before deadlines, a scholarship to a world-renowned college or university, excel in all their standardized tests and interviews and then get a 6-figure salary in a multinational company. We have misunderstood success with being perfect.
While students should be taught to work hard in life, they should also be reminded that failure is a part of life and they will have more chances to achieve their goals. Just how educational institutes develop students’ knowledge by teaching them math, science or literature, it is just as significant and applicable to prepare them for hurdles they are bound to face one time or another. By teaching the way of the stoics, students can focus on the fields they have command over, instead of stressing about the ones that are out of their hands.
A stoic student would know there are three possible events that could occur during their span of life. The events that they would have no control over, the ones they would have somewhat control over and the events they would have complete control over. They would know better that the key to a sustainable life is to focus on the latter two.
It is obviously no use to stress about the events you have no control over, like height, race, complexion and so on. The attributes that are God gifted are out of one’s hands. Instead of letting it get to your head, it is best to make peace with these attributes and accept them as they are. This practice can create a judgement free classroom environment, while boosting confidence and morality among the students.
Concerning ourselves with events that we can control, which is perhaps only limiting ourselves with the option of how we interpret situations, can help us remain calm and think straight in stressful situations. Instead of holding life as meaningless and questioning existence, we can simply prepare ourselves for the events that are somewhat in our hands like academic performance, fitness, the kind of relationship we have with others and the list goes on. Teaching students to do their best in the given timeframe with a relaxed and steady mind can bring unexpected results, because the element of failure and the fear that arises from it is no longer a hindrance.
Practicing stoicism in classrooms can enable students to think critically of how they use time. Stoicism not only helps people cope with adverse situations, it can also provide motivation. A student, when aware of stoicism, becomes critically analytic about their surroundings and applies it in their day-to-day lives. For instance, if they waste their time casually scrolling away on social media, the learning they would receive in the classrooms would help them think about it.
They would analyze the situation by thinking about, say, when they get older and they would look back at this time and realize how they could have spent it being more productive. This would, hence, motivate them to spend time being productive and give up procrastination since stoicism enhances the thought process.
Stoicism can teach young learners the will power to withstand the toughest of situations and make the most critical decisions in those situations. It is something that provides learning that is not limited to the walls of a classroom. Teaching stoicism in classrooms can remove the misconception of having a stiff upper lip, while introducing an ideology that focuses on looking on the bright side.
This kind of thinking has become necessary for students these days because of the increasing number of suicides, stress and depression rates, and other issues of mental health. There is no doubt that being stoic removes the element of hope. However, having false hope in adverse situations can eventually cause more harm than good. Therefore, it should become essential for educational institutes to have a stoic classroom environment. Stoic personality can help conquer fears and uplift students when they are on the verge of breaking.
It is a coping mechanism that activates once the student realizes that this time shall pass, the sun will set and rise again, and no matter how hard it gets, there will always be something to look forward to.