Beckett and the Plight of the Educator


  • Ansgar Allen University of Sheffield


Educational alternatives, progressive education, alternative education, difference, educational theory, educational philosophy



Education has us wait endlessly. Educators and students alike await the fulfilment of its promise, assuming education is synonymous with betterment. Their plight can be illustrated by way of contrast with Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot (1956). In the play, Estragon and Vladimir wait because there is no alternative. Holding hands from the top of the Eiffel Tower is how they would have gone. But those times have passed. Now they wouldn’t be allowed up. The tramps. Beckett’s writings are full of filthy, ill-clad vagrants—debarred, excluded. Educators are not yet filthy enough; the filth is always on someone else. Or else, it is generalised: Industrial civilisation reached great heights and befouled them. There is no high position—actually scrub that—there is no decent platform—better—from which the educated might cast themselves down in disappointment.


It is difficult to leave education and by leaving make a statement that would reveal its hypocrisies, shatter its illusions, and empty its institutions of their industrious sycophants. There is no leaving education, since every bitter departure testifies to a love of it, reviving the very idea that education is worth waiting for.


At work I wait, filling time with jobs. Estragon and Vladimir behave differently. They contemplate hanging themselves. Not even the strength of the bough can be...


Beckett, S. (1986 [1956]) Waiting for Godot. London: Faber and Faber

Beckett, S. (2009 [1957]) Endgame. London: Faber and Faber





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