Educational Philosophy? Some may regard it as useless thinking. On the contrary, I find my passion to explore the purpose of our educational goals, and strategies to achieve them, more compelling than ever. With the extensive devotion of time that we require children to be educated and the high demands on the teachers and school admin in the process, it is certainly worth the time spent to exam the big picture. It is valuable to also examine the growing popularity of homeschooling, charter schools, and movements like unschooling. What is the reason for these break-aways from traditional public school education? To engage in the questioning, and finding answers, is a growing calling in me.
Our Western society is firmly founded upon the principles established through the Ancient Greeks. Socrates, and his lineage in Plato and Aristotle, held perceptions that shaped the aims, ideals, and manner of education in Western civilization for centuries. In the context of examining Education in present time, it is valuable for us to visit these foundational influences. Significantly, they give us the meaningful entry point in a consideration of Soul. The purpose of education is to give to the body and to the soul all the beauty and all the perfection of which they are capable. (Plato) What a noble aim! How can we reconnect with this essential calling within our own history.
Plato’s goal was to create and train philosophers. This is the call at the base of Transformed Education. Rather than useless thinkers, can we understand that a philosopher actually refers to a lover of wisdom and seeker of truth. Plato believed in cultivating a love of truth. This love crowds out tolerance for falsehood and blind pursuit of pleasure and financial profit without morals to guide it. We are called to understand and name our values. It is the duty of the educator to show the eternal nature of the values of truth and beauty–an effort that expands both teacher and student. In his metaphor of the Sun, Plato shares Socrates’ fundamental perception equating the light of the sun with the light that allows us to be able to see. This light allows us to discern good from evil; truth from deception. These ideas are expounded upon in the allegory of the Cave. We see the distinction between those within the cave since childhood, perceiving their world from the shadows cast by the fire. They are turned away from illumination and think the shadows are reality. This is in contrast to those that are able leave the cave, perceive the light and understand truth directly. This is the role of philosophy. To free the prisoners from within the cave, understand that the shadows are not true reality, and aim to perceive the higher levels of truth.
Plato invites education to be the freeing force from the illusion of the cave in order to come to know the truth of a better life and be in service to it. Plato teaches us that though light and sight resemble the sun, neither is the sun itself. As the sun is representing Goodness, which is of highest value, we also see that it is the source of knowledge and truth. Both goodness and the sun cannot be looked at directly nor known completely through the empirical method. Yet, they are essential to nourish life and clear perception. Seeking to understand the power and significance of this Light allows us to nurture the “child of goodness” that is the result. Plato believed that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already. Just as the eye is unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too it is the movement of the whole soul to turn from becoming into being, learning by degrees to become the brightest and best of being, or in other words, the good. Plato says we stand in need of conversion before we can perceive the truth. It requires the capacity to turn humbly from the shadows of misperception and consider the direct experience of beauty and light the sun reveals to us. Though not able to fully understand, nor perceive the direct light of the sun, we are illumined with its power through our reasoning of its nurture and positive effect in the natural world and in our lives. As we grow in this dimension, there is a calling to return to the cave and attempt to free others. Even if rejected or scorned, this love of truth is required as meaningful service for the betterment of society.
Plato’s Education Philosophy, by Mystie, April 11, 2020 https://www.scholesisters.com/plato-education-philosophy/
Analogy of the Sun and Metaphor of the Sun through Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_cave
The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being – January 15, 2009 by Richard Gamble (Editor)