What’s the problem with education?

Book II of Plato’s Republic includes a conversation between Glaucon and Socrates, in an attempt to the get to the heart of what justice/injustice is. To accomplish this, Socrates leads Glaucon down the concept of a city, and tangents off into explaining things that a city needs not only to be healthy, but luxurious as well(373b).

On explaining the role of guardians in a city, Socrates goes into detail about how education of a city’s youth should be handled, to which he believes that youth should be educated with stories and “…music and poetry for the soul…”(376e). A claim that sounds, in a way, acceptable, however Socrates goes one more step that seems controversial: restriction of knowledge.

“Then we must first of all, it seems, supervise the storytellers. We’ll select their stories whenever they are fine or beautiful and reject them when they aren’t. And we’ll persuade nurses and mothers to tell their children the ones we have selected…” (377c)

            This leads to some question what exactly is considered “fine” or “beautiful”? It is hard for me to fathom any sort of way to standardize fine-ness or beauty, for they are very subjective things, as eluded in the figure of speech, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I disagree with Socrates in that stories should be omitted from teaching because they are not fit in his eyes. Education should not be restricted and regulated by one man; indeed, the learning process is actually beneficial when different perspectives are brought in, much like the freshman seminar that we attend. And even when I say I disagree with Socrates, know that I also mean the author of the book, Plato. The limiting of knowledge based on one man’s perspective cannot work, just as it was mentioned before, “…a city comes to be because none of us is self-sufficient, but we all need many things…many people gather in a single place to live together as partners and helpers”(369c). We all require different things in order to live, why should it be that education has to be so streamlined?

4 responses to “What’s the problem with education?

  1. I think you propose a good argument regarding Socrates’ insistence on censorship in able to mold the minds of the youth in the “right way.” I personally find it interesting and simultaneously perplexing that a man who seemed to be so adamant on the concept of gaining as much wisdom as possible and prioritizing increasing knowledge would suggest a method of teaching that prevents that. The statement you made about freshman seminars also stuck out to me in the context of this argument and I feel that even expands beyond just freshmen all the way up to senior undergraduate students. One of the beauties of a liberal arts education is the fact that you can explore classes and subjects outside your comfort zone that will surely broaden your realm of knowledge and many people use some skills that they acquire from classes outside of their majors to help strengthen their skills within their majors or concentrations.

  2. Lauren, what you list as a strength of liberal arts education is interesting and I think pretty well-recognized. I’m curious, what do you (and Luke, or anyone!) think about certain classes being required of you in the liberal arts college system? In particular, those classes outside your major that you may or may not be inclined to take? Doesn’t that serve as a kind of forced education, even though it may be more expansive?

  3. Jordan while a Liberal Arts Education does force you to learn things outside of your major, it is not necessarily forced education. Although yes, you are taking classes outside of what you want to study, there is choice in the matter on “what” you want to learn. The problem arises though, on what material is being taught, the restriction on how to teach is the issue I have overall.

  4. Just saw this article, posted a couple days ago, that relates to your discussion of the value of a broad education, Lauren: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/02/18/we-dont-need-more-stem-majors-we-need-more-stem-majors-with-liberal-arts-training/

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