In his Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant discusses what makes up identity. He suggests that identity comes from self-consciousness and that self-consciousness arises from a combination of ideas that a person calls their own. This combination of ideas arises as a result of understanding how things are related. This seems to mean that the more people relate different ideas in the same ways the more similar their personal identities.
So how does this factor into schooling? Schools are institutions in which students are taught to make connections in a specific way. For example, we learn relations between letters and words, colors and objects, reprimands or rewards and actions, etc. Everyone is taught to make these same connections. Furthermore, many schools are restrictive and do not allow for deviance. For example, in math class, a student may discover a new way to solve a problem, one that is different from the way the teacher explained. Although the student came up with the correct answer, the teacher reprimands the student, or takes points off a test because it was not the “right” way to solve the problem. This reinforces connections the teacher made earlier between the idea of correctness and her method of solving the problem.
I believe this shows the limiting effect of schooling. It creates fewer differences between the ways in which people combine their ideas and therefore fewer differences in identity.
In Friday’s class, there was a discussion on the different elements that make up happiness or “eudaimonia.” Some of these components included the “measures of health: courage, wisdom, piety, moderation and justice, along with moral character and external characteristics.” Discussion also led into Socrates’ insistence on knowledgeability in academic regards as a key to happiness and virtuosity. I agree with Socrates in the sense that knowledge is truly important and with more wisdom comes the ability to make better decisions and in some light live a happier life. However, I do not necessarily agree that academic prowess leads to a happier life for every individual.
In Plato’s Republic Socrates’ character states that people are better off restricting themselves to one craft than practicing many(Republic 370b). He makes several comments of this nature, going so far as to insist that a person should, “stick to [his trade] for life, and keep away from other crafts so as not to miss the opportunities to practise his own craft well”(Republic 374c). Interestingly enough, there is a slightly-more-modern- than-Plato figure of speech which basically sums up the idea that a person with many skills is not necessarily outstanding at any one skill: “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Although the question of many trades versus one was not brought up as part of the education of the guardians(it was only made relevant to the formation of the city), I think it is important to our classroom discussion on education. Should education be broad or focused? Continue reading
In an age in which freedom of expression is revered as an undeniable right, Socrates’ suggestions about education in The Republic seem to violate the basic principles of liberty and freedom. “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,”(377c) suggests Socrates. A modern-day person will most certainly brand this as unwarranted censorship. However, I believe that modern-day educators can learn something important from Socrates.
Childhood is a critical period in a person’s development. Values, principles, and habits developed in this period persist throughout a person’s lifetime. According to Socrates, “it’s at that time that it is most malleable and takes on any pattern one wishes to impress on it.”(377b) A child’s moral sense is not fully developed; he or she sometimes cannot distinguish the good from the bad. Consequently, it is completely logical and reasonable to expose children to the good and justice, and deny them access to the bad and evil. With the advent of the Internet, children can easily access billions of webpages, images, and videos. A child can easily pick up any bad habit or principle off the Internet; the opportunities are endless. As a result, carefully censoring the Internet for children is a necessity.
To rid the world of evil, you don’t work with adults who have already developed their values and principles, but with children who are developing theirs. The world would be a much better place if every single child was raised in an environment that promotes justice and goodness.
In Book II and Book III of the Republic, Glaucon and Socrates discuss the implication of justice and how education can help create a model citizen who could identify what is just. Continue reading
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 go Continue reading
In schools, the relationship between student and teacher is a strange one. How far should the teacher be willing to educate a student, and how far should the student be willing to try?
Meno questioned whether knowledge (teaching) and experience (practice) are mutually exclusive at the beginning of the dialogue. This dichotomy has me ponder, “What is the way to obtain the best education?”
Before attempting to answer the question, I will differentiate knowledge (teaching) and experience (practice). First of all, knowledge might be superficial in one’s mind because it is often proved by someone else’s studies. Thus, teaching is the same as spreading one’s experience to other individuals. However, acquiring knowledge from teaching does not secure the meaning behind it because one’s experience is something that cannot be transferred. On the other hand, trials create experience that are realistic because of the consequences one receives. To sum up their differences, knowledge exists in a blurry vision while experience lives with vivid images.
In order to weigh teaching vs. practice, the issue of theoretical knowledge vs. practical knowledge is considered. The former is obtained from reading formal writings and listening to lectures, or so-called “book-smart.” Whereas, the latter is grasped by performing experiments and trial-and-errors, or so-called “street-smart.” According to the definitions above, they are completely distinct from one another, but share a common goal: personal improvement. Similarly, education is about acquiring and applying existing knowledge to increase overall human intelligence. Thus, teaching cannot bring the best results, nor can practice. They have to work together in order to yield the best results. For instance, a surgeon should not be allowed to perform a surgery if she has no ideas where the heart is. At the same time, she should not conduct the surgery for someone’s life if she has no prior experience.
In conclusion, knowledge and experience are two different perceptions. However, their differences are blessings because they are the final missing pieces of the puzzle called education.