Teachers and Students in Plato's Republic Essay

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¶ … Teachers and Students in Plato's Republic

Plato as the preeminent student of Socrates has described the world in his Republic as a prima facie example of error and the embodiment of evil due to lack of knowledge and poor education and planning.

In the book, Socrates as the protagonist enters into a lengthy discussion with some fellow travelers about the creation of a perfect State and the key roles that education and philosophy will play in that State. Socrates believes that the only perfect State will be one in which the philosopher rules, or at the very minimum, guides the rulers. However, Socrates hypothesizes that mankind is unable to see the whole truth due to their inability to grasp philosophy and have become at odds with the philosophers as a result; which makes the reality of the ideal State an impossible goal.

Socrates' discourse casts mankind in the role of student and true philosophers in the role of teachers whose teachings are rejected and ridiculed by their students, much to their own detriment.

As a more specific example, in Book I, the tale of Socrates visiting with Cephalus casts Socrates in the role of student and Cephalus as teacher when Socrates asked the aged Cephalus about the truth of aging.

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Cephalus reports that while many of his peers complain of the good things in life having passed them by, he does not view it as so and that it is truly the result of their characters and tempers, that calm and happy men will barely notice the pressure of age, but men of contrary disposition feel the pressure of youth as well.

Cephalus' response is the first of the theme that teachers are responsible for shaping their students' characters and that the students' entire outlook on life will be greatly affected by their teachings.

Essay on Teachers & Students in Plato's Republic Assignment

The history of teachers' salaries or payment for knowledge is initially introduced in Book I also, when Thrasymachus challenges Socrates' definition of justice and demands to know what punishment is to be exacted for this error, to which Socrates replies that what he deserves is to learn from the wise, as becomes the ignorant.

Thrasymachus insistent reply that monetary payment must be made confirms the tradition that students must pay for the knowledge derived from their teachers, even while in this tale the rest of the traveling party agreed to pay Socrates' sum.

From this, we can trace the origin of the public education system used in many countries.

The multitudes pay for knowledge collectively as education is surely for the benefit of the whole.

That benefit is universally acknowledged, if not politically nor financially supported in some underdeveloped countries.

However, in these same underdeveloped countries, the value of education is perhaps more highly prized since it is not publicly funded.

A surprising note in Book II introduces the responsibility of the teacher to judiciously censor that which is taught to the student.

Socrates eschews the teaching of harmful stories that may wrongly influence youth to challenge the gods or liken themselves to gods and states his belief that it is the duty of the State to forbid the teaching of material deemed potentially harmful. It was disappointing to note there was no discussion between Socrates and his fellow travelers of the role of the teacher in presenting all material to the students and teaching them to analyze the material on its own merits.

However, since the primary goal of education in this discussion was for the benefit of the State, not the student, this should not be a surprise.

Socrates was speaking largely of educating the guardians of the State, which we can liken to the military.

Even today's military stresses the importance of like-minded thinking as superior to individualized thought, so the role of teacher and student has remained consistent in that respect.

In the ideal State, education is highly prized, but limited to vary narrow specialties. Citizens are chosen by the State for one specific enterprise for which they are deemed best suited, be it cobbler, shepherd or physician. Students are to be taught music, gymnastics and philosophy to become the ideal citizen of the State and teachers are entrusted to teach the correct forms of each to maximize the goals of each subject and that the rulers of the State must be directed that music and gymnastic be preserved in their teachings without… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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