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Playing with Plato

I think all kids should have a set aside time to play with Plato; a time to meander through the deeper existential questions and engage in Socratic conversations.  Let them run around on the playground of course, but also let them ask, not for the sake of asking or learning or even growing, but for the sake of searching for truth.  If it turns them a little agnostic, that’s okay.  If it leads to paradox, I’m comfortable with it.  I have a hunch it would help them avoid indoctrination.

With that in mind, I’m always repulsed by The Republic. It’s like reading Ecclesiastes and then sitting through the pithy Solomon Sound Bites of Proverbs.  I want to believe, on some level, that it’s a different author.  It’s Paul McCarthy with Wings instead of the Beatles.

Where did Socrates go wrong?

I think it’s what happens when we move from open dialog to dogmatic models.  I see it happen on both ends of the educational reform spectrum.  It starts with the change from “What does it meant to learn?” to “What should we fix?”  It seems sane at first, but slowly with shift into a psychotic Bob the Builder mentality where we are speaking to the systems and structures and machinery rather than conversing with humanity.

If I taught an educational class, I would tell students to create an education utopia (I believe Edutopia is already taken, so I might have to use a different set of nomenclature).  Afterward, I would ask them to write a dystopian narrative of a child who lives within this imaginary environment.  I would ask them to expose the weakness of their educational beliefs by delving deeper into the human psyche.


About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


One thought on “Playing with Plato

  1. Great post John. I once was obligated to teach The Republic in an education class, and several students pointed out it was the beginning of the tracking system in education. It lays the underpinnings. I also love the utopia/dystopia narrative as an exercise: a way to get at what we really believe education should be for. So maybe you could give us a short version of this in a post sometime?

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | September 2, 2010, 4:47 pm

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