A little less than two thousand years ago there lived in Athens a young gentleman
of aristocratic parentage. This nobleman of Athens, as a youth, distinguished himself in
athletics--in fact he was nicknamed "Plato" because of his broad shoulders. Before he was
even twenty years of age he had successfully written many dramatic and lyric verse. This
athletic and poetic youth died at the age of eighty, three hundred forty-seven years before
Christ. Yet, with the exception of Jesus, Plato has had a more profound effect upon our
whole life than has any other one of the ancient Mediterranean World. He has affected
politics, theologies, and even pedagogy.

    Plato's most popular writing is "The Republic". Plato used the dialogue form a
great deal in his writings. For this reason they are a bit strange to us. He used this method,
for many of his ideas, and proofs of ideas, were strange and complicated. The discovery of
truth is a gradual process and at every step along the way Plato makes us realize exactly at
what point we have arrived.

    "The Republic" begins with the question: What is Justice? or, as Plato put it in
other words: What is the best life? He felt that human life could be lived well only in some
form of organized community; so his question took the form: What is the best order, or
organization of human society? In answering this question he tore down the organization
of the Greek city-states and on those ruins he built up his Utopia. Not only did he build up
a system of politics with philosopher-kings at its head--he, the so-called idealist of
idealists, built up a system of labor, of production, and of distribution that for utility has
been unequaled by the following generations of 'hard-headed' materialists and utilitarians.

    Of great interest to us who are in contact with, and directly influenced by systems
and theories of education is the plan of education Plato proposed for his Republic. He
believed that everyone--every soul--possessed knowledge inherent within it to a greater or
less degree. For this reason he resented the theory that holds education to be the stuffing
into an empty mid of facts and knowledge. Listen to what he says:

    "If I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong
  when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul
  which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.
  ....Whereas, our arguments show that the power and capacity
  of learning exists in the soul already."

    During the materialistic, money-mad age after the World War and before the stock
crash in 1929 our educational system was measured by the almighty dollar. The value of
education was held more or less strictly to the point: are these theories the type that, if put
into effect will mean greater earning power for the student upon graduation? The
down-fall of finance took jobs from the technicians as well as from the ditch diggers; it
took the pay check from the college graduate, as well as from the manual laborer. Bank
failures took the savings of the thrifty and left them with no more money than the

    To our consternation, we began to learn that many who we thought were highly
educated were no more able to cope with the changing conditions than were those without
the value of education. Now our educators are beginning to realize this grave error. They
are just learning that which Plato knew two thousand years ago. Namely, that, though
vocational training is of great importance, of much greater importance is training in the art
of living. People now must be taught profitable, inexpensive ways of spending their spare
time. Where ten years ago the tax payers were howling for educational courses that would
net a monetary return to the students; people are now crying for cultural courses. They
want to know how they may face changes in environment; they want to know how to gain
the fullest life regardless of income. Plato recognized these facts two thousand years ago
when he wrote the "Republic". What sort of plan of education did he set forth then?

    The first schooling Plato would give children is in literature. Much as Motherhood
has always done, he would have stories and myths recited to the young children. Plato
antedated the child-psychologists by twenty centuries, for back in those early days he was
very insistent that there be a strict censorship upon what was read and told to the youth of
the land. He realized that character is molded to a great extent by imitation. He knew that
children were fond of imitating the characters of which they hear. For that reason Plato,
who also would have active religion molded into the children, objected very strenuously to
Homer. He pointed out that the gods in Homer's poems were made to do things that were
indecent of man, let alone the gods, who should have been perfect. As modern
psychologists would have agreed, Plato objected to having the children told stories in
which the gods attacked their mothers and went on drunken sprees. Not only that, but
Plato prohibited accounts of heavenly wars as improper of the gods. The most modern
note yet is struck, though, when he cautioned mothers not to tell boogy stories and scare
their children.

    A little later the children were to be trained in athletics and music. Plato felt
education to be the development of a sound body and a soul capable of receiving spiritual
wisdom. He felt that any Utopia must begin in the body of man; and for that reason the
first ten years in the child's life was to be predominately physical. Play and sport were to
be the main curriculum. He felt it was a disgrace that society found it necessary to have
physicians and medicines. The Republic could not afford to be a nation of malingerers and
invalids; so his first concern was to store up such health in the people as to make all
medicine unnecessary. He cautioned the youth to abstain from intoxication and sweet

    Plato realized, however that mere athletics would make the man one-sided and he
no more wanted a nation of prize-fighters than he wanted one of invalids. He agreed with
Damon, that "when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state change." He
felt that music was a very important means of instilling emotions and virtues into the
young people. In his republic the music was to be quite as highly censored as the
literature. The music should be simple and good. There should be no lamentations and
strains of sorrow in the music. There should be no soft or drinking harmonies. In fact,
since through music the soul was to learn harmony and rythmn and a disposition to justice;
since it was to mold character and therefore share in determining social and political
issues, Plato insisted that only music which would instill the proper character be used.
    This old Greek realized that all people are not equal, in that they all have not the
same abilities. He knew that no good, but only evil would come if each person did not do
that which he was best suited by nature to do. Therefore Plato told the people a myth. He
told the citizens of the republic that they were all brothers but that God had framed them

    "Some of you have the power of command and in the
   composition of these he has mingled gold, wherefore
   also they have the greatest honour; others he has made
   of silver, to be auxiliaries, others again who are to be
   husbandmen and craftsmen, he has composed of brass and

    Because Plato recognized the fact that the people were not of equal ability
and because he felt knowledge was an inherent part of the soul and needed only to be
developed, he saw no reason for equal education. In his republic the children were all to
be given the same education until they were around ten years old.  While arithmetic and
very elementary science was to be taught, the curriculum was to be mainly literature,
music and gymastics. Then tests were to be given and those who passed them were
advanced to a higher form of education and tests again given.  With each test more people
would drop out--because they hadn't enough of the rarer metals in their make up. Those
who dropped out at first were to be the laborers. The next would become the shop
keepers etc. Those who survived the tests were to advance through theories of numbers,
through science and finally through philosophy to become the philosopher-kings of the
state. Plato would never for one moment say that everyone should have a college
education; and once again our modern educators are sheepishly admitting that that ancient
Greek was correct. Do not misunderstand me. Plato was heartily in favor of equality in
education in so far as that everyone was to have a fair chance to prove his right to that
education. He even went so far as to advocated an education for girls equal to that for
boys. It is interesting to note that Plato believed girls were as likely to have gold in their
make-up as were boys.

    Plato states very emphatically in "The Republic" that we must "give to every child
from the outset full quality of educational opportunity." And notice he is utilitarian enough
to definitely add the word "opportunity." He very definitely demands that we seek genius
and talent impartially everywhere.

    We know the modern teachers have graduated from the rapping of knuckles, the
shaking by shoulders and the sending to coat rooms in disgrace. The modern teacher
worthy of the name no longer inflicts physical punishment upon the student. This teacher
privately asks the disorderly student to remain after school a few minutes; and this is what
she tells him:

    "Remember this, whatever class you are in, whatever school you
  may attend, you may fool your teacher, and you may fool your
  parents and friends, but there is one person you will never be
  able to fool, and that is your self. Now you may go and I am
  sure you will do better work tomorrow."

    I can picture Plato turning over with a sigh of relief when he hears such words as
those from the lips of a modern teacher. He himself hit at drudgery and use of force in
education in three different ways. Listen to them; they sound as if they have been copied
from the latest psychology of education text book rather than from "The Republic."

    "A freeman ought not to be a slave in the acquisition of
  Knowledge of any kind."

    "Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no
  hold in the mind."

    "Let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then
  be better able to find out the natural bent."

    Yes, in 380 B.C. Plato planned his Utopia and his system of education. He hoped
the ideal life might be developed in such surroundings. The ideal life? He believed it was
the loss of self-consciousness in group consciousness-the forfeiting of self-attainment for
community welfare-in short, the living of a life as perfectly in harmony with one's
surroundings as a flower is in harmony with the field in which it grows--Yes, most of us
today are Platonists at heart. For us, too, education is the hope of a better world and a
better, more ideal life.

Dorris Willows
Sirrod Publishers
Keokuk Iowa

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