Education: Keeping the Republic Together
Our world today puts huge amounts of emphasis on education, specifically in order to get a better job, make more money or take enjoyment in what we do. We see a similar importance placed on education in Socrates’ make believe city, as described in Plato’s Republic. However, Socrates has made it clear that this education is not for personal betterment or gain, but rather for the common good. Socrates has created his Republic with education of its citizens at the core. This education is put in place to serve many functions, such as development of preferred character traits for the warrior class, creation of equality between the sexes and as a means of indication as to what jobs would suit which individuals. Socrates, a philosopher himself, has also put great importance on the education of the rulers as philosophers, making education a necessity among all constituents of his imagined city.
Education is first discussed in the Republic with respect to the warrior class, which is entrusted with the defense of the city. “ [. . .] Surely they must be gentle to their own people and harsh to their enemy” and so it is necessary for Socrates to incorporate this goal into his plan for education (Plato 375b). Because “philosophy, spirit, speed and strength must all, then, be combined in the nature of anyone who is to be a fine and good guardian of our city”, an education composed of “[. . .] physical training for bodies and music and poetry for the soul” is deemed best (476c, 476e). These warriors must be physically capable of defending the city they are taught to love, while being exposed to simple stories that encourage them to be good and just towards their fellow city dwellers. It is clear that this education is a necessary step in creating what Socrates sees as the perfect republic. This education must also be consistent from an early age, so Socrates abolishes the institution of families, in hopes of giving each child an equal and identical base education.
In addition to using education as a method of molding the warrior class, Socrates wishes it to be a means by which men and women’s positions and levels in society are equalized. “[. . .] If we use the women for the same things as the men, they must also be taught the same things [. . .] Now, we gave the men music and poetry and physical training [. . .] Then we must give these two crafts, as well as those having to do with warfare, to the women also to use in the same way as the men use them” (451e, 452a). Because Socrates...